Can we somehow improve the experience for users, who have useful comments but can only post (non-)answers?

We regularly recommend deletion of (or delete for the top users) "answers" from new users. That is mostly fine as many are "Thank you" or "Having another question" answers. But from time to time there are answers with useful and eligible content which we categorize as "better suited as a comment". However the ever-present problem: the new users cannot comment.

Imagine being young again with no reputation: This must be quite frustrating. Getting the feedback that something is better suited as a comment but at the same time no being able to comment. I guess for important cases one could bring it to the attention of your moderators, they can convert things to comments, see related question Recommending deletion [However this system might need improvement, as I feel that only very few deleted answers are flagged for moderator attention].

But what is about the "small" cases. One example (not the best, but they are hard to find) https://tex.stackexchange.com/a/325303/36296. A new user, apparently willing to help, wants to ask for clarification. I would not want to trouble moderators with that, as other users asked for the same information shortly after. But wouldn't it be helpful if the deleting review would include a field "recommend conversion to comment" and with sufficient votes from experienced users, such cases could either be automatically converted or grant the new user the privilege to comment on this specific question?


The example above was from the "low quality review". Available options in this queue are

  • No comment needed
  • This is commentary on another post, not an answer
  • This is a “thank you” comment
  • This is an “I’m having this problem, too” comment
  • This is a different question posted as an answer
  • This is a link-only answer (and not spam)

so no direct opportunity to flag for moderator attention. However when the answer opens one can click on the "flag" link below the question. But this is not very intuitive, because as soon as the window with the deletion options is open, it is hidden behind it and once having clicked for deletion the queue automatically jumps to the next answer and (at least before gaining the ability to see the history) it is very hard to find an answer again.

And I admit, I also voted to recommend deletion, because it is better suited as a comment.

  • 3
    I agree: this aspect of the system, at least, is very poorly designed to the point of being broken. However, I very rarely vote for deletion or have the opportunity to do so. Is this something in the review queues? Because I guess we already know those are really problematic. If you interact with the Q&A directly, then it is much more natural to flag for moderator attention because it is really the only option you've got. (This may annoy the moderators, but there actually isn't any choice except leaving it.) And then you just click the applicable option for should-be-something-else. – cfr Aug 26 '16 at 16:24
  • @cfr yes, from the "low quality" reviews. See the edit. – user36296 Aug 26 '16 at 16:41
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    I remember my first time here. Nothing to really feel confident enough to just answer. Leave a quick comment to give a hint and clarify the situation. Oh, wait. I cannot. It was very frustrating and it took me a long time till i had enough rep to be able to comment. – Johannes_B Aug 26 '16 at 22:24
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    Same for upvoting. Oh, that is a good answer, it should get an upvote. But i can't because i am the new guy in town and i still did not prove i am not a troublemaker. – Johannes_B Aug 26 '16 at 22:25
  • In my opinion the situation could be improved (but not totally prevented) if we would have less answers by unregistrated users -- everyone can come in here and post an 'answer' (either good or complete rubbish). Non-Registration should be dropped! – user31729 Aug 26 '16 at 23:09
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    @ChristianHupfer I really fail to see how that would help. By hypothesis, this question is about users who are sincerely trying to assist the OP and are succeeding in making a useful, albeit minor, contribution. – cfr Aug 27 '16 at 2:29
  • @Johannes_B I don't actually remember being frustrated by this. I don't think I understood how the site worked well enough to be frustrated. I know that I posted an answer when I meant to comment, but that was inadvertent. I can't remember what happened to it. Either it became a comment or it got merged into an answer I'd posted. I was essentially oblivious to the restriction until after I was no longer restricted by it. I was posting only anonymously at a later point, but that's not quite the same since I could have logged in had I chosen to do so. – cfr Aug 27 '16 at 2:32
  • @Johannes_B But that doesn't mean that I cannot see why it would be frustrating .... Only that I was not really personally affected. (I'm not sure why.) – cfr Aug 27 '16 at 2:33
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    Basically this comes down to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/214173/… – Joseph Wright Aug 27 '16 at 14:24
  • Imho if someone has enough knowledge to want to answer an unclear tikz question then he/she should be able to gain the needed reputation in a few hours by answering (or asking) a better question. So I don't see why the restriction should be really frustrating. – Ulrike Fischer Aug 27 '16 at 16:04

Two suggestions here:

  • We already have a method for converting answers into comments - flagging a post for moderator attention.

  • Don't let the review queues define your actions. Go to the post and flag it. If it does warrant a review, you can find still find the post by viewing the Low Quality Post history tab. Alternatively, click the Back button on your browser after reviewing, and then click the permalink for the post:

    enter image description here

A request similar to yours was to add this feature as a 20k+ rep user privilege. However, it was decided that his still is a moderator-only privilege.

This was again suggested as part of a 30k+ privilege under the umbrella of comment moderation, with the following addendum:

"... I think comment moderation is mostly a waste of time. I'd much rather let the system handle comments. Unfortunately, there are already so many comments that should have been edits (or even answers) instead that we can't blindly hide/delete old comments. Creating this privilege will mean committing to manual comment moderation for the foreseeable future. Comment moderation is tedious and unrewarding so I'd rather have our top users do something more productive with their time."

