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We're seeing an uptake of users that post identical answers on duplicate questions. While this does have the side effect of bringing duplicates to our attention, it would be much better if the user could just add the answer once, and then flag the others.

What I propose is this:

  • Store a hash of the last answer from a user.
  • Check the hash when the next answer is posted
  • If there's a match, pop open a modal explaining why it's better to flag, and perhaps give them a choice. 'Yes, really post this' or 'Flag instead'.

Sometimes, an answer does fit two questions, but the questions are asked differently enough that 'exact duplicate' really does not fit. A little duplication is not always bad. One question might be 'how do I do this?', and another one 'I'm trying to do this, like this, but it doesn't work' -- where the same code answers both.

Fielding the flag is just about the same amount of work if this is implemented. My hope here is to better educate new users regarding duplicate content and flags.

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Great idea, but how would you technically hash the questions given things like MD5 might be overly sensitive to eg. an extra space in the question? Perhaps the algorithm could sense a) same user, b) questions posted within eg. 15 minutes of each other and c) x% of tags the same? –  Pete855217 Nov 24 '11 at 12:35
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I imagine that one reason for posting duplicate answers is because you get rep for answers (if upvoted), but not for finding dups. Not sure how this fits your request (or event if the statement is true for most), but something worth thinking about. –  George Duckett Nov 24 '11 at 12:36
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@Pete855217 remove all whitespace from the question first? Strip everything but vowels and add the first and last 8 bytes to the end then hash it? There's plenty of quick ways that shouldn't raise false positives (or let things slide through). And yes, it would of course need to come from the same user. That's the issue at heart, one user copy / pasting the same text as answers to multiple questions. –  Tim Post Nov 24 '11 at 12:38
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@GeorgeDuckett Yeah, I thought about that. Either way, we get a flag or notification of duplicate content and we win. Plus, the user saw the message regarding what should be done. –  Tim Post Nov 24 '11 at 12:39

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