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I am new here (at least as an answerer, though I have been checking the "hot" questions and answers for several months now).

My question is:
Any question will have a "first" answer at some point of time. I have noticed that most of the answers have the critical (giveaway/spoiler) parts "hidden" until we hover the mouse-pointer over them. My understanding was this is to help other answerers independently "try" to answer on their own.
Now I realise that even an innocent/independent "duplicate" answer may be frowned upon. So, if a (reasonably new) question has an answer (or more) already with the "hidden" parts, do I "uncover" them and see them first to ensure I am not repeating one of them? If yes, why even "hide" them in the first place? What am I missing here?

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If you're solving the puzzle for the fun of it then you should ignore hidden spoilers (that's why they're hidden) and there's no need to post your answer at all.

If you're solving the puzzle so you can win Meaningless Internet Points then you should check the hidden spoilers so that you don't duplicate someone else's work.

If you're solving the puzzle for fun, but would like to collect Meaningless Internet Points if you can, you should ignore hidden spoilers, solve the puzzle, and then check the hidden spoilers and refrain from posting a solution that duplicates something already posted.

(The last of those paragraphs is probably the commonest case.)

To address your final questions a bit more explicitly: The spoiler-hiding is to let you solve the puzzle for yourself if you want to. If you do that and end up with a solution that doesn't add anything to existing ones, then you shouldn't post what you did; the fun of solving should suffice. If the fun of solving isn't enough and you only want to solve the puzzle if you have a chance to post a solution and collect Meaningless Internet Points for it, then you should check what answers other people have posted so you don't waste your time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the detailed answer. Perhaps this info should be there on the tour page? As an aside, I especially liked the mention of meaningless internet points. $\endgroup$ – alwayslearning Nov 23 '18 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ I think the tour is exactly the same as it is for every other Stack Exchange site. Puzzling is different from most SE sites because of the solving-puzzles-for-fun element, which isn't really present on (say) Stack Overflow. I'm not sure what could usefully be said about spoiler markup that would be applicable to all SE sites. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 23 '18 at 16:55

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