Some questions have very complicated answers therefore the answer take time to write. I am sure that 2 people come up with the same answer often but one of them is outed on the time they put into writing a good answer because of the "first one to the punch".

Can a simple one line answer be posted preventing the first to the punch problem while writing the final answer?

The dummy answer holds the place and could receive down votes but once the final draft (which could take days to complete) is done. Delete the first answer and post the much improved different answer?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Quick and dirty answer, edited later. Quick and dirty answer, deleted and replaced with a better answer. Those are both allowed, but the answer needs to stand on its own no matter what state its in, so use at your own risk. The answer should definitely not be a mere placeholder, however. It should actually attempt to answer the question. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Apr 17 '19 at 22:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And you should note that the very caveat you present with receiving downvotes and choosing to delete prevents any theoretical advantage you might gain by being first to the punch. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Apr 17 '19 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ This would be a good case where a partial answer would go in the comments proceeding a full answer. $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Apr 17 '19 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ You're certainly welcome to do so on Space Exploration, but it also doesn't provide you any advantage. I do so knowing full well that others may take my comment and turn it into their own answer. I don't mind because my end goal is the OP getting the best answer, and as long as that's what you're looking for it may work for you too. Don't forget that comments do not have a guaranteed survival time. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Apr 17 '19 at 23:36

Dummy answer and one in progress for the same question allowed?

I've seen answers with "in progress" or "under construction" once in a while here in Space Exploration SE, and probably used that once or twice myself. However, in all cases I've seen, it's been done to keep people for leaving comments that ask questions that are going to be answered by the rest of the answer once it's finished being typed and linked.

I don't think I've ever seen it done to "reserve" a space or place for an answer, or to discourage other people from answering here in Space Exploration SE. This is a lower-speed site and quite collegial.

In a fast-paced site like Stack Overflow, I do see answers pop up quickly with what looks like a placeholder answer the way you'd dump a jacket or backpack on a seat before you're ready to sit, in order to make sure nobody else sits there. That's the nature of the beast community and its more competitive edginess.

As far as "allowed" is concerned, I don't know of any restrictions against this if done carefully. The way Stack Exchange operates has evolved over millions of interactions and almost all of the really bad behaviors have been excluded or made difficult, and voting takes care of most of the rest.

If you are answer-squatting to any great degree, someone will notice and either leave a friendly and helpful comment (hopefully) or flat it for moderator attention, and all that follows.


I've just down voted a placeholder answer to illustrate my point about voting being effective way to address bad behaviors.

This is an absolutely non-answer. It's not a half-written or partially complete answer. "I heard that..." is a comment.

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Any answer must be able to stand on its own.

You can absolutely revisit and improve an answer over time, providing the original answer you give is, in fact, an acceptable answer to the question.

The original answer has to do at least a decent job of answering the core question, otherwise what's the point of giving an answer that isn't an answer? The answer you give won't 'Bagsie' (or insert other appropriate regional kids slang for claiming ownership) exclusive rights to the answer slot, and anybody else is free to give an actual answer after your non-answer.

I find myself often giving an answer that is mainly text while I'm still at work, then improving it with hand-made diagrams and links to relevant subjects once I get home.

Answer editing should be used to turn a good answer into a great answer, not for turning a non-answer into an answer.


I frequently post minimal answers quickly. I admit that I do it in order to discourage people from posting even poorer answers — more because I find reading bad answers to be excruciating than out of competitiveness for points, honestly.

However, I do try and make them actual answers, even if they’re on the sketchy side. I would deserve and expect a downvote for “watch this space— answer to come”.


It's not really necessary on Space.SE

There are other SE sites where the early answers have a huge advantage, even if incomplete. New answers get pushed so far down the page that they hardly get seen, accumulating votes more slowly than the earlier answers. No wonder why some people use placeholder answers.

In contrast,

  1. Most questions on Space.SE generate just a few answers. Part of this may be the smaller community, part may be because answers tend to be factual rather than "explain why". Questions that do get a lot of answers usually have appeared in the Hot Network Questions, drawing answers from non-regular users.

  2. Because of the small number of answers, it's less likely for a "good" answer to get "buried".

  3. There is a general expectation in the Space.SE community that answers be backed up by sources. It's not a strict requirement, but an answer with references will get more upvotes than one without.

  4. Therefore, the other people writing Space.SE answers take their time, because they are gathering sources to support their answer.

  5. When I ask a question, I wait 24 before accepting an answer. This encourages other people to answer the question, even if there is already an answer.

Therefore, there is less need to post a placeholder answer on Space.SE.

If you must, edit the answer rather than deleting and re-posting

When you delete an answer, not only does the old answer become invisible to most users, but also its associated comments. It is better to edit the answer instead, so we can see the old comments.


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