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I sometimes spend a long time working on answers to questions (eg, weeks or months). Sometimes I reach a "milestone" when answering that still isn't a complete answer, but may have the following properties:

  • It lets the OP know that someone's working on the question and have had some level of success.

  • It lets the OP indicate if the direction I'm moving in is right or wrong.

  • It lets the OP say "someone else answered this somewhere else, I no longer need the answer".

  • It may entice others to contribute more to the answer, help me with my answer, or make corrections to my milestone-not-answer.

  • Sometimes, I just get tired of working on a question. By posting a milestone, people have at least something ("this is as far as I got, maybe someone else can get further"). However, it's not always permanent. I may do more work on the question and want to post the additional work.

Solutions I've considered:

  • Do nothing until I have a real answer. Despite what I think, the steps I'm taking and milestones I'm reaching are not of interest to others.

  • Post the first milestone as an answer, and then update the answer with each new milestone. This lets the OP (and others) get information as quickly as I can find it, but it appears that the OP and others wouldn't receive notifications when I update the answer.

  • Post each milestone as a different answer. This makes me cringe, since it could be seen as an attempt to garner reputation.

  • Post the answer on my blog, link to my blog, and, in the blog entry itself, ask people to subscribe to the RSS feed for that entry, so they can be notified when I update it. I've read other posts on this subject and know it's acceptable, but it seems really unfriendly if Stack is a "source of knowledge" instead of a "source of links to knowledge".

I can provide specific examples (quite a few of them in fact) on request, though I'm looking for a generic solution.

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I've actually seen this situation come up, mostly on Stack Overflow and Puzzling (and why didn't the Magic Links(tm) work?). What seems to be the practice is to post a "partial answer" and specifically call it out as a partial answer, and then update it as more information/better solutions come available.

-1

As an alternative to posting partial answers, and updating them over and over again, you could also use an approach like so:

  • Post a 1st answer, which is like a blueprint (or summary) of what your entire answer is about. Possibly something that includes some sort of bulleted list, whereas each list item is related to one of your milestones you have in mind.

  • Post a 2nd answer (nothing is stopping you from doing so on any SE site ...), in which you write whatever you want about one of the milestones (= more details about 1 of your items in your list of the 1st answer). After you post it, copy the "link"-below it, and update your first answer with (eg) a "read more"-link, in which you use the copied link to your 2nd answer.

  • Repeat for as many answers you want (3, 4, ... 15?), so that in the end your very first answer has become like a table of content, with relevant links to each of the other answers.

  • If you want to avoid the risk that some users may consider this as "reputation farming", you may want to enable the "community wiki" checkbox below each of the additional answers. That way, you'll only earn (or loose ...) reputation for votes related to your very first answer (the bueprint of summary).

This approach may be considered as a possible alternative, though there is (at least) 1 downside of it: the sorting of your various answers is not something you can decide on your own (it will be by votes, or newest, or ...). Because of that, you might want to add some sort of links between the various answers (inside each answer), labeled with (eg) "previous" and "next".

PS: Did I mention that it only requires a rep of ... "+1"? That is: anybody who is not answer-banned can use this technique ...

  • To me, that really seems like reputation farming and I'm sure it would annoy people (can others comment on whether it would annoy you?). In theory, I could post a "hey I just updated my answer" answer, then delete it, forcing notifications, but, again, that seems ugly. – barrycarter Sep 7 '18 at 17:11
  • @barrycarter: feedback about my updated answer, to address your comment? – Pierre.Vriens Sep 7 '18 at 17:13
  • I read your edit. Still, multiple answers seems wrong somehow, just ugly, even if they are all community wiki. Could others express their opinion on Pierre's suggestion? – barrycarter Sep 7 '18 at 17:18
  • @barrycarter the question asks for a "generic solution". I think my answer discribes "one possible solution". Of course anybody has the right to like or dislike it (have their opinion about it). Also, imagine "milestones" (in the original question) would be replaced by "possible alteratives", would you still not like it? – Pierre.Vriens Sep 7 '18 at 17:25

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