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How much information should we give when answering? In some applications, I think that it is proper to give working code. In others, I limit myself to help with algorithms, or just what method and class to use.

What is "too much" information for an answer? and should you treat questions that look like homework like other questions, or reveal less information than you normally would?

more specifically, I was curious after answering this question. Did I not answer enough, or did the other answers give away too much information? It seemed an awful lot like homework to me, but I may be wrong on that account.

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For some question, when I think the OP should be able to code out the solution based on the concept, then I'll write an answer without code. If it requires intricate detail to work (e.g. regex), or if it is too simple, I usually show the answer, as direct code or pseudo-code. –  nhahtdh Feb 11 '13 at 17:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There is no real official policy on this that is SE wide, or even SO wide. In the end it is up to the community. The feedback is given through up/down votes. "Community" in this context, is tag specific communities primarily. In some tags answering a homework question with full working code will get you downvotes, others upvotes, others some of each or none. Some tags prefer longer explanations and are unlikely to upvote answers that just contain code, and others value working code over long winded explanations that don't provide a coded working solution.

There is also a lot of variance between topics and types of questions within tags. Some questions are clearly designed/intended to result in an explanation rather than a coded solution. For example, some question might indicate that it's more interested in why X is behaving like Y and isn't interested in workaround Z that avoids the behavior entirely. Other questions are clearly designed to get a working solution and don't care why or how.

There is no simple rule, or even an in depth flow chart one must follow. It's something you need to gauge from experience and participation on the site.

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I would say this: if you don't feel comfortable giving a full and complete answer to a question, don't answer it. So if you think something is homework and giving a full answer to it would be against your principles, skip it and move on.

Remember: an answer is for more than just the person who asked the question. We want to build a knowledge base here, and that doesn't work if people give half-answers to some questions that don't smell right.

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It's always a judgement call . You would rather lead a user to the answer, where he/she learns a lot on the way, than simply giving a homework-solution answer.

Again, case-by-case. Sometimes the user really put effort into the question.

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