20

What should I do if i see an answer that's basically a duplicate (e.g. 100% of information in it is contained in an much earlier - say by at least an hour - and usually better answer)?

Should I flag for moderation? Vote to delete? Comment? Merely downvote silently? Post on chat?

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    I have also wondered what to do in these cases. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jan 14 '14 at 18:14
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    Do you consider an exact duplicate a 'useful' answer? It's all in the tool-tip... – AncientSwordRage Jan 14 '14 at 19:14
  • @Pureferret - Yes, downvoting definitely seems warranted based on that :) My question is more in line of should something else be done (delete, mod-flag, comment) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 19:16
  • As was pointed out yesterday, it's only a duplicate if the original poster leaves their original answer intact. – Valorum Jan 14 '14 at 19:37
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    @Richard - not sure what you mean? I was referring to stuff like: this: answer #1 says "Hero had attribute X, here's a quote from the book to prove it". answer #2 says "yeah, hero was X" - a day later. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 20:00
  • Oh, OK. If all it is is a "+1 to the above" then it surely needs flagging for deletion. I thought you meant if two answers were very very similar – Valorum Jan 14 '14 at 20:04
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    @Richard - that's the problem - It's not even "+1 I agree" - it's simply "I don't care someone else said the same thing already, I'll post it anyway without bothering to check" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 20:06
  • These aren't necessarily bad faith answers. I sometimes click a question, get distracted and start answering an hour later. I may not notice the "another answer has appeared" bar/button/whatever. Downvote them, but don't nuke them. – John O Jan 28 '14 at 17:33
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    @JohnO - the ones that cause me concern are ones that appear days later, not 1 hr later. Some honestly saying "I didn't read other answers". – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 28 '14 at 17:44
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I'm not sure there's an "official" policy, per se, but there does seem to be a general "netiquette" on this topic, which roughly matches with my personal practices:

This is the age old Fastest Gun In The West problem.

Those who get the answer first should obviously be rewarded for their speed, but if there are instances where users post the same thing within seconds within one another, I will tend to upvote all of them. If it's within a few minutes, I will not be so lenient because that should have been enough time to review the already posted answers or load any new answers that were written during the construction of your own.

Seconds apart = close enough to reward both

Minutes apart = not close enough, fastest should get the upvote.

-- from TheTXI's answer

Of course, there is a third scenario not mentioned here, which I've seen pop up from time to time here on scifi.se: an answer duplicates a previous answer, providing absolutely no new information, and is posted hours, days, or even months after the previous answer it replicates.

For these answers, I sometimes (I admit I am not terribly consistent on this; it depends on a number of factors that are probably too subjective to merit mentioning) downvote and comment.

Comments on answers like this is a touchy subject, though. It is easy for comments to be discouraging, especially to new users, particularly if they honestly didn't read the other answers and were making a genuine effort at contribution (it happens). The best phrasing I could come up with would be something along the lines of

While this answer is right [assuming it is], it seems to be a duplicate of a previous answer. This may result in you getting some downvotes. Is there any additional information you could add to distinguish your answer from the others?"

Deleting, however, does not seem right, given what I understand on SE's policy for when/why high rep users should vote to delete.

  • Sorry if it wasn't more clear - the question was very explicitly about " there is a third scenario" type. I edited to clarify. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 19:12
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    @DVK I assumed that was the heart of your question, but I thought the background on the less controversial types would be useful to include. – Beofett Jan 14 '14 at 19:13
  • Is commenting something that is considered rude? (the reason I ask is that I was very rudely told to basically shut up when I posted such a comment about duplication) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 19:14
  • @DVK I would say that that depends entirely on the comment. – Beofett Jan 14 '14 at 19:15
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    My typical one allows the OP to indicate why I'm wrong (I ask before DVing): "How is this diffferent from what other answers already stated?" The reponse was flagged and deleted but amounted to "don't comment about this" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 19:18
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    @DVK I think it's a touchy subject. The best phrasing I could come up with would be something along the lines of "While this answer is right [assuming it is], it seems to be a duplicate of a previous answer. This may result in you getting some downvotes. Is there any additional information you could add to distinguish your answer from the others?" – Beofett Jan 14 '14 at 19:53
  • Better add that template to your answer. It's very good :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 14 '14 at 20:01
  • @DVK Thanks, I've added it. – Beofett Jan 14 '14 at 20:18
  • I find the quote at the "vote to delete" link interesting. Once or twice I've seen mods delete these Case 3 answers without even bothering to comment (even if no one else had already commented). Most of the time when they get deleted, the mod or someone else would've commented, though. – Izkata Jan 15 '14 at 2:40

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