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If someone answered my question and I used that answer to solve my problem

I want to both post my solution and accept that they helped me answer it.

Should I post my answer in the question, update the existing answer, or post a new answer and accept the answer that helped me?

See comments on this answer for reference

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What a mess, I don't know whether to a) delete the link only answer b) close the question as too localized or c) delete the whole thing. –  casperOne Nov 9 '12 at 15:16
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@casperOne I have seen this happen on quite a few questions/answers... –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Nov 9 '12 at 15:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Do not ever put/add an answer in/to the question!

Appropriate actions are:

  • For a bugfree version of an already given answer: edit that answer, add a comment on the edit and accept it.

  • For a self-made localized version of an already given answer: accept that answer and add a comment how it was helpfull in your specific situation.

  • For a self-made independent answer: add it as a new answer, and accept that one.

  • For a partially self-made derivative answer from (an) already given answer(s): add it as a new answer, explain therein how you got to the answer referring to the other(s), upvote the ancestor answer(s), and accept your own. For a nice example, see this answer which is a combination of two already given answers and one original approach from OP himself.

About which answer to accept: only the questioner can and must decide which answer was the best for him/her, probably the own answer. This certainly is fair, since that answer will not automatically float to the top, unless it also has the most upvotes.

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If the answer actually answers my question completely and will answer other people's questions who have the same issue, I accept the answer.

If I still want to share my own implementation of the answer because I think it adds some value or to provide a complete answer to the question, I'll edit my question to add my own implementation of the answer. I don't post it as an answer because it would duplicate a simpler version of the answer, and my solution is very localized to my specific situation.

However if the answer only guided me in the direction to look, and doesn't actually answer my question completely, I merely upvote it and post my own answer.

This is because if other users come across your question seeking the same answer, I'd like the actual answer to be listed there instead of only having an answer containing a hint that points them in the direction to look.

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Editing your answer into the question is inappropriate. –  Servy Nov 9 '12 at 15:24
    
@Servy If you only want to share your implementation of your solution because you think it adds value or want to share the full solution you ended up going with for completeness, I think its very appropriate and would actually be inappropriate to post it as an answer. Another answer already exists that answers the question, and your personal implementation of the solution should not be posted as an answer. –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 15:25
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How is posting an answer to a question more appropriate in the question than in the answer? Questions go in questions, answers go in answers, and comments go in comments. –  Servy Nov 9 '12 at 15:26
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@Servy I tried to be careful with my words, but apparently I wasn't careful enough. "my own implementation of the answer because I think it adds some value" - I think this should not be an answer as it duplicates an existing answer and only adds specific details –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 15:28
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If you feel it adds enough value that it should be publicly posted it should be in its own answer (or an answer at least). If it doesn't add enough value that you feel it belongs in an answer then you probably shouldn't post it in the first place. –  Servy Nov 9 '12 at 15:28
    
@Servy I've updated my question to explain some of the rational behind these decisions. I've had many cases where I post an answer that is rather generic and not specific to the user's code posted, and rather than accept that answer the user posts an answer containing their code with my answer implemented, and accepts that instead. Seeing someone's specific implementation of the code when seeking an answer is not as helpful or as easy to read as seeing a generic answer that solves the problem. –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 15:38
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Yes, and in that case I would prefer that the user not accept their own answer if it has less value than the more generic answer, but that doesn't mean they should put it in the question; it should still be an answer. If it doesn't add much value then, as I said before, they probably just shouldn't post it at all. –  Servy Nov 9 '12 at 16:01
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+1 for the last paragraph, although it can be hard to know where the line between "hint" and "true answer" is on some questions. –  Pops Nov 9 '12 at 20:42

If you used an existing answer to come up with a solution the appropriate thing to do is to post an answer with your solution, if you feel that it adds value above and beyond the existing answer. You should certainly upvote the answer that helped you because, well, it helped you.

As for which you mark as the answer, that's your decision and may vary based on the circumstances. For me I would weigh the amount of effort put into the answer that helped me versus what I put in myself. If I spend considerable amount of time and effort, beyond the answer that helped me, then I would just upvote the other answer and mark mine. If the other answer was of high quality, and provided almost all of what I needed and didn't leave too much left for me then I would mark that as the answer, not mine, and consider just commenting on that answer with my changes, rather than posting a new answer.

If you only needed to make minor changes to an answer to your question for it to solve your problem consider commenting on that answer with what you felt it was missing, rather than posting a new answer to add that information.

Note that what you shouldn't do is edit your solution, or the answer you choose, into the question. The question itself should remain a question, and the answer(s) to that question should be in the answers.

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