When users see a question, they often write comments like “did you try x?” to clarify if a novice user has already tried some trivial steps before posting the question. Now there's almost always some (usually low reputation) user who just copies the comment (often without even changing the grammar to be an answer) and posts it as an answer, which then gets accepted.

I think this is a rather unfair way of gaining reputation from other user's knowledge. A solution would of course be to post everything as an answer, even stuff like “have you checked the command for spelling errors?”, but that's definitely not the point of AU. So is there anything we can do about these users?

  • 1
    Admonish them lightly in a comment?
    – belacqua
    Feb 27, 2014 at 21:41
  • I just flag such answers for being not answers and only comments. Also, talking to newbies and advising them to wait gives me some extra points.
    – Danatela
    Mar 11, 2014 at 8:31

4 Answers 4


And —in continuation to searchfgold6789's answer— if these comments are answers with question marks on the end, they should have been posted as answers in the first place.

The difference is merely set dressing, flamboyance, explanation and example. If you want the points, have some conviction in what you're saying and spend some time writing it up. If you leave a comment and somebody does flesh that out as an answer and people vote for that, that's your fault for not believing in yourself.

And if this unscrupulous person hasn't put any extra work in, there's absolutely nothing to stop you (or anybody else) writing a better answer.

  • When I see a comment that solves the problem and I understand how it got solved I just write it as answer and give it my personal touch
    – Braiam
    Feb 26, 2014 at 20:26
  • No, I'm really talking about situations where e.g. I ask them if they checked the spelling of their command and half a minute later someone else copy-pastes my comment into an answer. The user finds he did in fact spell it wrong and accepts the answer. I mean, of course I could put “check the spelling” as an answer for every single question where I suspect that might be the problem, but I really think this belongs into the comments. I don't really care about the reputation, but in my opinion it's still unfair to do this. But if there's nothing to do about it, I'll just accept that.
    – Donarsson
    Feb 26, 2014 at 21:53
  • @Donarsson those questions should be closed as no reproducible. Is unlikely someone will not check their commands before asking help.
    – Braiam
    Feb 26, 2014 at 22:02
  • I don't think I've been gazumped like that before. If you ever think you're straying into "Oh, but that's really unfair" territory, flag something there and let us know what the situation is. If it's something we can fix, we'll try our best.
    – Oli Mod
    Feb 26, 2014 at 22:03
  • Nah, as I said above, I don't care that much about getting reputation, I won't bother the mods with something like this, unless the situation is really extraordinarily unfair, I think you guys have more important things to do :) But thanks for the clarification. I think I'll just accept that some people have a different attitude to morality than I have, and take no offence from it.
    – Donarsson
    Feb 26, 2014 at 22:07
  • 2
    And I think this is frequently not a problem for the commenter. I and others (it appears) will sometimes leave something 'pointing the way' to an answer if it looks like it would help -- especially if we are in a hurry/typing on a phone ('there's my bus!'). If someone takes it and runs with it, great.
    – belacqua
    Feb 27, 2014 at 21:40

If someone posts an answer as a comment, posting it as an answer is the right thing to do.


  • If the comment really is not an answer--that is, it neither would nor is intended to solve even part of the problem (for anyone)--then it should not be posted as an answer.

    Note that even solutions that are inapplicable to the OP but may provide at least a partial solution to someone else experiencing what could reasonably be seen as the same problem, are valid answers. (Questions are not just for their creators; we are building a library of detailed answers to questions about Ubuntu.)

  • Credit should be given to the author of the comment. If the answer is quoting the comment verbatim, that should be made clear. (Note however that some ideas are obvious and multiple people can come up with them independently.)

  • Some people say answers that are rehashes of or quotes from a comment should be posted as community wiki. This is not actually required, but there are a number of advantages to doing so when the answer is just a quote or rephrase from a comment.

Regarding your example: If the solution to the OP's problem is to fix the spelling of a command, and there's no answer that says that, and someone posts an answer that says that, they very likely did the right thing even if their answer is based on your comment saying the same thing.

I don't think you're at all in the wrong to post something as a comment that you see as a troubleshooting step that's not likely to solve the problem or apply to other users. But nor is someone else who thinks of it as a solution at all in the wrong to post it as an answer. Furthermore, when it comes to misspelled commands, it's often quite easy for someone else to independently see the error, perhaps even without noticing your comment. Without a link it would be hard to know for sure, but it sounds like the user you're concerned about has actually done nothing wrong.


I will repost what seems to be the current policy of all SE from an answer which someone stole from a comment by Jeff Atwood:

Steal comments that answer the question and post them as an answer. If it happens enough either the misguided commentators will be annoyed enough at the "lost" rep to give outright answers next time, or no one will notice / care and you'll help the community and... oh yeah, get some rep.

BTW, I stole this answer from Jeff Atwood's comment on sysadmin1138's post, so you should upvote this to annoy Jeff (and I stole it from you :P).

As Nixphoe points out in the comments below, sometimes you have to lead the author along to get more information out of him. In those cases, comments should be avoided like the plague and any information discovered in comments should be placed in either the original question or in an answer.

If you post an answer based on limited information, wait to see if more info is given and then edit the answer accordingly. It's also nice to modify the original question to include all information that is garnered in the process.

Throughout all of it, encourage the author to update their own question and provide more information. Eventually people will get the hang of it. The Q/A nature of the site is defeated if half of the pertinent information is in comments, and the accepted answer is only truly acceptable after reading two dozen comments strung out over the question and three different answers.

Always under all circumstances strive to keep all information in either the Q or the A.

I agree with this. Also, remember that SE doesn't even care if you accept an answer:

Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. Heck, we don’t even expect people asking questions to come back and accept an answer most of the time.

emphasis changed by me


Since these answers are just comments posted as answers, the solution should be to just flag the answer as "Not an Answer". Then it will be deleted as such.

  • Well they sometimes are, as in the example of a typing error. But I can't assume that every problem is just a typing error (most are not) and put that as my answer, so I ask first if I suspect that might be the problem. If this turns out to be in fact the problem, I think the right way to do it would be they tell me it solved their problem, then I repost the question as answer and they accept that. Again, I don't care that much about reputation, It's more about nice and fair behaviour, which I think is essential for a community.
    – Donarsson
    Feb 26, 2014 at 21:57
  • 1
    @Donarsson normally you are at fault if you didn't posted it as answer, now again, if a question is not clear enough ask in comments for more diagnostic commands so you can be sure of your solution.
    – Braiam
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:46

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