I've posted a Question about thumbnailers and even found a half baked answer, the answer that doesn't work, and then I updated my question with the half baked answer that I found asking to fix the answer for my needs (newer nautilus version), but I received a comment saying

make that an answer please (you can use the answer as a work in progress)

to my understanding the comment suggested I convert the edited section of the question to a non-working answer / work-in-progress answer. Isn't posting such an answer likely to reduce attention to the question?

  • People will just edit my answer to fix it, thus won't be able to get any upvote/accepted answer reputation.
  • People will think that this question is already answered but just not accepted

I think I'm a bit new to the concept of work-in-progress answers. How are they good for getting a solution?

Can I make nautilus show book covers as thumbnails for Epub files?

I'm sorry if I'm posting trivial / small matters to Ask Ubuntu Meta site

  • Opposing view on meta U&L: unix.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3385/70524
    – muru
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 21:56
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    An answer that you can downvote with all liberty.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 12:50
  • @Braiam sounds like opposite of what i'm hearing from all the other sources? care to explain? Commented May 11, 2017 at 13:24
  • 2
    An incomplete answer is not useful as it's not complete. The answerer has all the time in the world to post an answer when he's ready, nothing is forcing them to post an answer ASAP. In fact, answering non-active questions can be more useful, since everything needed to answer the question is more likely to be present after the first wave of activity. Also, read @muru link.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 16:14
  • 1
    @Braiam I would disagree with that. Even help center mentions "...contribute the results of your research and anything additional you’ve tried as a partial answer." There is really no requirement for an answer to be "complete" and in many cases completeness is very vague and arbitrary thing. The only requirement is being helpful. If a work-in-progress answer helps even partially, that fits the requirements well enough Commented May 12, 2017 at 14:55
  • @SergiyKolodyazhnyy that's the thing... you are not expecting to "complete" the answer right now, nor in a foreseeable future. A WIP is where you have all the information but want to put a placeholder and a promise to complete it later. I don't like either of them. Either you comment to the OP asking if what you discovered can be replicated by them, or you ask a new question with all the information you have found.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 16:25
  • @Braiam 1) again, answers aren't required to be "complete" and by no means are required to be provided "right now" 2) You seem to automatically assume author of a WIP answer won't complete it, which rather harsh considering that many answers "complete" at the moment of particular Ubuntu release being supported have to be updated later to reflect changes. 3) asking a new question with same solution will lead to that question being closed as duplicate, which sends wrong message. Commented May 12, 2017 at 16:34
  • @SergiyKolodyazhnyy again, that's your interpretation of what the help center says, not what it actually is the rule on the site.
    – Braiam
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


"Work In Progress" answers are just that -- answers that are incomplete, but may help someone anyways.

For example, let's say I have a hardware device that isn't working at all. After doing some experimenting, I find a way to enable feature X and Z, but not Y. I have the option of posting a "work in progress" answer documenting at least how to get X and Z working, because that may be all someone needs. When I eventually figure out how to find out how to enable feature Y, I can edit that into my answer and make it complete.

There's no "penalty" by the system for posting a work-in-progress answer. As for why it might not attract more answers or attention, it might just be because nobody has anything else to add that hasn't already been said. Similarly, other people might have more to say but refuse to because "it's already answered" -- which speaks more to their character than your question or a work-in-progress answer.

Some people opt to make work-in-progress answers "community wikis" in order to show that their answer really is a work in progress, and can be edited by anyone who has anything more to say. However, these are pretty rare and you can't un-mark a community wiki post. It also does not give you reputation.

I'm sorry if I'm posting trivial / small matters to ask ubuntu meta site

Don't worry about it, this is perfectly on-topic and a legitimate question for meta. That's what we're here for, after all.

  • 3
    As a fun fact, I've done this usually when I've got the gist of an answer down, but need to add commands, etc. and don't want people messing with it or marking it as closed. Granted, the mod diamond probably does the same thing, but I mark "work in progress" answers with a nice big notice at the beginning stating it's being worked on and may be incomplete heh.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 21:43

What is Work-in-Progress answer ?

  • an answer that partially answers that the question asks
  • an answer which already answers the question, but the author is seeking improved approach or refining their existing answer to make the answer more efficient or more general
  • an answer that has a solution but not enough explanation (which is something I often do - post an answer with a command or two, and then edit it to explain each part piece by piece so that users understand what commands do).

NOTE: the emphasis is that solution has to work and to get at least some of the things that original question aims to achieve, if it doesn't - that's not an answer. See "Additional Comments", #1.

Are they acceptable ?

If you refer to the How do I write a good answer article in the help center, you will see the following:

Help us find a solution by researching the problem, then contribute the results of your research and anything additional you’ve tried as a partial answer. That way, even if we can’t figure it out, the next person has more to go on.

This means that even partial solutions are allowed and considered helpful ( so long as they help resolve the issue/question that OP asks). Many good answers are product of lengthy and time-consuming research (often to solve very complex questions), where the answerer has spent time and effort to find a solution. I consider work-in-progress part of research and we could call it part of "documenting" the process. In fact, some of the highly-voted answers on this site have evolved overtime and that can be seen in the edit history. At one point they've also been work-in-progress answers.