Closing argument: If you really feel an answer of a new-user is better-suited as a comment, make a comment in that regard and flag it for moderator attention.

Note that your request here speaks to the design of the user experience and is therefore not really limited to this site. As such, it may be better-suited on Meta.SE (pun intended).


  • The 30k - priviledge question on Meta.SE is very interesting, in my point of view -- now the cited quote about "waste of time" is in fact the 'demo' answer, although having a lot of upvotes it's unclear whether it has been meant seriously to provide the comment moderation at all... – user31729 Aug 30 '16 at 23:34

This post is well intended, but it will fall on the deaf ears of those who are targeted. The mob we are talking about gets a kick from harassing under the guise of enforcing the rules. They hold grudges forever if one of their peers is criticized for doing so, and wage vendettas in response to what they perceive as crimes against their fragile egos.

Case in point: @Johannes_B, who has the audacity to claim he doesn't know what frustration @samcarter is talking about. He and @Kurt wrote disingenuous comments in my latest post, probably to avenge the person I criticized earlier, whose pseudo I don't (care to) remember, after he deleted an answer for the glaringly abusive motive that it was off topic. It's likely a bait to make me lose my temper, so the mob can use the pretext to censor/exclude me.

This is a pest to contend with, but it can't hurt to expose it.

  • 4
    This is a really strange post, I was genuinely taken aback. Firstly, just to clarify, this question of samcarter's is about new users posting comments as answers because they don't have enough rep to post actual comments. But yeah, I mean, this is a strangely paranoid and combative attitude to take towards people who have given up their own free time to help you for nothing, nothing at all. There isn't a mob here, nobody's out to get anyone. I also don't understand what you view as disingenuous, the only person who's been in any way rude or aggressive is you. – Au101 Aug 27 '16 at 18:51
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    Good answers should come with explanation, you should know the site is modelled as a kind of knowledge-base, almost an organically evolved encyclopaedia, and whilst it's great when the OP gets the answer they're looking for, we're trying to cultivate content that will help future users with the same problem. In other words, the Q&As shouldn't be just for the OP's benefit, as far as possible. As for Kurt, the poor guy gave up his time to write a complete answer and you thanked him with a snarky comment, so he explained why he did what he did. Nobody was rude to you, nobody wants revenge – Au101 Aug 27 '16 at 18:53
  • @PauloCereda is a subtle beast like a dolphin that always smiles but kills baby seals if he had the chance. – percusse Aug 28 '16 at 12:55
  • Feigned indignation from users who bask in wickedness. In regard to "has the audacity", I confused cfr with johannes_B. I should have said about the 2nd: his support for this post (I think, "It was very frustrating ... –") is hypocritical given the abuses he perpetrated (refer to my answer for the link), which just I flagged [1] . Let's see the moderators' reaction. [1] My comment to his comment was censored: "This question helps myself. That you are right about. For the rest, you strike me as non constructive, but apparently you're in good company. ". – Erwann Aug 28 '16 at 21:02
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    Dear @Erwann You've been a member of this site for 4 days. Do you really think that's enough time to get any reasonable sense of what people are like here? Hang around a bit more, browse questions and answers, say hello in the chat and perhaps you will see a different side of the people here. Although such things are hard to measure, I would say that this is among the politest and friendliest StackExchange sites. – Alan Munn Aug 28 '16 at 22:18
  • "any reasonable sense of what people are like here" is a straw man. – Erwann Aug 28 '16 at 22:41
  • @Erwann My only point is that you are jumping to conclusions. – Alan Munn Aug 28 '16 at 23:28
  • Based on a straw man?! – Erwann Aug 28 '16 at 23:57
  • For the record: ...he deleted an answer... It is this incident that motivated the present post (see comment at the bottom). – Erwann Aug 29 '16 at 0:07
  • @Erwann: "He" who? The deleted post you refer to was clearly not-an-answer. You've been involved with the Stack Exchange network for around 9 months (noting your account on Unix & Linux), and surely you've seen and understand the format of each Q&A. – Werner Aug 29 '16 at 7:17
  • ahaha don't feed the troll please :) – percusse Aug 29 '16 at 7:19
  • I need someone to repeat what @Werner just said, "clearly-not-an-answer". ps: I should have put quotes, "...he deleted answer..." (in ref to my answer in this post). – Erwann Aug 29 '16 at 14:44
  • I can repeat whatever he said because he talks sensible all the time. Which part would you like to have? – percusse Aug 29 '16 at 16:53
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    I can't even understand where the rage is directed to. Whoever crosses you gets indicted. Make your point and people will respond. Write your own "feelings" and we write our feelings about you. I've been called nazi, asshole and many other things just because a close vote but this is the first time we are being accused of teaming up and bullying. I guess there is first to everything. By the way, some of them turned out to be nice people and shook off the beef. I hope you are one of them. – percusse Aug 29 '16 at 18:54
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    The internet has no real emotions, so i invite everyone to an imaginary real life free drink, my round, i'll pay. Let's gather and talk and enjoy the time. There are other things to worry about. – Johannes_B Aug 29 '16 at 21:34

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