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I have asked a few questions on SO that, after a while, I realise that the thing I am asking cannot be done.

There are inevitably some creative answers, but none that actually really solve the problem I asked (or maybe do in a roundabout way with a multitude of hacks that defeat the original point).

Should I add an answer myself saying "it can't be done" and then accept it, to make it clear to others that none of the answers are really correct (even though they may contain good suggestions and creative responses)?

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There's nothing wrong with that: I answer a question like that (mine actually:…) after some extensive research and experimentation – prusswan Mar 16 '12 at 12:07
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Yes, of course.

If that's the solution you opted for, you should post that as an answer and accept it. A good version of this answer will explain why none of the other proposed solutions worked for you, what else you might have tried, and why you ultimately decided that it can't be done.

And don't forget to upvote some of other people's "hacky" answers if you found them helpful. If they deserve it, it's okay to give them some credit, too, even if you don't ultimately accept their answer because it's not the route you chose to take (or has some other significant drawbacks).

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Well, it would seem to me that just leaving your post with no answer selected as best achieves the same thing. You don't have an obligation to select best answer.. sometimes all the answers are lacking.

The other issue is confidence.. when you say "it can't be done" that gives a finality that may be a little disconcerting. It's like saying "I'm 100% sure this is impossible" , but who knows? Maybe a new technology will come out soon?

So all-in-all, I'd just leave well-enough alone.

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The difference is that it A) informs others who might happen across your question with the same question what approach you decided to take, and B) marks your question as "resolved" (increasing your accept rate, for people who care about such things). And there shouldn't be any type of disconcerting finality. If someone comes across the question with a better solution (or, as you mention, when a new technology comes out), they can and will post it. Then he can change his accepted answer, because that one is now the "best" answer to the question. – Cody Gray Mar 16 '12 at 11:27

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