I am wondering why many answers are posted in the comment section of the question? Why not post as an answer?

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps one is too lazy to type out a full answer. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Mar 20 '15 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes you know that the question has been asked before, and you just want to give the gist of the answers before voting to close as a duplicate. Like in this case. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 20 '15 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ I sometimes post a comment when I think I have the answer to the questions, but I'm not sure I'm right. Sometimes I'm wrong, and then okay, it was just a comment, but sometimes I'm right and then people say "Why didn't you post that as an answer?” $\endgroup$ – MJD Mar 20 '15 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @MJD: That's a good reason, why didn't you post that as answer? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 20 '15 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ Good question! In this case, it was because I did not consider my answer sufficiently complete. So there is another reason. $\endgroup$ – MJD Mar 20 '15 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ Some related questios. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Mar 20 '15 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ If there are multiple questions stated, and you are answering some but not all of them. $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Mar 21 '15 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes it's to avoid capricious downvoting. You know you've got the right answer but don't have time to verify it's absolutely flawless. But then again, it's hard to know sometimes the reason for a downvote. The thing is, you have to justify why you're flagging a comment. You can downvote an answer for any reason at all, like you don't like the way they formatted an integral, you don't like how they split an infinitive, or you just plain think they must be absolute jerks offline. $\endgroup$ – Robert Soupe Mar 29 '15 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ In my previous comment, I neglected to mention that you have to have 125 reputation points before you can downvote. As an answer, it could be downvoted just for that tiny detail, or for another reason or no reason at all. But this is Meta, and a downvote here wouldn't hurt my reputation score anyway. $\endgroup$ – Robert Soupe Mar 29 '15 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ If I'm on the phone, typing a full answer is too much work (typing latex on the phone? terrible). If I can give a comment with a hint, why not do it? Another point: If I make a mistake, deleting a comment is simple, while the deleted answer sits there for all 10k+ users to see $\endgroup$ – Yuriy S Feb 9 '18 at 15:08

I largely agree with everything Hurkyl said. Since people have asked me why I do this let me add a few points.

  • When I do this, often it is because I think the question is total turkey shoot. If I foresee no pleasure coming from composing an answer, I try to derive pleasure from teaching the OP (unless the question is dismal to begin with). Dropping an extended hint / sketch is then one of the best options.
  • The goal is often to engage the asker. If they don't bite, the question may be on its way out anyway. In the more succesful cases the asker sees the light. Then they may or may not want to post an answer themselves (I often encourage that).
  • If somebody feels that the presence of my extended hint/answer-in-a-comment somehow bars them from posting an answer, then... A) I agree 100 per cent with the answerers here - a commenter grants the others the license to use the idea, B) we know who is capable of coming up with a solution to a standard question under their own steam (we can also tell who is plagiarizing), C) if a comment stops a run-of-the-mill answer or three from being posted ... MISSION EFFING ACCOMPLISHED!

(climbing on a soap box)

