I'm new to unix.SE, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about how SE sites should work. I was a moderator on MathOverflow for several years, so I understand that it's important to keep the site clean, and I understand how this sometimes upsets users (especially new users). That said, I was surprised by the response to my question How can I loop over possible completions? I'm certainly not looking to get into fights on the internet, but I thought that it would be more useful to invite analysis of what went wrong here, rather than just deciding to never post on this site again. Hence, this post.
While I'm clearly biased, this seems like a particularly bad reception for a new user.
- I think I asked a pretty clear question, even illustrating the sort of input/output I expect from the function I'm trying to produce.
- I put considerable work into on possible solution before posting my question, and summarized this work in an answer. Since this possible solution could well be a blind alley, I posted it as an answer to keep the question itself clearer: I'm looking for an answer to the question, not comments on my possibly-bad approach.
- A high-rep user posted an answer, apparently without reading the body of the question. I pointed out that his answer doesn't answer the question. He says my question wasn't clear. I ask how I could have made it clearer. He is silent.
- This high-rep user, and another fairly high-rep user comment that my answer should be part of the question, saying that it will likely get deleted (!). I explain why I kept it separate, citing the FAQ. The high-rep user expresses amusement that I would refer him to the FAQ, and says "I wrote that after I saw your answer in the review queue where it is currently at 4:1 for deletion." Note: at this point the question had a mere 27 views.
I think, "Wow! What a waste of time." Aside from my initial question and answer, nobody has contributed anything on-topic, two high-rep users have added off-topic noise (which I realize is sometimes necessary when the original questioner is unclear), and apparently 5 people have engaged in the bureaucracy of voting to delete the on-topic answer. WTF?
Thank you for the responses. I appreciate the effort. Let me comment on some common bits in the answers.
A. "The answer should have been part of the question." I think this is a respectable point of view. I don't think it would be terrible to merge them. If the answer were more partial (e.g. shorter than the question proper), I would agree that it should be part of the question, but as it is, I think it's clearer for them to be separate. If/when the question is conclusively answered, having included the partial answer in the question would cause one of a number of problems: either I'd edit the question to contain what is now a complete answer, or future readers looking to answer the same question would be distracted by a partial answer before getting to the real answer, or I'd edit the partial answer out of the question, rendering any answers which referred to it very difficult to understand.
B. "An answer should be a complete answer." I hope you don't believe this. An incomplete answer that somebody has put a lot of effort into can be very valuable. Would the answer have been deleted if it were posted by anybody other than me?
C. "It was correct to vote to delete." I've always used a vote to delete to mean "the site would be better without this". Did anybody vote to delete thinking this? If you strongly believe that the answer should have been part of the question, as seems to be the norm in this community, it takes less rep to edit than to vote to delete. See "what are the criteria for deletion" at https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/5222, which your FAQ points to. The answer does answer the question (albeit as a sketch, missing tedious details), and it is not of no value.