# What is the overall positive result of leaving compressed answers as comments?

This seemingly helpful comment to this question leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Is it correct? It gives the impression of authority, but there is no voting mechanism, so I have no way to begin to judge it's validity, and neither do future readers.

The comment was left by an active user with numerous other highly-voted answers, and I wonder if this might even intimidate others from posting an answer, which could enter into the voting process and I could eventually accept or not, or ask for a link to statements that might seem unsupported, so I could read further.

I've experienced compressed answers as comments before, and I'm always left wondering 'what is the overall positive impact of doing this?' and 'why do people do this in the first place - what is the benefit to the comment-poster?'

• There are a couple of reasons why people post comments like this. Many times they want to provide a starting point for more research as they don't have the time to write up a full fledged answer. If your question has merit and ages well, I am sure it will not intimidate other users to write an answer. After two days you also have the possibility to put up a bounty, which probably will remove any intimidation that a comment could have caused. Feb 5 '17 at 9:17
• @Martin-マーチン rats - no accept button here either :) Sounds good.
– uhoh
Feb 5 '17 at 9:19
• I am quite certain that some of the meta regulars will come by and provide you with a more elaborate answer (and links and possibly memes). Give it a little time... Feb 5 '17 at 9:21
• @Martin-マーチン yep, sounds good!
– uhoh
Feb 5 '17 at 9:27
• The irony that this was bumped by community a few hours after this question here was posted :D
– Jan
Feb 5 '17 at 23:48
• @Jan I haven't had my coffee yet, but I don't see any irony. Interesting coincidence though.
– uhoh
Feb 6 '17 at 1:17
• @Jan I suspect it was caused by me downvoting the only answer to a score of 0.
– orthocresol Mod
Feb 6 '17 at 9:43

As one of the users who leaves the most comments - often I just don't have the time right now and right then to write up a full answer. However, in more recent times I've also tried to come back to those questions and write answers when I can.

Apart from that, sometimes I'm just not 100% sure of the answer and don't want to write an answer, but just want to suggest something that would hopefully be helpful. (If this is the case I will always make it very clear that I'm not sure.) I have been corrected many times before on SE even though I have high rep. Please do not feel scared of (politely) correcting somebody else who is wrong, even if they have high rep. All of us say stupid things now and then.

While we are on this topic I would like to encourage all users to try and finish what they started by writing an answer. I understand that not everybody does have that time; so please don't take this as a rule but rather just an encouragement. Nobody is going to judge you if you leave lots of comments, but we will love you even more if you leave lots of answers!

Sometimes, if a question is not very engaging and can be explained in one paragraph or two, it is OK to write a short answer. I've done a lot of these. Here's an example. (I'm not saying this applies to your question - just in general!)

• Yep, I think this is a more realistic answer, have something useful (or helpful, or even the correct answer), but simply don't have time. So leave an answer-kernel, or a trail of breadcrumbs, and move on.
– uhoh
Feb 5 '17 at 16:59
• I think that we do it because we're too busy is the answer to be accepted currently, because it sort-of answers the question. The question is is this positive? and not why do we do it? but because we're too busy sort-of suggests that there is a chance that it is in fact not always positive.
– uhoh
Feb 6 '17 at 1:53

Yep, you're right about that. And that. And that.

People sometimes answer in comments for various reasons. In this case, I'm sure Mr. Warzecha wouldn't have been happy about a one-line answer, and perhaps didn't have the time to answer.

He only had three choices. Not doing anything at all, which wouldn't get you going, leaving a comment, which he did, or leaving a one-line, non-elaborate answer which would probably end up deleted or frowned upon. So he left a comment, and would probably leave an answer in the future.

Hence it boils down to the fact that a comment has a lower bar set for minimum quality, and can inherently be short, and guarantees no negative responses for little-ness. That's not what an answer is, and a high-reputation user is especially expected to post high-quality answers. That is, the level of input required for a legitimate answer was higher than what @Klaus could offer at that point.

Of course, this is only a logical approach to the problem and he may have had other, irrelevant reasons. But only he can provide those reasons, if any. And I'm merely indicating that it's not at all an uncommon phenomenon to post an answer as a comment.

As for the meme, which is related to this meta.SO answer $\ldots$

• Thanks - the comment does guide in a good (and probably correct) direction, and may decrease the probability of a wrong answer or discourage me from accepting one, and it does clue me in that the quoted explanation is probably not right, so those are all good things.
– uhoh
Feb 5 '17 at 16:55
• Comment–answers are considered a problem on some sites, because as you said, there is no way of voting them correctly, and no matter how many votes the answer gets, the comment appears above the answer. So it has a great potential for spreading misinformation. If @Klaus didn't answer after a reasonable amount of time, you can add his comment to an answer, elaborate on your findings, and mark it as community-wiki if you want. Feb 5 '17 at 17:04
• OK thanks for the follow-up.
– uhoh
Feb 5 '17 at 17:19

Why so many people get into the stackexchange groove and participate is a fascinating mystery to me. I think the motives are quite diverse. Of course we are all made of molecules and so the question of why anybody does anything could be considered on-topic here, but let's not.

If people want a quick feel-good moment by helping, or if they subconsciously need a quick look-how-smart-I-am moment because they suffer in a look-how-stupid-you-are workplace, it doesn't matter as long as the outcome is positive.

But there's the rub. What's positive? If we look back to stackexchange, it's good answers to good questions. If the intent behind leaving a compressed answer as comment is to in some way help in the process of answer-generation, it might be a good idea to check up to see if the practice is actually helping or not, and doing something like that is hard if you already are commenting because you don't have enough time to answer.

The question I've asked; What is the overall positive result of leaving compressed answers as comments? might cause one to wonder if there is a metric for positive result. There isn't an obvious one.

Does this actually help attract good answers? Does it intimidate people from trying to write an answer? Does it discourage people from leaving poor answers or a poor answer getting accepted? I think some of each happens and it varies on a case-by-case basis both because of variations in the question and variations in exactly which people view the question pre- and post- compressed answer as comment.

There aren't built-in tools to look at this - in fact it's an excellent long-term research project for someone interested in AI and data-mining.

So right now, the answer is nobody knows!

That puts it in the realm of meta, where ideally an eye is kept on things like this. @Jan just mentioned this has been bumped, an example of eye-keeping-on perhaps.

• I haven't a clue why there are several down votes, and that's because each down voter chose to leave no clues.
– uhoh
Oct 5 '18 at 18:30
• Guess they were afraid to leave comments lest a full answer be requested ;-)
– Buck Thorn Mod
Oct 20 '19 at 14:48
• @BuckThorn Ha! yes that must be it ;-)
– uhoh
Oct 20 '19 at 15:12