I am quite new here so I may missing something obvious, however I have quite a bit of experience from the technical communities (Ask Ubuntu and StackOverflow). Therefore, I try to understand the best way to use this site by relating to what I already know.

This is confusing me a little bit. In the other sites of the network, answers posted as comments (and vice versa) are absolutely discouraged and get flagged routinely. I know because I have review privileges on Ask Ubuntu and I have read the policies of the various communities.

However, here I see many questions which do not have answers, just to find out that a user (usually with a medium/high rep!) posted the answer scattered in a couple of comments to the question. As far as I understand, this is against the policies and the "format" of this network.

My question is: why do they do that?

Bonus questions: what should we do to stop them? Is flagging comments a viable solution?

For now I left a comment in a couple of cases, like "you should write that in an answer" but I don't think I will be listened.

  • 4
    Your strategy is good; if there's no feedback, you can add an answer yourself, maybe marking it “community wiki”, if you give no real contribution other than collecting comments.
    – egreg Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 7:15
  • 1
    The fact is that comments, unlike answers, cannot be downvoted, so users tent to make an improper use of them. – - meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/5394/…
    – user519
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 23:42
  • @Josh61, that may be an explanation, although I hope it's not the real motivation. Maybe you could post that as an answer. :-) Commented May 11, 2016 at 5:09
  • 1
    Comments are an easier and less compromising way to express your ideas, for this reason users tent to use them in an improper way. I think their usage should be restricted somehow. Plus, unlike answers, they can be deleted anytime so it is not the place where to post "useful and helpful" material.
    – user519
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 6:49
  • @Josh61, I don't see the users of Italian.SE going nuts about their rep like in other parts of the network. If the comments do tend to be useful and helpful for both the person asking and the ones answering I wouldn't bother being too picky, only the user that wrote them and the moderators can delete them. Rather, why noone seems to have an issue with the users asking the question not editing them properly using the comments given? Commented May 11, 2016 at 13:05
  • @ErikvanDoren - my experince here is mainly on ELU where comments are often an issue, I've become sort of allergic to comments, but that's my problem.
    – user519
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 13:08
  • @Josh61, yes I know, each community tends to acquire its own flavour overtime, as it should since we are not machines Commented May 11, 2016 at 13:13
  • @ErikvanDoren, «noone seems to have an issue with the users asking the question not editing them properly» I have an issue with that. :P Commented May 11, 2016 at 15:47
  • @AndreaLazzarotto, good, that should be the main concern, you don't get rid of lazy questions flogging the users that try to suggest how to make them better. Simply culling them when moderating does little too: you just eliminate a question that could have merit assuming (and you know what happens when you assume) that all these guys are lazy, when there’s the chance they simply have not been taught how to ask or research for themselves, specially when talking about people learning a language what's obvious for you might not be so for them. Commented May 12, 2016 at 13:20
  • Please stick to the topic. My question is not about beating novices that ask questions, it was about understanding why experts bury good answers in the comments. Commented May 12, 2016 at 13:25

2 Answers 2


I can speak only for myself, of course. I might have been guilty of the behaviour you mention: if so, in general it is because I feel that what I have to say is incomplete, or unsupported by sources, or am not sure of its correctness. So I consider it a comment because I give some of a cue, or of a half-baked idea others might want to improve (or refute, as the case may be).

