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When someone posts a short answer, but it's not a comment, it shouldn't be converted to a comment. If it's too short to be useful, it should be downvoted or, if it's very low quality, perhaps even deleted. (If these choices aren't palatable, adding a post notice asking for more detail is always another option.)

The way things are, people are encouraged not to post short answers, even if a short answer is all that's necessary. I know I've avoided answering questions in the past because I couldn't think of enough filler to pad out an answer to the expected length. And I've seen other people post valid answers as comments, keeping in mind that they're "too short" to be acceptable on ELL, even if they're better than the actual "answers" they're competing with.

Worse, users might post answers as answers, then have them converted to comments which can't be downvoted, when what we really need to do is mark the answer as unhelpful by voting. The resulting comment-answers appear above all the potentially helpful real answers.

Thoughts?

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  • Are you asking because of one instance (the one you cite with your link, now reverted)? Or is that just one example of what you perceive to be a recurring problem? – J.R. Mar 20 '14 at 15:53
  • I don't see it all the time. I have seen it more than once, but I never got around to writing about it on meta before :-) (Unfortunately, I have no idea how to search for "converted to comment", and I didn't keep track, so the only links I have are the ones I managed to dig up here.) – snailplane Mar 20 '14 at 16:01
  • I've seen lots of flags that said "this should be a comment," but this is the first one I can remember saying, "this should have been left an answer." I guess that goes to show something. – J.R. Mar 20 '14 at 16:04
  • @J.R. I thought it would be more productive to bring it up on meta than to flag it, because this way we can talk about it and hear about opposing views! Anyway, I'm not sure what it shows--that I'm lazy about flagging? :-) – snailplane Mar 20 '14 at 16:05
  • I think I stand by what I said in my answer to the BLQ meta question. What so you think? meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/957/… – WendiKidd Mar 22 '14 at 4:18
  • @TylerJamesYoung Oh, I assumed that was the case, so I edited it right back :-) – snailplane Mar 28 '14 at 18:54
  • Today I ran across an answer with 4 flags, plus one user deeming those invalid. The answer makes a good and accurate point, but it was only tangentially related to the question. All thought brought me back here. What's my point? Just that, sometimes, the right thing to do isn't always clear-cut. – J.R. Apr 4 '14 at 22:46
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It is true that some questions can be responded to with a boolean answer almost. Many people feel better asking their question if they post their own interpretation and simply ask us to verify it. One could say, 'Yes, you're right, that's how your parse it.' and it would be a valid enough answer because anything else you could fill your space with has already been suggested in the question.

...This leads to a suggestion: a short answer is a comment of sorts, simply in a different location in a different font size with fewer voting capabilities. However, a question can take any length without any complaints. Would suggesting that questions be kept more general, so as to include more relevant info in the answer instead of the question, be worthwhile? Offering possible answers in a question displays the ability of the asker, but leaves little scope for exploring the question in more detail.

The answer to this question may be the question and not the answer. Gotta love statements to blow the mind.

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