I have observed this several times (full disclosure: most recently happened to me. But I considered it a 1*&k move even prior to that event):

  • User observes that a closed question is closed as "unanswerable" incorrectly, and that they know the answer
  • User requests the question to be re-opened
  • User waits for reopen process to happen since they can't answer yet, but have to leave because we all have lives and sleep outside of SFF.SE
  • Meanwhile the question gets re-opened
  • Someone else swoops in before the original user arrives back, and answers it with what the original user's answer was supposed to be.

On one hand, this does not violate any of the rules, and doesn't really damage the site in aggregate (good content is generated either way).

On the other hand, this DOES have negative side effects:

  • Original user's efforts are NOT rewarded (it took time and effort to write up a "let's reopen" Meta post).
  • Feelings are hurt
  • The user who suffered this treatment will be extremely unwilling next time to improve the site by spending their effort on reopening the questions that should be. That leads to less resources to maintain the site long term.

What I'd like to propose is etiquette whereas in situation like this, the person who said they know the answer but can't post it yet is offered a grace period (let's say 12 hrs from question reopening) to post their answer without other users swooping in and stealing the thunder.

It wouldn't be a hard and fast rule, just an encouraged behavior norm.

  • 5
    I'm in favor of this behavior, but it seems to me that anyone willing to follow honor system etiquette of this sort is likely to be polite in the first place.
    – numaroth
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 15:22
  • 2
    @numaroth - for one thing people may not be aware they are doing something bad. For another, a person who wants to answer can use this proposal (if approved) as a comment link stating "please don't answer before I come back" Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 15:44
  • I've seen this plenty of times, too, and it's definitely annoying. Especially in that when I see it, it's usually someone >1k copying a comment from someone <1k. I do check the post's timeline to see if it's been open a reasonable amount of time before poking anyone though.
    – Izkata
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 17:32
  • @Izkata - this question was specifically about a very different situation (I was planning to post ANOTHER separate one about comment copying, however the quick -1 dissuaded me from do-gooder tendencies :) Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 17:33
  • 1
    @DVK Comment or meta, I think it's similar enough to combine. Meta posts take more effort, but are less likely to be seen (and so more likely to be accidental), while comments are right there on the question. (If you do post a second question though, I'll delete my comment and re-post it there)
    – Izkata
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 17:36
  • 1
    Was this me? Did I do this?
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 19:32
  • 5
    This wouldn't happen if people would refrain from closing questions as "unanswerable" unless they were actually, you know, unanswerable.
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 22:06
  • 2
    @user14111 -- Seriously. Makes me want to tear my hair out. Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 22:11
  • 1
    @user14111 - I'd agree with you but then I'll be banned again for being rude. Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 13:58
  • Hmm, etiquette is very difficult to regulate; a high possibility that those answers will have a bunch of comments saying "don't accept this answer, they're a thief" which doesn't look good for the site. I do like this idea though, if someone had taken my answer I would be really p*#%ed! scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/58791/…
    – Möoz
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 3:05
  • You can always post a quick-and-dirty answer, adding a line saying that you're answer is "in progress". Then edit it at leisure to make it more complete.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 20:15
  • @JoeL. - "User waits for reopen process to happen since they can't answer yet" Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 20:17
  • 2
    They wrote a Meta post to get the question reopened, the question was reopened. How have their efforts not been rewarded? If they only did it with the expectation that they'd get to answer the question and gain reputation from that answer, it seems like their motivations for wanting to improve the site are slightly skewed. Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 15:40
  • 4
    "we all have lives and sleep outside of SFF.SE" - citation needed.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 13:36
  • 1
    @DVK-in-exile: sorry, I don't think I'd met this old post before. As the sixth person, I'm courageous enough.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


Answer stealing happens often on this site (and similar internet forums). Someone posts a question when you are sleeping, and someone else quickly answers it before you had time to react. You give a better answer half a day later, but everyone has already upvoted the first answer, and few people read your answer. It doesn't seem fair, because you have given a better answer, but that's how this site always work.

Answer stealing can also happen when a question is closed and you request reopening, but closing and reopening is simply irrelevant here. Just because you request reopening doesn't entitle you to give the first answer, the same as knowing the best answer doesn't entitle you to that either.

So in short, I am against this recommendation. If you can give a good answer to a question, and it's open, then do answer it, do not wait for whoever submitted a request to open. If you know the answer and the question is not open, leave a comment. In that case, someone can steal the answer from you, but that isn't a big problem.

Also, I agree with DVK: the other user who steals the answer might not even have noticed that the question was closed and recently re-opened, so you can't really ask people to refrain from answering that way.

  • 3
    Or, if you have an answer that you don't want stolen, don't post it in a comment. If somebody beats you to it later, you can't claim that they stole your answer.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:37

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