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author's profile photo Steve Rumsby

What to do about the comment/answer distinction?

With people mostly, it seems posting comments as answers, and with those answers being ordered by number of votes, not chronologically (which makes sense for answers) following comment threads on questions can get really confusing. I don't have any suggestions for making it better, though. Anyone else?

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  • Oct 13, 2016 at 03:44 PM

    There is a feature to convert comments to answers and the other way around. It's currently under testing, because it seems it acted funky. ^^

    But when that is up and running, you can change it around. That could help bring order into some of those threads.

    And I hope they use some of the ideas that should help with that from the idea place.

    • Oct 13, 2016 at 04:09 PM

      If people continue to get it wrong at first, I guess the only way it will get fixed it if the moderators do it? That's a lot of work for already overloaded people.

    • Oct 13, 2016 at 04:24 PM

      Can't disallow comments? At least for now.

  • Oct 13, 2016 at 04:41 PM

    There is an option to order the answers by oldest, but when you have comments to them, everything becomes really confusing, especially now, when you try to find the most recent comment or answer in a discussion, which spans on several pages.

    I'd rather have a strictly flat chronological order of everything - answers and comments with a small link at the top right corner showing replied to and a link to the comment or answer.

    Just have a look at this - nice, cool, well-functioning:

    The other thingy, which I highlighted on the right is some sort of thread timeline, which allows you to scroll fast through the thread comments. It even remembers which was the last comment, read by you, and you can get back to it with a single click.

    And they have this for each thread:

    The summarize option is quite interesting... I haven't seen that in other forums, which I visit.

    Yeah, I know, we won't get such cool toys - I just wanted to share that people can design good-looking pages.

    They also have some kind of mega-menu with tag list, categories list, list of users, top content, latest content, FAQ, admin and moderators list accessible from every page.

    thread.jpg (51.1 kB)
    summarize.jpg (32.5 kB)
    • Oct 13, 2016 at 06:40 PM

      Ha, awesome! That the software my main private forum uses! It took some getting used to, too. And there are people complaining, that it's flat and not threaded ("not like Reddit", you know?). But me being an old board person, love it. Yes, the timeline glider on the right is nice.

      AND every answer to your post is links underneath in a dropdown menu (you have shown the other side, when a reply has the link up to the post it's a reaction on).

      • Oct 14, 2016 at 06:41 AM

        I am tempted to register there just to play with the thingies - the kid in me loves nice colors and the small touches like this gadget on the right side. :)

        I wonder how this the summarize option works and if it is really useful... maybe I will sign up, after all.

        Too bad, that it is not SAP-related and I won't understand much of what they are talking about :)

        Yes, the commented to option is also nice... but I know, that we won't get anything even close to that here...

        • Oct 14, 2016 at 07:32 AM

          The summarize feature shows all posts of the thread, that get a certain kind of attention (likes, replies).

          I like, that you can click on the avatar of a user in the list (who answered here) and it will show you only the posts of that user for the thread. Great to find stuff.

          • Oct 14, 2016 at 10:11 AM

            Sounds nice, but probably I wouldn't use it if we had this in SCN... the number of likes and up-votes, just like the old points, is not very reliable to determine quality. But if there was also a way in the summary to identify easily in a thread the comments by people, who I follow, I could use this from time to time...

  • Oct 13, 2016 at 04:51 PM

    First of all, if an explanation on what's the difference between "answer" and "comment" was included in Getting Started or if there was some explanatory post (on the home page, not buried 3 levels deep) for the "old timers" on how to use it then we would've had much less of such issues IMHO. Change management has not been done well in this migration.

    That aside, an option to view both comments and answers together in chronological order would be very helpful for the questions "in progress". Right now comments and answers are displayed separately and I have no idea in what context the comments were made. (Unless I check the timestamps and line up all the posts in my head, even this is problematic with the timestamps like "8 hours ago".)

    While showing answers by number of votes makes sense for the already answered questions it is not at all helpful to those who would like to participate and are joining the discussion after several answers/comments have already been posted.

    The way this whole thing is displayed right now is simply mind-blowing. Here is just a random question, here is what I see there:

    First, it shows the comment then says "2 Replies" and then shows the whole bunch of posts. Why "2 Replies" when we clearly see there are already 3 on the screenshot? If it means "2 Answers" then that's what the label should say. Why add another term as if there is not enough confusion. And why no number of comments then? Don't even get me started on all the wasted screen space.

    I'm not sure "comments" really add any value in their current form, to be honest. So maybe disabling them would make sense. Then we could at least sort the answers chronologically and see that first A answered something, then B asked for clarification, then C gave a different answer after OP clarified. As it is now [B] would be a comment and completely out of context.

    image.jpg (119.6 kB)
    • Oct 13, 2016 at 06:46 PM

      The first comment is a comment on the question itself, that's why it's separated. Of the two replied only one is in the technical term an answer (the one with the voting in front), the other is a comment to that answer.

