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Problem:
A trend of questions being answered purely in the comment field of the question. There is no formal migration of this into the answer format to the question. As a result, questions that appear to be unanswered actually do contain answers. The current voting system does not support any method of distinguishing between helpful comments or comments that could potentially be deemed as answers.

Discussion Material:

  • A possible migration path or the ability to pool a certain number of comments that respond to the original question.
  • A method of changing a questions status from being unanswered to a more appropriate state depending on the level of the answer.

Possibilities:

  • Implement a flag procedure allowing a comment to be upgraded to an answer based on moderator approval
  • Commenting asking that it be moved to an answer, or manually post it as an answer awarding credit after a period of time passes.
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    One possibility would be to comment asking the person to post it as an answer, wait a reasonable amount of time, and post an answer yourself.Reference the comment, and you should likely be fine. Its not the best option, but people do do this, and it does act as a way of moving a comment into an answer. – Journeyman Geek May 29 '13 at 14:51
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    "The current voting system does not support any method of distinguishing between helpful comments or comments that could potentially be deemed as answers." Doesn't up-voting a comment distinguish it from other comments? – James Mertz May 29 '13 at 15:08
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    Moving a comment directly to an answer is not desirable. Don't forget that people chose to comment precisely because they did not want to post an answer yet. Comments lack formatting, have a 600 character limit, and often include very limited context or explanation. – slhck May 29 '13 at 15:29
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    I love how @JourneymanGeek's comment and the first answer illustrate the problem. – Daniel Beck May 29 '13 at 15:44
  • @JourneymanGeek I agree and this system definitely seems to be currently in place but it does leave something to be desired as far as management of that system. @KronoS Upvoting distinguishes a comment but only in so much that it adds something useful to the post. Whether a comment is an answer or not does not really transcend the system. – Will.Beninger May 29 '13 at 15:46
  • @DanielBeck The irony is palpable – Will.Beninger May 29 '13 at 15:48
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    Commenting and letting someone else answer was entirely intentional. ;p – Journeyman Geek May 29 '13 at 23:20
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    Related. – Daniel Beck May 30 '13 at 11:19
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    A "comment-to-answer" path similar to the "answer-to-comment" path has been requested multiple times on Meta Stack Exchange, and has been declined each time. – ale May 30 '13 at 13:02
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When I leave a comment that allows the OP to resolve the problem, great, but that wasn't my intention.

I usually do this when I don't have the time (or simply don't want) to write a proper answer. I still want to leave the hint for the author of the question.

Now when the author follows that hint, it was actually useful and it allowed the author to resolve the issue, then there are several possible outcomes:

  1. Someone else already posted an answer containing the same or similar enough solution so that that answer can be accepted. (This also includes the possibility of someone blatantly copying the contents of my comment). I won't mind, because if I wanted to have the accepted answer on the question, I should have posted a proper answer in the first place.

  2. The author leaves me a comment, notifying me that my comment could actually be made into an answer, because it is the solution to the authors problem. Now there are again 2 possible outcomes:

    1. I post an answer and everything is wonderful.

    2. I neglect to post an answer. (This is also the case when the author doesn't notify me)
      This case should evidently end up with the case stated under 1., someone else should simply copy the information. Here we make 2 further distinctions:

      1. The someone is not the author of the original question.
        In this case, it would be nice to be referenced in the answer, if the comment was the source of the information. Additionally, I would prefer the answer to be marked as Community Wiki, but this is really just a sign of courtesy (as in, I don't want to accept the possible reputation for this answer).

      2. The someone is the author of the original question.
        This is probably my favorite solution. This would simply be the "self-answer" case. The user found the solution on their own. Sure, the comment might have been the seed of the solution, but that shouldn't matter. The user should then formulate a proper answer and optionally reference the comment.

Comments are second-class citizens and if someone doesn't want to put in the effort to post a proper answer, we surely won't do the work for them in promoting their comment to a proper post. I feel like there are already enough possible ways to deal with a situation like that.

That being said, what I posted above is how I see the situation in regards to my own comments. If someone was to flag a comment telling me "This should be an answer", I would dismiss the flag.
I don't have a clear policy on answers that were sourced from other users comments. But it's somewhat along the lines of "Post your own answer or STFU".

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I don't think that this is really that big of a problem and isn't happening all that often. Most times, I've seen that these comments are migrated to the answers section when the OP realizes that it's an acceptable answer and/or has more time to elaborate on the comment.

If all else fails (i.e. you see that the comment is super old, and the OP is no longer around or as @JourneymanGeek suggests the OP doesn't respond to a comment to migrate to an answer) post the answer your self and mark to have it community wiki.

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    +1 for marking as CW. We should not take credit for other people's solutions if they're the right ones. I've done this quite a few times – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA May 30 '13 at 2:34
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One possibility would be to comment asking the person to post it as an answer, wait a reasonable amount of time, and post an answer yourself. Reference the comment, and you should likely be fine. Its not the best option, but people do do this, and it does act as a way of moving a comment into an answer.

Credit to @JourneymanGeek

Sorry, couldn't resist. ;)

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Potentially a flag type of operation could be implemented that allows for a comment to be reviewed as a possible answer by a moderator and then escalated as appropriate.

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