I've noticed lately that short answers are sometimes being met with "add more detail" by some users.

If an answer is incomplete or there's more to be said, write a better answer, or add a comment with what you know.

The best answer gets my vote, not the first...

Is there a rule saying that the first post is sacred?


1 Answer 1


Why the comments are a Good Thing

There are two reasons why this isn't a good idea for some of the commenters who have been posting:

  1. The commenter might not be interested in answering the question at hand, but would still like to keep the quality of answers high.
    We're getting 10-20 new questions every day, so it's somewhere between time consuming and impossible for a single user to try to provide comprehensive, detailed answers to everything. However, it's still quite possible to read every question, and it's easy for someone with access to the moderator tools to review low-quality answers (10k and mods only, it's an auto-generated list of low-quality answers), and diamond mods can work through "Not an answer" or "Should be a comment" flags. (which we get a lot of lately!)
    The purpose of these flags and links is not to find questions to answer and increase one's rep, it's to find answers that need fixing.
  2. The commenter would like to educate future readers on the need and reasoning for the changes to the answer. The fact that you've noticed this policy and opened this question is a Good Thing! Commenting brings the call for higher-quality questions out into the open - the ensuing discussion is more visible than an edit. We'd like the problem of low-quality answers to disappear, and that's not going to happen if a few selfless answers go around fixing other people's work - It will instead encourage more quick, thoughtless answers with the hope that they'll be cleaned up later.
    The fix requested in the comment doesn't necessarily have to come from the original author, either. Sometimes, if I post a comment and get no response, I'll go back after letting the flag sit for a few days and do the fix myself. However, that's not how the system is designed to work.

No, the first answer is not sacred. The comments you're seeing are coming from users concerned about the quality of the site, who find it more expedient to request fixes and train users to write better answers than make the fixes themselves. There's nothing wrong with that.

End of main answer, begin some other drivel that seems relevant

When the comments should be an edit

I don't think this is what you were asking, but another reason why a comment (rather than a new answer with the requested information) is better is the case when an otherwise thorough and detailed answer is missing a small, key detail. The answer may be one that's received a quorum of upvotes or been accepted already.

If the question is a 'good subjective' question that requires an experience-based answer, a comment might be a request for clarification on that missing point, or a proposal for the author to add additional information to their answer (if the question is a 'good subjective' question that requires an experience-based answer).

If the question is a general information question and you're confident that the fact should be part of the answer you're looking at, edit it in. A comment to the effect of "Your answer needs to cover this detail, I've edited it in for you" is often a polite gesture.

When new answers are bad

Finally, it should be obvious, but don't pirate answers. We don't encourage copying the bulk of another person's answer and adding your own little detail to garner rep. This is more important on SO, where there have been more issues with 'rep whoring' [sic and sick], but remember to check the answer times when two answers are very similar.

When you really should write your own answer

This answer is getting way too long, so just consider all other cases to fall under this category.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "The commenter might not be interested in answering the question at hand, but would still like to keep the quality of answers high." That is exactly what I was going to say. As a small addition, the commenter also may not have the knowledge to be able to write a better answer, but knows the current answer is poor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kellenjb
    May 23, 2011 at 14:16

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