I see a lot of Excel questions, but also ones involving command lines, batch files, and other similar scripts, that entail some mental challenge. I'm not referring to ones where a novice needs some basics and the solution is straightforward.
Users will post what looks like a good answer, reflecting a significant time investment to figure out the solution and write it up. Often, the solution is obtuse, or long and complex, not something you can glance at and recognize that it will obviously work. The author may include explanations of how and why the components of the formulas should work.
But people sometimes don't bother to actually test it, or fully test it against the range of conditions in the question. Even if they test it, they don't go the last mile to include a demonstration of the results, like a screenshot of the output, so there's no way to know the extent of any testing. In some cases, the sample output could also add value by showing exactly what the results will look like, which can make it easier to understand the formulas.
Without that, I can't tell if it's correct without investing the time to recreate the spreadsheet. Sometimes just dissecting the formulas can miss the same error as the author did on something untested that looks superficially like it should probably work. There have been countless times where somebody has posted a solution that looked great, then the OP or another reader commented that it didn't work, or the author returned later and changed it because they discovered that it didn't work.
So I don't like to upvote the answer if I don't know that it actually works. If I happen to catch it later, and the OP has accepted it or commented that it worked, I can take that as evidence. But at least for me, a lot of contributors are leaving easy upvotes on the table by not "finishing" the answer.
I suppose I could leave a comment. But then I would look like the only dummy for whom the result wasn't obvious. And the author may have discarded their work by the time I comment, so going back to reconstruct it may seem like too much effort at that point.
My guess is that the author is focused on satisfying the OP, and expects that the OP will be doing the verification. But that misses the community at large. Good answers should address the audience beyond the OP; "proven" solutions.
It could be that my expectation is excessive relative to the majority of users, so my questions:
- In terms of the potential scope of lost rep opportunity for contributors, do people besides me not upvote answers that they can't easily verify?
- Do others agree that on non-obvious or non-trivial answers, it's important to include the results as proof?
- If so, is there something we can do to educate and encourage authors to do that?