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I've noticed that people have taken other people's correct answers and edit-incorporated them into their own 'less correct' answers after the fact.

Is this considered bad form?

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    Could you share an example or two? – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 4 '14 at 9:09
  • This is annoying but it happens. I've been stung by this at BCG.SE on a WH40k question. Ultimately if it's a good answer it should be rewarded. – AncientSwordRage May 4 '14 at 13:55
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    @AvnerShahar-Kashtan My question was in relation to the cultural and systemic acceptability of this conduct, not drop names to embarrass or 'get' anyone. I haven't seen this subject addressed before so wanted to see if it was just me who thought the conduct a bit... unseemly. – Morgan May 4 '14 at 17:12
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    The reason I ask is that it's pretty situational. There are cases where someone adapts someone's answer and adds to it, like in Richard's answer, and that's fine, as long as it's clear it's an extension. Other cases aren't. In general, claiming credit for someone else's work is not acceptable. Using someone else's work as a basis is. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan May 4 '14 at 17:36
  • @AvnerShahar-Kashtan -I can see what you're saying and with proper citation could avoid the appearance of 'plagiarism'. – Morgan May 5 '14 at 2:41
  • Given the licensing terms of the site ("with attribution") then it could be acceptable. If it were done without attribution then it would be unacceptable. – ClickRick May 5 '14 at 12:19
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    @ClickRick It's legal/acceptable as far as the law and the official rules go, but that doesn't mean it's good/bad form to do so. I have no obligation to hold doors open for people, but it's just good manners. IMO, the same is true for copy/pasting answers from other people. It's not against the official rules, but it's kind of rude. – phantom42 May 5 '14 at 13:10
  • Going beyond incorporating into a "less correct" answer, I found this answer to be questionable. The user's original answer was poor in that it was just a link (though, to decent information). They went back and pasted in DVK's answer from another question. Even though DVK was credited, it still seems like a questionable practice. – phantom42 May 5 '14 at 13:14
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    Related – Möoz Apr 21 '15 at 2:37
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Avner nails it in his comment: so long as it's clearly stated to be supplementary material and acknowledges the other answer it seems OK.

There have been a couple of cases where I've got upvotes for such an answer (not the exact same scenario) and I've felt it necessary to add a comment requesting that the original be upvoted or accepted instead. That's obviously at each individual's discretion, but I think it's good etiquette.

Ultimately however upvotes and accepts are the prerogative of the person doing the upvoting or accepting and while you can request, you can't instruct. If somebody thinks your supplementary answer is better that's their decision to make, and likewise regarding accepts.

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    I've seen where you've done that. That's a good sport, giving credit for another's research. I did have a poster submit an answer after mine with near identical info (obviously followed the same research path). When he saw what happened he gave me the nod and offered to delete his submission. I declined the offer because he had done his own work independently and deserved credit for it. So the etiquette is that such conduce is frowned upon by quality posters who don't want unearned rep off someone else's work? Cool. I've done supplementary in comments, not answer. Seemed dishonest otherwise. – Morgan May 5 '14 at 2:36
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Depends on:

  1. how much content is taken from another user and how much is your own;
  2. Is the original answer on the same question or another one.

For answering the same question:

While there are no rules, my own rule of thumb is that if I can't add more than 50% of content of my own, either:

  • the existing answer should be edited, or...
  • if my addition is pretty valuable in its own right, add as a "on a separate note" second answer, acknowledging the more complete answer's existence in my own but NOT re-using it.

For answering a different question:

If an existing answer on another question answers most of the new question, the new question is a duplicate and should be closed as a dupe.

You should never answer a dupe with a copy of the existing answer. Instead, don't answer at all (preferred); OR, in rare cases when the question is not 100% duplicate, provide a brief answer addressing the (possibly) non-duplicate angles and linking to a full answer on another question.

