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I have seen several times a user, mostly a newbie, post an exact same answer, i.e. in this question, What would be next after minor, major, …?. The chances are either Ugh didn't read the previous answers or he is not fully aware of how to post an answer. And not surprisingly, the post appeared in the review for Low Quality Posts.

Now, if you click on Recommend Deletion on the post, you see the below pop-up and unfortunately there is no warning for this situation.

I think it would be better if we could have one more warning/basis for Recommend Deletion such as:

Your answer has already been posted by another user and doesn't provide any additional information.

What is your thought about this? Will it be OK to just click on No comment needed for this answer?

One more question: Wouldn't it be better to create one more warning for an answer which is the opposite of a link-only answer, for example:

This answer doesn't provide any reference/research (or link) that can support it...

I think this happens more often than a duplicate answer.

Edit 1: This answer to the question, What is toilet? is not an exact duplicate but it doesn't add any additional information. It is not a wrong answer, either.

Edit 2: I do see more often duplicate or no-research/reference answers than thank you answers or link-only answers. Thank you answers could be flagged or recommended to delete very easily without any comment because it is blatantly not an answer.

I am proposing to change the pop-up to include more useful warnings, i.e. deleting This is a "thank you" comment (or possibly This is a different question posted as an answer) and creating the two suggested comments above.

enter image description here

  • I have dealt with the duplicate answer. There might be some leeway for almost simultaneous answers, but ten minutes is stretching that, in my opinion. – Andrew Leach Dec 20 '15 at 9:14
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    @AndrewLeach Could you please state "why" it is not acceptable for a user to post an identical answer, two hours later, and for an OP to accept that identical answer. I'd appreciate it. (This happened to me) – Mari-Lou A Dec 20 '15 at 9:33
  • @Mari-LouA That's more like answer material, I think, and I may be able to add one later; but basically it's rep-whoring, piggybacking on someone else's earlier efforts. (Note that if the later duplicate actually put more effort in and produced 1000 words with citations instead of a FGITW single sentence, it would deservedly get more upvotes and probably be accepted). An early Meta question of mine is also relevant, but it does no harm to re-examine things after a few years. – Andrew Leach Dec 20 '15 at 9:41
  • @Mari-LouA I wasn't imputing anything, sorry if you took it like that. I was simply trying to be as complete as possible in the space allowed in a comment. – Andrew Leach Dec 20 '15 at 9:44
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    @Mari-LouA Why not undelete your answer and post the question in a separate question or as an answer to this question? I think it is a good opportunity to set the rule straight and your example could be better than mine. – user140086 Dec 20 '15 at 10:50
  • @AndrewLeach Thank you for your quick action. I would appreciate your opinion on creating a new warning. – user140086 Dec 20 '15 at 10:51
  • Here is a related meta.SE discussion: option in “flag” popup for “duplicate answer” – sumelic Dec 20 '15 at 17:39
  • I'vedeleted my previous two comments. I consider the matter closed. – Mari-Lou A Dec 20 '15 at 22:04
  • (re. first comment) If the duplicate answer receives upvotes, it's unlikely the user will delete the answer, even more so if it has been accepted by the OP. – Mari-Lou A Dec 21 '15 at 7:41
  • @Mari-LouA I think that's why it is important to flag it ASAP. The first case in the question received more upvotes than mine around 20 minutes after it was posted. When it was deleted by Andrew Leach, it had 3 upvotes (I believe mine had 2 or 3). Without the intervention, It might have received more upvotes than mine as the answer was more concise and people tend to upvote more upvoted one without checking or considering who posted it first (It is another proof that the voting system here doesn't work). A moderator's objective judgement is essential in solving this kind of issue. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 8:04
  • You make a good point about conciseness vs. detailed, users will click on the answer that is short sweet and to the point. This is why bolding becomes an essential tool on this site. If the "answer" is not emphasized in some way, it's easy to miss as/if you skim through posts. – Mari-Lou A Dec 21 '15 at 8:20
  • Excellent example of a duplicate answer, posted one hour after tchrist's answer: Try dismember. It means to cut one or more limbs off a person or animal, for example when butchering a carcass. Despite the flag(s) the answer is still there and has earned four upvotes and two downvotes in the meantime. – Mari-Lou A Dec 28 '15 at 13:46
  • @Mari-LouA I flagged the answer (as a duplicate) right after it was posted (it had only only one upvote at the time). But my flag record shows it is still pending. – user140086 Dec 28 '15 at 14:21
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Because I have once or twice (or thrice) inadvertently duplicated another poster's prior answer—because I paid inadequate attention to the answers already posted—I strongly favor assuming that any such duplication has occurred by accident, without any intention on the answerer's part to trick readers into upvoting the answer at the expense of an earlier, equally good or better answer.

