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In this question, the following sequence of events happened:

  • The OP asked the question.
  • I started writing an answer.
  • Someone (say, Alice) commented that it was a duplicate question.
  • I submitted my answer and moved on to something else; I didn't see the comment.
  • Later, my answer was downvoted. Someone else (say, Bob) commented to the effect that I should have read Alice's comment before posting. They further noted that because the question was a duplicate, I should have done a search before posting any answer to see if I was answering a duplicate question.
  • The question was closed as being a duplicate.
  • When I saw the notification from Bob's comment, I looked for Alice's comment, but it was gone; apparently, Alice had deleted their comment.
  • I commented to indicate that I'd open a question on meta because I wasn't sure about the procedure in this case.

Two questions:

  • Are answerers responsible for ensuring that they are not about to write an answer to a duplicate question?

  • Should I have deleted my answer once it became apparent that the question was a duplicate?

  • 4
    The short answers are no and no. You're fine. – Dan Bron Jan 8 '15 at 13:18
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    The deleted comment was deleted by the system on closure, not by "Alice". When a question is closed, the system deletes the comments which are created when a duplicate question is nominated, and does that even when the automatic comment has been edited. – Andrew Leach Jan 8 '15 at 13:18
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    There's an argument that users with 1K+ rep should be sufficiently familiar with this site that they would instantly recognise "Yet another a/an question", since we seem to get an awful lot of these. Some people might extrapolate from that to "punish" pointless additional answers by downvoting, but that doesn't seem to have happened in the specific case under consideration. – FumbleFingers Jan 8 '15 at 13:44
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    @FumbleFingers: The reputation count is an imperfect proxy for being "sufficiently familiar", though. As far as I can tell most of my rep on E.SE is from a single, very popular answer. – John Feminella Jan 8 '15 at 14:26
  • @John: I'm certainly not being critical of you myself - indeed, I take the fact that you're asking this meta question as evidence that you're a "conscientious & committed" user. I was just trying to offer a possible reason why someone might want to delete their own answer because they might be seeking to head off unwanted downvotes. In the same vein, my thinking there might explain some relatively "hostile, nit-picking" comments on your answer (raising points that might not have been made so harshly had the same answer been posted on the first such question, years ago). – FumbleFingers Jan 8 '15 at 14:46
  • @FumbleFingers Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying. – John Feminella Jan 8 '15 at 15:18
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    In general, I would advise to leave it. It might be different enough from the dupe answers that it is worth keeping. I don't think people should be punished with a down vote for answering a question before they knew it was a dupe (or even after). Someone might have been having a bad day. Brush it off and know that you did nothing whatsoever that could be construed as offensive. Also, the answer has no down-votes now; whoever down-voted retracted it. So it's all good. – anongoodnurse Jan 9 '15 at 7:53
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    I’m not sure if I’m flattered or a bit miffed at being ‘Alice’ ;-) … but just like you, John, I closevoted, edited my comment, and went on my merry way. Since I hadn’t commented on your answer, Edwin’s comment addressing me with ‘@’ did not cause any actual notification, so I never saw your answer before now. I certainly agree that you have no obligation to delete your answer; but you should always keep in mind the possibility of duplicates when reading (and answering) a question, and consider how likely a question is to be a duplicate. This one … very, very likely. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 9 '15 at 15:19
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    I've only just found this thread, although John said he would write on Meta about this question. I'll retract my downvote; I thought he'd posted an answer after seeing the comment mentioning the duplicate/s. Apparently, time-lapses can occur between submission and displaying, and this can obviously give rise to misinterpretation. I've come across people before who've admitted seeing the duplication notification, and said something to the effect of 'I'm not bothered; I'm posting anyway.' – Edwin Ashworth Jan 9 '15 at 23:41
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    ... Oops, I've just found I didn't downvote it in the first place. Obviously on a good day. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 9 '15 at 23:47
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    Downvoting a good answer because of some property of the question is inappropriate. Evaluate posts on their own merit. – Matthew Read Jan 19 '15 at 5:51
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My short answers would be maybe and no.

The no is easy: you wrote your answer and have no obligation to delete it.

The maybe... Some questions are obvious candidates for a duplicate in which case I might check, and if it is a duplicate I wouldn't answer, but I don't think you have any particular responsibility to check.

In this particular question, two conflicting things struck me. Seeing the question in the list my reaction was that it was a very basic question, so I went there with an intention of recommending it be moved to ELL and found it already closed as a duplicate. The second thing that hit me was the comment saying you shouldn't have answered, which seemed to be a bit of an over-reaction. The conflict is that as alarm bells were ringing before I even looked at the question, the (over) reaction does have a point. A question about using a or an has very likely been asked before.

Summary... you don't have to delete an answer, and you have no responsibility to check for duplicates - but it might be a good idea to do so if a question appears to be very basic.

4

In my opinion, even as I'm one who has answered a known duplicate question, I won't delete my answer if it's significantly different from the answers given on the duplicate question. Some duplicate questions aren't duplicates, in spite of the close votes.

It may be argued, though, that I might move my answer to the "original" question if I have the strong belief that my answer might be of use and significantly different from existing answers. Knowing how these things work, though, it's a crapshoot whether additional and offsetting-the-loss-of-existing upvotes will occur in the original versus marked-as-duplicate new question, save for some moderator intervention at which point ...

However, if I am seeing a significant downward trend in votes, I'll probably delete the answer as I want to regain that lost reputation.

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    You could also use a custom flag requesting that the questions be merged, if you have an answer on the dupe that would also be good for the original. – Scimonster Jan 11 '15 at 16:36

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