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I have noticed a tendency on this site for people to post answers as comments. I don't know why this is, but it happens often, and then the comment gets many "up-votes" as an "answer."

My approach to this has been to ask people to convert their comment into an answer, then once this is done vote it up and flag the original comment for deletion. Here is a recent example (where I haven't flagged for deletion, in support of this question). I'm not happy with that solution, however, because it ends up throwing away the associated comment-votes.

I'd like to understand why people do this, whether others feel it is a problem as well, and if so, is there a better way to handle it?

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    Note that one can flag an answer as "not an answer", but not a comment as "not a comment". (sorry for the tongue-twister) – Federico Poloni Jul 4 '15 at 21:28
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    This reminded me of a question from the early days of the network dealing with the same topic: Why do some people answer in comments? – Pops Jul 8 '15 at 22:31
  • answers are indexed in google, but comments not. – SSimon Mar 22 '18 at 4:42
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At least for me, it is (for some reason) psychologically easier to just drop into a question a leave a short comment than to write an answer. If I write an actual answer, I usually try to put down at least ~15 minutes of writing time (I try to not write very short answers), and sometimes I just don't have the time. For comments, 5 seconds are enough.

However, I usually just leave a short comment-as-answer when I think that the answer is obvious enough that somebody else will write the same as an answer anyway. Hence, I usually don't think in these cases that I have some sort of magical special knowledge that isn't available to many other members of this community.

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    Why leave such a comment at all then? Surely by leaving a comment that you think others will put as an answer you are discouraging others from posting said answer as an answer, and hence circumventing the quality assurance (upvote, downvote, accept, flag, etc) mechanisms that SE has in place? – RyanfaeScotland Feb 19 '18 at 12:59
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The reason is that one-sentence answers are frowned upon as independent answers on Stack Exchange sites. Therefore people tend to view material that firs into a comment as too short to be a free-standing answer. I don't think there's an easy fix for this, as it's a cultural issue.

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  • I agree with the disapproval of a one-sentence answer. Many times, however, either 1) it's a many-sentence answer pushing comment size limits, or 2) the person is able to very quickly turn it into a multi-sentence answer. Given this, why not just write the multi-sentence answer in the first place? – jakebeal Jul 2 '15 at 13:56
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"I'm not happy with that solution, however, because it ends up throwing away the associated comment-votes"

Good! You should be happy, you are doing the question (and Academia) a favour!

Answers as comments are damaging to SE because they circumvent the quality assurance mechanisms put in place by SE.

  1. The community can’t down vote a comment.
  2. The community can’t edit a comment.
  3. A comment doesn’t move up and down based on votes (i.e good ones to the top, bad ones to the bottom).
  4. A comment can’t be marked as the accepted answer.
  5. A comment doesn’t show a question as having an answer.
  6. The moderation options for dealing with a comment aren't the same as the moderation options for dealing with a comment (including review queues and the like).

All those up-votes you see could just as feasibly be outnumbered by double, triple, octuple, even more! down-votes had the answer-as-a-comment been made as it should have been: as an answer.

The users of Academia do seem to do this a lot, even the high rep members, so it is nice of you to prod people into moving them into answers first. If you don’t mind coming back to the question again then by all means leave a ‘grace period’ between prodding and flagging but if you don’t want to then just flag with a custom moderator flag of ‘Answer in comments’ and the mods will normally clear out the comments and leave a reminder message of what comments are for. After having a handful of "good" answers-as-comments deleted users generally stop doing so.

You could even add a link to the page for the comment privledge into your proddding comment to help remind users what comments are for: https://academia.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/comment

Here are a couple of the key points from that page (some emphasis mine):

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

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