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People often use the comments section to answer questions.

Should we encourage people to use the Answer space for answers and the Comments space only to ask for more information or to clarify a question>

According to the Bicycle StackExchange Tour

Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer.

An example of an answer in the comments might look something like:
Question: "What makes black bike tires black?"
Comment: "A black bike tire has carbon black as an ingredient to improve tensile and abrasion wear properties."
(I modified a previously asked and answered question as a model for this example.)

When a question is answered as a comment:

  • I'm discouraged from providing an answer in the answer space.
  • It does not allow the community to vote on the appropriateness of the answer.
  • It is not what the comment section is designed for - clarification or requesting more information.
  • Answers in comments can't have the detail needed to provide a good answer - there is not enough space, no pictures are possible and the formatting is minimal.
  • To clarify - this is a question. I'm not saying we should or shouldn't allow answers in comments. I am offering some reasons why answers should live in the answer space. If everyone is OK with answers in the comments that's great. The community can manage this StackExchange as we wish. There are pros and cons either way. I'm just asking the question to drive clarity. – David D Jun 17 at 14:20
  • This subject appears a lot - here's a fairly busy answer that links to a bunch of dupes all on the same topic. meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/381044 Its endemic to SE not just Bicycles. I wonder if theres an element of couching... where the poster has an idea but not confident enough to post as a full answer and expose their words to downvotes ? – Criggie Jun 20 at 0:38
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    @Criggie You are very right, it happens on all the SEs. I like where you are going - focusing on being constructive. So far the most constructive solution is encouraging people to post answer comments as real answers if they want to. I'm not sure how to coach. Would we encourage people to post partial answers and coach them to make them better or coach people with answers in comments to post the answer? – David D Jun 20 at 1:45
  • A partial answer that can be improved (as per Andy's answer) is better than the same info in an ephemeral comment. – Criggie Jun 20 at 3:23
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I guess i'm guilty of this.

I have a tendency to answer in the comment when

  1. I'm not 100% confident it IS the answer and is maybe more of a suggestion
  2. When the answer is more of an opinion/personal experience than a factual answer.

I feel that these can often be valuable to the OP, but don't really belong as proper answer.

  • Suggestions and opinions related to the question or the answer seem perfect for comments in my mind. They aren't the same thing as answers. – David D Jun 17 at 14:24
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    Point 1 is basically why we shouldn't be posting answers as comments. If you think that your answer is more likely than usual to be wrong, please don't post it in a way that makes it harder for people to indicate that it is wrong: comments can't be voted down and a reply explaining why it's wrong can easily get lost in the noise of other comments. Having said that, this would be mitigated to a large extent by deleting the comment after you're informed that it's wrong, which I trust you would do. On the other hand, then you have to flag the replying comments and it makes work for the mods. – David Richerby Jun 19 at 16:29
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    I don't being "less than 100% certain something correct" is equivalent to "more likely than usual to be wrong" – Paul H Jun 20 at 17:28
  • @PaulH Assuming that "less than 100% certain something is correct" means "Less confident than usual that it's correct", that seems to align pretty well with "Less likely than usual to be correct", i.e., "More likely than usual to be wrong." Why do you think it's not the same? – David Richerby Jun 21 at 13:15
  • @DavidRicherby how often are people wrong? – Paul H Jun 22 at 2:10
  • @PaulH I've made 900 downvotes and 1900 upvotes on the main site, so I'd say people are pretty often wrong. – David Richerby Jun 22 at 9:52
  • @DavidRicherby sooo...99% of the time, 75% of the time? (do you see my point yet?) – Paul H Jun 22 at 15:13
  • @PaulH My point is that answers are sometimes wrong, uncertain answers are more likely to be wrong, and answers in comments bypass the site's mechanisms for dealing with wrong answers. I don't see what your point is. Please just tell me what it is, instead of playing this annoying guessing game. – David Richerby Jun 22 at 16:13
  • I don't think being "less than 100% certain something correct" is equivalent to "more likely than usual to be wrong" – Paul H Jun 22 at 16:37
  • @PaulH I already explicitly addressed that comment. Why are you repeating it? Seriously, are you making any actual point here or just playing annoying games? – David Richerby Jun 24 at 18:24
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    @DavidRicherby Based on your voting, nearly half of the answers on the main site are wrong, when responding to a vague question (e.g., my rear mech is clicking in the lowest gear), one would be ~85% confident their comment about limit screws and cable tension is a step in the right direction. BUT they need clarification from the OP before they write out an answer that has a 15% chance of being wrong. So less than 100% certain isn't necessarily more likely than usual to be wrong. – Paul H Jun 24 at 18:32
  • @PaulH Um. 900 out of 2800 is less than a third. – David Richerby Jun 24 at 19:42
  • @DavidRicherby Yes -- you are right. I misread your comment as 900 downvotes out of 1900 (total) votes. Regardless, with my example, the point stands. – Paul H Jun 24 at 19:55
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Yes, it's good to have strict rules.

For we may brake them when they stand in the way of effective communication. Yet they may guide us to form good answers instead of comments.

What is more, there are no feasible means of enforcing those rules even when repeatedly and blatantly broken.

And finally: anyone may be so bold and copy a comment, add an attribution, and post it as their answer.

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    Copy a comment, add an attribution, and post it as their answer is a good solution - if everyone is good with that. Another way to enforce answers in comments is to flag them. But then the moderator has to deal with them - right? – David D Jun 17 at 21:15
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    It's a volunteer project. It is not in our interest to over burden moderators. Neither to annoy those with good contributions just in the wrong place. Especially since it often is not so clear if something has to become an answer. – gschenk Jun 18 at 6:16
  • @DavidD as a mod I have limited options. I can delete comments, edit them within reason, and I can transfer them all to a chat. What I can't do is upgrade a comment to an answer. I can also protect a question so that newbie users can't answer until they have site 10 rep. – Criggie Jun 27 at 21:04
  • @Criggie Thanks, good to know. – David D Jun 27 at 21:36
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Sometimes I might choose to leave a comment, which is not a fully-formed answer, its more of a starter point or idea for someone with time to flesh out an answer.

(like how this one is not particularly large.)

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