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Suppose I'm reading a question. It's interesting, I want to help, and I can immediately think of one or two insights that would be useful in constructing or improving a good answer to that question. Unfortunately, for some reason (say, there are system-specific aspects for a system that I personally don't understand well enough) I am utterly incapable of writing a complete answer myself. What am I supposed to do?

  • The question Should users refrain from answers (or partial answers) in comments? suggests that "put it in comments" isn't the right answer.

  • I could put it into an answer, but that answer would be fundamentally incomplete. The question Should I be requesting people answer the question independently? seems to indicate that incomplete answers are inherently unacceptable, and so that isn't the right answer either.

  • Waiting until someone else answers and then commenting on their answer to tell them to put in my thoughts seems awkward at best, and inefficient in a number of ways - possibly rude.

  • Waiting until someone else answers and then editing it into their answer without discussing it with them seems worse than that.

  • Having a policy of shrugging, moving on, and hoping someone else comes up with the same idea is unfortunate in its own way. We want to capture useful insights. That's a big part of what Stack is all about.

I don't really care about points one way or the other. Having someone else incorporate my insights into a comprehensive answer while I get no points would be great. I don't even mind putting something out there that might get downvotes. I just don't want to have to drop them on the floor uselessly, and I'd like to be a good citizen in all this. I'm not currently seeing how I'm supposed to do that.

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marked as duplicate by Bloodcinder, Sdjz, NathanS, linksassin, Maximillian Feb 3 at 15:45

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There could be an impartial-answers stack exchange where users can place all their impartial answers. You can start a new Stack Exchange site by going to the main Stack Exchange website, but I'm not sure what to do after that. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Jan 21 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’m not sure how rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6533/… doesn’t answer this. Don’t do the things you’re not supposed to do; otherwise do as seems best in that situation. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jan 21 at 22:47
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I agree with existing answers saying either to get a complete answer together, or walk away; that is generally what your options are. To be more general, basically, a partial answer can’t just be put anywhere—there is always more work to be done to get things in a state where that information can be posted. Here are a couple more ways you can work to make a partial answer into something acceptable:

Another option: suggest that the question be edited and narrowed

Especially if there aren’t any answers to the question yet, the scope of the question can be changed. And the fact that no one has managed to come up with a complete answer, and you have come up with something you think is valuable but also isn’t a complete answer, suggests that maybe the question is asking for too much, and a narrower question (the one you can answer) would be more appropriate. You can suggest that to the querent and see where that gets you. Narrower questions tend to get answered sooner and better, so it’s a win–win.

Yet another option: your own Q&A

If the question you’re looking at can’t or won’t be narrowed—due to existing answers or due to querent intransigence—you might be able to ask and answer the narrower question yourself. Obviously, the question has to be useful on its own, and not a duplicate of the original question—you aren’t getting out of any of the usual rules here—but in some circumstances this can be a successful approach to this dilemma.

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Normally, you would make it a minimally complete answer.

But if we take the question at face value and you literally cannot expand it to a minimally complete answer…

There is only one place to put answers, which is in an Answer Post. If one feels that their answer would get a poor reception there, regardless of the reason, that's still the only place to put it. Not wanting downvotes isn't a reason to post it as a comment.

Therefore, someone who wishes to post something that isn't allowed in a comment, but they don't want to post it enough to risk exposure to downvotes, logically has only one option: to not post it at all.

Shrugging, moving on, and hoping someone else comes up with the same idea is unfortunate in its own way. We want to capture useful insights. That's a big part of what Stack is all about.

Yes, but it's the least-harm scenario, therefore it's the preferred outcome. It also overstates the value of these insights.

Look at it this way: if the author doesn't even think their insights are good enough to risk losing fake internet points, they're not worth anyone else's time either. Yes, better to hope someone else comes along, who actually believes in their post enough to stand behind it, so that they can post the insights instead.

Bottom line, one can always take their chances and put it in an Answer Post — maybe it's enough that it won't get the downvotes one is worried about. Choosing not to do that is also fine. Comments aren't there to save posters from this decision; they're not a get-out-of-downvotes free card.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not worried about downvotes. I was merely under the impression that we were not supposed to post partial answers. I had been under the impression that the community had, by and large, presented a message of "Don't post partial answers. That's bad." Is this not so? I'm honestly trying to be a good stack citizen here, and my question is literally "What should I, as a good stack citizen, do?" \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jan 21 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden I think this FAQ on partial answers covers that. Does that help or is there an angle it doesn't cover enough? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 21 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, it pretty much directly contradicts your advice here. As far as I can read it, it says "No. Don't make partial answers. That's bad." I do believe in the things I have to offer, and I would stand behind them, but it looks like I'm being told that if I cannot make a complete answer, then there's no valid way for me to present anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jan 21 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the question based on the FAQ you dug up. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jan 21 at 22:03
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You put in the additional work so that you can create a full answer out of it!

You mention that you "...can immediately think of one or two insights that would be useful in constructing or improving a good answer..." and that is awesome, it indicates to me that you are knowledgeable about the subject and hence likely know where to find more information about it.

So go to that place, find the additional information that you think your answer is lacking and add it in!

If it is less tangible details, like experience with a given gaming system, you could always try hitting up the Chat with your plan for an answer to see if others with more specific experience think it is a workable one or you could even acknowledge it in your answer along the lines of "I haven't used this solution myself yet however based on XYZ I believe it would work."

Not that internet points matter to you, but if they did, or if you just want to get your answer to OP quickly to help them, you could post your initial points whilst you go research the rest. Acknowledge where the answer is lacking and go back and fill in the details when you have them. But make sure to fill them in soon!

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth noting that you can type in a partial answer without submitting it, which will cause it to be saved as a draft. Drafts are saved every 45 seconds, and are automatically cleared after a week. You can have up to one draft at a time. More details here. So if you have the start of an answer but it needs to be fleshed out, you can leave your thoughts as a saved draft and come back to refine it later. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 22 at 1:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @v2blast - personally I'd rather save my answer into notepad than rely on the drafts functionality, it's too easy to lose work in it imho. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Jan 22 at 8:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, just pointing out a stopgap measure for those who don't want to save it elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 22 at 9:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have sometimes submitted a WIP answer then immediately deleted it, then continued working on it while deleted, and undeleted it when it’s ready. (Self-deleted answers can be undeleted with just your own 1 undelete vote.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 23 at 16:13
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It's up to you

Knowingly putting up an incomplete answer may net downvotes. But if you think that the information is good for the querent and/or answerers, then you can accept the downvotes and feel good about contributing in the way you want to contribute.

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    \$\begingroup\$ question has been edited based on a pertinent FAQ dug up by @SevenSidedDie \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jan 21 at 22:02

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