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In this question, one commenter berates another about the need to delete the comment and convert it to an answer.

I am OK with "do not answer in comments" rule in principle, but I also see the point that personal experience is not the evidence, so I see why commenter commented and did not wrote a full-blown answer.

So I think in doubt, we should err on the side "be nice" and don't be the rules Nazi police. If contributors will not feel welcome, they will leave and stop contributing. Some contribution (even if not 100% according to some arbitrary "rules" is better that no contribution at all.

Thoughts?

I assume this issue was already debated and resolved somewhere (as most style-related questions already were), I found Should I use my own experience as answer? which allows such answer suggests that basing answer solely on personal experience is not OK (which might mean that comment bases only on personal experience IS OK).

Also, I do think that gaining more contributors trumps any other concerns, especially following arbitrary "rules".

If you want another example of enforcing "rules" by same commenter see this my answer where commenter was enforcing self-proclaimed rule that I should have edited answer of another contributor (which I think would be wrong, unless it is a wiki) and is not enforced on other forums I frequent. I felt unwelcome and it did decrease my enjoyment of the forum (but I decided to tough it out).

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    For the record, there is and was no hostility intended. Sorry if you felt berated. – Tommi Brander Jan 31 '18 at 9:13
  • Also for the record, I read this question as a having a hostile tone, especially with the "rules nazi police", being targeted directly at one person (me), and especially given the rise of actual nazi group around Europe. A hostile tone is not conductive to a civil discussion, and especially is not an instance of "being nice", as the post advocates. – Tommi Brander Feb 2 '18 at 10:17
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Making contributors welcome is important - more important than enforcing the rules. Our forum is small, and scaring even small part of potential contributors slows its growth.

Strict enforcing the rules might be more beneficial on mature forums which have (too) many contributors, and many questions are promptly closed as duplicates, too broad, or "unclear what you are asking", or for other reasons, as we do i.e. on SQA SE. But this is a good problem to have, the one we do not have right now here on LL SE.

Website grows when it has contributors (who provide answers), so every one is very precious. Answers do not write themselves, contributors do that.

Also, online text is very low-bandwidth medium, so it is extremely hard to distinguish between "curt" and "rude", but I bet it was disputed many times on Inter-personal skills SE and Workplace SE so I am not going to do it here.

  • I appreciate this answer; I concur with your point about the value of making contributors feel welcome. I think that the rules should be known and adhered to, and even in cases of noncompliance, civility is NOT merely an option, but a necessity (though exceptions may be made in cases of overtly hostile or threatening behavior). – Hatchet Feb 1 '18 at 20:32
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Enforcing rules is important

Stackexchange websites are good at two things: Providing answers to good questions, and creating an archive of such answers. SE best practices have been honed to do these two things. It is much easier to create a culture of sticking to the best practices when the site is young. Changing the site culture afterwards into better shape is painful and might not work. In particular, the best practices are vital for creating a functional Q&A site, so there might not be any future if the site does not stick to the best practices.

The best practices are for using the website as Q&A site, not a discussion forum, and for making it work as a proper archive of information.

I could be nicer about it

My comments were curt (not hostile), but it is easy to read hostility into curt comments. I take this thread as a feedback to that direction. More concrete suggestion would also be appreciated.

Partial answers in comments

I quote a meta thread at RPG for the reasons why partial answers in comments are a bad idea:

You should not answer in comments. Not partial answers, not full answers. Not "leads on" an answer. Not "I would answer but I'm tired/just woke up/am drunk so I'll just say this..." These will be deleted. Answer in answers.

Answering in comments does the following things.

  1. It bypasses question closes. They're closed for a reason.
  2. It provides an answer that can't be marked as an answer for future people's knowledge.
  3. It contributes to long comment debates as you can comment on an answer, but it's unclear what you're commenting on in a comment thread.
  4. It is "cheating" by locking your answer to the top. Answers with higher votes/accepted answers should go to the top to indicate their quality. Bypassing that by sticking your answer in a comment on the question is unacceptable.
  5. It bypasses all our quality control mechanisms: we can't downvote your "answer", edit it, or comment on it to request clarification or improvements. Answers also bump a question to the top so that people will scrutinize the answer; comments don't do this.

The long and short of it is, every part of how how the site functions, all of which have lengthy justification as being part of the process of SE - rep, answers, accepts, edits, etc - is obviated by using comments for answers. So every good goal of all that functionality is nullified by this practice.

Now, "but the hapless questioner could use that info!" In nearly all cases someone posts the same information in a (much more comprehensive) answer. Or take the time yourself to write a real answer. We don't like crappy questions or crappy answers, and we'd rather not have the Q or A than to have one that doesn't meet site quality (hence closes/deletes, part of the standard SE functionality). If you don't care enough to write a real answer don't, the likelihood that you're the only person in the world/on the site that knows that bit of info is very small.

While users are welcome to steal the info in the comments to generate answers of their own, that will not slow the pace of dealing with the answers-in-comments via flagging and deletion.

This works quite well at RPG.

I also follow, and occasionally try to use, various mathematics StackExchange sites. They contain plenty of questions that only have incomplete answers or hints in the comment section, and no proper answer. People also have a tendency of answer in comments, often in a non-useful way. This greatly reduces my inclination to use those sites. I could answer a question now and then, but since the comments already have much of that, why bother?

Incomplete answers

Answers to questions should stand by themselves. An incomplete answer could raise to the top, or the other answer could be deleted, which would significantly reduce the value of the incomplete answer. Further, readers should not have to read through several answers (and perhaps their comments) to find all the information they can have.