  • 4
    I agree with you. In my opinion, high reputation users here seek to have a site of very high quality. For this reason, they post comments instead of answers when they feel that it is something incomplete, that it doesn't give enough details, it is not based on good sources or that they are only expressing their own experience or their own opinion.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 13:53
  • 1
    Nevertheless, this kind of comments often give rise to very interesting discussions about the question, which sometimes end up with very good answers. I mean that, thanks to the discussion generated by the comments, one ends up writing a very good answer, otherwise the answers would be poorer.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 14:04
  • So, I wouldn't discourage this behaviour, but I think we should spur on writing an answer once the discussion has generated enough details.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 14:13
  • The problem is that, in many cases, the comments I am referring to contain full featured answers and there is no reason why they are posted as comments. Especially since they get never converted to answers later on. As per the rules, comments should be used to ask clarifications or provide "non-answering" information. Commented May 7, 2016 at 15:26
  • @AndreaLazzarotto: If you really believe it's that way, I think you should follow the suggestion of egreg's comment. See, for instance, what happened here.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 16:27
  • @Charo I will do it, thanks. That is a temporary workaround, although my two primary questions remain open: why do they do that and how do we stop doing that. Commented May 7, 2016 at 17:10
  • 3
    @AndreaLazzarotto: I think they do that for the reason explained in my first comment. In my opinion, if we really try to stop that, we risk to decrease the quality of the answers posted in this site, so I wouldn't do nothing to stop that.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 18:04
  • @Charo The problem I was trying to outline is that there are less posted answer than there should be, since many are buried in the comments. I was not suggesting to prevent answers, quite the opposite. I believed that the rules were similar to other sites on the network, it seems I was wrong and IT.SE is kind of a different universe. I will keep that in mind from now on. Commented May 7, 2016 at 18:07
  • 2
    @AndreaLazzarotto: I think you can find a similar behaviour in other SE sites, at least in the scientific ones. For instance, have a look at these Physics.SE questions: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/246932/…, physics.stackexchange.com/questions/245094/…. You can say that they have answers in the comments written by experienced users.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 8:54
  • 3
    I often write my opinion in comments when I don't think they are good enough to be an answer. My usage habits come from the site where I'm most active (mathoverflow) and there the standard for answers is high indeed.
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 14:25
  • 1
    @DenisNardin, we may have different opinions about quality standards, however if your contribution is correct and it answers the question, I believe it should be an answer (not a comment). Commented May 8, 2016 at 19:57

I almost left this as comment ;)... Often an user might not feel their contribution is fit to be a proper answer. In some cases they might not feel it actually answer the question at all or just partially, nevertheless it can be an useful contribution. You might feel that a comment to a question could be its answer while sometimes it could be there to direct the question a bit, so that it can be edited and receive a precise answer.

I don't want to open a discussion on how places like SO are policed but I really hope we won't take example from those.

And just to clarify: your question is just because of wanting strict adherence to SE policies or because you see those comments as a "rep shelter"?

  • 1
    Why not? SO is one of the "original" websites of the network, it is used by most SE admins and it is managed way better than this site. My question is about ensuring high quality of content on the site, like it is done on any other site. Moreover, the fact that a question appears to be with no answer also has practical consequences on the usability of the site. The rep shelter thing is a side effect but I really hope they don't do that for that reason. Commented May 11, 2016 at 5:00
  • 2
    @AndreaLazzarotto, I really hope that rep games won't ever be an issue on Italian SE. Why not SO: back when I was active on SO many users, me included, left because of the way it was policed, more people involved in flagging and cleansing than answering questions, a smidge of humor or one wrong word and the question was closed without bothering to understand it. It was defined nazi style. SE evolves, like everything and some of its sites are more relaxed about strictly following rules yet maintain participation and usefulness. It doesn't have to be all cut and dried. Commented May 11, 2016 at 11:11
  • I understand you'd like a website where you can make relaxed discussions, but those should be made in the website chat. Rules exist to ensure the quality of the content. I have seen quite a few SO questions that should be closed but are not, therefore I don't believe your perception of the "nazi style". If being "relaxed" means hiding good answers inside comments so they are hard to find, I have to say I cannot see how this is a good or useful thing. Commented May 11, 2016 at 15:44
  • 2
    @AndreaLazzarotto, from my personal experience I could tell you how questions have been closed within minutes just because of one single word or users that were targeted because of the little revenges and rep games, but that would be old news. You come from there and in another of your questions you didn't put links with the reasoning that you were worried about "facing backlashes and negative consequences on my profile" (copypasted your words), thats a sign of what goes on in there, we don't want that in here, I sure don't. Commented May 12, 2016 at 13:03
  • 2
    @AndreaLazzarotto, double comment, (something lacking in this format to support a discussion?). Chat is not worth that much, I'm in a completely different continent, post during pauses at work, noone is ever in chat then. When a place gets this big it should be considered that not everybody is here at the same time. Finally, I don't want discussions forum style here, that's not the concept of the network, but the subjects are too many and too different to expect to apply the same behaviour to everywhere in SE, some subjects might need a bit more talk than others and many sites do so, and a lot Commented May 12, 2016 at 13:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .