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35

Sometimes the question explicitly only asks for hints. Rather more often, a hint will actually be more useful to the asker. This is often the case for "homework" questions (when they deserve to be answered at all). With many exercise-type questions, nobody (including the problem setter) actually cares about the answer, but the point of the exercise is to ...


29

If the question is tagged homework, I will post hints as answers, since I hate questions showing up in the "unanswered" queue despite being fully resolved in the comments. If I strongly suspect the question is homework, I will post hints as answers to discourage others from spoiling full solutions. Otherwise, if the hint is very short and I expect others ...


29

A couple of things to answer your question: 1) Good hints belong here. Bad hints do not. If you want to make a good contribution to the site as an answerer, do the problem out always. It does not matter whether you plan to post a full, novella-like solution that details every step as far as $1+1=2$ or just enough to give a taste of the path one needs to ...


21

My own feeling is that a post that allows you to finish the problem yourself is the very best that can happen. I get disappointed when it becomes clear that the OP (the person asking) is not willing to follow my hints on how to finish. As the saying goes: Give a man a fire and he's warm for one night. Set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life. ...


20

Here is a partial answer to your question. More of a general comment about hints belonging to the comments or not. Hints should sometimes go to the comments, and sometimes to the answers. First of all, hints are useful to future visitors, since they might be standing at the same shoes (or isomorphic shoes) as the person who asked the question. And ...


17

I agree that hints that lead the OP in the wrong direction or barely offer any help at all aren't valid answers, as are hints that simply restate information the OP has already stated. However, moderating every hint to check if they are valid is impossible, and we as a community should avoid at all costs putting in place policies that are impossible to ...


17

I argue that hints are just as useful for future readers as complete answers are, and we should strive for better questions to be asked, rather than modifying the hints into complete answers. Hints can be useful to others. If the OP posts into the question their attempts, and some of the relevant knowledge they have, future readers can identify whether or ...


16

Tags are for consolidating questions together. There are a few basic ways they get used: As ways to search for questions on a particular topic. To add to favorite tags. To add to ignored tags. To hand out tag badges. (This lets the community get a sense for what kind of questions particular users are good at answering.) Having a hint-only tag serves none ...


15

HINT: If I feel that a hint is more helpful to the OP, in general, then I leave one as an answer.


12

Lie of omission or lying by omission are established notions, which also have legal meanings. The intent, I am pretty certain, is to cover this, from Wikipedia page on Lie: Lying by omission Also known as a continuing misrepresentation, a lie by omission occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. Lying by omission ...


12

Leave it as answer so the question is no longer "unanswered" (assuming someone upvotes it). If you are pretty certain that the hint may not be enough but are not willing to expand the answer yourself at some later point, that's what the community wiki checkmark is for. If you know a short concise hint that may however spoil the fun of solving the problem, ...


11

There are a number of ways that OP's might give an unsatisfactory response to a comment. I often say that they should do some trivial exercise which will show them what is going on; few try, and often enough someone gives a complete answer anyway. Some are like your guys, I think they are generically called Vampires on SE... I probably used to try to get ...


10

I think the point is to help the OP — and, by extension, any future readers — forward. If they are completely stuck with a problem, it's useful to give a hint to get them started. If they are in need of a detailed explanation, give that. (Users blatantly asking others to do their homework want a full solution, but I'd argue they don't need it.) I ...


10

The best way to avoid hints is to make it very clear that you tried already to solve the problem, and where you got stuck. I leave hints when I feel that the question is "I just don't get it, and I have no idea where to start" (admittedly, leaving hints was more fashionable in the past, I don't do that as much anymore). In those cases, I feel that a hint ...


9

Apparently there is considerable divergence regarding what a hint is. So, here is what I expect from the content of an answer-post, whether it is prefaced "hint" or not is maybe not crucial. (Obviously there are questions to which this does not fully apply or for which it does not make sense at all, say a reference request, it is for your typical question ...


8

Sometimes the question itself asks for a hint, and anything more than a hint is not an answer. I see full answers given in such cases, and I think that is bad too. Where I see a full question where I think that a hint may be enough, I generally post in a comment, but I do that more now than I used to do. Occasionally I still post a hint as an answer to a ...


7

In my opinion, what you observe is a symptom, not the root of the problem. MSE, like other popular SE sites, gets a lot of "do this for me" questions, such as the question you linked in the comments. Unlike other popular SE sites, MSE culture had been incredibly resistant to the idea of closing such questions. In other media (e.g. office hours, tutoring, ...


7

The purpose of this website is not to be a collection of Questions and "Hints that may or may not lead to a complete answer, no one could be bothered to check, and in any case future readers will need to spend an indefinite amount of time trying to work the full answer from the hint because what constitutes a hint is variable from user to user". It is ...


6

You should probably ask a question. You know, of course, that there are two main ways to contribute to any Stack Exchange site: asking questions and posting answers. When people ask questions, they are seeking knowledge from others, and when people answer questions, they are offering knowledge. The entire design of the site is made to facilitate that flow ...


6

Doing as much as you can on your own is an important part of mathematics education. A lot of questions have a clear-cut answer that is right for them. For example, someone with little knowledge of a particular field might have a specific question about that field that someone who knew the area better would be able to answer. In that case, hints are pretty ...


6

This came up recently as mentioned in a comment: Is it acceptable to leave hints as answers? As can be seen there the notion "hint" is not well-defined and even if it were opinions would still be mixed. Since you look for a definitive answer, let me try to record some things that are, I believe, mostly consensus. It is allowed to post something as an ...


5

I think if you try really hard, you'll be able to peek at the proof without spoiling it for yourself. Even if you posted asking for a hint, you will probably get answers from hapless responders who reveal too much to suit you, or are otherwise unable to control themselves based on your requirement. So, there does not seem to be a lot to be gained by making ...


5

Let me give what I consider a pretty borderline example of the dilemma. I'm not sure whether to proceed with an Answer or to engage the OP with a Comment-based hint. The Question Graph with more than 6 vertex of odd degree was initially posed as an attempt to prove something false, purportedly taken from this text on introductory graph theory (not sure of ...


5

Here are several arguments against this: The tag would be a "meta-tag". It would not pertain to the subject of the question. These are generally discouraged, and generally tend to be excessive and unneeded (see the history of the homework tag on this site). The order of the tags is always determined by the number of questions having this tag. So you would ...


4

Another reason is $4$. Laziness, or lack of time Posting a telegram is faster and easier, and does not require working out details. I do that regularly, for the stated reason, but opt for "condensed answer" rather than "hint" style of presentation, because deliberately withholding information can (quite rightly) be interpreted as condescenscion.


4

I think this problem is just another facet of the main problem with the SE platform: it was designed as a wiki of community-curated canonical answers, but has become a forum for helping individual users with personalized problems. Aggressively closing duplicate questions makes sense in the former context, less so in the latter (to the point that I'm not ...


4

tl;dr If it answers the question or adds to the answer, yes. If it skips to answer the question and just gives a hint: no argument This is from the official, overruling Stack Exchange help center (emphasis mine): Answer the question Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible