I'm encouraging users to provide whole answers to sufficiently old questions that have only received hints thus far.
I argue that the reasons to give hint-only answers are no longer (sufficiently) relevant after a period of time (e.g. 3 months).
Users who have given hint-only answers in the past, to replace them with whole solutions. Alternatively, add whole solutions in addition to the hint, if the hint itself is valuable (possibly using spoiler space).
If we see a question with only hints as answers, give a whole solution.
Up-voting new whole solutions (or upgraded solutions) to these questions (even if they have an "accepted" hint-only answer).
Those who have received hint-only answers to their questions to provide worked solutions to their own questions.
Reasons for hints
The main reasons for hint-only answers seem to be:
Help educate the OP.
Avoid participating in cheating.
At the OP's request.
(I won't provide citations for these reasons; they seem well-known or self-evident.)
After a certain period of time (say, 3 months), these reasons seem irrelevant: the OP has presumably moved on with their life, and the vast majority of homework deadlines would have passed.
Reasons against hints
- Hints have been argued to come at the expense of the site due to their inherent "incomplete" nature:
One purpose of stack exchange sites is to have long lasting questions and answers, this is why we close as duplicates, because the original is meant to be found on search engines, and be a reference for future question askers. Having an inordinate number of questions with only incomplete hint-answers, and where posting a complete answer is not allowed, nearly defeats this purpose. I am not saying hints are bad, they have their place, but having a policy which only allows hints on a whole class of questions is ludicrous. -- Eric Naslund, 2012. (Emphasis mine.)
Hints are good for the OP, but not so good for others. An interesting solution to this is to later go back and edit your hints into a full solution. I haven't done this, nor have I seen it done, but it makes sense to me. (I'm not discouraging hints - I sometimes give them too - but I acknowledge that they do not improve the quality of the site. They will never be pearls, as I reference below). -- mixedmath, 2013. (Emphasis mine.)
- Hint-only answers can be plain wrong (unintentionally, of course):
I have seen some cases, where hints were not correct - the poster of hint probably missed some step in the solution. But in such cases we have many other experienced users here, probably some of them will notice this and point out the problem. -- Martin Sleziak, 2012. (Emphasis mine.)
I remember the first time I gave a hint, it was quickly pointed out that it was completely wrong. I have been subsequently much more careful.
In fact, 2-year old (accepted) hint was what motivated this post (I won't name and shame). The hint seems like a sensible approach that would work (if it actually worked). Since it was up-voted and accepted, I presumed someone actually tried it and found that it worked, and consequently I up-voted the answer myself. After some reflection, however, I found it doesn't work (I give a counter-example in my new answer).
Here's a couple of graph theory examples of questions that I think could be improved by having non-hint-only answers:
(I'm not convinced these answers are even correct. They might be, I'm just not sure.)
Of course, I'm not encouraging users to forego thinking: answers should contribute something of value (they don't necessarily need to be "better" than the current answers, just add something.)
Here's a graph theory hint which is a gem:
But even then, a well-written answer to this question would still help teach about mathematical communication.
Of course, most hint-only questions are somewhere in the middle, e.g.
It has two decent hints, which would lead to a solution with careful work. But a reader like me, who only has a passing interest, would not be interested in doing the work. Nevertheless, I'd like to know the actual answer (ideally with illustrations).
Please up-vote/down-vote, comment and answer to express your opinion on the above.