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Sometimes its so much easier to give a blend file as an example, or to give a blend file as part of an answer.

I think in some ways using blend files goes against the notion of having a concise text (search-able) answer, but in some cases to explain these things becomes tedious too.

Is there some rule of thumb we should use to distinguish when its OK to include blend files as answers (or with answers)?

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As long as we aren't fixing stuff and sending the file back, where no-one but the OP can learn from the experience.

Use our best judgement. If we think we can help the OP faster by getting them to send a portion of the file or a new file with the same problem, why deny ourselves that facility? It can be counter productive to keep asking questions or to speculate, cut out the middle man.

it's like debugging code
It can be very instructive to the original poster to try to reduce the issue to the smallest possible .blend, sometimes simply getting them to remove all the other possible variables will prove a solution in itself. Just like asking someone to debug their own code by scraping away things that have nothing to do with the problem.

It is important to do a short write up after solving the issue with the .blend so that the knowledge is text searchable and not dependant on the .blend still being available.

Ultimately the file itself is irrelevant, but an accurate problem description and resolution clarification is.

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We are not a direct support group like a forum per se, but sometimes the question does merit a .blend for several reasons, be it the question is difficult to put into words or there is a problem with the actual file and not what OP thinks it is.

For example:

In such cases, it can be ok to post a small .blend. Also, we have PasteAll.org and Blend-Exchange which handles these specifically so that could be used safely in these cases.

So I say, we should but we should be very careful and accept files only when and where needed. Obviously we wouldn't accept a file from someone who wants a mesh tweaked or his 300 line script optimized.

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    $\begingroup$ You mention using PasteAll.org, But this removes blend files after a while which would get annoying if you find some questions is a year or two old and the answer-blend is lost, of course this can happen with any URL but pasteall is definitely not great if we want to keep blend files for useful answers. $\endgroup$ – ideasman42 Jun 20 '13 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ideasman42 well, a good point. PasteAll was just a suggestion and it says files are kept for about ~5 months but granted the problem was solved, I really doubt anyone would be interested in looking at the file after that.. and also, said questions are usually very localized. $\endgroup$ – iKlsR Jun 20 '13 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ disagree, one of the best things about stack-exchange is you can benefit from older Q&A and see how others came to a solution, otherwise you may have to ask the same Q again. $\endgroup$ – ideasman42 Jun 20 '13 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @ideasman42 ah fair enough, this might prove true for a few cases. But PasteAll was just a suggestion, users are free to use whatever they want to and not everyone knows about PasteAll anyways. $\endgroup$ – iKlsR Jun 20 '13 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ sure, but we could discourage linking to temporary file storage -- just as you wouldn't want important aspects of an answer to be linked to in a temp pasting service. $\endgroup$ – ideasman42 Jun 21 '13 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed. There's even a "don't provide link-only answers as they may become useless in the future, provide some text from the page you are linking to as well" rule because of future visitors. @ideasman42 $\endgroup$ – stommestack Jul 12 '13 at 21:17
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I just encountered this problem this week. I did attach a blend file linked from pasteall, but 50 days from now it will be a broken link. It's better to encourage users to explain their process because that procedural list of instructions can be tracked within the stack exchange system. It can be read in plain english. It can be proofed and updated. Blend files can't be proofed and updated. As much as I want to link a blend file and plead that the community help me fix my problem, some future version of Blender might not be as backwards-compatible as the ones we're used to right now.

I think it's okay to include a blend file to supplement detailed instructions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this. Unless it is extremely necessary, better to write it out as best as possible. $\endgroup$ – iKlsR Aug 9 '13 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ Be nice though. It is always a first priority to help someone. If a user doesn't know about this policy, let's still do our best to help them and point them towards a policy page. Not just one or the other. $\endgroup$ – Wray Bowling Aug 12 '13 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ I think answers should be as self contained as possible, but I'm not against providing a blend to provide more detail for an answer. I do expect a blend with a question to be more popular, in this case I think it would be used more as a way to find the exact issue and to edit the question to be better address the problem encountered. After the true issue is discovered and explained the need to keep the blend available diminishes. $\endgroup$ – sambler Aug 13 '13 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ EXACTLY. We're on the same page, sambler. High five! o/\o $\endgroup$ – Wray Bowling Aug 16 '13 at 15:02

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