It occurred to me today that I don't know what a good approach is for providing hints to homework-like questions.
I cannot find any clear policy on how this should work. The example that brought it to my attention is this question.
My initial reaction was to comment with a question to help point him in the right direction; as it didn't seem appropriate to provide an answer to that question.
That is usually what I do in these situations; I don't want to completely shun the person from this site. Often times it seems like it's a small piece of information they are missing; so I try to ask a leading question or two in the comments (if the question isn't just a straight up copied textbook question and seems to be a person seeking knowledge).
My issue is that I also need to make sure I don't clutter comments with discussion; so this is a somewhat delicate balance.
In the question I linked; I noticed someone else gave a hint as an answer. I do see some merit in doing that; as it would remove clutter from the comments, and the purpose is to help someone viewing the question understand it.
My issue is that obviously it doesn't really answer the question; and therefore I don't understand how it should belong as an answer. Adding to that, if the question was improved to be more in-line with the site policy; that answer would become very obsolete.
I saw that after I commented saying it was not an answer (and flagged it), the person who answered replied with their reasoning, and someone else upvoted that reasoning and their "answer".
The meat of my question is:
For homework-type questions, should we be using comments or answers if we wish to provide hints?
I apologize if it seems like I'm singling out a specific situation; I seem to run into this situation a lot but this is the first I've questioned my approach. (This is my first post to the meta so I'm also sorry if it feels too long winded or specific)