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Here's a common chain of events on SFF.SE:

  • a new user posts a story-ID question
  • the question gets a few comments from other users
  • the OP finds the story they were looking for and says so in a comment
  • the OP disappears and never returns to the site.

The end result of all this is a story-ID question whose solution is known and known to be correct, but which has no answer posted to it, let alone an accepted answer.


My suggested solution to this problem is for us, the people who use the site regularly rather than making one-off appearances, to post community-wiki answers to such questions. That way,

  • we avoid clogging up the "Unanswered Questions" tab with questions that are answered
  • we improve our site by having answers clearly posted rather than buried in the comments
  • we set an example for how to write good answers to story-ID questions
  • nobody except the OP earns any rep out of the whole business.

Such community-wiki answers should of course be deleted if the OP ever returns to post their own answer. Ideally they should be accompanied by a comment on the question along the lines of:

If you ever come back to the site, please do post this as an answer! It's possible for you to answer your own question and even accept your own answer. Until then, we've turned your comment into a community-wiki answer, just so that this question has an answer.

I did this a couple of weeks ago here, and am considering doing it again here.


What are your thoughts on this suggestion?

If you agree wholeheartedly, we can start collecting a list of such questions in order to post CW answers to them.

If you have some reservations (e.g. should we set a fixed waiting time, only doing this if the OP hasn't visited the site for say 6 months?), please post your suggestions.

If you disagree with my suggestion, please let me know why!

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    I'm all for anything that even attempts to address the hit-and-run problem. – Mazura Feb 9 '16 at 23:33
  • Seems like a no-brainer to me. – Ixrec Feb 9 '16 at 23:36
  • Don't we already do this? – Valorum Feb 9 '16 at 23:41
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    Can a mod convert a comment to an answer? Basically the opposite of the conversion of answer to comment power. – Tony Meyer Feb 9 '16 at 23:44
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    @Richard Not in an organised way, as far as I know. There might be people doing it occasionally, like I did on the Oedipus Wrecks question, but I'm hoping this thread will set off a more co-ordinated effort, perhaps with lists of question links posted in an answer here. – Rand al'Thor Feb 9 '16 at 23:44
  • @TonyMeyer Sadly no. – Rand al'Thor Feb 9 '16 at 23:44
  • I agree with your idea. I'm just surious as to why it would need to be a Community Wiki answer? You found the answer... in the OP's comment. :) – RedCaio Feb 10 '16 at 0:55
  • @RedCaio People would be reluctant to upvote a non-CW answer, since that would be another user 'stealing' rep from the OP. And unless these answers get upvotes, the questions will remain in the Unanswered list! – Rand al'Thor Feb 10 '16 at 1:23
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    The point of voting is not to give rep to the people who deserve it, that's a side effect. The point is to indicate to anyone who comes along which answers are good. No one should hesitate to vote for a good answer because of some theoretical stolen rep. At most, if you think it's unfair, don't bother voting once it's already at +1 or +2. – Ward - Reinstate Monica Feb 10 '16 at 3:24
  • @Ward In theory of course you're right, but I'm talking about how most people actually use their votes in practice. – Rand al'Thor Feb 10 '16 at 3:26
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    A comment from the OP giving the answer is probably too short to be an actual answer -- it will be not much more than the title. In that case, anyone who sees it can post an answer which includes the title and additional information like a plot summary which we require for these questions anyway. The user who writes up the post thus does some extra work and deserves some rep -- so that post wouldn't need to be CW. It's easy rep, sure, but it did require some work. – Null Feb 10 '16 at 5:36
  • I already do this, after having prodded the OP to post it as an answer. – SQB Feb 12 '16 at 8:31
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    @Mike The thread you linked to is about the (now defunct) mechanisms of auto-forcing an answer into being CW. Since the introduction of suggested edits, the cooperative aspect of CW has been all but cancelled out; I don’t think you can fairly say anymore than CW’ing your own answer defeats the purpose of CW. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 21 '16 at 4:31
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I don't see any need for new rules/procedures, the generally-accepted guidance from meta.SE is that if you see an answer posted in comments, it's fair game to "steal" it and post it yourself.

e.g. Should old questions with a solution in the comments but no posted answer be answered?

Here's a similar question on ServerFault, where Jeff Atwood weighed in saying it's ok to steal a comment:

However, note that I completely support stealing answers-as-comments and posting them as your own answer in these cases. So either way. – Jeff Atwood♦ Aug 12 '11 at 14:37

As per most of the answers above, it's usually appropriate to make such an answer CW and/or to attribute it to whoever posted the comment.

But I don't think there needs to be a lot of concern about "stolen" rep: the point of voting is to indicate to anyone who comes along and reads a Q&A what the better answers are. Giving rep to someone who deserves it is a side effect. No one should hesitate to vote for a good answer because of some theoretical stolen rep. At most, if you think it's unfair, don't bother voting once it's already at +1 or +2 (I realize I should have let someone steal this comment for their own answer...)

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    +1 I agree. For example: "As the OP mention in the comments, the answer to the question is..." :) – RedCaio Feb 10 '16 at 2:25
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    The way I see it, if one guy posts a hit-and-run comment and another guy turns it into a good answer, it's the latter fellow who deserves the fake internet points. – user14111 Feb 10 '16 at 10:15
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    "Giving rep to someone who deserves it is a side effect. No one should hesitate to vote for a good answer because of some theoretical stolen rep." - Bingo! Sometimes the whole rep-cap and competition brigade can tend to lose the true purpose of voting out of their sight here. If someone didn't bother to write a proper answer, do it yourself. No need for CW, whose primary purpose is not to refrain from any rep gains. It's your answer and it's based on external information as much as pretty much every other answer here, too. – TARS says Reinstate Monica Feb 10 '16 at 11:59
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I already do this.

If the answer is already there, either in the comments or edited into the question by the OP (as often happens), I'll just turn it into a CW-answer.

However, if I have to do significant work to turn it into an answer, I'll claim the answer for myself. The only example I have of such a case is one about a cartoon character, where the OP's comment about it being called "Kutlas" turned out to be "Cuttlas" instead.

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