Answers should ideally not be "extended comments" but in certain cases they seem to be useful. I am reluctant to remove such answers for being "not an answer" which as per strict SE rules should be removed.

I am thinking of an alternative of converting these answers to a community-wiki. A community-wiki answer does not award rep points to the answerer and can be edited by anyone (low rep requirements).

I am not sure if that is a right thing to do. The other two alternatives are deletion and retention. Let us have a consensus on this. If someone has a better suggestion then please let me know.

Related post: Comments placed as answers because 'it is too long for a comment'

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Have you got some specific examples? I think you raise a very good point - it's difficult because the degree to which an answer answers a question can be non-binary, "extended comment" answers often fall in to that grey zone where they, at least in part, (attempt to) answer the question but often focus on other issues like misconceptions or flawed premises etc. A typical example would be an evolution question based on a flawed concept of evolution... The action depends on where on the scale of "should be a comment-to-this is a great answer" the answer fits $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:09
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    $\begingroup$ @rg255 Actually there are many answers by Remi which he himself declares as "more of a comment"; see the link in the question. This is a recent example. Others may also have posted such answers. $\endgroup$
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ That's one where the post falls more toward the "this is an answer" end of the scale - the benefit of two eyes is dealt with (though not explained in depth) - while much of the content should really be a comment... could we edit answers to convert parts in to a comment and leave the answer part as an answer? $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ Just to be clear; what do you specifically see as the problematic issue? That an answerer is getting rep points for an answer that doesn't specifically answer the question (but might solve the problem for the OP by "dissolving" the question), or that the initial question might be a poor fit to BioSE? Or both? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ Also, this, this and this might be answers by me that relate the the extended-comment-as-answer issue. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater actually both. In certain instances the questions are actually not a good fit and are eventually closed. An answer that is not fully conclusive (which we sometimes want to refer to as more of a comment) are IMO acceptable. I'm specifically talking about answers that are informative in a general sense but are not answers to the question. $\endgroup$
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ upvoted the interesting point, but vote against the community answer thingy. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG I think rep-whoring by posting irrelevant answers might be a "problem" (but not a very common one at BioSE I think), but find partial answers or relevant but tangential answers (i.e. ones that might refocus or dissolve the question) rather unproblematic. And people can always choose not to vote on them (or downvote). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ The issue only becomes a problem if the comments are accepted as answers. Note that a lot of the example "comments" (particularly @fileunderwater's) do a perfectly reasonable job at answering the question, except that they have the phrase "this is a comment" at the top. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 4:08

3 Answers 3


Perhaps just follow the SE convention - downvote. I've done that, although it unfortunately did result in a discussion with remi (r: why are hi-rep users judged more stringently - me: you should be an example). But apart from remi, and to lead this discussion away from a personal critique - I see it happen quite a lot, by users all the way through the rep ranks, including me at times. In those instances, I have received downvotes, and I appreciate that. It keeps one focused.

I, personally, don't like comment-answers. The excuse, 'I need more space', can simply be overturned by putting in multiple comments. An answer is an answer, a comment a comment. I vote against turning it into a community answer, as it is not an answer and you basically array the community, including me, behind something I, and likely others, disagree with.


I am coming to this question from this one by Remi.b on essentially the same topic. In the interest of maintaining the SE spirit, I've voted to close the other and answer here, as I must have missed this question the first time around.

I've been a member of Biology for over 4 years, with various levels of involvement over that time, and I've pretty consistently been a very involved user of Stack Overflow for nearly as long, as well as a number of other SE sites with somewhat lower rep. So, I've seen a lot, and tried to stay on top of "acceptable practices" and whatnot. On pretty much any other site, "comment-answer" answers would be pretty quickly downvoted and deleted, or massively edited to remove the comments.

