There are some questions that tangentially deal with this, but my question is this;

If someone 'answers' with a vague hint in the direction of a potential solution, but does not provide an actual 'answer', and you subsequently head down the rabbit-hole, eventually come up with your own answer, is it fair to write and accept your own, complete, answer and simply upvote the 'contributing' answer?

Example (I personally think the 'answer' should have been a comment in the first place, but that's a discussion for another time...)

  • 3
    As for the example: I actually think that answer was just fine, and should not have been a comment. You could have asked for more details rather than the cryptic "Please state your answer in the form of an answer :-)" though... (And shouldn't that example have been migrated to Super User?)
    – Arjan
    Apr 26, 2010 at 19:14
  • You question also applies to [pls-send-meh-teh-codez] questions. Here, I very much agree with hint/vauge answers.
    – rlb.usa
    Apr 27, 2010 at 20:37
  • @rlb The biggest peeve i have about [pls-send-meh-teh-codez] questions is when a complete solution is demanded with no attempt demonstrated, I'm talking in the case of "I tried it, its not working, ad I have no idea why". I recon there has to be a certain line drawn between 'hint' and 'vague' asin, hints are useful, vague responses usually arn't Apr 28, 2010 at 10:45

6 Answers 6


The accepted answer for a question is the accepted answer according to you.

If you're the only one to provide a complete, robust answer to the problem, then by all means accept your own answer, even if it's a composition of the existing answers (and as you mentioned, it's polite to give credit where credit is due).


If the hint was of value to me - i.e. it helped me find the solution and was not just a commonality that I could have found out myself within three minutes of Googling - I tend to upvote and accept that answer, outlining what I made of it in a comment.

Only if the answerer's hint was really only a cheap starting point that everybody and their dog could have told me, would I think about adding an answer of my own.

  • I agree about suggesting to comment. Would have been easy in that example, like: You're right, I ended up using * * * * * env DISPLAY=:0.0 python /home/bolster/bin/change-background.py to have the DISPLAY set.
    – Arjan
    Apr 26, 2010 at 19:16

One of the more annoying things on SO are questions that don't provide enough information for you to do more than hint at potential answers. The person asking the question has access to the system, the code, and all the tools - and if they don't do a good job of putting together relevant info first, then hinting/guessing/psychic-debugging is all anyone can do.

Coming back to find that your guess was correct but the OP didn't up-vote or accept your answer because he had to do additional work just ends up being discouraging.

So here's my suggestion: if the answer helped you find the solution, if you hope to get responses that similarly lead you to a solution in the future, then accept it, or at least recognize it in some way (up-vote, comment...). You can certainly post your own answer as well, and by all means include code and/or detailed information on the problem, but recognize that you're able to do that because you have direct access to the problem when everyone else did not.


I'd argue that there are myriad times when a "hint" is all the answerer can give when he answers. Perhaps it's because it's a specific language he does know well. Or the question appears to ask for an "approach" rather than an "answer".

Also, "hints" or "direction" seem best for questions tagged [homework].


Sometimes the hint is what the questioner is really asking. I don't think it's reasonable to expect the people who are answering your question to provide a complete implementation of the solution - that's your job. What you're really asking is "how should I go about doing this," not "do my work for me."


Yes. Also +1 For

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