Some people are just innately helpful, I suppose. When they arrive at a q&a site they must immediately post their answer to a question, regardless of its answered status. I've been noticing it consistently, but I'm not sure how to deal with it.

Most recent example is this where the answer isn't necessarily low quality, it's just a repeat of the exact same answer that has been marked as correct.

My first thought is to flag these as low quality and removal (since anything containing less than the accepted answer can be defined as a lower quality than the correct answer) but I wanted to see what the consensus was.

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    helpful is certainly a more polite characterization than rep-farming. :) – Cyclops Apr 25 '11 at 17:05
  • Merging is the answer – badp Apr 25 '11 at 17:06
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    @fail In the above case, the second answer has nothing to add that could be merged with the accepted answer. – Arkive Apr 25 '11 at 17:10
  • @fail If merging is the answer, what do I flag as? – authenticgeek Apr 25 '11 at 17:19
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    possible duplicate of How do we handle duplicate answers? – user106385 Aug 23 '15 at 4:11

I have, on many occasions, had people either edit their answers to incorporate my own or out right copy my answer on to theirs. Every time this happens I have to remind myself:

Its not about me

Yes, rep is cool, and privileges are nice, and who doesn't like giving credit where credit is due; but at the end of the day it isn't about who answered correctly first, or who copied who, or who gave credit, its about getting the best answer. If someone's merging of my answer into their own is a better answer than mine, then every other person who sees that question gets a better answer.

I know how it feels to have people steal what is your hard work, it sucks. But at the end of the day, this site isn't about you, or your personal validation; its about providing expert answers. If that means someone else gets the rep that I think is rightfully mine, then I have to learn to accept that. If I don't, then I'm no better than the guy who gives to charity just to impress his friends.

So at the end of the day the question you should really be asking is:

Does this answer make the world a better place?

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    In the case that I'm talking about, the answer to this is always "no". The duplicate answer is usually a lower quality answer that doesn't contain even all the information in another answer. Agreed on your case though. – authenticgeek Apr 26 '11 at 14:44
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    If people copy paste your answers without attribution on the site just edit the attribution in. – badp Apr 26 '11 at 15:01
  • @Nick fair enough, but this is just my rule of thumb for deciding these things – tzenes Apr 26 '11 at 15:31
  • @badp it's usually a little more subtle than copy/paste. Especially when they're merging it into whatever answer they had previously. – tzenes Apr 26 '11 at 15:32
  • Your zen is impressive. Depending on my mood, and the extent of the plagiarism I might downvote, but typically I'd ignore. The community tends to favor the incumbent answer, so I think the rep whoring issue is nil. If a new user gets some pity votes, what's the big deal? – EBongo Jun 29 '12 at 22:48
  • Frankly, if I saw this behavior from a user - he is likely to not get upvotes from me in future (whether he's copying my answer or yours). Attribution is fine, I also quote other answers often to expand on them; but stealing just for rep isn't cool just because its not really that important (after 50 rep ;) – Alok Jul 24 '12 at 10:14

I've had the same thoughts. Part of me thought that we should purge them with fire. But then I started thinking about what things must look like from the perspective of these new users.

They find a new gaming site. It looks like it might be kind of cool. So they start searching for their favorite games. Finally they find a question that they know the answer to. Mustering their courage, they decide to de-lurk, create a login, and actually participate in the site. They answer the question (which happens to have a duplicate, already accepted answer). What happens next?

A) The user gets an upvote. They think "Cool, now I'm earning rep. I want to find more questions that I can answer. This site is great!"

B) The user gets a downvote and a polite comment. They think "Oh, I guess I don't know what I'm doing". They go back into lurker mode, eventually finding the courage to try again, or moving on to some other site.

C) The user's answer gets deleted. Maybe the same result as B. Or maybe they get confused, wondering what they did wrong. Or maybe they get defensive and say "Who needs this site anyway? It's just a bunch of elitist jerks."

Clearly B and C are not the end result we want. So we need to decide whether the duplicate answers really cause problems, or whether it might be an acceptable price to give people a "safe entry" into participating in the community.

  • I think adding a comment explaining the situation is required. Which means we can't remove the answer outright because we want the user to read it. – authenticgeek Apr 25 '11 at 18:24
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    A comment is required before deletion (or downvoting in my opinion), but my point is that in moderation this doesn't seem like a problem, we should let our new users get their feet wet by answering questions, even if they are duplicates. I'd only comment if someone was serially duplicating answers to a bunch of questions. – bwarner Apr 25 '11 at 18:55
  • Doesn't this approach defeat the purpose of the whole "You have to get X reputation before you can do specific stuff like commenting and voting"? If any new user can just post identical or inferior answers to questions answered years ago and collect some rep (even if it's just a few single cases), the entire system collapses into a simple, yet somehow destructive (as the additional answers hold no value) version of "wait a few days until you can do stuff". It doesn't encourage people to give quality answers to questions that they can contribute to, but to just give answers period. – scenia Aug 27 '14 at 23:45

In general, the community ignores answers that are significantly newer than another with the same information. So I don't think it's really a problem, rep-farming or otherwise. You can feel free to downvote, as well, and provide a comment explaining why.

If old answered questions get a slew of new answers, however, they should be protected by a moderator. You can flag the question if a moderator hasn't noticed this happening, though they usually do.

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