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Several times I have seen answers that should be comments posted by new users without enough reputation to comment. Sometimes they know it should be a comment, and say so.

Sometimes these get the form response of "..., when you have enough reputation, ...", which seems to me a bit unhelpful and unfriendly, especially when they clearly know that already.

What's the best way to deal with this? My instinct, if it were a sensible comment, would be to flag it asking one of our wonderful moderators to convert it to a comment and post a friendly message saying what they've done and (if necessary) explaining the difference between a comment and an answer.

But I'm not a moderator, and I'm always reluctant to give somebody else more work, so is this how our moderators would like us to deal with this?

Edit: I should probably have reminded myself better of what flagging an answer as "not an answer" entails before asking the question. In fact, I'm still not 100% sure exactly what happens if I flag an answer that way. I think that the moderators get a notification? And a comment is (in some circumstances?) automatically posted in my name? And if the answerer has too little reputation to comment, that comment says something like "This should be a comment rather than an answer. Once you have enough reputation, you can post comments."? (I don't remember the exact words, as our annoying moderators are too efficient in converting those answers to comments, and so I couldn't find an example.)

At least in the kind of situation that I originally described (a new user posts a comment (let's say a useful one) as an answer, saying that they know it should be a comment), then the wording of the automatic comment seems unfriendly. Maybe a better auto-generated comment would be something along the lines of "I've asked our moderators to convert your answer to a comment. When you have enough reputation ..."

Probably changing the standard auto-comment is a Stack Overflow wide thing that I shouldn't be raising here.

But could/should I edit the comment, or even delete it altogether, if the wording seems inappropriate?

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    $\begingroup$ It's certainly true that the text of the standard comment doesn't fit well -- but choosing "looks ok" in the low quality posts review queue seems also not right if the answer should rather be a comment. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Feb 18 '17 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is common for moderators to convert such non-answers to comments, once they have been alerted to the situation, and I have always taken it for granted that that is part of their job. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Feb 18 '17 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl That's true, but I'm wondering whether it's better not to choose any of the standard options in the low quality review queue in situations like this, but instead to go to the post and flag it for the moderators to deal with. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Rickard Feb 18 '17 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeremy: You can do both. Especially as a 10k-er, you can flag previously-deleted posts and get the moderators to convert them to a comment. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 19 '17 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ If you flag an answer as 'not an answer', no comment is generated. The standard comments come from the 'low quality posts' review queue -- there (if the post is an answer) the possible choices are 'Looks OK', 'Delete -- no comment needed' and 'Delete' with a few different standard comments to choose from. If 6 people choose one of the 'Delete' options before 2 (or sometimes 1) have chosen 'Looks OK', then the answer gets deleted. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Feb 19 '17 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl Thanks. It seems I was a bit confused about what happens. So if, in my hypothetical example of a low-rep user who is clearly aware that his answer should be a comment, I wanted to avoid the standard. comment then I could (a) choose "not an answer" from the low-quality queue and try to edit/delete the comment that's generated (is that even possible?), (b) choose "delete - no comment needed" from the low-quality queue, in which case I should presumably add my own comment to explain to the moderators why I've chosen delete, (c) go to the post, flag it and add a comment if ... $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Rickard Feb 20 '17 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ ... that seems appropriate. Are there any good reasons to choose any of these options over the others? $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Rickard Feb 20 '17 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ If you would like to avoid the standard comment, you could go to the post, flag it as 'not an answer', then possibly add a comment yourself, and finally choose 'delete - no comment needed' in the review queue. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Feb 20 '17 at 17:02
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Jeremy, thanks for asking, and thanks for your kind concern. In general, I'd say don't worry much about the workload of the moderators. Conversion to a comment takes two button clicks, and I find that on most days there aren't that many such flags that need to be dealt with.

My main request is that the not-an-answer flag be applied reasonably accurately. As a baseline, I encourage everyone to have a look at this thread: How do I properly use the "Not an Answer" flag?. In particular, consider the advice of using a custom flag if you're not sure.

The meta stackexchange explanation doesn't quite address the phenomenon of (clearly) crackpot answers that fall into the "not even wrong" category, but I myself just about never object if such are flagged as "not an answer", even if legalistically they don't fall under the stated SE criteria. Same with mathematically irrelevant responses -- most of the time, I feel those situations are tolerably clear and I'm happy to be notified of such through not-an-answer flags. But sometimes I see not-an-answer applied to items that are simply wrong, as opposed to not even wrong, and there I caution that not-an-answer is not really the right flag. Downvoting seems like a better response there. Finally, sometimes I see "not an answer" applied to items which seem pretty close to being an answer good and true, for example a reference to a book that looks relevant. Try to avoid that: in such cases the respondent should instead be encouraged to flesh out a more informative and self-contained answer.

A final note: most of the time I view the users who spend a lot of time going through the review queues as very helpful in moderation activity, so thanks! There are occasions where I feel some users rush to judgment too quickly, and these situations can be time-consuming deciding how to deal with, so as a general rule I ask everyone to please be careful handling questions and answers outside your range of expertise.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Todd. I probably (my fault entirely) didn't pin down exactly what was concerning me, and have edited my question. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Rickard Feb 19 '17 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ Jeremy, thanks for the clarifying edit. I'm on vacation right now, so there may be some delay getting back to you on all this; perhaps someone else can add more though. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Feb 19 '17 at 21:33

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