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For a tricky puzzle, people can start sharing ideas in the comments, as they don't really have a valid 'answer' yet. This can become a big comment thread for the question. Since a puzzle and proposed solutions doesn't exactly fit the normal model of Q&A as per other SE sites, it could be that some slightly different rules to normal are needed. For example, generally on SE a 'wrong' answer should get down-voted, but on puzzling it might be wrong, but clever in a different way that the community likes and up-votes. Or an answer might be incomplete but helps someone else to get to the right answer, therefore useful and community might want to up-vote it.

My question is about one such type of answer, when you want to share ideas or partial solves... Is there, or should there be, a well-defined etiquette for starting to share ideas?

  • The rule could be not to answer unless you actually have what you think is a valid complete answer. i.e. Only post ideas/thoughts in comments.
  • Users could post some ideas in an 'answer' to get comments on those ideas, or help from others to edit and improve the answer, or simply to inspire others to keep going and get to the right answer.
  • Maybe it would be polite to wait 5 days (or something) before starting to share ideas and group-solve a puzzle?
  • It could be that different types of puzzle have different rules, expressed via tags, or simply by the OP explaining.

So what kind of conventions should we have? Is anything already defined for this?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the answer is "stop pretending that the rules built around one paradigm need to be strictly enforced within a very different paradigm" - that is, I don't think we should fall into the trap of making such strict laws around everything that the site becomes unusable for the very purpose it was meant for. $\endgroup$ – question_asker Jan 25 '16 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @question_asker Totally agree about rules, perhaps guidance would be a better word. Guidance helps new users feel comfortable about their interactions in a new community. In this case, I had some ideas about a puzzle but couldn't complete it... should they be shared so others can try to build on them? Is that a 'bad' answer? Got me thinking about the differences in how this community uses the SE platform. $\endgroup$ – jhabbott Jan 25 '16 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ I asked a question here once about using the "community wiki" functionality to aggregate hints (said hints were scattered between OP, comments on OP, and question revisions; I just wanted to get them all in one place). It was shot down, and I kind of understand why, but I feel like your question here might be a slightly better excuse for a community wiki answer. $\endgroup$ – question_asker Jan 25 '16 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know the right answer... but I'm going to go ahead and post my thoughts and see how the community takes it. puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/25690/… $\endgroup$ – jhabbott Jan 25 '16 at 15:17
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It seems that the most common thing currently done is to post a "partial answer" or an answer that just lists current thoughts about the puzzle. I don't personally have a problem with that, but I think there is a better solution:

Create a chat room dedicated to that particular puzzle. Post a link to it prominently in the comments or in the question itself. Use the chat room for all your collaboration and brainstorming about the puzzle, and then when you think you've come up with a valid solution, post it as an answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Now that's a great idea, I've not seen that approach of a question-specific chat room on SE before, didn't even realise you could do that! I will try it next time. Perhaps if it works out well and if the main moderators of this beta agree, it could be added to the FAQ/Tour so that new users know about it more easily (although I suppose if it's commonly used on other questions they'll learn pretty quickly anyway). $\endgroup$ – jhabbott Jan 25 '16 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ I'm trying the chat room thing now - it'll only be a single data point, but I'm curious to see if people notice, and if they notice, whether they participate. $\endgroup$ – question_asker Jan 28 '16 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ Well, @question_asker, I'd say the experiment was a success. While there weren't many participants, the collaboration certainly led to the solution. (The chat room, for those who are interested, and the puzzle itself). $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Jan 29 '16 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain I'd have to agree - I'm thinking that we'll probably attract more people over time, and the chats will become more active as a result. $\endgroup$ – question_asker Jan 29 '16 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ I'm th OP of the puzzle and I'm agreeing on using chat but honestly I didn't notice until @question_asker posted the chat link. I think it is a great place for collaboration. $\endgroup$ – Mekalikot Feb 1 '16 at 8:36
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This question explains just what the Community Wiki is for. When you check the 'community wiki' box below an answer, like I just did, it becomes open to share with others. Then users can work collaboratively to solve some of the hardest problems.

IMHO, I think giving partial answers in comments are major spoilers, and there's no way to hide them like in an answer (even a wiki one).

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