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From the help center:

What are comments?

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. They can be up-voted (but not down-voted) and flagged, but do not generate reputation. There's no revision history, and when they are deleted they're gone for good.

[...]

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated)."

[...]

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;

  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);

  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

  • Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

[...]


Because our answers can oftentimes be subjective, it's important for us to have the ability to rank each answer in order of best to not-the-best. The problem with answering a question with a comment is that:

  1. It removes that answer from the community review process. Not allowing it to be viewed in comparison to other answers.

  2. There is a 600 character limit for comments. That is the length of a short answer, so there's not much reason why it can't be an actual answer.

    If the comment is too short to be an answer, some effort should be taken to make it into an answer, or simply wait for someone else to answer and upvote their answer.

  3. There are no downvotes on comments. One upvote is enough to cancel out the reputation lost from 5 downvotes. It shouldn't be any cause to try to avoid them using the comment section. That also just seems like a cop-out to me. If an answer can't stand as an answer, it shouldn't stand as a comment either.

I don't see any reason why we would want to keep comments that try to answer questions around. Certainly they have the risk to cause more harm than anything. But when I looked at the possible flags, the options were:

  • rude or offensive
  • not constructive
  • obsolete
  • too chatty
  • other

No option for flagging as a comment as an answer.

So should I Be flagging these comments as "Other" and say that it's an answer not a comment? Or is this just a peeve of mine that I should work on ignoring? What do you think?

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    I usually flag not constructive because a constructive comment is designed on improving the post not answering. But I agree there is not a good flag for answer comments – Critters Aug 7 '14 at 11:42
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We want to keep the number of 'answerments' (what I've grown to call these things) to an absolute minimum, wherever possible. Their presence encourages discussion, and a shortcut to typing stuff on the site that might not be as well-researched and backed up as a proper answer.

The really good comments, the ones I'd always hesitate to delete are firmly anchored in the parent post - and have some kind of meaning that just (for whatever reason) can't be moved into the post itself. They aren't attempts at answers on their own.

What I recommend you do, if you have time, is use these 'answerments' as the inspiration for your own answer, find some references if you need them, and expand it into what the other person didn't have the time or inclination to sit down and write. You can link to the comment in the beginning of your answer, e.g.:

Expanding on the insightful comment that [link to sue's profile]Sue[/link] left, in particular where she mentioned Snails, nails and puppy dog tails ...

The comment might then be obsolete.

As the site ages, and you come across something a year old - and nobody has bothered to take the 'stub' someone left in a comment and expand it, then it can probably just go out in the night. Of course, @mentioning the comment author asking them to put that in an answer so it persists often helps.

But yes, you can (and should) generally flag them, we don't want them to become a self-fulfilling problem - at least not any more than they have been.

  • Wow, get you work here but I disagree with deleting partial answers. I may have a partial solution that does not stand up as full answer but I feel adds value. This guy posted a deleted comment as an answer and got voted down. pets.stackexchange.com/questions/11488/… Is that good for the site? – paparazzo Feb 17 '16 at 21:21
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Flagging them is not a problem, but there's not a lot we can do other than delete them. If somebody posts an answer better suited as a comment, we have the ability to convert it, but not the other way around.

In general, though, as a consequence I would be likely to leave the comment around if the user won't create the answer. I typically only clean up comments that are arguments, outdated, or not relevant, but good information is better to keep.

  • If you stop leaving the comments around it might encourage more answers... – Critters Aug 7 '14 at 11:40
  • @Critters - Deleting them may discourage people from staying. It's a balancing act. I usually spend some time getting people to create an answer from their comment, it's about a 50/50 success rate, but in the end it's simply a judgement call. Flagging those comments is helpful in that respect. – John Cavan Aug 7 '14 at 12:09

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