Recently, I (and others) have noticed that there is a trend to 'lock' new questions. I understand that there is some dispute about the appropriateness of answering in comments; many here are guilty of that (myself included) especially when there is a lack-of-research, and the question could be explained by:

  • General Reference
  • Off-the-top-of-the-head
  • "Reverse dupes"

However, if there are other issues such as non-compliance with the requirements of the SWR tag, it becomes impossible to let the OP know. This seems counter-productive. Consider this recent post...

locked for 22 hours // "single word requests" tag

Where can we encourage the OP to do more research, or provide a sample sentence? If this is a change in policy, or a re-enforcement of an older policy, could someone explain it to me? Some of us are frustrated with this approach.

  • The locking and closing were unrelated. Notice how you cannot downvote this comment. It's another part of the problem being addressed.
    – tchrist Mod
    Dec 23, 2020 at 19:54
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    I know the closing had nothing to do with the locking. It was included in the image to provide more context. Dec 23, 2020 at 19:58
  • 3
    Thanks for asking. I was wondering if there was some juicy ruckus going on that I was missing. It's just mods doing mod things.
    – Mazura
    Dec 29, 2020 at 15:44
  • Related: What about downvoting comments?
    – user 66974
    Jan 1, 2021 at 19:31
  • Okay, now that I've found this thread, I get the motivation. But can't we be a bit slower about it, since sometimes a question genuinely isn't ready for a true answer, and we can't ask for edits. E.g. this one is a word request without a sample sentence (Le Sigh). Dec 15, 2021 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


This is part of an effort to elicit genuine answers, meaning ones posted using the answer box where they belong. It seeks to address a particularly pernicious variant of the age-old Fastest Gun in the West problem that afflicts our site.

Our variant involves shot-from-the-hip, one-liner comments containing proposed answers. These often hit the site within the first ten minutes of the question being posted. After five or ten of them, nobody bothers to post an actual answer, suborning the Stack Exchange model of how SE sites are intended to operate.

It appears to be working. Now instead of using the comment box for answers, people post actual answers instead, answers that can be voted on, edited, searched for, have a public revision history, contribute to badges — and, dare I say, sometimes even seasonal hats.

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    I have enormous respect for you and your trials and tribulations here as a Mod, but I only see how it is not working...hence the question. I don't think it is fair to spring a policy change on older users without declaring so beforehand in meta....///new users don't care about hats. Dec 23, 2020 at 20:03
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    As a new enthusiast I have been aware of this problem. I think about an answer, compose it. post it, only to find another answer that is (at least in my opinion) wrong or incomplete has been accepted. It feels as if I have been wasting my time. On the other hand I sometimes see an answer as trivial, quick and yet informative, only to find myself castigated for duplication or encouraging poor quality questions. This too makes me wonder why I bother. Overall, I support an effort to discipline us all but I doubt that we will ever be entirely happy with the outcome. C'est la vie.
    – Anton
    Dec 23, 2020 at 21:21
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    I don't know that it's working, particularly. I did answer a post that I wouldn't've, but I answered only the parts that I thought worth my attention and that I could answer. I don't care about the original question or their motives. If they get an answer from my post, fine. I'm really only interested in discussing the language(s). Dec 23, 2020 at 21:38
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    @Anton Don't worry about the check mark. It doesn't mean 'This answer is right' it means 'The OP, who doesn't know things, thinks this is the best answer'. You should definitely submit and feel happy about your submission even if it is not 'accepted. Also, don't worry about being a duplicate. Everyone should be trying to answer the best. (Of course you don't want to plagiarize, or repeat another answer badly, and sometimes you may want to edit the other answer if all you have is some slightly better additional points. Don't worry about the points, just try to do the best.
    – Mitch
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:05
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    Is suborning the word you really wanted?
    – jsw29
    Dec 27, 2020 at 22:14
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    @jsw29 I think so. Undermining through illicit usurpation.
    – tchrist Mod
    Dec 27, 2020 at 22:16
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    One may agree that it is generally a good idea to encourage the contributors to post answers as answers, and still wonder whether the comments should be locked on the sole ground that people might try to post answers as comments (before a significant number of them have actually done so). While I understand the argument that answers as comments undermine the Stack Exchange format, commenting is also an important of that format, so disabling it undermines the format too, especially when it is done as a pre-emptive measure.
    – jsw29
    Dec 27, 2020 at 22:59
  • @jsw29 I have no hard data at ready, but nearly every question I've locked already had comments when I locked it. I often deleted or moved those comments though.
    – tchrist Mod
    Dec 27, 2020 at 23:54
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    Locking a question to block comments doesn't allow users to explain what's wrong in the question and in which way it can be improved. Commenting instead of writing an answer isn't wrong. Probably, the question isn't much clear and the user who posted the comment wanted the OP to make it clearer, or simply the user who posted the comment isn't sure what the question is asking and wants a reply from the OP that makes clear what the question is really/actually asking.
    – apaderno
    Dec 29, 2020 at 10:03
  • In Soviet Russia, conformation bias appears to work you.
    – Mazura
    Dec 29, 2020 at 15:54
  • 1
    I'm a constant perpetrator in the 'answer in comment' category, but I only ever do so (1) to try to prevent a rash of familiar answers to questions that (a) I'm >95% sure are (often faintly disguised) rehashes of earlier posts, (b) are unresearched / too basic for ELU (I'll also CV) or (2) when I believe I've something new and useful to contribute, but haven't a clue how to back it up reasonably. Helping OP is a useful by-product. Dec 31, 2020 at 17:54
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    @EdwinAshworth, it is well known to regular users of this site that it is your opinion that, in such cases, posting answers as comments is not only OK, but to be preferred to posting them as answers. Some, other well established contributors, such as tchrist, however, have a different view on the matter. Both sides should appreciate that it is frustrating to the less well established contributors that they are constantly pushed in the opposite directions by these two factions.
    – jsw29
    Dec 31, 2020 at 18:09

On another site I have seen a moderator's template comment along the lines of "Comments that attempt to answer the question have been deleted. To answer the question, please use the Answer Box". Wouldn't this be a better solution than locking a question?

  • 2
    Yeah, but then the one moderator who still actually works here would have to keep coming back to clean up the mess. Same with making a chat.
    – Mazura
    Dec 29, 2020 at 16:05
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    Merely urging people to post their answers as answers (and not comments) may work well on the sites on which there is something close to a consensus on the matter among the well established contributors. On this site there is, however, an ongoing tension between the contributors who take this position and those who urge others not to post anything as an answer unless it satisfies some very high standards (even if it answers the question clearly and reasonably), and to post less scholarly answers as comments. Beginning contributors are often confused by such conflicting advice.
    – jsw29
    Dec 29, 2020 at 16:42
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    That should be an answer ;)
    – Mazura
    Dec 29, 2020 at 16:43
  • 2
    Possibly we are approaching the nub of the issue. Dec 29, 2020 at 22:32
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    @JSW29: I totally agree. It is a good thing to have high standards, but more often than not, newcomers learn this the hard way somehow. There must be a way of making this process of learning more smooth.
    – fev
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:43
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    @jsw2 Is there some way of ensuring newcomers abide by the rules, not posting questions that are Grade IV standard and/or very likely to be duplicates? Site mediocrity has been taken into account as being very important before; there are plenty of primarily Q & A sites for people to ask on without being expected to do any basic legwork. Dec 31, 2020 at 19:29

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