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This isn't a question of comment-answer policy. It's about users who feel the need to answer many questions in comments. One such user is compulsive about it lately, often posting the first comment on many questions. I've probably flagged hundreds from this user alone, and I've attempted to get moderator attention to stifle the problem. It continues, and sometimes my flags are even declined.

What are moderators doing to minimize this behavior? What should be done? It's a hassle for those of us who attempt to keep the site flotsam-free. Answers do not belong in comments. Neither do opinion or guesses posted as a pseudo-answers.

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    I never paid much attention to this, plus likely many such comments were deleted before I saw them. But I just saw a new question with 2 comments from one user that together constitute essentially a reasonable (not necessarily correct, not complete, but reasonable) answer. And they were not (as I sometimes do) prefaced with "I'm not sure, but..." or anything like that. So I think I see the problem and commiserate, but don't have a solution as I think some users end up causing a multitude of different problems, and this may be the least of such problems. Sep 13, 2022 at 1:41
  • I hope I'm not one of them. :) I'm not sure what other issues you're referring to. This has been the most pronounced to me for the last few months.
    – isherwood
    Sep 13, 2022 at 14:52
  • You are never a problem, at least as far as I'm concerned. The other issues involve presumed downvotes (though obviously that's hard to know for sure unless people admit to it), argumentative behavior in comments, a lot of answers that are either near nonsense (IMHO) or are copies of bits and pieces of other answers (sometimes from related questions, sometimes from the very same question). Sep 13, 2022 at 14:58
  • W/o my comments here it wouldn't make any sense : diy.stackexchange.com/questions/256732/… - and OP is unlikely to ever come back. I'll take my cowardly credit for making sense of that page; someone else can come and clean up the mess, which is worth it, now, that's it's useful. If it's not useful, it's not in the right place. Anywhere on the page is fine until someone cares more than I do and wants silly points or opt themselves into some negative feedback. If the void doesn't want it, it won't be.
    – Mazura
    Sep 16, 2022 at 15:01
  • "That's not really rot. Just water damage. If it's solid, sand, prime, paint." – isherwood, 18 hours ago How should I go about repairing this door casing? - I upvoted that comment and stopped reading and wasting time. Thank you for providing it.
    – Mazura
    Sep 16, 2022 at 15:53
  • I know I've been guilty of doing so on occasion. Usually when I'm not really sure about my "answer". If others think it's a legit answer and prompt me to make it an answer, I'll do so, and usually remove the comment (though sometimes @isherwood has to remind me ;). There are others who I've noticed do seem to be making it a habit of answering in comments.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 16, 2022 at 18:30
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    @Mazura, regarding that comment... it was intended to prompt for clarification about the state of the wood. It wasn't intended as an answer. Once I got said clarification I'd be deleting it. (Update: FreeMan kindly edited the response into the question, so I've done so and flagged the response comment.)
    – isherwood
    Sep 16, 2022 at 18:34
  • So now there's three obsolete answers talking about rot, and there's no cut-to-the-chase solution, which is this isn't a problem. Your comment had +3. All three answers have +0.
    – Mazura
    Sep 16, 2022 at 18:39
  • If I get around to it I'll post a more informed answer. I'm not sure I get your point.
    – isherwood
    Sep 16, 2022 at 18:49
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    A lot of people only read comments. ... IIRC, five flags on a comment gets it auto deleted. Either run for moderator, or just leave it up to them or five random people. Your efforts are better spent with your edits IMO, and I'd hate to see you lose your flags. I use them only for spam and belligerence. Otherwise it seems that SE is self correcting, either that or I'm keeping a moderator employed full time all by my self. If so I haven't been made aware of the fact.
    – Mazura
    Sep 16, 2022 at 20:08
  • Paragraph five of the most apt answer :"The cheapest on[e] would be to scrape the loose paint, and use rotten wood filler that will repair the rot. Prime and Paint." ... while nothing more needed to be said than what's in your original comment : "That's not really rot. Just water damage. If it's solid, sand, prime, paint." Which IMO belongs as a comment. If people want literature they can scroll down to the answers.
    – Mazura
    Sep 16, 2022 at 20:18
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    My understanding is that comments are meant for clarification and are intended to be temporary. There should be no permanent danglers. Anything that's perpetually useful should be in either the question or the answer.
    – isherwood
    Sep 16, 2022 at 20:23

2 Answers 2

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As someone that's declined several of these flags, I'll give my logic here for the community to critique.

