When there is a question I choose to provide feedback on, I may use answer or comment.
When I have feedback which I believe may resolve the asker’s issue, I suggest an answer. The exception to this is when there is already an answer, to which my suggestion can be supplementary, like an elaboration or explanation. In such cases I will rather comment on that answer.
When I have feedback towards the understanding of a question (precision, completeness, relevance), I will comment on the question.
Those are the more obvious cases.
- If the question is complex and I have feedback which at best provides a partial resolution, I think I will still use “Suggest an answer”.
- If my feedback is towards the user’s appearance (demeanour, own effort, competence) and a suggested change is a step on the path towards a resolution, I would also use the answer.
- In some cases the asker is mentally locked into a way of doing things which will not lead to the desired result. With experience we learn to read between the lines and identify the cause, and suggest a procedure aside of the verbatim question presented. Despite not answering that question, I will still choose “answer” if I believe that my feedback helps to resolve the issue.
For the former, I recognize that the askbot only allows one answer to be selected as the correct one. Multiple answers which in sum resolves the issue as presented may create “noise” when the asker wants to confirm two solutions.
For the two other there is obviously the risk of offending the asker and receive a downvote in return. Comments have little bearing on “karma” and cannot be downvoted. I would not lose much sleep over lost karma, and a downvote may be a useful feedback that perhaps I should have worded my response differently.
Is there a general consensus on when to use answer? Should we avoid using it in some situations? I ask because I see rather frequent comments which are really answers, in that they provide info towards resolving the issue. The asker would like to select it as the correct answer but cannot,because it is not entered as an answer in the first place.