It's not uncommon for people to flesh out answers incrementally for the sake of posting first. Usually this gets the key point out and then more detail is provided shortly afterward.

It would be nice if there was a checkbox in Answer/edit mode that could be set by the user to indicate it's being worked on, or more is coming. This would be reflected to viewers by the current answer and a note "This answer is in progress...".

The progress status would time out automatically if two minutes pass after the last edit was made to the answer.

Edit: This addition could solve problems including but not limited to: premature voting by assumption of a final edit when more are pending, allowing questioner to get answers early and iteratively, users to have less "exam" stress trying to blurt things out quickly. Overall it can contribute to a healthier answer base.

  • Many downvotes and no reasons. Classic. I don't mind the downvotes but would also like constructive criticism of the question that's at least proportional. – John K Mar 14 '10 at 23:30
  • Could you explain which problem do you want to solve with this, before I vote to close this as FGITW dupe? – Ladybug Killer Mar 15 '10 at 19:58
  • added edit to the question – John K Mar 16 '10 at 3:10

I'm going to disagree somewhat with Jonathan here. We've not supposed to discourage "first wins" we are supposed to encourage "best wins". There is nothing wrong with building answers incrementally.

That said, I think that each stage of an incremental answer should stand on its own, able to be abandoned as is if it comes to that. And I think that a "working on it flag" would not encourage that behavior, and I am accordingly against it.

  • I totally agree, +1 (and -1 for jonathan, sorry!). When I post a question on SO I want an answer and I want it quickly. I like when someone gives a 1 line but valid answer right away so I can start working on the solution as soon as possible; then I'll make sure to come back in a few minutes to see the details they edited in. [oh, and I agree with the second paragraph too: I don't like this proposal, I think there isn't really any need for it and would just cause complications] – Thomas Bonini Mar 14 '10 at 21:51
  • @dmckee I don't think you and I are in disagreement. I'm just opposed to somebody posting, "Regular Expressions - answer coming..." as their answer. I agree that we encourage "Best Wins" behavior, so as such I would discourage people from feeling the need to get their foot in the door, and then start providing some help. Instead, take your time, and provide a good answer - need to submit a "work in progress." – Sampson Mar 14 '10 at 23:52

On occasion I write answers like this:

rev 1:

This is because of reason Foo. (in progress...)

rev 2:

This is because of reason Foo, which happens during condition Bar when creating a Frobnitz. See the documentation entitled "Bar during the Frobnitz: Foo and Quux!" (in progress...)

rev 3:

This is because of reason Foo, which happens during condition Bar when creating a Frobnitz. See the documentation entitled "Bar during the Frobnitz: Foo and Quux!"

Looking up the exact reference documentation may take a few minutes, but I can give the quick answer right away so I submit that first. (Yes, usually to play the FGITW game, but also because a partial answer instantly is usually better than a longer answer later.) Generally I can get the last revision in before the end of the five minute window, so it's not like there's a huge wait. I just put in the "in progress..." marker so someone else doesn't zealously try to edit in the URL before I have finished.

I don't see what an "in progess" checkbox would do, that regular text (as shown above) would not. Perhaps if this checkbox prevented others from editing... but then, I could see this being abused, e.g. to post spam links that others could not immediately remove.


Would not this encourage partial answers? Aren't we suppose to be discouraging "first to answer wins" behavior? Sounds like a bad idea to me.

  • I agree it should be discouraged but at the same time it's currently working in reverse of ideal, so I figure when in Rome ... and propose a feature accordingly. – John K Mar 14 '10 at 23:31

(IMPORTANT: This answer is in progress...)

I suppose a user could just write into the top of their answer a bold line stating so, like I just did.

Of course this is prone to being forgotten and orphaned up there. That's one reason I proposed a feature that would timeout such a declaration.


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