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Twice recently I've put in short answers for which much more detailed answers subsequently were added in. (@F'x, you were one of them, though likely you were planning your answer as I was writing mine.) The expanded answers give cool background info, figures, and even charts.

I like this kind of expansion very much! So, my comment here (phrased as a question) is just this: How can everyone encourage more of that sort of well-researched expansion of initial "here's the main idea" answers? I'm certainly upvoting good expanded answers, so that's sort of my own answer to my question.

Far from feeling slighted by someone putting in a longer, more detailed responses to items I've answered, I'm delighted to see such efforts by the community to dig in and find more info. I feel that it makes the entire Chemistry site stronger.

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I think that friendly jockeying for the best answer is great, as long as each response brings a different point of view to the table, and doesn't, to overextend a metaphor, become degenerate. This is obviously not a problem with you, Terry, as your answers are often a thought-provoking 90-degree turn from the conventional that I and others certainly appreciate.

I think the best way to encourage this kind of behaviour is through example, and through checking and upvoting new activity on questions as seen fit, even if they already have an accepted answer. I'll certainly be scanning over some of the older questions as well as my extant answers in the coming days to see if I can't add something.

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  • $\begingroup$ Richard, good comments & appreciated! I like your point about upvoting even with accepted answers, and will make it a point to follow though on doing just that! $\endgroup$ – Terry Bollinger May 20 '12 at 17:59
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This post is sort of intended as a long (not Terry-long, just more-than-500-characters-long :P ) this comment.

There are multiple ways to "extend" an answer.

  • You can just edit the pre-existing answer (it's polite to let the poster know though). THis becomes impractical in the case of longer additions.

  • Hat your post with "This is an extension of [@abc's answer], please don't mark this as a ccepted". Sometimes the "please don't mark as accepted" can be omitted, especially your answer is nearly self-sufficient. I do this a lot on Physics--1, 2, 3, 4 (For some reason, I and JohnRennie have ended up expanding each others' answers a lot)

The second one is perfectly acceptable. If you want, you can ask the original poster to incorporate your answer into his if he so wishes. Then delete your own. (I generally don't do this, though--I ask the poster and edit myself)

It's even OK if you get upvoted above the post you expanded, or if you get the acceptance tick. Multiple answers are OK, and readers won't just read the accepted answer (I tend to read all). So don't worry too much :)

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