I'm not sure if I've just become more sensitive to it, but I've noticed an increase in answer comments. These are comments that are typically a half-hearted attempt to answer a question without putting in any real effort to write out an answer.

These sorts of comments can be seen as an abuse to the system because comments, unlike questions and answers, CAN'T be down voted for lack of quality. They can be flagged to be deleted, but there's no way for the community to deem a comment as low-quality otherwise. Also, comments aren't meant to be kept around forever as they add visual noise to the Q&A format.

I personally think that we need to be better about 1. not providing answers as comments and 2. flagging such comments. What does the community think of this?

I've included some examples of answer comments (mostly from ID questions cause they're plentiful over there). I didn't want to point a finger at anyone in particular so I've just copied the comment rather than providing a direct link.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if there is an answer among these: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/star-trek-uniforms
  • May be Hot Rod
  • There's a scene in Speed 2 like that... They strip due to poisonous gas tho
  • It Comes at Night (imdb.com/title/tt4695012)

4 Answers 4


Speaking for myself (thanks for the discretion, but a man faces his mistakes), the user described a scene where people in an elevator strip due to heat.

In Speed 2, there is a similar scene (which I can't find either on YouTube or on Google Images...) where people strip in an elevator. However, they don't do it thanks to heat, they do so thanks to a poisonous gas coming out of the vents.

The reason I commented it instead of answering was the disparity of the description. In Speed 2, it is pretty clear it is due to the gas. People are taking their clothes and shoving them on the vent to stop the poison from spreading. However, since the OP's description does not match, it either is not Speed 2, or the OP is misremembering something.

Posting the comment was the compromise I chose for both avoiding an answer that is probably incorrect, avoid answering a poor question (which decreases the overall site's quality), and give a clue to the user so that he might rethink that detail. If the user actually agreed, then I would post it as an answer.

However, the question got closed soon after.

For future situations, should I:

  • Avoid answering poor question at all
  • Post answer, regardless of (lack of) confidence in answer
  • Suggest detail to OP as comment (without the movie) and, if agreed, post movie as answer? (I actually never came back to this question because I got no further notifications, and this approach could have me forget to answer the question while knowing the answer)
  • 1
    imho if it's worth answering, it's worth answering it WELL. even if your answer turns out not to be OP's answer, it could help someone in the future that has a similar search pattern.
    – DForck42
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 15:54
  • see my meta about answering id questions here: movies.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2621/…
    – DForck42
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 15:55

@DForck42, after reading through all of this site’s Meta posts, all I can say is that I have abiding admiration for your contributions (and others’ for that matter). That is why I read and re-read everything you said here.

I have seen all sorts of comments on all sorts of questions, ranging from unveiled humor – to pointing out mistakes – to refining someone’s good answer – to you name it. My guess is that if we attempted to categorize comments, we would ultimately find that we cannot meaningfully do so. So I say why try?

The only hard and fast rule I can come up with regarding a comment is: If it’s not rude and it helps somehow, then it is probably OK. So rudeness should be deleted. “Thanks” should be deleted. A comment with a mistake should be addressed like an answer with a mistake: with a comment. But if it helps the post, whether it’s a question or an answer, then it is probably OK. Of course, this begs the question of what is helpful (which leads to subjectivity in answering this and the reason for your post). Another factor I would mention is to consider the intent of the commenter.

Not providing answers as comments.

Sir, I cannot say I fully agree with this. By example: if a good answer requires five pieces of information, but I only have two, should I answer. I think not, but I also think that withholding this is incorrect; and putting that information in a comment is helpful. Someone else may have the other three pieces, and the result will be a good answer. If you have something to contribute, and an answer would be substandard, then please present it in a comment.

Flagging such comments.

Is there a lot of grey area here? Yes, as you’ve aptly pointed out in the examples you provided. Ultimately we have to deal with it using good judgment. And flagging is the way to go, if needed.

Monsters from the ID

Now to get to the “everybody-is-sensitive-about-this-issue” issue: How does that apply to ID questions? There are people who have been searching for decades for a title (and I am one of them). Honestly, if a question is doomed for closure in the near future (future tense/sense), then what is the real harm is providing a suggestion to check into via a comment – as the question is processed off the site? You might say we are rewarding the undeserving. OK. But how does that even begin to compare to the PROFOUND assistance and satisfaction that we are giving some people in need (with just a few keystrokes as a question proceeds to the dust bin)? [This assumes the suggestion was right. But who cares?]

On the other hand, an acceptable ID question should be answered in the answer section, even if it’s a guess. And as a side note, we should NOT post answers to unacceptable ID questions.

  • 1
    Apparently I never responded to this. If you have a part of the answer, but not the whole answer, then yes it is absolutely ok to post a partial answer. Your partial answer might allow someone else to put the pieces together and figure out the whole thing. I've posted answers to ID questions that only shared some details with the question. Those answers might not answer that question directly, but anyone looking at it in the future might go "OH! That's the one I remember." Remember, only a part of this system is intended to help the asker, it's also to help those in the future
    – DForck42
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 15:57
  • Comments, by nature, aren't permanent on these sites. You can resurrect a closed or deleted question, you can bring back a deleted answer. Once a comment is deleted, it is GONE. Also, they're not as easy to read nor are they as obvious as the question and answer segments. Important information should either make its way into the question, or into an answer.
    – DForck42
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 15:59

BlueMoon93's answer really sums up what I'm thinking.

(My comment is "May be Hot Rod") There was something similar to OP description in the movie but not exactly the same. May be OP misremembered it and may be it's not the right movie and there isn't enough details in the question to be sure one way or the other, so I see "answering in the comments" is better than answering a low quality question or submitting an answer I'm not sure of, and by doing that, I won't be withholding what could be the right answer from OP.

  • 1
    this hints at another issue that needs to be address. if you KNOW it's a low quality question, then don't answer it. this only encouraging the behavior of asking low quality questions rather than encouraging higher quality questions. this behavior essentially teaches people that it doesn't matter the question quality, they'll get answers no matter what.
    – DForck42
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 18:58
  • 3
    I really can't (and don't think I should) withhold an answer from someone want to know it. And those question will get closed. So we can downvote low quality questions and close it, but still help the person who asked it.
    – madmada
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:09

I personally think that we need to be better about 1. not providing answers as comments and 2. flagging such comments. What does the community think of this?

I agree...completely.

We're mostly referring to ID questions here which, many consider, are bane of existence of Movies and TV. Other SE sites have made the move to making them off-topic completely and, in all seriousness, I really don't think we're that far away from it here.

Their general/average quality is appalling...we close/delete a significant proportion (c.60-70%) for that very reason. Unfortunately they are also a significant proportion of the traffic (45%)

The point here is improving/maintaining the site/question quality.

If you answer a low quality question in any way it encourages equally low quality questions.

Sure, you might feel all warm and fuzzy about helping out this one user but by rewarding the low quality question with an answer you've lowered the overall quality of the site...that's nice for you...but you've screwed the rest of us.

So, if a question is worthy of a Down Vote or a Close Vote (and most ID questions are worthy of one or both) then do not answer it in any way.

Answers to ID questions in comments should be flagged as "Not constructive" as the are NOT constructive to the site quality we expect.

Vote appropriately. Voting is a signal to the OP that the question needs attention and does not meet the quality level expected. It's not the end of the process, it's a stepping stone to a good question.

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