It is my view, and (I think) the view of the overall SE community, that answers are for actual answers to the question being asked. This is not a forum, where each next post in a thread (they're not even labeled questions and answers) is the continuation of a conversation, and you have to dig to find the actual answer(s) to the question. From the very beginning, SE (well, SO, at first) was designed to be different. From the tour on every site, at the top:

"This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.

Just questions...

...and answers.

I think making long comments into answers (I'll admit, I've done it once or twice) directly goes against the network's philosophy. It's a little fuzzier when an answer is included at the end of the long comments, but I feel that comments should be restricted to the comments section. On other sites with a lot more traffic (SO for example), this is mainly to prevent very low-rep users that don't yet have the 50 rep needed to comment on any post from commenting in an answer. These get downvoted and deleted fairly rapidly, most often. Comment-answers like we're talking about here, mainly from high- to very high-rep users, are quite rare, as high-rep answerers generally know the rules.


"But I'd have to write many comments to get my point across!"

Brevity is the soul of wit (from Shakespeare). Instead of writing long, descriptive sentences, be terse. Make bullet points, not drawn-out arguments. Use multiple comments, if needed. When I'm doing that, I leave enough room to put (...) at the end of a continued comment, and at the beginning of a continuing comment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing multiple comments; if you have multiple issues you're addressing, you may need to. You also need to very thoughtfully consider your comments before posting, not only so you can catch mis-spellings, grammar mistakes, etc., but so that you can be as succinct as possible.

"But I'll lose my nice formatting!"

Too bad, so sad. Learn Markdown and judiciously use italics, bolding, and inline code/monospace text to highlight things.

"The comments may be out of order/someone may post in the middle of my comment series!"

The first is handled simply by going to the bottom of the comments shown and clicking on the Show X more comments link. If you don't think the OP (original poster) is intelligent enough to do that, do you really think they'll thoughtfully read your comments and take them to heart? The second part is handled by writing out all your comments ahead of time, preferably in a text editor that provides Markdown highlighting and character counting, then posting them one after another. You may trip the captcha, but once you satisfy it you won't be bothered.

"What about making my comment-answer a community wiki?"

That addresses the problem of gaining/losing rep based on your comments (no rep is gained or lost when true comments are voted upon - you'll also notice that you can't vote down a comment), but you're still posting a non-answer as an answer, which is clearly against the philosophy of the network.

"But sometimes I post some general information answering the OP's question(s), or point them in the direction of learning more!"

Two things: first, from How do I write a good answer? in the help center, Answer well-asked questions. Not all questions can or should be answered here. If the question is bad, or shows little or no prior research effort, or whatever, don't answer it. Doing so merely encourages the same person and others to post low-quality questions, knowing that they'll get answered anyway. Feel free to point them to another resource that answers their question (if possible), but you should not be answering it here.

Second: If you feel the question is of high-enough quality to answer, but it has formatting problems or whatever, feel free to edit the question into shape, and then answer it (assuming it meets all criteria of being on-topic, showing previous research, etc.), and avoid editorializing in your answer. Comments are the place for that.

  • $\begingroup$ Rather than a new post to basically agree, I find the last point the most compelling reason to delete comment-as-answers. If the questions requires so much commentary, then it is very likely not a good question in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 17:13

I mainly disagree with @Christiaan. The issue with writing many comments instead of an extended comment-answer is that it is impossible (or not easy) to write comment with an attractive format. It is difficult to retain a read attention in a series of 4 comments while it is much easier in an answer. Note also, the order of the comments may be switched as they are upvoted (when there are many comments). Comments were really designed to be stand-alone pieces of information and I don't think one should try to spread an advanced explanation over several comments.

I think it is good to write comment-answer and I agree with @WYSIWYG that such comment-answer should be converted to community-wiki answer to avoid the user could receive any reputation points.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments don't change order as they are upvoted. Simply click the Show X more comments link and they'll be in order. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ Sure it is still true that the might appear in the wrong order or they might not all appear to a given user. But I agree this is a very specific case, I did not want to make my whole point out of it. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 15:20

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