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It's been my experience that this is damaging to the functionality of the site.

Example. Say there are two answers to a question. The answerer pertaining to one of them misses something subtle but important, and accidentally provides a misleading answer. It's not a small error easily fixed in an edit, and requires a large amount of additional content to cover fully. This answer is upvoted and accepted by the asker as the correct answer. The second answer contains these details, but it's clear that neither the other answerer nor the asker have read it.

Anyone who later finds and reads the page is likely to be misled, and there's no obvious way to call attention to the issue without the ability to comment.

If not completely removed, perhaps the requirement should just be lower?

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    $\begingroup$ But there is an obvious way to proceed: earn 50 reputation (trivial matter for someone with the expertise required to detect flaws in accepted answers), and add a comment. $\endgroup$ – Post No Bulls Dec 26 '13 at 5:14
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    $\begingroup$ +1 Yes, it's a silly restriction. If someone is intent on spamming, they can do so just as disruptively by posting questions and answers. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Dec 26 '13 at 5:27
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    $\begingroup$ @PostNoBills It's not going to be trivial in all cases, especially if the expertise is only within one or two small areas. Regardless, the workaround should not be necessary. $\endgroup$ – G. H. Faust Dec 26 '13 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ @PostNoBills It might be just my impression (I have no data to support this), but my impression is that there was substantial decrease in voting during last year; so this is becoming less and less trivial. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 26 '13 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't a natural way to proceed be posting the comment as an answer and ask mods to convert it? (In a comment to your answer or, if you have enough rep to flag, by flagging your post.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 26 '13 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ Here is one older related thread: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/9203/… (There are probably more, but this is what I found by looking into questions tagged by privileges+comment.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 26 '13 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @user7530: But posting question and answers shows up on the first page. Commenting doesn't. That way when someone posts spam it gets detected. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 26 '13 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin I too have that impression (seems that there is no decrease in actual voting, but number of questions increased drastically so each particular question/answer disappears from front page very quickly etc) $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Dec 26 '13 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I posted the data here; the absolute number of votes did not fall dramatically, but the number of votes per post certainly did. $\endgroup$ – Post No Bulls Dec 26 '13 at 17:39
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The commenting privilege was debated ad infinitum at meta.SO, and proposals to lower the threshold were declined, declined, and declined again. Keep in mind that math.SE is not an independent site and the system of privileges is network-wide. It seems pointless to rehash the arguments here. Concerning the scenario you describe:

Anyone who later finds and reads the page is likely to be misled, and there's no obvious way to call attention to the issue without the ability to comment.

Accepted answers are frequently wrong or incomplete in low-level tags ("blind leading the blind"). It's the Internet: caveat lector. You can bookmark the question (or "favorite" it) and leave a comment after you have 50 points. (I'm sure you did enough to earn 50 points already; it's just that voting is slow during holidays. It will catch up.)

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I think the reputation limit on comments is principally to prevent an overwhelming number of comments of this type:

great answer! btw have you seen this tip for quick weghtloss?? cheers mate

Edits to questions and answers bump the post to the top of the "active" list; people will see them and flag them quickly. Comments don't do that, and so can escape notice for a long time, until the day when you realize that there are now eight million spam comments, and it is too late to do anything.

It's unfortunate that the site needs to protect against comment spam, to the detriment of legitimate but low-reputation commenters, but that's the world we live in.

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    $\begingroup$ Good point. But surely if the limit were, say, 10 reputation, that would still stop the spambots, but also allow new users to comment (after they have one upvote)? $\endgroup$ – user7530 Dec 26 '13 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ That is a different proposal from the one that was originally suggested. That one was a significant change to the way the site works; yours is just tinkering at the edge: You propose that everything should be exactly as it is now, except that the reputation limit for commenting should be 10 rather than 50. Do you have any evidence this would be better? How much better? Why 10? Why not 5, or 13, or 27? $\endgroup$ – MJD Dec 26 '13 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what evidence you are expecting. I observe that frequently new users leave comments as "answers," since they do not have the technical permission to post comments. I therefore speculate that lowering the reputation to 10 (which requires only one upvote, quite common for a user's first post) instead of 50 (five upvotes, highly unlikely) would alleviate this problem, while also addressing your concern that comments would be used as a way to spam the site by bot accounts. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Dec 26 '13 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with user7530 (note the last line of the original post). 10 reputation seems like a good compromise. Though I can accept (as per Post No Bills' answer) that the system is unlikely to change. $\endgroup$ – G. H. Faust Dec 26 '13 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for that weightloss tip! I lost 10 pounds in under 6 hours! $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Dec 26 '13 at 23:40
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One of the reasons that commenting requires 50 points and not 2 points is the fact that the SE model is not the same as a forum, or a newsgroup.

The model of SE is a questions-and-answers website. Comments, therefore take a significantly background position. By the time a user has reached 50 points they generally would have posted a couple of reasonable posts, this means that it's probable that they have understood the role of comments.

This is like a society where bread is the only fuel source possible. If you woke up from a 10,000 years sleep into that society, and saw bread, you'd eat it. But that's not what you're supposed to do with it (in that society anyway).

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  • $\begingroup$ My dentist used to say Cast not your bread upon the waters, for you get wet bread. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Dec 27 '13 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Will: Crows dip bread in puddles. Wet bread is easier to chew. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '13 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ I did not know that. Last week I saw a seagull on a concrete platform, dropping mussels to help crack them open. I've also read (never seen it, even in movies) that a desert eagle will pick up a tortoise and drop it from a great height to crack the shell. Supposedly there is an ancient Greek story about this, in which the dropping tortoise killed a guy. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Dec 27 '13 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I have seen photos of cracked tortoise shells in books; and I have heard about the myth. The crow thing I have seen more than several times. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '13 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/81813107 eagle and tortoise youtube $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Dec 27 '13 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, the way it follows the walling tortoise is fairly awesome. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '13 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeschylus In 458 BC, he returned to Sicily for the last time, visiting the city of Gela where he died in 456 or 455 BC. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed outside the city by a tortoise dropped by an eagle which had mistook his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile.[20] Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avoid a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.[20]........... I don't know, seems a bit contrived... $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Dec 27 '13 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ I requested the McKeown book through public library...J. C. McKeown (2013), A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization, Oxford University Press, p. 136, ISBN 9780199982103, "The unusual nature of Aeschylus's death..." $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Dec 27 '13 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like a plausible joke on the fact he was bald as a shellfish. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 27 '13 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Right. I mean, how many witnesses were there? Were they reliable? It would have been quite a surprise, if true. Otherwise, "Hey, Aeschylus, that eagle carrying the tortoise above us, I believe he's going to drop it right on your head. Get out of the way, dude!" $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Dec 28 '13 at 0:07

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