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I see a lot of sites where one of the arguments for answers-as-comments is that the people writing answers-as-comments don't have a complete answer, but a partial answer that might be useful to someone who would write a complete answer.

The obvious solution is to post the partial answer as an answer, which wouldn't prevent someone from writing a more complete answer. But I can't remember the last time I saw a partial answer on a Stack Exchange site.

Are there communities where people post partial answers? How do you make it work?

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  • ... is to use comments. Oct 8 '17 at 16:25
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    @iDebug: What? No. Never. Comments are not for answers at all. Oct 8 '17 at 21:57
  • On ELU, comments are so full of answers. Should we promote partial answers?
    – NVZ
    Oct 9 '17 at 5:22
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    Comments are meant to ask for clarification or add more information, not for writing "partial answers". Comments being misused in any manner should be flagged for deletion, and moderators should delete them. The policy is crystal clear on this, end of story.
    – Masked Man
    Oct 10 '17 at 18:31
  • @ɪʙᴜɢ and this is exactly why comments are not for answers. If you would've posted that as a proper answer, it would have been downvotable for being wrong.
    – JAD
    Mar 15 '18 at 8:47
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The problem with properly partial answers is that people don't always follow up.

I'd rather comment for additional information and testing, then sit down and polish up the answer. I might suggest something speculative as a troubleshooting step - but I don't know if it works.

If it's something I've done and believe it works, it's an answer. This probably only really works well on answers about processes though.

Sometimes an answer is partial cause it misses information. In these cases commenting or editing in (Someone once did an absolutely fantastic, very drastic edit I appreciated on an answer) additional information fleshes out a partial answer. That said, it still needs to make sense on its own.

On somewhere like Literature or IPS, I have no idea what a partial answer could look like. Even then, an answer needs to be enough that someone popping in has at least an idea on how to solve it.

So - if it helps and makes sense on its own, it probably belongs as "an answer" (quality is another issue). If its massively speculative, and seems like it's clarification, or just doesn't make sense, or just points somewhere else it isn't.

(for context - this is a post on meta.su on the same topic)

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There doesn't seem to be any need for a new policy on answering questions in comments, as the existing policy covers it adequately. When you click on "add a comment" beneath a question, you are presented with this hint:

Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid answering questions in comments.

That makes it crystal clear that answers in comments, even "partial answers" are not allowed. If you see answers in comments (partial or otherwise), flag them without hesitation, and if you are a moderator, delete them without hesitation.

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    For me personally, it's more about laziness and wanting to make sure a particular point of view is represented (when I think it might not otherwise be). Although I know in the comments isn't the right place to put that though. Oct 8 '17 at 18:07
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    @Dukeling In that case, I would say you are using comments as intended (more or less) because you are providing more information that can improve the post. You are saying, "have you considered viewpoint X in your post?", which aims to help the OP improve their post (whether your suggestion is relevant and whether they make the change if so is irrelevant), but posting " partial answers" in comments to get free community feedback without down votes is an unacceptable misuse of comments.
    – Masked Man
    Oct 8 '17 at 18:14
  • On Meta though, that wouldn't apply, because it is OK to have such feedback solicitation and discussions in comments, since that back and forth discussion is often necessary to arrive at a concensus among people with differing opinions on what the site policy should be.
    – Masked Man
    Oct 8 '17 at 18:17

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