  • We have too many answerers simply reproducing pages or examples from textbooks. I honestly think that we should steer clear from such "answers". Look at my answer in the thread that prompted this complaint. There's nothing in it. It could be straight out of Golomb's book. It probably shows that I wrote that piece out of some sense of duty. My heart wasn't in it. Yes, it paves the way for calculating the period of any binary sequence generated by a linear recurrency relation but... so. Nothing there, just book knowledge. Some of the other answerers that had not studied this topic came up with nice ad hoc ways (orders of matrices and such). All equivalent, and possibly not as readily generalizable, but at least some of them spent a while coming up with their solution.
  • More on the same vein. I have come to think that answers that clearly required less than ten minutes of processing from the part of the answerer should be just left unposted. There are a few hit-and-run-operators that make me want to introduce rate limitations for answerers as well. 6 per day, 50 per month is generous enough. Focus on quality, not quantity. The answerers are not sitting in some exam here. After you reached 10k by answering calculus, leave that arena to the noobs, please (unless you can add a genuinely different point of view to that rare question where a new pearl can be found).
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    $\begingroup$ I'm aware that my views on this are not exactly mainstream. But, being a moderator I cannot just ignore all the garbage that gets posted - the option to ignore tags where my pet peeves run rampant is something I don't have. The alternative would be to abuse my diamond powers to uphold the standards that I see fit. But, I don't have the license to do that either. I am taking a leave from moderating duties. I think that I can "recover" and remember again, why I used to enjoy this site. I apologize to my fellow diamond bearers for deserting the line for a while. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Feb 4 '18 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ It's just that otherwise the risk for me to truly abuse the diamond powers becomes too high. The site needs to be accomodating of various ideals/visions our users have. At the moment I don't feel very accomodating towards the vision entertained by "the answering machines". So I take a break, and come back when feeling better. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Feb 4 '18 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ Sad to see that this site has tired you out for a while, and glad to have you back whenever! In any case, few or not, there are users who value quality over quantity. Also, your kind of answer, even though you find it 'nothing but book knowledge', is to me far better than most answers on Math SE (quite objectively), and worth having. =) $\endgroup$ – user21820 Feb 4 '18 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ I concur with @user21820. This site will suffer without you. I wish you'd reconsider. But if you insist on leaving for an indefinite period of time, and aren't in a position to assure us of when or even if you'll return, I think it is rather unfair to this site (and the other mods who will never replace you). If you do not want to work as a mod, and that is for an indefinite period of time, and you cannot assure anyone whether you'll ever come back, then maybe you need to decide whether to resign, or not, because users on this site, and this community, deserve eight fully engaged mods. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Feb 12 '18 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ Of course vacations are good, pacing is good, spending alot of time, then a bit less, on moderating are all completely reasonable for anyone, including even mods :-), but your post here, to a 2014 question, and your comments, are upsetting to a number of us, and it doesn't help that your claim of taking leave corresponds with another beloved mod's silent absence. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Feb 12 '18 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ Please stay, and you were elected in large part based on your beliefs, your actions based on those beliefs, and so I doubt anyone in their right mind can expect you to be otherwise, within reason of course. Just be you, which already includes being nice, being respectful, trying to be fair...that's all there, but you were also elected given your opinions and your actions, prior to even being a mod. Anyway, I won't pester you on this any more, @Jyrki. Let me just say that you have been invaluable to this site, and largely because you are at your best here and everywhere, at being you, $\endgroup$ – Namaste Feb 12 '18 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen I don't agree with you that a limitation on answering can help to solve the problems here on MSE and notably: 1) Poor quality of the OP for the elementary level and/or homeworks related questions and 2) Tensions due to the present system for reputation points. For point 1) I think that the earlier suggestion by RobJohn math.meta.stackexchange.com/q/4154/505767 and the latter proposal by Xander math.meta.stackexchange.com/q/28372/505767 could be a good starting point to find out some good solutions. $\endgroup$ – gimusi May 7 '18 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen For point 2) why do not take into consideration solution which tends to to modify the present reputation system diminishing its importance and relevance? for example without show the full rep data in the user's avatar and without create reputation rankings? $\endgroup$ – gimusi May 7 '18 at 12:45

If I post an answer in the comments, it is often because it is not, in my opinion, fit to actually be an answer; e.g.

  • I feel I need to check it for correctness but am not inclined to do so (e.g. too lazy or busy or uninterested)
  • the comment is too tersely stated to make for a good answer, and am not inclined to elaborate more
  • I believe a good answer should include more information than I'm inclined to provide

I expect for my comment possibly to be used by someone else who is inclined to write up a proper answer. (and sometimes I even made the comment for that purpose!)

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    $\begingroup$ why don't use a community wiki? $\endgroup$ – RE60K Apr 2 '15 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ "...sometimes I even made the comment for that purpose!" - that's a frequent gambit of mine; I leave comments sketching out a possible path, and wait for somebody sufficiently inclined to build a fine answer from them. So far, it's worked splendidly for me. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician May 3 '15 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ yes that's exactly it, one liners should not be considered a well-established answers, i do comment too when my answers don't exceed few words. Or if the answer i have is dubious. $\endgroup$ – Abr001am May 6 '18 at 20:13

One reason I occasionally do this not mentioned in Hurkyl's or Jyrki Lahtonen's answers is actually for clarification of the question. Specifically, if a question as stated has an overly trivial answer, my assumption is that some condition has been omitted that would make the problem more interesting. I'll usually suggest a possible condition or at least suggest that a condition may be missing in such cases. Pointing out the trivial answer indicates why the question as stated is probably not what the OP intended to ask.

Unfortunately, it often is the case that the trivial answer is the one the OP wanted. I don't make the comment an answer in those cases as, in my opinion, the question would best be deleted entirely at that point. They are virtually always just careless mistakes on the OP's part and have about as much educational value to a third party as would pointing out an arithmetic mistake.


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