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In this question the user described a problem, and as it happens often, the problem description was not deemed to be sufficient to propose a solution. We went back and forth, all in comments, until something worked. That "something" is not really an "answer" to speak of. I am not sure what to do now. Here are some options that come to mind

  • Leave everything as is
  • Leave everything as is, downvote the question, maybe flag it, hoping it gets closed/removed
  • Compile everything in comments into some sort of answer that could potentially be useful to someone. Such as:

To solve this try/we tried

  1. Doing foo
  2. Running bar
  3. Then uploading quix. This finally worked.

I've been in several exchanges of this sort: where there is an issue that's eventually solved between the OP and the community, but the final answer, in the end, just by itself does not merit being an answer. Also what is the proper way of handling such situation when it doesn't get resolved.

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+1 - good question. I have a heavy "close" finger, but I also answer a lot of lower quality questions (sometimes after many comments). I feel that sometimes a good answer can go a long way towards giving value to an unclear question. But to do so 1) the question must be answerable/appropriate for SO (sometimes they just aren't) and 2) the answer must restate the question correctly (and sometimes, state the questions that should be asked instead). An Example. –  Tim Medora Apr 2 '13 at 7:41
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'd do the last thing you proposed and write an answer for the person who asked the question to accept. This shows that the problem is "solved", gives you credit for the time you took to help them, and provides a resource for whoever happens across the question later with the same problem.

Of course, you don't have to list everything you tried along the way to debug the problem, unless you think it would be particularly helpful to someone else in the future. The comments will still be there if someone really needs to see them. The only thing it's critical to include in your answer is the final solution: What, specifically, did you have to do to fix the problem and why did that work?

You may also, however, decide on a case-by-case basis that the answer to the question is extremely unlikely to be helpful to anyone else ever in the future of the Internet. In that case, you should just request that the asker delete the question and/or flag for a moderator to delete the question. This is what I would do if the answer turned out to be "you have a typo in line 4 of your code". You could go through the dog-and-pony show of closing the question as "too localized" and waiting for it to get automatically deleted, but if everyone agrees that the problem is solved and the question is indeed highly localized, just ask a moderator to blow it away at one go once and for all.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't note that you should not feel obligated to participate in an extended debugging session with someone. If the question is not clear, self-contained, and readily-answerable, then you can feel free to skip it and/or vote to close it. Sometimes, for a certain type of user, it's just not worth it. We do offer a real-time chat feature if you want to help people like this, but it's a secondary feature apart from the main Q&A site. Related reading on this topic:

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Bonus +1 for the quicksand links, that should make nice readings. No, I don't feel obligated, but good to know about the issue. –  angelatlarge Apr 2 '13 at 5:11
    
Problem with the chat is, that users with low rep can't use it. And those are more often such questions with extended comments, I would think. –  Devolus Dec 7 '13 at 19:05
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