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What if I ask a question that is of the "How do I ...", not "Can I ...", and the only answer I get is "You can't". You can't is an Answer, but not a solution to my question. If it's the only answer to my question, is in indicative I should reword my question, or that I should delete it and move on, or should I just accept the answer based solely on the fact that the user attempted an answer. The "You can't" answer DID lead me to determine that actually I can do what I'm asking, but it requires me to download the source (vim in this case), and actually modify the source and re-compile. Technically, an actual answer to my question would be more like:

"In vim source, look in module quickfix.c and look at function formatOutput(), ..."

Now, I don't expect someone to actually do that much work just for reputation, so am I asking a non (meta) question? should I just accept the user's effort and move on?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

"You can't." is not an answer by SO standards (it can't even be posted -- it's under the minimum character limit).

"You can't, because WidgetDraw doesn't have support for galstanating ovals." is a little better, but ideally there would be at least a few sentences of detailed explanation. With such explanation, I think that the answer would definitely be accepted-answer quality, if it were correct. This is similar to Is "Don't do it" a valid answer?

In this case, however, the answer is apparently "You can't, unless you're willing to do X, Y, and Z". Having yourself figured out exactly what X, Y, and Z consist of, ideally you should post that procedure as an answer. Since that's the solution you used, you can and should accept it. Give the other answer an upvote, or even a 50-point bounty, because you found it helpful. Leaving a comment on the answer explaining the situation is probably also a good idea.

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I oversimplified the answer, the answer was longer, and generally helpful, but I didnt actually leave the site with an answer to my problem. – regretoverflow May 3 '13 at 19:00

"You can't" may be an answer, but I don't think it's a good answer. If I saw just "You can't", then I wouldn't upvote it or accept it as an answer.

I would expect a correct explanation for me to upvote or to accept an answer.

You are under no obligation to accept an answer at any time, although I think you should accept the best answer that actually answers your question and is correct, if it exists.

That being said, can you force a "You can't" answerer to update the answer to include an explanation?

You can't.

But you could leave a comment on the answer asking for an explanation.

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You should have stopped at "You can't." But I can't force that on you either, so. – BoltClock's a Unicorn May 3 '13 at 17:24
I oversimplified the answer, the answer was longer, and generally helpful, but I didnt actually leave the site with an answer to my problem. – regretoverflow May 3 '13 at 19:01

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