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We all know that answers should be posted in the section marked Answers. This is explained in the help section about our commenting privileges:

When shouldn't I comment?

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

It is important enough and abused enough that it has to be explicitly mentioned when trying to write a comment:

Avoid answering questions in comments.

But why?

There are a number of reasons for why answers in a comment are detrimental to the site, including but not limited to:

  • Comments can not be downvoted, so a user only sees upvotes
  • Comments can not be edited or corrected.
  • Comments can not be accepted (or given a bounty)
  • Questions will be listed as unanswered
  • Discussions of the comment will be interleaved with other comments and can lead to long discussions with the original poster and more important comments can be missed
  • Comments can be deleted at any time
  • Comments may be skipped by people using screen readers, or worse - interpreted as an actual answer
  • They are not indexed in the same way as answers by search engines such as Google

Why can't I just post anyway? It doesn't harm anyone.

But why shouldn't you just write out whatever you know about a topic in the comment section, it might help someone, right? They can build their own answer on my comment?

If they know enough about the subject to write an answer, they don't need a short blurb to start. If they don't know enough about the subject, your short sentence won't help them to write a quality answer.

What's worse is that they show up before any actual top-voted and accepted answers. The first thing a user sees is the off-hand half answer. On my screen I see the question, then I see the comments, and to see that there even are actual answers I have to scroll down on the page.

You have in effect pushed yourself ahead of the quality queue. Someone coming here from a search engine (the main goal of Stack Exchange) will not know the difference between something that is written just below the question, and something further down with different numbers next to it, especially if they're used to traditional forums.

Example

What prompted this post is the following exchange. A user asked a question, heavily reduced to the following:

When I use the ifconfig command it shows that the link is UP. However, when I run the ip link command, it is down. Can someone please explain?

Another user then wrote a short comment, answering the question:

This is normal, if you have no containers running on that network. It will change when you start a container.

Question. Answer. Pretty clear. When I pointed this out, the commenting user gave this as an excuse, and then asked me to bring it up on meta:

This comment does not suffice as an answer, which is why it is a comment.

No, it is most definitely an answer to the question, but a low-quality and mostly pointless answer because it does not give the whole story. Had it been posted as an answer it might have been downvoted, or perhaps edited to include more information.

Summary

Using the comment section is no excuse for posting low quality answers. Doubly so for diamond moderators and high-rep users who set examples for everyone else.

8

Your post is correct in general for SE sites: answers should not be posted in comments. There are, however, a few additional factors that are worth keeping in mind:

  • Posting answers in comments doesn't happen very often on ServerFault; it's not a big problem here.
  • The line between what's a comment and what's an answer is blurry. There have been discussions about this here, on meta.SE, and on most of the SE sites where I'm active. There are legitimate differences of opinion about when something is not an answer versus just a very bad answer. I've seen what I consider to be conflicting guidance on this issue from SE staff, let alone users and moderators.
  • The particular comment that led to this post was made by someone who is probably the most prolific answerer on SF and who also makes the most comments to help people improve their posts.

My conclusion is that this is not a case of someone trying to avoid the standard SE quality checks, it's someone who has a good conception of what an answer looks like vs. a comment and didn't think their post was sufficient to be considered a real answer.

Which leads to one more aspect of how SE works that anyone can make use of:

  • If something is posted as a comment that could be an answer or could be expanded into an answer, it's completely acceptable for someone else to come along and "steal" the comment and make it an answer. Anyone doing this should flag the original comment so that it can be deleted.
7

No, it is most definitely an answer to the question, but a low-quality and mostly pointless answer because it does not give the whole story. Had it been posted as an answer it might have been downvoted, or perhaps edited to include more information.

First, I disagree that this specific answer would be pointless and low-quality.

Secondly, this is the exact reason why I and likely others as well sometimes post stuff as comments instead of answers - for various reasons, we don't want or can't add more "value" to a post that would make it a good answer in our view, so we post a comment, with the assumption that it is helpful. Why would you expect anyone to post something as answer where you would yourself say "Maybe it gets downvoted or needs to be edited" - that doesn't make any sense. On our site, this is what we use comments for. Other sites may handle that different, but that's besides the point.

Using the comment section is no excuse for posting low quality answers. Doubly so for diamond moderators and high-rep users who set examples for everyone else.

That's not for you to decide. You have essential zero contribution on our main site, zero questions, zero answers, just a handful of comments and votes, and two meta posts where you insist that things should be handled differently. I really urge you to actually actively participate in the site before you try to change it.

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