IMHO, in general they are OK so long as they meet two requirements:

  1. they address the question ( i.e., they're not off-topic) and . .
  2. provide at least partial solution to what has been asked (i.e. contribute value).

In fact, StackExchange sites are considered as Wiki by some people rather than a "Support" or general "help-me" sites. As such, information can be added perfectly fine as the author progresses in their research. The answer's aren't required to be 100% correct (and in many cases they can't be as there are way to many possibilities for solving an issue).

Addressing your concerns

Isn't posting such an answer likely to reduce attention to the question?

Not necessarily. Good and interesting title will always attract views. Those who intentionally seek questions with specific tags or specific content will find your question and address it if they can.

People will just edit my answer to fix it, thus won't be able to get any upvote/accepted answer reputation.

Good answerers, especially those who have been on the site for long time, will come to your question and assess what has been done, which issues have been resolved and which haven't, and if they can help you find a solution (especially if it's alternative and requires multiple steps), they'll likely post that as separate answer. If the fix is trivial, they'll probably edit your answer or comment. There's really nothing wrong with that. Don't think too much about reputation points. While it's nice to get them, providing proper answers and contributing to the community should be more important.

People will think that this question is already answered but just not accepted

Again, good answerers that intentionally seek your type of question will see whether what you posted actually answers the question, or will see where you've left off and if they can they will complete your solution.

In general your questions seem to be based more on perceived fear of not having your question answered. This is understandable, but I hope I've conveyed clearly enough that there are people who dig through posts based on tags or titles, and see what they can do about it. I personally do that a lot.

Addressing potential critique:

In the comments Braiam mentioned:

An incomplete answer is not useful as it's not complete. The answerer has all the time in the world to post an answer when he's ready, nothing is forcing them to post an answer ASAP.

Again, as mentioned in the comments and as referenced in the help center, the only requirement is helpfulness of the answer. There is no requirement for completeness. In addition, it seems that Work-In-Progress answers are often misunderstood as "rushing in to answer". Not always. I've already mentioned - they're show documentation and progress of the research to solve a particular part of the issue. Heck, professional developers will recognize and agree that software is often developed in "sprints" so why can't answers follow such model ?

As for placing partial answers into comments and asking OP if that works, if an answer is supposed to be a script or long procedure of steps, you can't contain that within the limit of a comment. Besides, comments are for discussion and while they can be used to figure out if one or two commands work, they're generally not for the sake of documenting potential solutions.

Relevant reading

Additional comments

  1. Some users might misinterpret what I'm outlining here as allowing to post stuff that doesn't work as an answer. No, the answer has to work, and that's what I'm advocating here:

    • if an answer solves a problem at least half-way, then it deserves to be posted as answer.
    • If it doesn't work, that's not an answer.
    • Things that might seem useful probably should be posted as comments.
  2. Muru has provided a related post on Unix & Linux site , namely this. From reading that post over several times, it seems that the issue is more about the author of that question posting what appears to be not an answer, rather than partial answer. As goldilocks pointed out that the post by the author of that question was more of an addendum and Giles pointed out that muru's answer was more of a partial answer. Again, the documentation for at least Ask Ubuntu site does not restrict in any shape or form the author of a question from posting partial answers which bridges closer the solution of the original problem.

  • This is the best thing I read after ASOIAF, I'll surely read those relevant links Commented May 13, 2017 at 1:15
  • 1
    You're missing an important point: this is about the OP posting a partial answer to their own question, not some other user.
    – muru
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 4:52
  • @muru well, how does that influence answers ? Elaborate please Commented May 13, 2017 at 13:07
  • 1
    See unix.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3385/70524
    – muru
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 13:14
  • @muru I've read that topic twice, visited the original. Since I cannot see deleted answers on U&L, I cannot judge what OP of that post has deleted, but from the answers on the meta post I can gather the *answer wasn't really a proper answer*(main issue), and as Gilles pointed out your post suits more as partial answer there, not his. That was the core issue, not that OP posted a partial answer. Again, there is no restriction for OP to post a partial answers. Question should belong to question part, answers to answer part of the post (even if partial and regardless of who's the author). Commented May 13, 2017 at 15:43
  • 1
    @SergiyKolodyazhnyy you did read the part in this question where it says the answer was half-baked and didn't work? My answer was partial in that it didn't cover all possible cases, but it did work. The U&L OP's answer also didn't work, and OP asked for help in completing it. That's why it wasn't "really a proper answer", and why people voted to delete and asked for it be made an edit. That's the same thing OP here is talking about. Now a random user can't edit the question to include this partial answer, but OP can, that's why the standard here is different.
    – muru
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 15:53
  • @muru and that's the main point: if answer doesn't work that's not an answer , is it ? That's the core of the issue. Partial answer is the one that finds at least some working solution to at least some of the things that are asked in the question. Commented May 13, 2017 at 15:55
  • 1
    @SergiyKolodyazhnyy if you get that, I don't see why in the section on address potential concerns and critique, you fail to address an answer that doesn't work, because that's the sort of answer OP is talking about. By completely neglecting that, your answer is actually answering a different question.
    – muru
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 15:57
  • @muru I'm speaking in general and putting emphasis on the fact that answer should be able to deliver at least partial solution and deliver value. I'll add a few edits to my post to clarify. Commented May 13, 2017 at 16:04

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