Note: This post was created specifically due to mod flags, and comments on answers in my treasure hunt question, however the discussion is probably more broadly applicable than that.
Obviously, the ultimate goal of any StackExchange site is to collect high quality questions (in this case good quality puzzles and discussions thereof), with high quality, well explained answers. To quote the banner that got applied to my question, "We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations."
However, on a "challenge" type site (which, like it or not, Puzzling.SE has become), I would argue that a big part of the purpose of the site is for participants to compete in being the first to solve the puzzle. Therefore if the puzzle has a long, multi-step solution, posting incorrect or partial solutions may give away vital information allowing others to bypass parts of the challenge.
In my specific instance, there's probably a dozen or so smaller puzzles that need to be solved in order to reach the final solution, so if someone posted a fully explained attempted answer that happened to get one or two parts wrong, then the next person to come along could, with much less effort, get the correct solution (and thus the "prize").
With that in mind, I said in my puzzle, "if you want to keep your working to yourself initially (this is a race for the treasure after all!), feel free to [post unexplained/unjustified answers]", then clarified with "obviously, before being awarded the tick, you'll need to justify those steps with valid logic though".
Three possible solutions that I can see are:
- Unexplained solutions are acceptable as "partial/incomplete answers", but should never get the tick until fully explained/fleshed out
- People who don't want to give anything away in multi-part puzzles don't post at all until they have a complete solution
- We force people to explain all answers and thus allow others to pick up where they left off and potentially bunny hop them to "victory"
I was going with option 1, as I feel there are issues with the other two (when applied to multi-part challenges). In option 2, you end up with potentially complete silence on the challenge giving the creator very little feedback on how it's being approached, where people are struggling, etc, and thus what hints to provide. With option 3, you end up in the situation as described above when the person who does 90% of the work gets pipped at the post, and someone else gets lucky and receives the "award".
Is there some community consensus as to what is acceptable in this specific regard (beyond the generic "answers must have explanations" guidance applied to all SE sites)? And if so, are there circumstances in which exceptions to that consensus should be applied?