That's why I like the wording of Rathony's message—"Your answer has already been posted by another user and doesn't provide any additional information"—as a standard (preset) delete reason: It doesn't accuse the dupe poster of having nefarious motives; it simply points out that the answer already exists, rendering the later answer superfluous.

On the other hand, if an answerer turns out to be one of the few who don't acknowledge their Johnny-come-lately status and gracefully back out of the picture (as seems to be the case in the example that Mari-Lou A gives in the comments beneath Rathony's question), having a highly visible delete-as-duplicate-answer option that other site users can cite in such cases might help make the point more forcefully that institutionally English Language & Usage views persisting in the error to be a significant breach of site etiquette.

Answers that add nothing to the discussion of a particular question aren't merely airy nothings that readers can lightly brush off. They're lumps of congealed substance that clog the string of answers, call into question (temporarily) which twin has the rightful claim to any upvote that might hang in the balance, and impede brisk review of the useful posts. For this reason, I think it's important for answerers to understand just how seriously we at EL&U view duplicate answers as a problem.

  • Thank you for your answer. I really like the last sentence. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 7:56
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While the pre-set comments are handy, there will obviously be times where they don't fit. If that scenario you described is very common, it may be worth a pre-set, but maybe it would be more useful to just have a "Write my own comment" option that lets you type one in.

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    Thank you for your answer. I do see more often duplicate answers than thank you answers. I mean, thank you answers could be flagged or recommended to delete without any message because it is blatantly not an answer. I will edit my question to include this comment. – user140086 Dec 20 '15 at 12:16
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You can always click out of the review queue, write a comment beneath the answer, and then go back to the review queue and vote to delete it without further comment.

In terms of duplicates, obviously exact duplicates should be discouraged and deleted, but in cases where the duplicate says basically the same thing in a different way, it can be hard to evaluate whether it adds value or not. Different people might find one of the two answers easier to understand. In cases like that, I believe it's better not to delete it; let the voters decide (and the second answer posted will have a disadvantage by default, since it doesn't have as long a time to accumulate votes and all the voters can see that it was posted later than the other). If you think it doesn't add any value, that's certainly a valid reason to downvote it.

