I've been using this SE for several years and noticed that in recent months a trend has emerged of not answering questions via the answer feature but rather via comments. Sometimes the commenter would turn the comment into an answer and sometimes (more rarely) another user will do it, but most often the question will remain open without answers but with some "answers as comments".
This is especially noticeable when there are "competing" comments - which is exactly the place for multiple answers and community votes.
There are also occasional disagreements in comments (which is perfectly fine!) which in my opinion would be best handled by creating a different answer (letting the community vote to decide the "better" answer).
I find it bad form in several ways:
- It doesn't allow for clear voting on different answers (other than the often overlooked comment upvote)
- It limits the detail in the answer, as comments are short and don't allow formatting and images
- It leaves questions open, and a casual user might miss that there is in fact an answer to the question
- It promotes chat or forum like discussion in the comments, where a suggestion/answer is made by a user which is followed by a clarification question by the asker, etc. An answer allows for separate comments discussion for clarification as well as editing should it be required
- As far as I am aware, comments aren't affecting question activity, so a new comment doesn't place the question on the top of the list of questions vs. a new answer that would
- This goes against the SE policy of using comments for clarification and not for answering the question (at least based on my experience in other SE sites, both as a participant and as a reader)
I would be interested in hearing if others noticed that and whether or not they consider this an issue that needs addressing.
A few examples from the top of the questions list of questions without answers but with answers in the comments and some follow up discussion:
- How to I stop Ikea SÄLJAN ADILS desk from wobbling?
- Blotchy pine doors
- Would poplar or alder be good for a desk
And an example of a disagreeing comment that should be turned into an answer: