I think that newbies are more inclined to make small remarks than full answers. The actual privilege mechanism forces them to put as an answer what should be a comment, and then require a moderator to convert the answer in comment.

What is the rationale behind this?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

I disagree with the "forces them". You shouldn't post a non-answer (that what we call, beside others, a comment posted as an answer) if you don't have enough reputation yet. This is meant as a protection mechanism to avoid spam or other unwanted comments. However, I see how this can be frustrating. Having a rep limit on posting answers would not make sense, because then you would be forced to get some rep by asking questions only, and there are a lot good people which post excellent answers but don't need to ask questions.

Getting the required 50 rep should not be that difficult. That's 5 answer up-votes or 10 question up-votes. You should not have a problem getting these by posting 1-2 good answers. See this as a form of qualification test. This site (like all SE sites) simply targets at a higher quality than forums where everyone can usually post everywhere immediately. You should know that all reputation limits are given to us by the SE admins and we TeX.SE moderators don't have any direct influence on them. They are AFAIK the same on all sites, besides private-beta sites which have lower limits in order to seed the site with posts and tags etc.

Note that you can always comment on your own questions and their answers. The 50 rep limit is only for commenting everywhere. Also if you have 200 rep (from where on you are taken as a full site member) or more on any stackexchange site you will get a bonus of 100 rep for every other stackexchange site account you create (however just once in total), so you will be able to comment there immediately. You basically just have to prove once that you have learned how SE sites work.

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Just to add to this that the privileges are not TeX-sx ones, they are StackExchange ones. So asking for any changes has to be done on the main meta site (meta.stackoverflow.com). –  Joseph Wright Mar 23 '12 at 9:48
    
Ok, I understand and agree with your answer. However, at least in my case, the need to comment questions made by others is usually to get some clarification or examples aboyt the question, not to post a non-answer. –  JLDiaz Mar 23 '12 at 10:04
    
@JLDiaz: I understood that, but you simply have to wait to get 50 rep before asking for such clarifications. Even if this is frustrating. –  Martin Scharrer Mar 23 '12 at 10:10
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And this has been declined in meta before. Lower the amount of reputation for commenting. –  Alan Munn Mar 23 '12 at 21:45
    
You note that newcomers to the group might be shy and try providing comments before the go whole-hog and post their first answer. Complementing the formal reasons for this policy, already stated by Martin Scharrer, is a practical point: there's no good reason to be shy. Virtually everyone is polite, friendly, and generous. Less than a year ago I posted my first answer (to a question posted by Martin Scharrer), and it got accepted! I've been hooked ever since... –  Mico Mar 24 '12 at 16:03
    
@Mico: Is tex.stackexchange.com/users/4009/martin really Martin Scharrer? –  Hans-Peter E. Kristiansen Mar 28 '12 at 5:08
    
@Hans-PeterE.Kristiansen: No, that's not me. Mico apparently confused Martin's. ;-) –  Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '12 at 6:30
    
@MartinScharrer: I trust that the hook is more Martin than Scharrer:o) Do you know when your name is written, or do your just see everything? –  Hans-Peter E. Kristiansen Mar 28 '12 at 6:57
    
@Hans-PeterE.Kristiansen: No, but as poster of this answer I get notified about any comment to it, even if there is an @otheruser in it. –  Martin Scharrer Mar 28 '12 at 7:00
    
@Hans-PeterE.Kristiansen - My bad! Indeed, I had the two Martins mixed up. I trust nobody got hurt or annoyed. :-) –  Mico Mar 28 '12 at 10:43
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