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Why are answers being posted in the comments on the question?

Lately I've noticed a lot of questions - particularly single word requests - where answers are given in the comments instead of as answers. Please can we remember that comments are there for commenting on the question, or seeking clarification, or possibly providing a resource that may be useful in answering it - but not for providing an actual answer.

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, MetaEd, kiamlaluno, Marthaª, Mitch Jan 29 '13 at 17:53

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    Recency illusion. – RegDwigнt Jan 15 '13 at 12:07
  • @RegDwighт True, it's been happening for a long time. I guess my question is really should it be happening? And if not, what can we do about it? – Waggers Jan 15 '13 at 12:09
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    There are several reasons I might choose to reply in a comment instead of an answer. Maybe I don't have time to research my answer, so I'm not entirely sure about it. Maybe I don't think the question is a very good question, but I think it would be more helpful to leave an answer in a comment than to leave no answer at all. I don't see what's wrong with using comments in cases like that – maybe you could to explain why you'd like to see a "don't put an answer in a comment" policy so scrupulously enforced. – J.R. Jan 15 '13 at 13:48
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    We can do exactly nothing about it other than commenting "that should be an answer, not a comment". Which is what people actually do. Often the comment is then actually promoted to an answer by its author. Or he says, feel free to take it, and someone else does. – RegDwigнt Jan 15 '13 at 14:13
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I (and I think a lot of other people) post a brief response in Comments when it appears likely that a question will be closed before I can compose the longer response I think an Answer requires. I want to make sure the question gets at least a minimum response.

  • I guess that raises a question around what constitutes a good answer to a SWR. I agree with you, that there should be some sort of explanation, not just the single word answer. – Waggers Jan 15 '13 at 12:12
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    I certainly can't disagree with this! Oftentimes I think it "appears likely that a question will be closed" because I myself have already cast a closevote. But it has happened once or twice that I've been laboriously composing an answer, only to have it rejected because the question was closed before I clicked on "Post Your Answer". That's really annoying! – FumbleFingers Jan 15 '13 at 22:23
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    This more or less applies to me too. answering in the comment section also provides more nuance of expression. it could mean "i don't deign to answer, but the answer is...", or "i don't deign to write up a full answer, but look in this direction..." – jlovegren Jan 17 '13 at 2:07
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I may leave a comment containing a brief answer when the question doesn't merit more. I attempted once upon a time to leave a brief answer in its own right and was reprimanded. The solution then was to blather on for paragraphs about how the question was calling for the synthesis of all research on a topic, but it's easier and seems to avoid fuss to simply put such a short answer in the comments.

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    Any question which merits an answer also merits an explanation of the answer and citations of research sources or where to go for more information. – MetaEd Jan 15 '13 at 22:10
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    Yeah, sure. And everybody will follow up on that. – John Lawler Jan 15 '13 at 22:50
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    In this particular case, the poster was asking for a synthesis of all research on a very wide topic, having done no prior research. I posted a link to a filtered Google Scholar search to point him in the right direction. It was not the best question to start with, and not a situation that probably comes up often (in fact it seems to be so unusual that in the end I didn't see fit to ask a question on the meta site, but perhaps should reconsider). – Iucounu Jan 16 '13 at 0:27
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Sometimes I find a question too local or too general reference or a duplicate of something that I expect will be difficult to find. I'd think that a full answer wouldn't be the right thing to do, but the person asking deserves -something-. Often they are looking for a single word, on the tip of their tongue and just need to be sparked.

Also, I often don't have the time or patience to write the answer that should be written.

Those, including others, are my main reasons for putting an 'answer' in a comment.

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