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Over the past few months the moderator team has noticed an increase in the number of low-quality flags on answers which don’t add any new information over existing answers. This isn’t what the low-quality flag is meant for, nor is it the proper way to handle answers which don’t contain any new information. We understand the confusion, because [there’s a post from 2012 which says answers like these should be deleted. However, unless the post is a near word for word duplicate of another answer (meaning someone obviously copy/pasted another post) then you shouldn’t just automatically flag the answer, but instead review it on its own merits: .

Is it incorrect? Downvote it (and if it gets enough downvotes, it’ll get kicked into the low quality queue where the community can delete it). Is it so poorly written to the point you can’t even understand what it’s trying to say? Flag it as low quality. Is it just kind of mediocre? Don’t flag or vote on it at all, and move on.
Is it well written and correct answer? Upvote it.

Wait, what? Upvote it? Yup, that’s correct. Might seem strange, but keep in mind that just because an answer doesn’t add any new information doesn’t mean it doesn’t add anything of value. A late answer could organize the information in a such a fantastic way that it’s suddenly the best answer there. Maybe it adds graphics, maybe it presents information in a much easier to understand way, or maybe all the other answers just feel like partial answers and this new answer collects all the information in one easy to read post. In situations like this we shouldn’t be deleting or downvoting the post, but upvoting it instead, just like how we now close older questions as duplicates of new ones if the new one is of a lot higher quality. After all, having these awesome (but late) answers showing up near the top of the answers list is in the best interests of everyone, and can only help the site.

So, in conclusion, you should continue to flag ‘exact’, (near word-for-word) duplicates for moderator attention, but if the answer simply covers existing information in a different way, judge it on its own merits, because it’s not a duplicate.

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    Could you maybe provide examples of answers you think should be left and those that shouldn't? – Dragonrage May 14 '17 at 18:31
  • While I agree to keep duplicate answers if they're really good I don't see a point in not flagging poor answers with no new information. Isn't that what low quality stands for? They usually get lots of downvotes anyway, why not just flag them right away? – dly May 14 '17 at 18:59
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    @dly No. Low quality flags are only for posts that are low quality in isolation, regardless of context in other answers. Downvoting a correct answer is generally not the right action. If you don't like that a correct answer doesn't add new information, then just don't vote at all. Voting is meant to get the best answers to the top, not the first ones. – Invader Skoodge May 14 '17 at 19:13
  • @Beedrill I was talking about poor dupes. I actually agreed to keep good answers. – dly May 15 '17 at 6:28
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Clarification going forward: I classify reorganizing information into a more readable format as something new. I would also classify an overall answer, pulling together information from all other answers, as something new. Both of those show effort. I classify adding anything, content, organization, a new twist on an existing strategy above and beyond existing answers, you name it, as something new. There's also an exception for new answers posted in a the same day or so; that one I usually give a good faith pass on.

If someone posts an answer, and is articulate enough to write it well, but still does not add anything new, then they will respond to downvotes and comments asking for additional information. That also shows effort, and is the sort of thing we can and should encourage.

What we should not encourage, however, is users making low-to-zero effort to post more of them. As an example, see this, or this. These both answer the question, but do not add anything that hasn't already been mentioned weeks or months ago. This is one of the primary reasons the system ban exists; to ensure that users are generating value and not additional moderation overhead. If we're spending more time looking at it than the user did posting it, chances are pretty good it's not worth keeping.

That's not to say these answers should be flagged; most definitely not. What we need to be doing, though, is downvoting them. We don't downvote nearly enough here at Arqade. Remember, you get your -1 rep back when the answer is deleted. We can handle this without flags, or mod intervention, in most cases. Posts can make it into low quality based on an algorithm, not just flags. Enough downvotes will push it into the Low Quality queue, where reviewers can recommend deletion. That's how we should be doing this, not clogging up mod's flag queues.

My main rule of thumb for duplicate answers is to use Stack Exchange's primary purpose as a rule of thumb: Does this answer boost the signal to noise ratio? That's a pretty broad judgement to make, and rather lenient, but one I think fits well with duplicate answers. If you're unsure, there's no harm in just leaving it alone. Stack Exchange was originally created with one goal in mind: be able to find answers to problems quickly, and easily. Not sift through pages and pages of posts to maybe find an answer on page 12. Duplicate answers that don't add anything don't boost that all-important signal.

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    Well said. I didn't have time to make an answer, but you expressed most of my thoughts about this. The only thing I would add is that flags are not required to put things in the low quality queue. A downvote or two will also bump it into a queue where 5k+ (I think) users can recommend deletion and 20k+ users can vote to delete. – Dragonrage May 14 '17 at 21:17
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    "This is one of the primary reasons the system ban exists; to ensure that users are generating value and not additional moderation overhead. If we're spending more time looking at it than the user did posting it, chances are pretty good it's not worth keeping." A correct answer to an old question doesn't have to be moderator burden. It still adds signal by reinforcing what other answers have said. It's not a broken window. We won't end up with 12 pages of answers and even if we did they would still be sorted by score. – badp May 14 '17 at 22:15
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    The point is to reduce the overhead on things diamond mods don't need to handle. What we're seeing is flags and comments like "this is already covered" on an otherwise fine answer, because the flagger believes that because it's a duplicate it must automatically be bad. We're the exception handlers, give us the stuff you can't otherwise deal with through voting or review. – Robotnik May 14 '17 at 22:16
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    @badp if you want to reinforce what has already been said, you should upvote the correct answer, not write an answer that states the same thing. If you want to write an answer to expand on a point from another answer or fill in something they missed, that is fine, but just restating part of what someone else already said really isn't helpful. The network wide policy has been that duplicate answers are not useful and should be downvoted and deleted. – Dragonrage May 15 '17 at 1:34

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