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As the reputation requirement to comment is pretty high (50), many new users who want to contribute to the site use answers to leave a comment on questions, e.g. to request additional information needed to write a proper answer.

Sometimes those posts (which always get flagged as not-an-answer of course) are just not good and there is no other way than delete them. But sometimes the post would be a really good and useful comment - just not an answer.

I don't want to change the flagging process, but I would like to ask if we should improve the reviewing process. Because as far as I know, only diamond-moderators have the power to convert those two post types.
My suggestion is to add another option to the Low-Quality review queue, so that normal users (with 2k+ rep) also can convert those good but wrongly posted comments.

If there is a problem with letting normal users do this (e.g. need to edit sometimes to fit the maximum comment length or to repair the formatting), I would at least recommend to add an option to re-flag the post as "needs conversion (answer to comment)" which then can be easily found and processed by the real moderators.

Anyway, I think we should give low reputation users a better chance to contribute to the site. As lowering the comment requirement (as suggested in other meta posts) is not an option, in my opinion treating those not-answers which get reviewed anyway specially is the best chance to achieve this without increasing review effort.

What do you think?
Please vote on the question itself (upvote for agreement - downvote for total disagreement) as well as on the answer that fits your opinion best.
If you want to add other possible proposals, please don't be shy and post them as another answer.

  • 2
    Anyone with edit privileges can already do this: Open the question in a new tab, copy the "answer" and then paste it as a comment and leave at the beginning of the comment: "Comment by ByteCommander: " (Just an example. Use the real user's name/link) Then go back to the tab and vote for deletion... (if it's useful.... I do this about 1/month) – Fabby Apr 21 '15 at 9:49
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Only the very most valuable comments, when posted as answers, should be converted to comments rather than simply deleted. In particular, the threshold for converting an answer to a comment should not be Would we allow it to exist, if posted as a comment? but instead Would it add substantial value, if posted as a comment?

Therefore, even if the feature you suggest were always used correctly, this feature wouldn't really be necessary. Converting an answer to a comment is, and should be, an exceptional situation. A custom moderator attention flag can be used for this. (Or you can post the comment for them, as Fabby suggests.)

More importantly, it seems to me this feature would not be used correctly. I think that even many posts that we would not ordinarily allow to exist as comments (i.e., those suitable for flagging and removal if posted as comments) would get converted to comments.

It's possible to get a sense, now, of what kinds of answers would get converted to comments by reviewers if reviewers had the power to do so. When voting to delete an answer in the Low Quality Posts review, reviewers have the option to automatically post no comment, or one of several canned comments. One of those canned comments is:

This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post.

If the review system encouraged and facilitated converting answers to comments, then presumably reviewers would vote to convert them in cases where they are currently posting the "leave a comment" comment. After all, by leaving that comment, one is instructing an author that it is a good thing to post that sort of thing as a comment.

So, are reviewers using the "leave a comment" comment correctly, now?

The depressingly unfortunate answer to this is no. Sometimes, probably even over half the time, this canned comment is used reasonably. But I regularly see reviewers using this mechanism to tell authors that their answers should be comments when:

  • The post is a real answer but is wrong.
  • The post is a real answer, might even be correct, is complete, but is short.
  • The post attempts to answer the question but is missing important details or explanations. (Such posts should sometimes be deleted but they should not be comments.)
  • The post has severe quality problems; it is incomprehensible or otherwise unusable.
  • The post answers a totally different question from the one the OP asked.
  • The post provides a real solution to the problem, but contains a phrase like "I have the same problem" or "have you tried," which the reviewer takes as license to avoid reading any other part of the post.

If these same reviewers had the power to actually make those posts comments, we'd get a lot of comments that should have remained as answers, and even more comments that should've just been deleted.

  • Thank you for your detailed response. I have to admit that I agree with you in most points, now as you explained the reasons. However, I would still be in favour of adding the possibility to flag an answer for moderator attention directly from within the LQ queue. I see that this is probably not helpful enough to justify the effort needed to implement this, but it was worth a try... – Byte Commander Apr 21 '15 at 12:38
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No - we do not need any changes! Just go on and delete them.

I totally disagree with the questioner's view and see no need to change anything. Answers that should have been comments should get deleted. If once in a while a moderator finds a good wrongly posted answer him/herself they may do what they want, but there is no real need for that.

The only advantage of this option is that everybody may stay lazy and nothing changes...

0

Okay - not more power for 2k users, but the reflagging option sounds good!

I agree that we should save good but wrongly posted comments of new users and convert more of them instead of delete them.
I disagree that we should change the review implementation and the permissions of 2k+ users, but I would like to see a "reflag for moderators to convert" option for as not-an-answer flagged posts in the LQ review queue to highlight those posts to moderators.

Advantages of this approach are that the change in the review system is minimal and there is no need to grant 2k+ users special privileges, but it increases the moderator's workload.

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Yes - giving normal LQ-reviewers the power to convert answers to comments is useful!

I agree that we should save good but wrongly posted comments of new users and convert more of them instead of delete them.

The advantages of adding this privilege to 2k+ users are that it will relieve the mods and increase the rate of useful conversions, while it does not let the review queues grow.

  • 2
    You already can do this... Open the question in a new tab, copy the "answer" and then paste it as a comment and leave at the beginning of the comment: Comment by [ByteCommander](http://meta.askubuntu.com/users/367990/bytecommander): Then go back to the tab and vote for deletion... (if it's useful.... I do this about 1/month) – Fabby Apr 21 '15 at 9:44
  • @Fabby But then it is my comment and not the one of the low-rep user! So the OP will also respond and ping me instead of the original author. As far as I know, it would not even help to add "(by LowRepUsername)", because one can't receive a ping without having a visible post on that question, no? – Byte Commander Apr 21 '15 at 9:48
  • Yeah... That's why it has to be valuable before I do this... (It's not a solution, just a workaround) – Fabby Apr 21 '15 at 20:44
  • I don't think this is a normal-user power option. Maybe for 10k or higher (15 or 20k even), but not just anyone who can access the review queue. If this is implemented, it should also be a democratic process. – Kaz Wolfe Jan 22 '17 at 4:35
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What would be very useful (and I'm not sure it exists), is for a pop-up message or equivalent to show up when a user with less than 50 rep selects the "Your Answer" box in order to write an answer. The message could indicate that the tool is only for answers, and not for comments, highlighting the 50 rep requisite. This would probably discourage some users to post comments as answers, reducing the reviewing queue.

At the moment, any new user can use the box, without any warning of its misuse.

  • This is actually a good idea. IDK exactly how it could be implemented, perhaps the message could show at all times when <=50 rep? i do see answer comments quite a bit and they do clog up low quality review a bit. If you could flesh the idea out a bit, it could be a decent feature request. There may already be something like this (long time since I was at 50 rep) but not that I am aware of. – Mark Kirby Jan 24 '17 at 18:33
  • Well, I though of it as a feature request question, but searching I saw this question and post it as a answer. But it's probably not quite the right place for it, as you suggest. I will think of it further. – user308164 Jan 24 '17 at 18:50

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