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It did happen to me that I posted a partial answer, but still the most relevant at that time, and after a while someone posted a better answer, that is, a complete one, mine got down-voted and I ended up deleting it completely.

I didn't expect such a level of ingratitude. How can you down-vote a partial, but still correct solution? Answering the question partially is just like a pushing someone in the right direction rather than letting him/her stay in the dead point where he/she is now.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you don't know the entire, best answer, I think a partial answer is a perfectly legitimate use for community wiki. You're essentially saying that you're getting the ball rolling and the community should finish the post.

Humbly saying so in your post would likely allay the disappointed down-voters by properly setting the expectations:

I don't know the entire solution but I can get you started. I made this community wiki so, hopefully, someone can fill in the blanks... Etc.

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You've already described it. While it was fine in the context of no other answers, in the context of other, better, complete answers, it was inadequate. That is the reality.

The problem seems to be that you were expecting gratitude for pointing them in the right direction. My experience at SO is, don't expect gratitude or recognition, you will be disappointed and you will feel rejected. Most users are low-level and provide low-level answers, higher level answers are voted down by these low-level users as they do not or can not appreciate higher level answers. Most of them do not even open the links, even when you post them as evidence or support.

I would say, with the understanding that I have of the voting system, the way good or better answers get killed, and mediocre answer get voted up, as soon as your answer gets to minus 3, delete it. That way you minimise your loss, and the SO pages remain clean, with low level answers that most people can understand.

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...as your answer gets to minus 3, delete it. That way you minimise your loss,.. AND you get one of these shiny badges we all live for. –  DrDro Dec 16 '10 at 14:38

I didn't expect such a level of ingratitude.

Nothing tells you that question asker downvoted you. It could've been any of the competing answerers, and the reason could've been any of the following: tactical, ideological or whichever reason people use when they downvote.

My own reason for downvoting is when the answer is obviously wrong or misleading and may actually make damage to anyone who think that it is correct.

My solution for the problem you described is to answer the best I can or am willing at the moment anyway.

And if I receive offensive/insulting/leeching comments from the OP after that I either delete the answer or simply ignore it and tend not to answer that person's questions anymore, or both.

When it comes to downvotes, it all comes down to the fact that they are anonymous, so you can't really do anything about it. Anyone (almost) can downvote, and some of the people are cool and know stuff, while some are narrow, overly competitive or simply [expletive]s. That's the human nature, no way changing it.

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I post partial solutions sometimes as well. Punitive down-votes on them are pretty rare but not unheard of.

Nonetheless, I've take to prefacing them with "Well to address only the first part..." or some other balther as a vaccine.


Homework questions are a special breed of course, they get pedagogical answers by policy (mine, rather than some site wide thing). Down-votes on those have been very rare, though I've gotten two in the last week (and without comments, too).

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While I agree to your point on giving a partial answer for just giving the direction, its always a good idea to give out as much information as you could incrementally.

First, give out precise and to the point solution which solves the problem, then keep adding details to it (edits), to make it more clear to a wider audience or may be to the OP, this is a good way to contribute to the community based on what you know. I have observed this with many of the top users from Stack Overflow.

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