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If the answer is very short, should we be commenting instead of answering? If not, why do people do this?

  • I'm not sure what you're referring to. Do you have an example? – JonW Jun 25 '14 at 20:34
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    Evil Closet Monkey answers in the comments: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/60426/… – Justin Jun 25 '14 at 20:38
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    People do this out of fear of getting voted down or retaliated against for putting something that is potentially against mainstream thinking. This is the result of having a forum that is too strict on it's rules. It may be a good lesson for those who are rule Nazis. – eeklipzz Jul 31 '14 at 19:34
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If a question can be answered with just a single line then that probably means one of two things:

  1. The question is very simple and doesn't show any research effort to find the solution, or there is no single solution (such as a poll for 'what is the best book on UX?')

  2. The answer does not provide any research evidence, reasoning or description.

In both cases there is something wrong.

In the first example the question is likely to be closed off. Questions are expected to be such that have correct answers, or at least an answer that can be taken and used to explicitly solve the question asked. (Not possible in my example as no book is the 'correct' one).

In the second case it is likely the answer is too brief to be much use as it wouldn't show any reasoning or description.

In fact should that example you linked to in your comment have been left as an answer it would likely have a post notice affixed to it stating the following:

insufficient explanation

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

The wording of this message is fixed by the main Stack Exchange team, and you could find this same message against answer across all of the Stack Exchange sites.

The aim being; if you have a UX problem that needs solving then you need to be able to back up your decision as to why you are making your decision. Evil Closet Monkeys comment / answer of:

Simple solution: force a 4-digit year.

doesn't provide the reasoning so couldn't really be used to back up your decision. You want to be able to say "Do {this} because of {detailed reasoning}" and not "Do {this} just because I say so". Which of those two would you have the most respect for if someone said that to you?

If a one-liner answer is left and not improved to add description, reasoning and perhaps examples / citations then it will either be; a) converted to a comment against the question - if that content is relevant and / or interesting, or b) deleted.

  • Essentially then, leave it as a comment if you're too lazy to explain your reasoning? Although Evil Closet Monkey doesn't explain his answer, there is still value in it. I guess it was more of an idea or a suggestion than an answer. – Justin Jun 25 '14 at 21:19
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    @JOhkobrew well partly. But also because the question there was "When can we stop assuming that a 2 digit year starts with 19" and that comment/answer doesn't directly answer that question, it gives the asker a different way of looking at the question itself. – JonW Jun 25 '14 at 21:21
  • Here is an interesting and timely example of a very short answer that arguably could have been a comment that was shelled with downvotes, prompting an edit with more detail. Either the original answer was more appropriate as a comment, or the detail after the edit should have been included in the original answer. – Charles Wesley Jul 3 '14 at 18:33
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Do I get a badge for being specifically called out in a Meta question? I only wish I realized this question was here sooner!

I will extend on JonW's answer with a first-hand account...

In the particular example you call out, you see what my intentions are. I felt the blurb was useful, but it lacked any supporting evidence to explain why a 4-digit year (in the specific example) should be used. As a result it didn't satisfy as a good answer. If I were to be able to point to resources/research that talk about how 4-digit years reduce confusion, or how 2-digit years cause mass chaos, I could have worked more towards an answer.

Sometimes when running across a question where "an idea" or "suggestion" can quickly be fired off, I will leave a comment with such information. I may not have time to do my due diligence on the "why" part, but the quick blurb still holds some value.

I might have planned on coming back to the question later too, to extend on the comment... but maybe forgot.

  • It seems to me that it is less about explaining answers and backing them up and more about being thorough. In my view, the only reason your answer made sense as a comment is that you don't provide alternative solutions in the case that the asker is unable to implement your solution. Otherwise, I felt that your answer needed no explanation as it quite plainly simply solves the asker's problem. I hope it isn't common for answered to be downvoted just for being short. The question isn't "write me an encyclopedia article about year selection UX," it's "how do I address this specific problem?" – Justin Jul 15 '14 at 20:38

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