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I'm getting frustrated when I'll spend 30 minutes writing and expanding upon an answer, only to have a worse answer get enough of a head-start that no one even reads past it.

Most recently was on this question, where I had both an earlier answer and a better explained one, but by the time I had fired up my IDE, written and tested the code sample, and posted it, another answer had scored more points than I did.

It's doubly frustrating because not only do I think my solution is simpler, but while I was revising it I watched my answer get voted up twice and then have votes removed, for reasons I can't begin to fathom.

My question: at what point do you give up trying to answer a question, even if you think you have a better answer, because the sheer weight of previous votes makes correcting an answer impossible?

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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If you ever spend long enough to get yourself frustrated, then that is too long.

You should write your answers to be complete and correct. If it is quick, you can hope that no one else answers first, if it takes long, you should assume that it won't be. I'm not very quick, so I write my answers to be the most complete so that the OP will hopefully mark it as correct. At the very least, the OP will read it to the end.

Another thing to note is to question your own motivation. If you can convince yourself that you are doing this out of the goodness of your heart, and you're just trying to help the OP, then you can walk away knowing that your job is done. That's not really what any of us are doing, (we're addicted to the "upvote-rush") but some of us are better at pretending detachment.

And ultimately, when you provide a better answer on a question, you are benefiting the entire community. Anyone who finds the question through a websearch will read all the way to the bottom because they need the answer, and they'll find your gem and decide for themselves.

Don't answer for right now, answer for posterity

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+1 -1: This answer starts great but ends bad. Nobody is here to "benefit the community" or "answer for posterity". That doesn't sound like fun –  Andomar Jul 21 '10 at 21:12
@Andomar I don't know why anyone would go on Meta except to benefit the community. It sure as hell can't go on my resume. –  devinb Jul 21 '10 at 22:09
+1 to devinb, -1 to Andomar. –  Aryabhatta Jul 22 '10 at 5:46
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at what point do you give up trying to answer a question, even if you think you have a better answer, because the sheer weight of previous votes makes correcting an answer impossible?

I don't think it should matter if your answer is eventually marked as the correct one. The main benefit of answering is not reputation, it's improving yourself.

Eventually, you'll be so much improved that you can answer faster, so you'll get more accepted answers, and more upvotes. But that's just a side effect.

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To be frank, you answer is not really clear enough. You haven't really described how to map the set of points in the question to the matrix on which you run the Hungarian Algorithm.

Since Hungarian algorithm can be applied to the problem, I suppose you got the upvotes. I suppose some retracted their upvote due to lack of clarity, which is pretty understandable, IMO.

The answer you consider worse actually gives a clear, understandable solution (might not be optimal, but it is close).

As to your actual question, I agree with devinb.

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You have trouble understanding how to map a "two-dimension plane X-Y" to a matrix? –  Chris B. Jul 22 '10 at 14:42
@chris: Well if that is what you are talking about, your algorithm is much worse than what you are claiming to be better than. –  Aryabhatta Jul 22 '10 at 17:09
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