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This is what I've experienced so far using SO: some people answer questions to be helpful, others answers questions to get points. SO allows both behaviours.

This question had one answer when I found it. The answer already had 3 votes and it stated that "there is no such solution in STL or Boost". I spent 10-15 minutes going through the Boost documentation and found a solution and posted an answer. My solution could have been modified to be less verbose, which is what the author of the no-solution answer did, and gained additional votes. I feel I did the heavy lifting, yet the other guy gets more points. All he had to do was add his version to mine and delete his.

I actually don't care about the points. What bothers me is all the noise that's created when people answering questions do not cooperate with each other. Is this good enough reason to flag and ask for moderator attention? and will anything be done about it?

Edit: I was under the impression that Kenny was the original author of no-solution answer because that answer was deleted and there is no trace of it from my end. Sorry Kenny. Regardless, I think my answer could have been improved by a simple edit, otherwise it's nothing but noise.

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What are you talking about? If you are talking about KennyTM, he wasn't the one who posted the answer that said there was no solution. Besides, Kenny's answer isn't the same as yours. I don't see the issue here. – NullUserException อ_อ Dec 17 '11 at 23:27
(and for the record, I think his answer is better than yours) – unamused – NullUserException อ_อ Dec 17 '11 at 23:31
I think it was him, but who was it then and why doesn't it show in history? Regardless, Kenny's answer is pretty much what I posted first and the answers should have been merged. – Arlen Dec 17 '11 at 23:34
I am telling you it wasn't him. And you don't see it because the answer was deleted by its author. Regardless, Kenny's answer is different from yours, and we don't merge similar answers anyways. – NullUserException อ_อ Dec 17 '11 at 23:37
By merging I mean editing the answer. That's something people answering don't do enough, and we end up with multiple answers which are very similar. – Arlen Dec 17 '11 at 23:43
Nicol Bolas posted the original answer that was deleted, not KennyTM. Also, Kenny's answer is significantly different from yours. He didn't just take your answer and make it less verbose, he's using a different package from the boost library. – Bill the Lizard Dec 17 '11 at 23:44
...and my answer is very similar to his. They look different, but inherently they are very similar. – Arlen Dec 17 '11 at 23:45
Why didn't you just correct the original answer? – Bill the Lizard Dec 17 '11 at 23:46
The original answer said something like "sorry, there is no solution to your problem, neither in boost nor the stl". The truth is the opposite, and that answer is very different than what's been posted by Kenny and I. – Arlen Dec 17 '11 at 23:48
Again, I don't see how that's an issue. Nicol Bolas deleted the answer. – NullUserException อ_อ Dec 17 '11 at 23:49
@Arlen Just to pile on, I'm having a hard time even imagining how you think your answer and Kenny's are similar. Kenny's answer is definitely different, and should have been posted as so. – Andrew Barber Dec 17 '11 at 23:51
@NullUserException อ_อ Bill asked me why I didn't correct the original answer, and that was my reason. – Arlen Dec 17 '11 at 23:55
@AndrewBarber maybe you could tell me how they are not similar? adaptors::reverse returns a reversed range, which is what I've created, hence why it's more verbose. – Arlen Dec 18 '11 at 0:01
They are similar if, by similar, you mean they both seem to answer the same question. By that measure, no SO question should have more than a single answer, period. But they clearly use different means to arrive there. – Andrew Barber Dec 18 '11 at 0:04
up vote 2 down vote accepted

To answer your question as you have restated it now (it was not originally asking about merging similar answers), I think the reason is because who is going to say what is a 'similar' answer?

All correct answers to a good question should be similar, because they should all arrive at the same conclusion. However, there may be different ways to arrive there, and numerous other nuances to consider.

Your example, I think, illustrates one reason why we should not encourage merging answers; assuming a number of people would agree with you that the answers in question are similar, that would be a mistake to merge, yet it might get merged. They arrive at the same answer, but by different means. That is the very reason multiple answers can be posted in the first place, I think.

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I changed the title because I falsely believed that my answer had been hijacked. That's not my fault because SO should display deletions in history. The merging of the two answers into one was my main concern, and that hasn't changed. I do, however, agree with your answer. I suppose there needs to exists some noise when there are "different ways to arrive there." – Arlen Dec 18 '11 at 1:07
@Arlen: How exactly is it "noise?" It's up to the person asking the question to choose between the methods if answers propose multiple methods. That's not "noise"; that's good information. – Nicol Bolas Dec 18 '11 at 4:13
@Arlen I agree completely with Nicol Bolas here; it is not noise at all - it's helpful, additional information. Noise would be unhelpful, and not at all desirable. – Andrew Barber Dec 18 '11 at 4:15

Your answer wasn't hijacked. If he had just copied your answer and changed the variable names or comments, that would have been a hijacking. The new answer uses a different package and function from the Boost library than yours, which makes it a significantly different answer. It might accomplish the same thing as your answer, but that's to be expected since you're answering the same question.

By merging I mean editing the answer. That's something people answering don't do enough, and we end up with multiple answers which are very similar.

He would have had to just add his answer to the body of yours. The result would have been just as long as the two answers combined, so I don't see the difference between having one long answer or two short ones.

In short, the other guy did separate research and found a different way to do the same thing. He deserves credit for his answer as much as you do.

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Some of this could have been avoided if SO history worked properly. And I still think there should be only one answer to the question, but I'm not going to debate it any further. – Arlen Dec 18 '11 at 0:17
@Arlen - I know your dropping this issue, and its not a big deal maybe next time just edit it yourself and rely on SO History that way: "All edits are tracked in a public revision history. To view revisions, click the edit date on the post." – Jeremy Thompson Dec 18 '11 at 0:30
@JeremyThompson I know about edits, but AFAIK the SO History doesn't show anything about deletions. I would not have accused Kenny of hijacking if I had known it was someone else who posted the first answer and deleted it once I posted a real solution. – Arlen Dec 18 '11 at 0:46
@Arlen Deleted posts are shown only to moderators, or 10k users. The other users cannot see deleted posts. – kiamlaluno Dec 18 '11 at 2:53

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