21

I've noticed old questions revived because a new user posted an answer. If the new answer adds information, that is good. But many new answers to old Qs add nothing to the answers posted more than a year ago. (Often these answers are not only uninformative, but poorly worded and otherwise bad.) See, for example, If you say in English: wear the pants in a relationship, then can you also say wear the skirt in a relationship?

Sven Yargs posted a Yargsian answer in March 2014. After he posted his answer, two new users posted less than Yargs had already told us.

I suggest adding a new category for flagging an answer

  o adds nothing to previous answers  or
  o adds nothing to the accepted answer

On the other hand, I am grateful that this question was brought up, because of the masterly Yargs answer. Should we tolerate the clutter because of the goodies that are disinterred?

6

I asked a similar question before, Warning to a user who posts the “same (exact) answer” and answer “without any reference/research”. I agree it would be better if we could have such a new category.

Under the circumstances we don't have that category, I think the best way to deal with such an answer is to downvote and leave a comment for the poster to realize that their answers don't add additional value or information. I never hesitate to downvote such an answer and usually, minus one reputation that cost me in downvoting comes back when the answer is put in a review and deleted.

We can use downvote to distinguish good answers from bad or poorly-worded ones.

16

I don't think we need a new flag reason. If it plagiarizes another answer, flag it for moderator attention. If it's very low quality, flag it as "very low quality." I think the current flag reasons are broad enough. If you think it doesn't add anything useful, you should downvote it.

Other relevant Meta questions:

  • 1
    It may be enough to ignore it. I sort of agree with ab2 that there's value in surfacing old questions. As a new neighbor, I'm aware of the years of wisdom and wit buried here, but I don't see that it's all that immediate. These revivals seem like a good way to stimulate collective institutional memory. – Rob_Ster Feb 25 '16 at 3:28
  • 5
    I've upvoted because I agree with the first sentence (which is after all what the OP asked about). But I'm far less convinced it's a good idea to encourage downvoting the more recently-posted of two answers that both contain the same information (no more, and no less) and which are both right. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 19:19
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers: I edited this post to add a qualifying statement "If you think it doesn't add anything useful." The tooltip for downvoting is "this answer is not useful," so I think that's the proper way to evaluate it. In any case, though, people will vote as they will. If someone feels an answer is "clutter," downvoting is the action I would recommend, but it's obviously not mandatory; another option is to just do nothing. – sumelic Feb 25 '16 at 19:33
  • 2
    The thing is it doesn't often happen that two answers are truly identical, right down to the level of layout, fonts, etc. So I'm sure lots of people upvote the one that just happens to appeal most in terms of precise presentation, regardless of the posting sequence. And it wouldn't be so good if this sort of "punishment" voting caused the total number of votes for correct answers to end up being reduced to a level where it was no longer obvious which answers truly were considered correct, if (as sometimes happens) there were quite a few upvotes for incorrect answers. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 20:45
11

There is a persistent mindset that surfaces from time to time 'Bad answers should be deleted.' No, they shouldn't. If it is unhelpful (as an answer identical to another must be), the post should be downvoted; the tooltip for a downvote says precisely that. But there are many good reasons to leave a bad answer in place; not the least is that, by being downvoted, it shows future readers that is a bad idea to leave such answers.

(And if you didn't want it deleted, what on earth would be the point of flagging it?)

  • Would you not accept that the point of flagging an obviously plagiarized answer might be so the mods are aware of the situation and can check out other posts by the "offending" user? Which might reasonably result in that user being privately messaged by the mods to resolve the situation. I've no idea what actually happens, but that seems quite possible to me, and to some extent I think it's better if the mods can resolve such issues "behind the scenes", so to speak. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 20:51
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    @FF: I see your point, though I (still) dispute the equivalence of identical and obviously plagiarized. But in your situation the flag would be explicitly 'Needs moderator attention' not the new flag OP is arguing for. – TimLymington Feb 25 '16 at 22:20
  • I didn't mean to imply "equivalence" of identical and obviously plagiarized. It's always possible for two people to post exactly same text simultaneously. Not to mention which I regularly assert both here and on ELL that anyone is welcome to copy/paste into their answer anything I write in a comment (so multiple people might do that). Sometimes people might just not notice an existing answer - it's hardly a hanging offence. But I assume the mods look at each situation carefully & interact with the relevant user as/if appropriate. And on the whole I trust their judgement. – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '16 at 0:52
6

I disagree with the other answers. SE likes to say that broken windows lead to more broken windows. Keeping garbage content in the hopes that someone seeing it will think we don't want it is very backwards.

So then, what is the point in keeping an entire class of answers that are always reviled and downvoted? Masochism? A comment explaining what's wrong can be left whether or not the post is deleted afterward, so again it is backwards to attempt to teach the poster by allowing the post to stay.

99% of the time these duplicates are far worse than what they're copying, being one-liners and such — and in the 1% case, they should be editing the existing answer if they want to improve formatting and the like.

Wrong answers should be kept, and similar answers should be kept. Answers that copy others without adding value should not be. Reposting is not a replacement for upvoting, editing, commenting, or reading the other posts.

  • 2
    If the answer is so terrible, it will likely fall under one of the other flagging reasons, such as "very low quality." – sumelic Mar 3 '16 at 22:09
  • 2
    +1 Yep. Garbage encourages garbage. Mediocrity encourages mediocrity. An answer that adds no value whatsoever should go. But I am OCD about litter and clutter. – ab2 Mar 3 '16 at 22:47

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