If one wants to add to an answer, they should suggest the addition in a comment. The answerer might or might not choose to incorporate it. It is also possible to try to edit it in, but many find this impolite, so I would not in general recommend it. (Though feel free to edit my answers to add content.) The other options are writing a complete answer which includes the information in the other answer, usually reworded and with possible attribution. Having a community wiki answer might be appropriate, if one for whatever reasons feels bad about earning reputation by doing the work of combining answers that others have not bothered to do.

Website development

The site grows by having and providing good answers to questions. This is done by writing complete answers and by not making comment answers, which easily lead to situations where have to fish for the relevant information by reading long comment threads. These bad habits will make readers not find the website useful, and so will not attract them as users.

  • Yes, this is core of the problem: What is more important: Enforcing the rules, or making contributors feel welcome. From your answer it seems that you consider enforcing the rules more important. I Do not know how many new questions are daily on RPG SE, but too many questions is NOT a problem we have here on LL SE. Site grows also by making new posters feel welcome and not scaring them away by insisting on "rules". I care more about adding contribution and contributors than about enforcing the rules. Your priorities might be different, but it does not mean they are universal. – Peter M. Jan 31 '18 at 14:46
  • I posted my answer, so others can comment and vote on it. I suggest you do the same. Should the community come to the consensus that I should not suggest people obey SE best practices, I'll abide. – Tommi Brander Jan 31 '18 at 14:51
  • I see that posting answer (which can be voted up or down by others) is better than just disagreeing with you in comments. I posted my answer, even two answers for separate parts of my question so they can be voted upon separately. Oh well I just broke yet another of rules you like so much :-) Ok I agree with you (some) and I understand that you also want to make LL SE a success, we just disagree in methods how to make it happen. – Peter M. Jan 31 '18 at 16:20
  • @PeterMasiar Could you, by any chance, tone done the aggressiveness in the question here? The nazi reference is not called for, in particular. Thanks for you consideration. – Tommi Brander Jan 31 '18 at 18:20
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As a separate question/answer: How to expand on existing answer, see this.

Often, I agree with answer, but want to add some (sometimes significant) additions to it.

If additions are small, best way is to add comments, suggesting OP to edit his/her answer and incorporate them.

If additions are significant, and possibly diverging from the original idea of the OP, in all forums I frequent I see additional answer being written and upvoted ("In addtion to @XYZ answer, ..."). Unless the answer is a community wiki answer, I do not think that directly editing the answer adding significant opinion not expressed by original poster is in a good taste.

I would not like significant opinion added by others in answer signed by me, and so I don't force the same unto others. Not mentioning the possible edit wars. Complete answer might be more than one contribution by different persons and it is something I can deal with, and I do not see it as a problem.

And downvoting such answer, on the basis that I should have edited existing answer and add to it opinions possibly not shared by the author of the answer is beyond rude: it is wrong.

EDIT: Rephrasing the good answer, adding few points so we have even better single answer: Sometimes it is just waste of time. In all other forums I frequent, adding few more points in a separate answer, in addition to existing good answer it is accepted practice. I agree that to have single answer covering best points of all answers is beneficial (and I have no problem if someone copies my points to the best answer), but forcing me to do that (deciding for me what I should do in my free time) is ... less than friendly, IMHO.

Partial answers by different authors are fine. If one of the answering authors integrates points from other answers is fine too. Forcing people who wants to add points to some good answer (in a separate answer) to rephrase that other answer and include this rephrase just to be able to add few points (so there is single canonical answer and rest can be deleted and nothing is lost) - is not OK.

If you feel having a single answer (having points of both answers), go ahead create own answer, integrating both (and maybe mention origins).

  • About downvoting: People can downvote for whatever reason they like, except for systematic campaign for or against a person. In particular, if they feel incomplete answers are not useful, then they are free to downvote them, much like they are free to upvote them if they find them useful. – Tommi Brander Jan 31 '18 at 18:23
  • I agree that many people don't like others editing their posts, even though everything they post here is licensed under CC-attribution license (IIRC). So I don't suggest people do that, unless they get explicit permission. – Tommi Brander Jan 31 '18 at 18:24
  • First of all, I have not, as far as I know, advocated for removal of answers that don't stand by themselves, though I will of course downvote them as incomplete. I think they are removed at rpg.se, but I'm not so sure. I am simply offering suggestions about how to improve the answers, much like I would when I see any other possibility of improving an answer. The purpose is to make the answer better, and to educate the answerer about good site practices, thereby hopefully making future answers also better. Good behaviour in a community of experts (and experts-in-training), as far as I know. – Tommi Brander Feb 1 '18 at 14:31
  • @TommiBrander - I hope you understand that "of course downvoting imcomplete answers" you are making contributors fell unwelcome. Upvote more complete answer and "lesser" answer will be left down on the totem pole. By downvoting you remove karma points, and beginners might have very few points, so they are precious, and downvoting feels like punishment. I personally very rarely downvote. – Peter M. Feb 1 '18 at 23:20
  • @TommiBrander - Example: I found Thai language forum in Area 51. Added myself as supporter. Posted question. Got downvoted almost immediately, by some jerk who cast 10% of his votes as downvotes, for misunderstanding what posted. Screw it, I decided to leave the forum and cancelled my support. And that jerk is not even supporter of the Thai Forum, just drive-by downvoter. – Peter M. Feb 1 '18 at 23:24
  • I know at least some people react badly to downvotes. When I have time, and especially with users of very low reputation, I usually try to make a suggestion for improvement first (as a comment, typically) and downvote later, if the question or answer remains worth a downvote. Some people also seem to react badly to suggestions for improvement, which is still something of a mystery to me. – Tommi Brander Feb 2 '18 at 10:15

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