Sometimes the presence of answers on a duplicate question can be distracting. Instead of going to the original, which is likely to have better answers, people might linger on the duplicate.

In accordance with this idea, moderators will sometimes delete answers on questions that are obvious duplicates:

When a dupe is pretty obvious, but not exact enough to merge, sometimes we delete answers so that people are more likely to go straight to the parent of the dupe.

A possible instance is mentioned in this post. Another possible instance is here.

There doesn't appear to be a network-wide policy or site consensus on this practice, though.

Should distracting answers to obvious duplicates be deleted?

  • Hmm. Do you mean we (users) or just moderators? – Valorum Aug 19 '16 at 10:01
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    @Valorum - I would think a consistent policy would apply to both regular users and moderators. Moderators simply have greater powers to enforce existing policy. For example, non-answers with a score of 10 should be deleted, but cannot be by regular users. – Adamant Aug 19 '16 at 10:02
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    I would suggest the opposite. If the original question already has an answer that answers the duplicate, then post a new answer to the duplicate that directs readers to those answers explicitly. This can work for on-site duplicates or off-site ones just as well. – b_jonas Aug 19 '16 at 10:27
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    Also note that questions may be merged when they are virtually identical and it would be beneficial to have all the answers from multiple duplicate questions in one place. This deletes answers, moves them to the target question, and leaves the current question as a stub with a link to its merge target. – user35609 Aug 19 '16 at 12:24

No. Moderators should absolutely not be arbitrarily deleting answers on questions that are marked as duplicates.

  • The answer might contain useful information that could be added as a future answer to the dupe.

  • The supposed duplicate might get re-opened by the community.

Users should also should avoid deleting their own and others answers, for much the same reason; see

Should I delete my answer to a question that's marked as a duplicate?

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    What if a user casts a vote to close and then answers the duplicate anyway? That's a case where we know the user deliberately posted a "distracting answer" on the dupe. I think that practice should be discouraged (if the user has new information to add, he should add it to the original question). Deleting the answer would discourage that practice, but it might remove useful information. Do you agree we should discourage that? If so, any ideas how to do so? – Null Aug 19 '16 at 14:53
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    @null - if you dislike the practice, you should have raised it as a meta before inventing a policy. – Valorum Aug 19 '16 at 14:58
  • Also related, from this recent post: "It is also OK for these duplicates to have their own answers so people who find them don't have to click yet again to get to a good answer." – KutuluMike Aug 19 '16 at 15:00
  • @Null - Are you sure you have the order right there? I thought I had posted an answer, then discovered a duplicate, then voted to close. – Adamant Aug 19 '16 at 15:05
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    I did not invent a policy. You don't see my name on any of the questions we're talking about here, nor as the author of any of the related chat messages. I am asking you for ideas on how to make a good policy here on meta, exactly as you suggested. I'd appreciate it if you'd answer the question in the interest of determining a good policy for all users and moderators to follow going forward. – Null Aug 19 '16 at 15:07
  • @Adamant Ah, yes, I didn't notice the order. The question still stands, though, just not in reference to that question. – Null Aug 19 '16 at 15:07
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    There was never anything "arbitrary" about it - I thought for a long time before deleting any of those answers. If an answer contains useful information that's not already contained elsewhere, I'd merge the questions or just leave the answer alone rather than deleting it; and I wouldn't take such action if I thought the question had a chance of being reopened (evidently you also thought the Time-Turner question was a very clear dupe with no chance of being reopened). – Rand al'Thor Aug 19 '16 at 15:11
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    @Null - It strikes me that the problem here has been caused by the mod team having a private chat in the mod chatroom and deciding to implement a new policy without discussion. The first person to be impacted by this new policy rightly said "What the heck?" which is why we find ourselves here. – Valorum Aug 19 '16 at 15:16
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    @RandAl'Thor - Regardless of how thoughtful your decision-making was, moderators should not unilaterally originating policy. – Valorum Aug 19 '16 at 15:20
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    @Valorum Granted. As I mentioned in the other thread, I was under the mistaken impression that we already had a policy covering this. Rather like you when closing all those non-franchise-specific zombie/vampire questions and claiming we had a policy to do so ;-) – Rand al'Thor Aug 19 '16 at 15:22
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    @Null i think even IF the person vtc first, we must still leave the answer, at worst we downvote it if its a clear copy from the dupe/repwhore move, at best the op could have found additional information after they voted that pertains specifically to the question but would not make complete sense adding an answer to the question being duped too. – Himarm Aug 19 '16 at 16:12
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    @Himarm I'm not sure downvotes would be sufficient to discourage users from posting an answer on a duplicate just for the rep -- it only takes one upvote (from, e.g., a user who didn't realize the answer added nothing new) to cancel five DVs. And users are reluctant to DV answers as it is since they lose rep for that. – Null Aug 19 '16 at 16:34
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    discouragement via downvotes or simple commenting is far less likely to piss off users than completely nuking their answers. – phantom42 Aug 19 '16 at 22:39

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