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OK, so I'm new here, and I don't necessarily know my way around, but:

It strikes me that on a lot of questions, people will answer the question, but post their answer as a comment to the question. Now, as a new user, I don't have the option to do that, but even if I did, I just don't get it -- why not post your answer as an answer to the question???

This mainly irritates me as I'm trying to look for questions that haven't been answered, so it's frustrating when I click on a question with 0 "answers" which has been "answered" already in the comments; but surely there's a wider point about the ways people are using the site?? (which tbf I don't really know about, as I'm new here...)

Examples:

Word for a member of a team who improves morale

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/326789/that-what-is-being-composed

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/326787/word-for-blowing-off-of-a-traveling-object-in-the-wind

"Pass under an overpass" alternative

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/326742/match-for-vs-matched-by

just off the first two pages with "0" answers...

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    This issue has been discussed extensively. Why are answers being posted in the comments on the question?. You can leave a comment if you want to comment and you can post an answer if you want to answer a question. – user140086 May 20 '16 at 7:10
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    I recommend that you spend time in the Unanswered questions queue and look for questions that have been sitting there with zero upvoted answers for at least two weeks. At that point, the likelihood that the question is going to be closed has fallen considerably, so—if nothing else—providing the answer as an answer may clear the question from the queue (a public service, I think). Moreover, two weeks along, it's safe to suppose that the commenter isn't planning to come back with a full answer, and any suspicion that you are riding the commenter's effort for points is likely to be muted. – Sven Yargs May 21 '16 at 1:32
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    Sometimes people just want to help the OP, even though the question may get closed as off-topic. Hence they comment. – NVZ May 25 '16 at 20:03
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I'm also relatively new here, only having joined a few weeks ago.

My take on this is that the community punishes brief answers. If you don't post something that has a dictionary reference, if you don't pad out the answer with a 'proper' explanation and demonstrated research, then you run the risk of getting downvoted pretty quickly. That has the double effect of hurting your reputation while your answer drops to the bottom and is buried, which renders it a waste of typing.

As such, the comments become the only "here's a quick thought..." mechanism that's open without suffering such slings and arrows.

Now, you could argue that only full responses are desired, which is fine - but we'll get far fewer answers as a result, especially when anyone can turn to a dictionary to look up any of the suggestions if they want to know more.

  • Equally, of course, anybody can turn to a dictionary (or other reference) if they want a quick unconsidered answer. – TimLymington May 25 '16 at 21:36
  • Indeed. So I don't know whether it's fair to punish people who suggest a word without a definition, as the word is what was asked for - it's kind of like an online thesaurus or crossword solver for some people. It's not a crime to answer quickly and leave the asker to do some legwork as a result, but you'll get pilloried for it (I've seen a few today). – Prof Yaffle May 25 '16 at 22:48
  • Probably not appropriate to this conversation, but I'd also observe that there's far too much Facebook-like "like" and implied "dislike" up/downvoting. If you don't like an answer, walk away - it doesn't make it necessarily wrong because you disagree. – Prof Yaffle May 25 '16 at 22:50
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You are entirely correct that this is a problem. It has been extensively discussed (Why are answers being posted in the comments on the question? for example), but nobody can force users not to put an 'answer' in the comments (so long as they have the requisite reputation). It may be done because the user does not think the question warrants a full answer, because the answer is either speculative or incomplete, or simply because the user is inexperienced (Which certainly does not apply to Rathony above).

Ultimately, there are two sanctions; that the comment may be deleted for any reason or none (which does not happen to answers), and that anybody is free to take up, add to, edit, fold, spindle or mutilate a comment in pursuit of your own answer, while using somebody else's answer in this fashion is frowned on, if not outright plagiarism.

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    You made the perfect example out of my comment. :-) – user140086 May 20 '16 at 18:14
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    Just to point out something else on the other side of the coin, it is also bad form to answer a question that is most likely going to be closed. So instead of having the OP go away empty handed, a quick unembellished answer is given. – Mitch May 25 '16 at 19:13

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