      Disabling comments on questions would help right now, but used well, they can help with the overview (like asking the OP to make his/her question clearer, edit tags, do a spellcheck etc... so stuff that has nothing to do with answering the question itself).

      But right now those are irritating, yes. And if there are enough answers to create a paging, then going to the next pages reloads the page from the top and you have to re-scroll through the question-comments, bevor you get back to the answers.

      I like the idea of having those comments in line with the answers, not separate. And I looong for the option to default the sorting to "Oldest first". Call me oldschool...

  • Oct 13, 2016 at 09:19 PM

    I've just realized I read all the comments on this thread in an order other than that in which they were posted, i.e. not chronologically. It made it quite confusing, which I guess points to the validity of Steffi's question.

    I kind of like the example Veselina brought up, with options to order things as you wish.

  • Oct 14, 2016 at 07:06 AM

    I wonder if this will sort itself out shortly. I for one, when the site first went live, could not post comments, unless it was on a blog post, so the only way to post a comment, was in fact to post the comment as an answer, hence why a lot of comments appear to be incorrectly posted as answers.

    I now can post comments, so I would assume more and more people overtime will start posting comments instead of answers, and only post an answer when indeed it is an answer.

    But yes I agree, the ordering does get confusing at times :)

    • Oct 14, 2016 at 07:58 AM

      I hope you are right. I'm not sure I understand the rationale for disallowing comments but allowing answers. Maybe it would make sense if everyone did then only submit answers and not comments, but that was never very likely. It reminds me of this image:

      Anyway, lets hope the problem does sort itself out soon...

  • Oct 14, 2016 at 09:53 AM

    I'd love to check two of those monster threads on my smartphone, but... I can't find them. :D

  • Oct 14, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    It appears to me that Comments should be used if You want to add some valuable data to the Question (like making it more clear and precise) or someone's Answer (by referencing to some related materials or giving a quality check to provided solution). So, there shouldn't be many answers - if one of the answers is wrong or doesn't address issue properly, it should be commented and not followed by an "answer" telling that previous "answer" is wrong.

    But it came to me only on the third day of "try and use" of new Community :)

    There's definitely should be some explanation on "where/how to use". Other moment, that leaves questions - why we Comment button after a Question and Answer form way down everything? Maybe if these buttons were near there were less questions? :)

    • Oct 14, 2016 at 10:15 AM

      I think you are right that people should primarily be using comments, either on the original question or on any submitted answers. In most cases there should be few (1, or maybe 2) answers.

      If an answer is wrong, I think the correct process should be to comment accordingly and to down vote the answer. The original author should really only accept answers that are correct, and the comments and votes help him/her to decide that.

      But it is going to take a while for people to figure out all of this, and better explanation would certainly help!

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • author's profile photo Former Member
        Former Member
        Oct 14, 2016 at 12:42 PM

        In an ideal world the distinction between comments and answers makes sense but that doesn't help if contributors aren't distinguishing correctly between the two.

        In my view it would be better to have everything as comments with the latest comment to the original question shown first (or last depending on preference).

        Comments on comments could then be shown indented after the relevant comment.

        At the moment on even fairly short threads it's almost impossible to easily find new contributions to the discussion.

        A question could be marked as answered once the original poster is satisfied that one of the contributions answers his question.
  • Oct 14, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    Hi Steve, what we are talking about is is typically some kind of human conversation (that might evolve to be multithreaded like cafeteria chats "Hey somebody has an Idea for this strange formatting thing in Word?"). Some contributions might be helpful others won't. Eventually one of them will hit the nail.

    Lets see how a typical SNC forum question evolved:

    Thread Starter: "I have a problem concerning this and that please help."

    1st responder: "What exactly were you doing? Did you do this or did you do that?" (this is an obvious question that needs to be classified as comment or answer currently.)

    2nd responder: "Please activate trace xyz to get more information" (is this an answer or a comment?)

    So: To distinguish between comment and answer is artificial and unnecessarily complex and therefore error prone. Nobody will search for documentation on how to distinguish between comment and answer because they both are so natural concepts. But in this situation they simply do not exactly fit and everybody will decide intuitively.

    Personally I found the old concept quite impressive: "lets see how the conversation evolves and lets classify what was helpful afterwards".

    Just as an intellectual game apply this concept to incidents: What if you and the supporter had to classify each and every contribution either as question, answer or comment and if that would have influence on display order of contributions.

    Chronology is the only way to deal with this typical kind of threads.

    So this comment/answer thing was well meant but fails. Unfortunately this was quite obvious from the beginning.

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