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Some users post a dump of solutions in one answer, and other users who post multiple answers to a question, each containing only one solution. Which is better for the site?

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tl;dr: Only post one solution in an answer, but variants count as one solution.

Now for the full answer:

This first came up in a lifehacks manifesto:

AND ONE SOLUTION PER ANSWER! We cannot properly vet an answer that contain a list of solutions. There are times that a comprehensive answer might cover more than one variation, but if you see a post that is just a brain-dump of unrelated answers, please comment and get it edited down to one answer per post. Answers should be comprehensive, but one solution per post please!

One solution per answer. A soltion may contain multiple variants (e.g., wash with vinegar or wash with lemon juice), whereas "wash" and "vacuum" would be two different solutions.

Simple, but "why?" Why does it matter if there is a list of answers or a list in an answer? I think that was very well answered in this answer: (I added the bold for emphasis)

The problem with having multiple answers/solutions in one post is that users aren't able to vote on each individual solution. If you have two solutions to a problem, and one of them doesn't work at all, and the other works perfectly, how do users vote on that? All they can really do is comment saying one works, and the other doesn't. Splitting those solutions up into multiple posts allows users to vote on each solution independently, thus allowing that terrible solution to be shoved off our site and that fantastic solution to rise to the top.

Voting is what makes questions and answers on Stack Exchange sites so useful. If you check out the tour page, voting up good answers so they always show up first is one of the first things every user should know. If that ability didn't exist, we'd be building a diamond mine just like the rest of the internet: a few gems in a bunch of dirt.

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    How long are variants one solution? For example: Washing is the solution. But you could wash with water and soap, vinegar, baking soda and water, bleach, etc.. Can you somehow define, at which point a variant turn into it's own solution? A complete different approach results in a different solution, and thus answer - I think that's clear for everyone. But if the approach is somewhat similar? – Alex Jun 8 '15 at 14:36
  • @Alex I updated my answer. – Mooseman Jun 8 '15 at 15:33
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The site doesn't want more than one answer per person:

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You are not prevented, but it does tend to discourage multiple answers from the same person/login.

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Paring down answers down to solutions is a bit odd. An answer is expected to explain how to solve a problem.

Often, there are multiple methods, each of which, in isolation, could solve the problem, under certain circumstances. A good answer explains, given the problem, how to analyze it in order to choose the best solution. For example: “if you can afford $50, then you can make this robust thing; if it has to cost less than $5, you can make this thing but it'll break after a couple of uses”. Or: “scrape a bit of surface to see what's underneath; if it's this material then repair it that way, and if it's that material then repair it this way”.

When you post an answer, don't just say “do this”. Remember to explain what makes your solution work, under what circumstances it's applicable, what its upsides and downsides are. If, given the situation in the question, you'd do different things under different situations, discuss the different situations in your answer. If there are so many possible situations that this is not practical, close the question as too broad.

The argument that “users aren't able to vote on each individual solution” doesn't hold water. Voting is not for “individual solutions”, it's for answers as a whole. An answer should be upvoted if it provides a good way to solve the problem, and downvoted if it doesn't. Analyzing a problem to figure out which is the best solution is part of solving it and voting should take this into account. If an answer proposes several methods that each might be good or bad, and correctly explains when each of them is suitable, that's a good answer that should be upvoted. If an answer proposes several methods but does not explain how to choose between them, that's a mediocre answer that should be improved. If an answer proposes several methods and incorrectly explains when each of them is suitable, that's a bad answer that should be downvoted.


Whenever devising a policy, don't lose sight of our main goal: to gather the best possible collection of answers.

An answer that says “you can do A, or you can do B” is not ideal. It could be improved by explaining when A is best and when B is best.

Therefore it should be improved by explaining when A is best and when B is best.

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    While I agree with most of this post, I disagree with saying that "Voting is not for “individual solutions”, it's for answers as a whole." If multiple solutions are contained in one answer -- say a decent solution such as "Clean it with vinegar" and a terrible one such as "blow it up with dynamite" -- there's one that deserves an upvote and one that deserves a downvote. While variants of a given solution should be contained in a single answer, entirely different approaches should be posted as separate answers. – Mooseman Aug 3 '15 at 10:24
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    @Mooseman A good answer wouldn't say “you can use vinegar or dynamite” but “in these circumstances, use dynamite; in these circumstances, use vinegar”. Upvote if you agree with the analysis, downvote if you disagree. Voting for “solutions” independently of their context (i.e. in which circumstances to apply them) makes no sense. – Gilles Aug 3 '15 at 10:34
  • Yes, the solution should have "In these circumstances..." when applicable. However, they should still be posted as two separate answers. – Mooseman Aug 3 '15 at 11:09
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    @Mooseman No, that wouldn't make sense. “If X then A else B” is clearer than “if X then A” and independently “if not X then B”. – Gilles Aug 3 '15 at 12:46
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In general I do agree with the policy of one solution per answer, but there have been situations where I'm inclined to posting multiple solution in one answer.

Here is a little quote from A Lifehacks Manifesto (my emphasis):

AND ONE SOLUTION PER ANSWER! We cannot properly vet an answer that contain a list of solutions. There are times that a comprehensive answer might cover more than one variation, but if you see a post that is just a brain-dump of unrelated answers, please comment and get it edited down to one answer per post. Answers should be comprehensive, but one solution per post please!

This quote together with some of the base issue of the meta question Some questions tend to turn into polls, is this bad and how can they be answered better?, leads me to thinking that maybe some of the questions, most often those tending towards howto-questions, can get an answer listing the most basic options and getting those "out of the way", leaving more space for the hacks available.

EDIT of my main goal: Hoping for questions to mature, I'm also want to have one solution per answer, but this one solution should be broad enough to cover some variants. If the basic, general, standard solutions are not yet covered, then I would post multiple answers where each answer is broad enough to cover most bases of that particular solution.

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