Something that I look for in the comment flags is if the information that I'm being asked to delete is contained elsewhere. So before flagging a comment for deletion because it is an answer to the question, make sure there is an answer with that content. Often people will post a comment when there are no answers and they don't want to spend the time creating a complete answer, but do want to guide the OP in the right direction. So I think it's useful to have some flexibility with a drive by comment, and wait until there's a proper answer before cleaning it up.

We also need to be sure the site is welcoming to users and they don't feel that they are being singled out or targeted by other users or moderators. I've seen several situations where I'm asked to delete one person's comment, but not others on the question that are doing the same thing.

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    You've made some good points. I'll address a few. Whether a comment is useful is less important to me than that it's in the right place for utility. That's the main issue. Comment-answers make a prolonged mess of the comments thread partly because they don't allow the kind of feedback that answers do (via voting and acceptance). This, to me, is an attempt to skirt such feedback. It could be considered cowardly in that regard. It's also self-indulgent, as in "look what I did". And then comments responding to them get mingled with proper comments asking for clarity, etc.
    – isherwood
    Sep 13, 2022 at 14:37
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    I agree that we need to be welcoming. My direct personality type sometimes isn't. However, the users we're talking about here are not new. They know the drill. They choose to ignore it for personal reasons (selfishness, ego). It's not the same as a new user who's learning our process.
    – isherwood
    Sep 13, 2022 at 14:40
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    And regarding your final point, the fact that one comment is flagged and another isn't is irrelevant, to my thinking. No community member should be expected to sanitize an entire page in one go. These need to be handled individually.
    – isherwood
    Sep 13, 2022 at 14:44
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    As far as "feedback", that is a fundamental problem of comments as designed by StackExchange. They allow for Upvotes and Flags. But a "not great but not evil" comment may be worthy of a Downvote and yet not deserve a Flag. End result: A mess. Sep 13, 2022 at 17:06
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    FWIW, over at RPG we're pretty strict about removing answers in comments, our meta post gives several site-agnostic reasons for doing so that may be worth considering here. Sep 15, 2022 at 20:33
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    @ThomasMarkov did you just post your own competing answer as a comment? ;P
    – BMitch Mod
    Sep 15, 2022 at 23:04
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    @BMitch Heh, I'm loose with rules on meta :P It didn't seem appropriate to just show up on your meta and answer a question about your site practice without ever really using your site. Sep 15, 2022 at 23:15
  • After you get a Tenacious badge (5 answers accepted with +0), you kinda don't care anymore, +1. Answering in comments here is a thing, especially if they're a one-rep. I know I'm curtailing the system, but if they're never even going to come back and accept an answer, then w/e. ... "at RPG we're pretty strict" - y'all are second only to Skeptics.
    – Mazura
    Sep 16, 2022 at 11:10
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Mostly I do this with "This is barely a sketch of an answer" or "here's a guess, since the details are woefully lacking" when not wanting to put the effort into making it good at that time, or when he questioner hasn't (and may never) come up with details needed.

OTOH, I sometimes don't even get done posting my comment before I cut it and copy to the answer box, realizing it's turned that way.

Also leaving the field open for someone who has a reason to care about points to bother to write one, since I'm a tiny ways past "the last 'perk' at 25K" and the claim that they'd get (back?) around to providing any sort of acknowledgement past 100K (more than a year ago, I think) appears to have been water used to wash an ursine that I've also long since passed.

Incidentally, most of the "community Wiki" answers I make are when the answer has pretty much been sorted out in comments, usually comments by several different people, none of whom want to do the answer.

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  • I 'quit' at just before 20k. I wish I couldn't see deleted answers. Now this is just like anywhere else on the net with the garbage everywhere. A comment takes 30 seconds. An answer takes half an hour with the proofreading and the double checking and the linking, and adding this and that and the other thing, because it's too short as an answer, and would've been better expressed as a member of the peanut gallery that that dog just ain't gonna hunt.
    – Mazura
    Sep 19, 2022 at 19:23
  • I'll sometimes leave a comment on my own answer just after posting. E.g., it will get +2 while the answer gets none, because while the answer is one to the question, the important thing to say has nothing to do with it. And I prefer that being at the top before the answers, but it's below on my own answer just to keep SE pretty....?
    – Mazura
    Sep 19, 2022 at 19:33
  • I know you're not the only one, @Mazura, who takes time to make an answer a good answer - proofreading, explaining, linking, etc. Thought you ought to know it's appreciated! I know Ecnerwal does, too.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 22, 2022 at 12:28

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