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Often while browsing Super User, I notice that people post their answers to questions as comments on that question. Why wouldn't they post their answers as answers, so that they can be accepted? I would think that people would want to be able to get the extra reputation that comes from having your answer accepted.

An example is here:

Why has Google Chrome lost all of my saved passwords?

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Firstly I would say that there is somewhat a dislike of link-only answers as in "go there, try that". Posting them as comments avoids the implied frowning that the auto-commenter that people (myself included) use from adding these words as a comment.

Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.

Effectively a link-only answer is lazy, and a comment is a lazier way of asking "Does this fix it? If so I might post a real answer."

It doesn't risk a downvote if the link is bad, or otherwise wrong. It also absolves you to some degree of actually putting some effort in to actually answering the question.

I dislike link-only comments, but hate link-only answers more because you could have tried to pull in the useful information, but didn't.

The auto-commenter does put a bit of stigma on link only answers and, if it pushes someone to comment rather than actually answer the question, effectively makes way for someone to answer the question properly. That in my mind is a Good Thing™.

If on the other hand it is an actual proper helpful answer I would prod the person involved to post it as an actual answer so that it can receive the upvotes it rightly deserves. In that case I cannot really understand why they would post an answer as a comment as it is just as easy to do either.

Whether it is a link or an answer in comment form, if it is truly useful it should be a proper answer and more than just a "go there" as you are detracting from the usefulness of this site as a knowledgebase. People come here for answers and should get more than "why don't you try somewhere else" as an answer.

My preference would be to make all link-only answers into comments, but that's just me.

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    In fact, some answers that are only one link or one sentence are automatically converted into comments. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/convert-to-comment – slhck Jul 24 '12 at 17:42
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    I do this a lot. My reasoning is that I'm unsure whether my solution is canonical, and is based on guesswork more than proper research. Where I am confident, I will post an answer. – user3463 Jul 28 '12 at 4:00
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A possibility is that people are lazy, and they want to help, but not go to the trouble of writing a full post. Should the OP or some other commentator build off that that, and get an answer everything is great, and most times the OP will ask that it be posted as an answer so s/he can accept it.

  • I disagree that a link-only answer is being lazy. Why should I reiterate what is clearly answered in the link? That's just "busy work." If someone googles for an answer, and finds a page on this site that links to the answer, they still found their answer. – Tom Jul 24 '12 at 17:14
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    And what if the link goes offline? @Tom – slhck Jul 24 '12 at 17:49
  • @Tom FWIW, of the answers that I post that are essentially links (though I do try to pull the most pertinent info into the answer), 99% of them come from the first couple google results. When that's the case, I have to think that the OP didn't actually google it themselves. – JoshP Jul 24 '12 at 17:50
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    @Josh Often, that's the case, yup. These questions should probably be downvoted with a comment explaining that the OP obviously did not show research effort – which they should have. – slhck Jul 24 '12 at 17:52
  • @slhck So which is better? 1) Posting a link that goes offline, 2) answering a question that can easily be googled or has been answered on SU before (even if providing a link), or 3) closing a question as a "duplicate". – Tom Jul 25 '12 at 19:35
  • @Tom Never just post a link – this will most likely get your answer deleted, converted to a comment, etc. Always try to add some context – even if it's just a link to an application. Ad 2) If a question has been answered before, we should close it as a duplicate as soon as possible. There's nothing preventing you from answering questions that can easily be googled, as long as they're otherwise okay questions (i.e. not overly broad, off topic, etc). Pointing out "no research effort" is, in essence, what voting should be used for. – slhck Jul 25 '12 at 19:39
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  1. The difference between a comment and an answer is not intuitive. A poster must learn the difference by being told (because they did it the wrong way,) or by reading the documentation (and how many people actually do that?)
  2. Sometimes, the "answer" comes out after an exchange of comments that requested more information, so the answer naturally gets put into a comment (after the most recent comment that it answers or replies to.)

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