I've seen a lot of answers from low-rep members that belong more correctly in the comments section they can't post in because they don't have enough rep. After getting enough rep to see deleted answers, I can see even more of such posts. My observations:
- Many of them have only 1 rep - it appears these are people who created an account because they finally have something they want to say and decided to join the discussion - only to discover they can't comment so they resorted to posting an answer, forum style layout-wise, as an alternative.
- These guys aren't aware of site policy. Almost every such answer has a comment from a seasoned user informing them that the "answer" doesn't answer the question. When they do reply though, it's almost invariably a "I want to post it as a comment but can't" response, usually phrased in a way that suggests they don't know why. Virtually none of the replies say "I don't have enough rep to comment so I chose to post it as an answer instead."
- If you put just a little thought into it, you'd easily realise all these guys are newbies who have zero awareness of site policy. However, few comments that called them out for their mistake actually explained why it happened and how they can get the rep they needed to comment until asked.
- A good number of such answers, even if posted as comments, would probably be spam-ish and adds no value (the very problem the rep requirement exists for), but majority are still valid as comments from what I've seen.
- Ironically, they lose rep from downvotes because these comments, when posted as an answer, would be flagged as not-an-answer.
I understand the current rep requirement exists for a reason, but the system needs improvement for the following reasons:
- Rep requirement to comment is meant to stop the comment sections from being flooded by spam and non-constructive posts by at least ensuring only committed users of SE can comment. But this implementation pushes the flood into the answers. The symptoms changed but the root causes aren't addressed.
- The current solution to this is to just comment and inform them, but then that hinges on commenters to tell them what they need to know. That doesn't happen reliably, and it's repetitive and inefficient. And then the community makes things worse by downvoting them - by policy, the downvoters aren't wrong, but it still feels a bit unfair to the newbie who knows and is told nothing relevant until they effectively asked "why are you doing this to me??". There should be a better way to do this, seeing as removing the rep requirement will probably do more harm than good.
- Is there a place people can go to see salient points about what they need to know about using this site correctly and effectively? I've accumulated so much rep over 13 months and I still don't know where I can find info on site policy and such meta stuff (official policy text in b/w, not questions). I think new users need more help learning the site's features: the dos and don'ts, the good to know and nice to know.
- The people who commit these are almost invariably guests who, prior to posting their first comment because they finally have something to say, are up until then just a reader. It would seem they don't understand how this site is different from a forum until we point it out after the deed is done - otherwise why would they initially think posting comments as an answer is ok, given that the visual layout can be mistakened to be like a forum thread?
I understand why the rep requirement exists, and agrees it needs to stay. I just think there are some things about the site new users who have something perfectly legit to post as a comment should be introduced to important points about the site and its policy before they actually try to do anything with this newly created account. The current solution isn't consistently effective nor sustainable - if you need to manually correct newcomers for the hundredth time, the implementation has a bad design imo.
I don't know enough about this site to give specific suggestions, however. I can only give general ideas on what I feel would be my preferred design for the sake of user-friendliness. Hence, I would like to ask what has already been done to address the issues I've stated, and whether anything more can be done because as it stands whatever is already implemented, if at all, is inadequate.
I'm not sure if this question should belong in the overarching SE Meta. I don't know if other SEs have the same rep requirement on comments, since I start with 100 rep in all the others I join, although I don't believe I've seen answers in other SEs' questions with the same telltale signs of a new user trying to comment but failed.