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I provided an answer to the question "LINQ GroupBy continuous time" which was specific to the question asked.

Another user engaged positively with my answer, as there was a small conversation thread.

That person then copied the answer and made what I would say are minor modifications (the comments I left in my original code that pertained to the specific case are still in the places where he made edits to be more specific).

The answer does acknowledge that it is a general case of my specific code.

Ignoring the fact that I'm involved in it, what should one do when seeing this situation?

The only thing I can think of, and I'm not sure that it's necessarily the right solution, is to flag the answer for moderator attention.

Other possible actions, which I believe are wrong, are:

  • Editing the answer; that would change its intent
  • Voting the answer down; it's a technically correct answer

One could leave a comment, but that can lead to confrontation and escalation (depending on the parties involved) which would be counterproductive.

The only thing I've done, which is not really related, is edit the answer to hyperlink the already existing attribution (but I do this as a regular edit for any answer which explicitly references another).

What's the best approach here, if any?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I can't see something particularly wrong with that. After all, your answer (and those every part of it, including code) is licensed under the CC-BY-SA. Therefor specifically permits copying and throwing it all over the interwebs, including SO...he even did cite the source, though not with a link, but that's a little bit moot if it's on the same page.

To be a little more exact: Everything on Stack Exchange is licensed under "Creative Commons, Attribution Required, Share Alike". So you can do with the content whatever you like, as long as two conditions are met:

  • You cite the source (with link).
  • The created content ends up under the same license.

If somebody copies an answer and it stays on Stack Exchange, the second criteria is already met, now only the source needs to be cited. I think this can also be done via third-party edits, since otherwise it would be a violation of the license.

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CC-BY-SA requires attribution. I'd say it's not moot regardless of whether the answers are both on the same page or not. If the original is ever removed for whatever reason, the original content is still not the work of the second author and should be attributed properly. – Adam Lear Nov 14 '11 at 14:38
@Asylum: Didn't think about the CC license. I was wondering more about the etiquette aspect, but if the community see's the CC license as the guiding factor on this matter, then so be it. Thanks! – casperOne Nov 14 '11 at 14:40
@casperOne: As I see it, every rule we could come up with would be in violation of the license. – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 14 '11 at 14:43
@AnnaLear: Of course it should be attributed. What I meant was that it was not linked against the other answer...the source was still mentioned (Quote): A generic version of casperOne's extension method, used as such: – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 14 '11 at 14:44
@AnnaLear: Follow up: is it proper for the answerer of the original question copied to perform the edit? Or should that be brought to moderator attention (if not attributed)? – casperOne Nov 14 '11 at 15:06
@casperOne I think anyone can make this edit and it doesn't require moderator involvement. If an edit war breaks out, then a moderator flag would be a good idea. – Adam Lear Nov 14 '11 at 15:16
@Asylum: I don't quite see it like that. It would violate the license if Stack Exchange tried to prohibit people from reusing content in general, but prohibiting reuse on their own (privately-owned) site wouldn't violate the license. The restriction they're imposing wouldn't be on use of their content so much as on the use of their site. – Jeremy Banks Nov 14 '11 at 18:34

I'll agree with you that this can be annoying; you did the work to answer the question, and someone copied that work and made some slight alterations based on feedback from the OP. However, I don't think there's anything that can really be done about it. Your answers (along with questions and comments) are already Creative Commons licensed, so they're always eligible for reproduction. It's probably not in line with the intent of licensing under CC, but it's nonetheless allowable.

Practically speaking, though, there's certainly nothing keeping you from modifying your answer to incorporate the changes that you discussed in the comments. Especially in your case--where your answer already has more votes than the other answer--this shouldn't be an issue.

I've personally never had a situation like this turn ugly; I have had others copy my answers, and I usually leave a comment about it simply because there's no real value in having two identical answers to a question. If things take a turn for the worse, just leave it alone.

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One could consider this a prime example, given that your answer is similar (not in wording, but intent) to Asylum's =) – casperOne Nov 14 '11 at 14:38
@casperOne: Possibly ;) Though I don't think you can go so far as to say that because one answer provides similar information to another means that one must have "copied" the other. FWIW, the crux of my answer was really my latter two points (modify your answer to include the work you did in the comments, and feel free to leave a comment on the other answer). – Adam Robinson Nov 14 '11 at 15:07

To add to Asylum's answer, whilst the answer is based on your work:

  1. It's demonstrating an improvement by using generics
  2. Right up front it credits you with the original idea which is important

This is all fair enough, above board, and is what is great about Stack Overflow. Be flattered, not offended.

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You're making the assumption that someone was offended? That was not stated in the question. – casperOne Nov 14 '11 at 16:11
@casperOne The length of your post and and its general tone suggested differently. Otherwise why would you post such a question? – Kev Nov 14 '11 at 16:14
If that's the way it came off, I apologize, but I tried to keep it as objective as possible (but was transparent about it happening to me, otherwise, I'd be called out on that). If there's an edit that can reduce the perceived tone, then I encourage it. – casperOne Nov 14 '11 at 16:17
In regards to your specific points, length - I'm generally descriptive, I like for people to have everything that I've thought of and my perceptions leaning one way or another before I post. Tone - that's subjective and as stated, I welcome edits to change that. This isn't the first time this has happened to people on SO, but I've not been able to find a question on meta regarding this situation (where there is attribution), so I wanted to get it out there. – casperOne Nov 14 '11 at 16:21
@casperOne - think of it as an enthusiastic "fork" of your answer :) – Kev Nov 14 '11 at 16:40
  • Flagging the answer for moderator attention should be reserved for something that cannot be handled from other users; in this case, as in the case of a wrong answer, users can do something by voting.
  • Editing the answer would be wrong, if it would change the meaning of the post.
  • Voting is the only thing users can do; they could up-vote your answer, down-vote the other answer, or do both. The tooltip for the down-voting button says, "this answer is not helpful"; that is in someway what that answer is: After one reads your answer, the other answer is not helpful, as it slightly alters the answer you already gave.
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That depends how you interpret helpful. – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 14 '11 at 14:03
If you repeat me something that was already told me by somebody else before you, you are surely less helpful than the other person, as you are not telling me anything new. – kiamlaluno Nov 14 '11 at 14:06
Yes, but it was not 1:1 copy, but incorporated changes/improvements which were not directly visible (in the comments) and an example. Therefor it's at least helpful until the original author updates the original answer. – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 14 '11 at 14:13
It is not necessary to use the same exact words. If somebody tells you that your car has been destroyed after another person told you that somebody put your car on fire, what said from the second person is less helpful than what said from the first one. – kiamlaluno Nov 14 '11 at 14:19
I think in that case it's the other way round: The first person tells me that my car was lit on fire, the second tells me that it was lit on fire using gasoline. It's a detail, yet it might be informative. – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 14 '11 at 14:35

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