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  • +1 to this. When it gets to the point that your edit is greater than the original content you're basically vandalising their answer, even if it improves it. This one; scifi.stackexchange.com/posts/51398/revisions is case in point. I really should have created my own answer... – Valorum May 5 '14 at 17:08
  • Good points to consider. – Morgan May 6 '14 at 3:44
  • @DVK Just out of interest, I'm wondering how you feel about my answer here; which I basically grabbed your idea of psychological warfare and "ran with it", also added some extra stuff. But I just want to gauge your thoughts on this particular one... – Möoz Apr 21 '15 at 2:47
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    @Mooz - Quite an excellent answer. There wasn't much to steal from mine except for a vague idea :) For what it's worth, I see that I have upvoted it back when it was posted :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 21 '15 at 15:44
  • Community challenge: for irony, find another meta question and copy most of this answer (as a valid answer to that Meta question). – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 4 '18 at 13:01
3

Adding another answer here because I've just recently (in the previous 2 hours) fallen foul of this, or at least of something that looks on the surface a lot like it.

I'm not keen on the idea of calling out specific people here (the history is visible for those who are interested in looking for it anyway), so in summary the sequence of events looked like this:

  • A question is asked.
  • Another user supplies an answer (which seemed quite weak to me).
  • I add an answer with quoted references from the source.
  • The other user then goes back and edits their answer, incorporating my material as well as one of the same quotes into it.
  • The other user then proceeds to - and I can't think of a charitable way to put this so I'll just be blunt instead and describe how it felt at the time - nitpick at my answer and discredit it.

Although there's nothing rules-wise to prevent this, and although the end result is that the other user's answer has been vastly improved by doing this, it still does seem quite an uncool thing to do.

Now, I could be reading this completely wrong, and perhaps it's just all a big coincidence. I'm more inclined to take the more negative reading, however, on account of the last item I listed above.

It's easy to give an emotionally detached response to this kind of thing until it actually happens to you, I guess.

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  • I think it's kind of uncool to a) Accuse another user of plagiarism without any actual proof and b) to assume that because your answer contains a quote, that you somehow "own" that quote forever and that anyone who uses that same quote (or any part of it) is a plagiarist. – Valorum Apr 21 '15 at 17:57
  • No idea about your specific situation, but FWIW I have at least twice in the past posted quotes and then realized a bit after the post that I put in the same exact quotes as @Slytherincess in a separate answer to the same question that I didn't notice in her post despite reading it. Plural of "anecdote" and all that disclamery stuff – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 22 '15 at 3:09
  • @DVK - Ultimately this is what happens when we're all looking at the same source material, inevitably you're going to end up with overlapping quotes. The idea that because User X has used a particular book quote, that User Y is now forbidden to use it in their answer is contrary to the ethos of the site. – Valorum Apr 24 '15 at 17:33
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    @Richard - forbidden - no. Looks somewhat... iffy/shady? Sometimes, depends on circumstances. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 24 '15 at 17:48
  • @DVK - Yes, if the other answer merely lifts it wholesale (and draws a semi-identical conclusion) then you could be forgiven for being a bit grumpy. – Valorum Apr 24 '15 at 17:53
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Vaxquis' answer (here) annoyed me. Not only was his tone very confrontational when I suggested some edits but he's actually incorporated the picture that I edited (and the picture that JRG edited) into his own Franken-answer.

Admittedly he's credited us both, but I don't think that an answer which simply combines other people's answers should be rewarded quite so heavily.

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  • I found his answer annoying, too, and upvoted yours, but not his. However, I don't believe that this answer is a good basis for policy. In some cases, an answer that aggregates information from other existing answers can be the "best" answer. The example you cited is kind of a "worst case scenario". – Beofett May 5 '14 at 12:36
  • @beofett - I agree that combining multiple incomplete answers can be worthwhile. – Valorum May 5 '14 at 12:58
  • I'd point out that the only main similarity I see between his answer and yours is the picture. Indeed, his seems to delve deeper into the question than yours. Much of his text is not found in either other answer. (I upvoted his and not yours) – The Fallen May 5 '14 at 22:40
  • @SSumner - He's edited it to be a bit more unique since it was first posted. Also, most of his text is pure supposition but that's a different issue. – Valorum May 5 '14 at 22:42
  • Yes, I looked at the edit histories. Granted, it's supposition, but looking at the other two answers there appears to be little concrete evidence supporting it. (And looking around the site, there are plenty of accepted and high-voted answers that rely mostly on supposition in the many cases where that's all there is) – The Fallen May 5 '14 at 22:46
  • @SSumner - As I said, the secondary issue is one of quality and falls outside the discussion here. – Valorum May 5 '14 at 22:50

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