Is there a consensus on how to handle questions that might have multiple valid answers when the question author is looking for a specific story? I ran into this on retro computing SE also that some people think there is only one 'right' answer that the original poster is looking for. An example is the second comment on this answer by user14111 who asks that people stop upvoting an answer to the question because it might not be the right story if OP posts further information. I answered a question about finding a video game after there was already an accepted answer because the question made me think of that when I came across it.

My thoughts are that all the sites in the SE network are more for people reading the site, and not only to find only the precise answer that OP is expecting, but any valid answer to the question posted. The 'Accepted' mark along with user votes should drive the scoring. The answer in this case is well-written with good references, quotes, facts to help identify it, and a few other possibilities if the main result isn't correct. If I ran across this question then the answer seems to fit the bill and I would like to upvote it.

In another case a question already had an accepted answer verified by OP, but there was another answer posted that provided a viable alternative answer to the question. If I ran across the question, I would have been thinking about the second answer and was glad it was there.

So I'm asking if it's bad form to provide multiple answers, or upvote answers that are technically not what OP was looking for. In the extreme case I would think all answers should be deleted that are incorrect after a 'correct' answer was found.

In the particular linked case since there is an answer with so many upvotes, I don't know if the question should even be edited with new information. A lot of people found the answer to the question helpful that they upvoted it. If new information is provided in comments and someone posts a different answer that OP accepts, won't that appear at the top with the highest voted answer, which is valid for the original question appear second?

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    I'm not going to post this as an answer because I believe it is my personal opinion and not policy. However, if someone posts an answer after another suggestion has been confirmed to be correct for what the asker was looking for then I believe that suggestion is not an answer. By definition for [story-identifiaction] questions the only answer that should be given is what the OP is looking for and if the OP has found what they were looking for and it isn't your suggestion then your answer is by definition not an answer to the question asked.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Apr 13, 2023 at 8:41
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    That said I have the caveat here that if the answerer can provide a good reason for why they think the accepted answer is likely incorrect and their suggestion is what the OP was looking for. If not and you still feel the need to post the related work then a comment on the question would be the best place for it. I will also say that if the answer is posted before the asker confirms a work then that's fair game and we don't need to delete that answer or do anything else.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Apr 13, 2023 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


Answering a question that already has an accepted answer for a Story ID feels a bit strange. But prior to acceptance multiple answers are not only valuable possibilities; they also enhance the quality of the site generally, both by SE's general metrics which expect questions to have multiple answers but also as a general browsing experience. To a newcomer to the site/question the timing of answers and acceptance is not necessarily obvious and having additional answers present would not seem unusual.

That said, I would personally like to see a high bar for post acceptance answers on ID questions. One liners, terse or link answers that might get a grudging pass as the origianl answer would be highly unwelcome late comers.

A post-acceptance alternative would need to very carefully note all the points that match, acknowledge discrepancies and potentially reference specific points of confluence between the accepted answer and the new alternative.


I have occasionally (e. g. here) posted answers to identification questions that already have accepted answers—not because I think an accepted answer is wrong, but because it might help somebody else with a very similar question in the future. If the description in a question might plausibly refer to a different work, then someone else visiting the site looking for something similar can benefit from seeing both the correct answer and the plausible yet wrong answer (which might be the work they are looking for). However, I try to state explicitly when I do this that I am not questioning the correctness of the existing identification, just pointing out that, based on the question, it might have been a different work. (Sometimes, I take this approach even before an answer is accepted. For example, for this question, I posted an alternative answer even though I figured that the existing answer was almost certainly correct—which it turned out it was.)

  • I think the preferred user journey is to create a new question and explicitly references the close-but-not-exact dupe.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Apr 14, 2023 at 15:19
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    @AncientSwordRage it's likely people lurk through the site before taking the plunge and asking their first question. If one of them gets a problem solved that otherwise would have been ignored I'm on board with that.
    – Jontia
    Apr 14, 2023 at 16:03
  • @Jontia but if there's no incentive to ask then they'll likely keep lurking
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Apr 14, 2023 at 17:22
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    This was also the way I understood how story identification questions worked; at least when the question has details/tropes that are common enough between two stories that someone stumbling across the question might mistake one for another, and as long as the person writing a new answer is not turning the question into a Wikipedian reference of any lookalike stories.
    – Clockwork
    Apr 15, 2023 at 23:17

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