12

I occasionally encounter a case where an additional answer only adds information to an existing answer, instead of providing the whole answer by itself, e.g.:

Question: a question asking for a list of all nunchucks locations


Answer 1: a detailed list of 11 nunchucks locations

Answer 2: acknowledging answer 1 but mentioning two additional nunchuck locations not appearing in it

What do we think about answer 2? Technically it does not provide the whole list so it doesn't answer the question by itself - it depends on another answer - but it is still unquestionably useful.

  • Do we allow it as a separate answer?

    • It seems to be accepted in the network
    • It allows the answer to be voted on separately
    • It gives credit - and reputation - to the correct user
    • For many users, posting a new answer is easier than editing an existing one

  • Do we change it to be an edit for answer 1?

    • It means a single answer will contain all the information required, a future reader won't have to browse through the entire list
    • The important data will appear near the top of the page, we won't have anomalies such as answer 2 appearing before answer 1 because of it getting more upvotes for some reason

  • Do we change it to a comment on answer 1, mentioning that something is missing?

    • This leaves control of answer 1 with its owner
    • It may be less visible for future readers, though, if nobody updates answer 1 (for instance, because comments may be hidden)

I'm in favor of keeping it as a separate answer, but recently I've seen a few "not-an-answer" flags on these sorts of answers, so I wanted to make sure we have a consistent policy regarding these.

Also keep in mind the example I gave - adding to a list - is very black-and-white; other examples may include "answer 2"s in the form of "in addition to the strategy in answer 1, you should also supplement it by..." - i.e. another case where answer 2 depends on answer 1 and is not useful without it, but it's even clearer we'd want to have it voted-on separately.

  • I've actually been wondering this for a while. I used to flag these as not an answer when I saw them (sometimes accepted sometimes rejected), but then I saw a bunch of very highly voted "not an answers" so I assumed that they were allowed and stopped flagging them. – Mr Smooth Mar 25 '12 at 12:50
10

I disagree with the sentiment that once someone has a reasonable answer, nobody else should be allowed to post a separate answer with additional information. They shouldn't have to forfeit their rep and edit the other answer just because it was there first.

I think it is fine to post an answer that says "In addition to the answer by X, here is some other information". X is then free to edit their post to contain both answers. I also think it is fine for someone to post a second answer that says "Here is a complete list that includes the ones mentioned by X, plus a few more."

The goal should be that we end up with one accepted answer with all the information. But there shouldn't be an assumption that whoever posts the first answer has the right to be the one and only answer.

  • If someone creates a GREAT answer, and then somebody creates another answer with a small amount of info with a mention to the great answer, the highly upvoted GREAT answer would get many views, but the more complete new answer might get skipped by a lot of viewers. – chobok Apr 17 '12 at 9:38
8

If the partial/add-on answer makes sense when read all by itself, then I think it should be left alone. If it makes no sense without the other answer for context, it should be converted to a comment or, if it makes more sense to do so and can be verified, edited in.


Example:

Question:

How is score calculated in the game, My Little Pony vs Hello Kitty Island Arena?

Main answer:

When you perform action X, you get 100 points. Y gives you 150. Z gives you 200. However, if you if you do A or B, it'll create the Animal Fury combo, which will multiply your score by 2000.

A) Add-on answer which should be left alone:

You get 50 points for doing action C.

B) Add-on answer which should become a comment or edit instead:

The multiplier is 1000, not 2000.

C) Another add-on answer which should be a comment or edit instead:

When you cause the combo for both reasons at the same time, the multiplier is 1000000.


Add-on A makes sense as a standalone answer. It's not complete (neither is the main one, if A is true!), but it makes sense all by itself. Add-ons B and C make absolutely no sense outside of the main answer, and thus should be combined with it either by comment or by edit.


Summary: If it makes sense when you read it all by itself, leave it alone.

  • This is definitely my favourite answer of the bunch, not accepting it only because this is a meta post and it's not fair accepting one answer over another :) – Oak Jun 13 '12 at 15:45
5

Answers should be as canonical as possible, but it's not okay to rewrite a post to change the author's intent1.

From my own experience, a lot of the tack-on answers and edits to my own answers are either wrong, based on faulty premises, or simply choose to take a different direction to answering the question. When they're left as a new answer, they're easy to deal with (down-vote or comment), but it's personally annoying to have my answer edited to include someone else's answer particularly when I know I've already considered the additional information and rejected it.

If an answer substantively changes the first answer or adds unvetted information, it should be either a new answer that can be evaluated separately or at best a comment on the existing answer. If any of the answers—original, tack-on, or otherwise—doesn't fully (or completely fails to) address the question, it should be either down-voted or removed.

I think there's a special case, however, for tack-on answers that more or less serve only to confirm the original answer was correct:

John Doe is right, X worked: I did Y and Z [where Y and Z are just exemplars of X strategy] and got the achievement.

That's not an answer: it's at best a comment on the correct strategy but it's mostly "Thanks, A++ would up-vote again". If John Doe chooses to expand on his answer to mention Y and Z that's up to him, but editing in all the times people used his strategy adds no value to the original answer.


Notes

Note 1: There is the special case of trying to create a single, canonical, and monolithic answer to a broad question (which most questions shouldn't be). In a case like this, the answer should be converted to Community Wiki so the author's name is no longer directly associated with the post.

  • Well perhaps people should try to write those single canonical answers more often rather than using us a Reddit-clone so they can share their point of view. – Ivo Flipse Mar 25 '12 at 20:26
4

I think these answers are fine, because even a partial answer is still an answer. This really isn't much different than a user only answering part of an OPs question without drawing or adding onto another answer. In situations like that we might down vote the answer, but we would never delete it.

  • 2
    Why downvote? The answer is only partial because re-posting the whole list will be redundant (and a bit shady). To be clear I'm talking about situations in which both answers appear for the question, not when it's just a partial answer by itself. – Oak Mar 25 '12 at 13:59
  • @Oak I'm trying to think of an example, but any examples I can come up with would result in the answer not being an answer. So if a down vote was appropriate, then the answer is probably something viable for deletion. – Wipqozn Mar 25 '12 at 14:05
  • If they have something useful to add, they can edit the question, there's no need for an entire new answer. If his edit is bad, revert it – Ivo Flipse Mar 25 '12 at 19:05
  • @IvoFlipse An "edit first, ask questions later" policy is tedious: you constantly have to check your posts to make sure someone didn't add in incorrect information. Answers can always be converted to comments or edits if they're not answers. – user3389 Mar 25 '12 at 19:49
  • Anyone with sufficient rep can rollback the edit, which is less work than flagging a question for a mod to have it converted to a comment. Either way, we shouldn't be encouraging mediocre me-too answers – Ivo Flipse Mar 25 '12 at 20:24

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