# Should “hints” be posted as “answers”? [duplicate]

I'm referring to the answer here: The operator $A(L)={w|ww\in L}$.

In my opinion, it is completely not accetable as an answer, simply because answer should give a solution. The rules for me are simple: Either I know the solution and then I post an answer, or I do not and then I should post my ideas as comments.

I would like to know what is / should be the good practice and if such answeres should be flagged for moderator attention.

(Background: I come from TeX.SE and this is this a key rule there, and many answers get transferred to comments.)

• Please note the related discussions about homework questions. The discussion is not over, but is appears that posting hints on "student-like" question is becoming accepted practice (as long as full answers are given in spoiler tags). – Raphael May 4 '12 at 10:02
• @Raphael Should answers that don't provide a full answer be downvoted/deleted/converted to comments? That's an intriguing question. It might be hard to distinguish between incompleteness because of hints (unacceptable?) and lack of complete knowledge (acceptable?). – Patrick87 May 4 '12 at 11:07
• For what it's worth, I tend to agree with @tohecz's sentiment... my inclination would be to deem valid flags on answers providing only hints. – Patrick87 May 4 '12 at 11:25

## 3 Answers

I think that hints should be provided as answers. This isn't a site for doing people's homework, but helping them understand the ideas that will help them to do their own homework. Sometimes a hint is sufficient to achieve that goal.

One difference with TeX.SE (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that students are less likely to be going to TeX.SE to get answers for their homework and assignments. TeX.SE is more about getting the solutions to various problems, not necessarily about understanding some fundamentals. I believe that hints are key to helping students get over hurdles in their to understanding.

• I concur that the nature of the questions on cs.SE (homework/from students learning computer science) supports hints as valid answers on cs.SE. – Luke Mathieson Feb 26 '13 at 8:57

There isn't a clear line between a hint and an answer. For an expert a short statement stating the essential points would be sufficient as an answer and probably preferable also; for a novice the situation might be different.

If an answer is partial or just gives hints about the answer it still counts as an answer as long as it provides correct non-trivial information about what is being asked. It doesn't restrict other users ability to post full answers if they want to. If you don't like an answer don't up-vote it.

I'm of the opinion that "answers" which provide only hints and intentionally avoid providing a direct answer should be treated as bad answers: downvoted, deleted, or converted to comments, as appropriate.

For users who insist on trying to provide hints to certain questions, I think complete answers in spoiler tags are acceptable.