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    Thank you for your answer. I agree with your principle. Downvote. The duplicate received 3 upvotes when my answer received 2 or 3 upvotes. As I repeatedly said, the voting system doesn't work. It will never work in this site. – user140086 Dec 20 '15 at 17:40
  • Here's a related meta post where the answers seem to say similar things: Duplicate answer as late answer from new user Feel free to agree or disagree with it; I'm not sure myself what I think. – sumelic Dec 20 '15 at 17:44
  • I know how to review, comment on it and recommend to delete it. My question is not limited to just a few cases. I am proposing better ways to prevent and get rid of future and past duplicates. – user140086 Dec 20 '15 at 17:48
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    I'm pretty sure that when they see two "equivalent" answers, some users deliberately choose to upvote the one posted by the answerer with the lowest total rep (in a spirit of egalitarianism, to be welcoming to new users here, or whatever). But personally, I don't see a major problem with duplicate answers anyway. If they're both "right", who cares if they share top billing? Anyone who comes here in future seeking an answer to the question as posed can easily think in terms of summing all the upvotes together to see which answer(s) are really endorsed by the community. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '15 at 20:41
  • @FumbleFingers You know that voting system doesn't work. There should not be any duplicate answer left in any question. That should be a hard-and-fast rule. You said you don't see a major problem with duplicate answers anyway. Do you see a major problem with deleting the second one? – user140086 Dec 20 '15 at 20:48
  • @Rathony: As sumelic points out here, different people might find one of the two answers easier to understand (which might be just because of a couple of words - that you or I, for example, might not even notice). I certainly agree that if someone copies the exact text of an existing answer, that should be deleted. And if we get some new user who repeatedly does this, I'm sure the mods will first warn, then suspend them. But this is really all about "fairness", not significantly relevant to the "quality" of the site as such. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '15 at 21:06
  • ...if you like, there are certain parallels here with duplicate questions. And I would virtually never vote to delete a dup question, for what I think are very good reasons. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '15 at 21:08
  • @FumbleFingers I heard many high-rep users say (rather proudly) this community is different from other sites such as Yahoo because we accept only researched/well-written questions with strict closure rules. The point is I think they want to differentiate EL&U from others as the site for linguists, etymologists and enthusiasts. In order to be a productive member, I think checking whether there is a duplicate answer is as much important as any duplicate question. Finding duplicate question might be difficult, but finding duplicate answer is not difficult if you pay more attention and careful. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 5:39
  • ...chances are they might not have checked a duplicate answer or they might not even know if a duplicate answer is against the rule and should be deleted. That's when moderators or high-rep users have to get involved and leave a comment and ask them to delete their answers voluntarily. That would be an ideal solution. I once posted an answer which was similar to another answer and I didn't hesitate to delete it. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 5:43
  • @Rathony: You're ignoring my substantive point (that dup answers aren't a significant problem for the site, they're more an irritant for certain users). It's true the FAQ says exact duplicates of other answers may be removed, but that's not the same as saying they will be removed, or that posting them is "against the rules". Suppose a question has 3 "duplicate" good answers with 10 upvotes each, and 1 inferior answer with 12 votes. I wouldn't want to see that inferior answer rise to top billing just because we over-enthusiastically eliminated 2/3rds of its competition! – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '15 at 13:57
  • @FumbleFingers I am at a loss. I am proposing to prevent the 2/3 answers from getting upvoted in the first place. If the first one gets 30 upvotes instead of 3 answers sharing them, wouldn't it be a more ideal solution? Also, if there is such situation now (although I don't believe chances are that high), there could be nothing else we can do. It's not difficult to prevent that kind of situation from happening from now on. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 14:04
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    @Rathony: But people have different definitions of what exactly constitutes a duplicate answer. They're almost never word-for-word copies, and in many cases different people favour one dup answer over another because they like it better (for whatever reason). There's little downside to retaining them all, but there would be a net loss to the site if helpful additional details or alternative phrasing got removed because of people unduly focusing on perceived unfairness/gamesmanship. Which imho already happens sometimes, and will only get worse if we encourage witch-hunting here. – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '15 at 14:15
  • @FumbleFingers You might not have been able to see the duplicate (I am talking about), as it was deleted by Andrew Leach right after I posted this question. The dup was "Ultimate might be a good choice" and please see my answer in here. We are not talking about the same duplicates. I firmly believe high-rep users, especially moderators, do have an objective viewpoint/standard to judge it. I am proposing to prevent this kind of duplicate from being posted. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 14:20
  • ...I am pasting what I said to Mari-LouA. The first case in the question received more upvotes than mine around 20 minutes after it was posted. When it was deleted by Andrew Leach, it had 3 upvotes (I believe mine had 2 or 3). Without the intervention, It might have received more upvotes than mine as the answer was more concise and people tend to upvote more upvoted one without checking or considering who posted it first (It is another proof that the voting system here doesn't work). A moderator's objective judgement is essential in solving this kind of issue. – user140086 Dec 21 '15 at 14:22
  • @Rathony: Now that you've called my attention to it, I've just cast the final closevote on that "next after minor, major" question. Or probably not "final", since it won't surprise me if 5 people vote to reopen it. But imho it's a vague request for "writing advice", and it does no-one any good to allow by implication that to make contact with the _____ encounter could ever be a "natural" usage (except maybe as an oblique reference to the standard collocation final encounter). Normally, "encounters" aren't things you "make contact with". – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '15 at 14:52
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  1. If two identical answers are posted, the duplicate answer should be deleted immediately as in the OP's 2 cases (one in Edit 1). Duplicate answers are posted mostly in Single-Word-Request questions or other popular questions like "What is toilet?" If they are posted almost simultaneously as in Is there a single word that means “strange object”?, it would be better to delete the second answer even if there is only 8-second difference. The principle should be first come first served basis. Leaving the duplicate answer might give a wrong idea/impression to other users that it is OK to post a duplicate answer.

  2. I think timing is very important and we have to flag it as soon as we find a duplicate answer. Policing duplicate answers is as much important as marking questions as duplicate. We should make more efforts to detect duplicate answers and delete them to improve EL&U's quality. I think it would be useful to write a warning against a duplicate answer in Help Center > Answering warning new users to check if there is any duplicate answer before posting. There is only a short phrase "exact duplicates of other answers" will be deleted under Why and how are some answers deleted?

  3. Protecting (popular/correctly-answered/accepted with good answers) questions should be implemented more vigorously to prevent newbies from posting a duplicate answer. The answer posted by ABC today in Is there any difference between “unproductive” and “nonproductive”? is not an exact duplicate, but it doesn't add any value to the accepted answer or other upvoted answers. This post and this thank you answer could have been prevented if the question had been protected. User76855's answer seems to be a duplicate as commented by Chenmunka. There could be a lot more if we try to find them and there is a way we can prevent them.

I will leave the pop-up part to more experienced users and moderators.

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