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I've recently joined StackExchange after using it as a resource for many years. Therefore I don't have a high reputation (26), and so cannot use the comments field. Is there any way to PM a user with a partial solution? I got told off for posting a short outline in the Answer section earlier today, so I don't want to put anything there.

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Welcome to U&L as a contributor! I (barely) remember the day I joined the sites and I definitely remember the learning curve involved. Your concern is very valid; there are lots of similar questions here on U&L Meta as well as on the Main Meta.

As to your specific question:

Is there any way to PM a user with a partial solution?

That's easy: no. Stack Exchange intends to be a public collection of Questions and Answers.

When you have a partial answer of the form "use awk; I'll post a full answer later", I'd recommend staying pat. Write up your thoughts locally; test it later when you have a chance, and then take the time to answer. You may find that there are some eager answerers here and questions that are clear enough to answer often garner several answers pretty quickly.

If, however, you find a thorny question with no answers after several days, and you think you can solve part of the problem, then feel free to post an answer that demonstrates the partial solution and clearly outlines the shortcomings. It may inspire someone else to finish the job, or you may find inspiration later.

You've done exactly the right thing in trying to understand what happened, both in the comments on your answer and by posting here on Meta. Thank you for trying to learn more about how Stack Exchange works, and I hope you find the rest of the learning curve to be smooth! Feel free to reach out here on Meta or in our chat room if you have more questions!

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  • Thanks for the response Jeff. "use awk; I'll post a full answer later" is a little unfair, I outlined a way to do it: read in a parametised number of lines and print them out, read in the other lines into an array and then sort the array and print them out. Anyhow moving on: the two questions that I was trying to respond to were Maallaard's, but I wasn't sure that an explanation was an answer, and user936802's where I see the same thing with Alma/KDE. I have a work around for it, but not a complete answer, hence why I tried to comment but aren't allowed to! (Why do comments work here?)
    – Martin
    Mar 4 at 22:35
  • Sure! I just know that a lot of people struggle with the learning curve here, so if I can make it easier for one earnest person, I'll feel good!
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Mar 5 at 1:10
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    I didn't mean to mischaracterize your answer; rather, that a comment like "I'll flesh this out later" is a strong indication that you should wait before answering. I know I've been bitten a couple times when I posted the answer before doing enough testing! Looking back at that question you tried to answer, I noticed that three more answers arrived within 20 minutes of yours. They all seem to use the external sort command, so your idea of sorting internally within awk could still be a unique answer.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Mar 5 at 1:10
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    Regarding comments, I'll be the first to admit that the Stack Exchange codebase has lots of twisty little passages and I'm constantly referring to the Help Center and the various FAQs on Meta. The comment anywhere privilege is awarded at 50 reputation points here at U&L. The unique part here is that "you can always comment on your own posts, and any part of your questions".
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Mar 5 at 1:11

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