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On one hand, it seems to be a consensus (one I agree with) that if you can't write a good answer due to not knowing if the software fits ALL requirements because you're not its active user; you should not answer.

I saw recommendations to solve this by posting a comment.

OTOH, SE generally hates comments.

As such, can we have a policy? Either:

  1. Encourage less complete answers to be posted as hints in comments (still maintainig some quality standard - a link only comment without ANY explanation is to be deleted!)

  2. Formally discourage from posting ANY answer-like stuff in comments, the way Skeptics does.

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10

Please do not use comments to answer questions as a means of making recommendations without sufficient detail or knowledge.

The purpose of having this site in the first place is to to avoid all the problems of random information posted in forums and chat rooms. The very purpose of Stack Exchange is to assure that every post is actively vetted by a large community through a healthy stream of voting, wiki-style editing, a revision history, and clarifying comments of their own. Comments provide none of those capabilities.

Even if your comments are well meaning, they are largely immune to those normal vetting and sorting mechanisms. Comments sit there plastered right under the question — despite whether the information is actually correct or not. A moderator shouldn't be the sole authority that decides if that "stub answer" is correct or not. This is an activity to be performed by the community… through the vetting mechanisms provided by a proper answer.

Comments cannot be edited, improved, or voted on. And that is really no better than running this site in a forum or chat room.

Please do not do it. Thanks.

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2

I'd say no.

You really shouldn't be posting answers in the comments to begin with as comments are meant, at most, to be a temporary means of communication. Comments are not meant to be permanent. That being said, if you do post an answer in the comments, typical policy states that anyone may steal and post your answer as their own.

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1

You should not write an answer to recommend a solution unless you have at least some personal experience that it is a good solution.

Sometimes you'll read a question and you'll think of software that you've heard about and you think might work, but you don't have any experience with it. It's great that you want to help the asker out, but the comments aren't the place to offer answer-like suggestions.

This site is called "Software Recommendations," not "Help Me Google For Ideas." if you don't have any experience with the software, don't answer, even in a comment.

So what are comments on questions for, anyway?

  • Ask the asker a question about the question
  • Respond to another commenter
  • Refute a premise the asker made in the question

If you do choose to leave a comment, keep in mind:

  • Don't leave a link only comment, or it will get deleted quickly as spam.
  • Someone with more experience with the software than you might turn something you said in a comment into a real answer.
  • Comments seem to get deleted often, so unless your comment is extremely helpful and insightful, it won't last forever.

Writing a great recommendation as an answer is always best. If you can't write a good answer due to lack of personal experience, let someone else do it. However, on a question that has been around for a while, a short answer is sometimes better than no answer. Either way, answers don't belong in the comments.

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  • Comments are actively being maintained so any comments that are even remotely low quality will vanish pretty quick. – Flyk Feb 28 '14 at 16:10
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    @Flyk But actively maintained by who? Comments can only be vetted by few... and of all the failure modes that can endanger this site, sparsely vetted random answers is WAY high up there on the watch-for list. Comments are not meant for answers. Ben, your premise that these are okay if they are "properly" maintained sounds a bit precarious. See my answer here. – Robert Cartaino Feb 28 '14 at 20:24
  • @RobertCartaino I agree, your answer makes sense. I've changed my opinion and edited this answer to change the recommendation. Thanks. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Mar 1 '14 at 13:25

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