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I have seen countless times on Stack Overflow where another answer imitates a previous answer. This new answer may still receive upvotes, despite the fact that another person has already answered the question to the OP's wishes. This is usually seen when a question only has a single correct answer.

Should we be voting down these answers, or should we just let them be?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It depends on the answers in question.

If the new answer adds something more to it, then it's fine. This something more could simply be a better explanation of the answer with greater detail. It could be adding additional possibilities to the answer. It could be covering points that the original answer did not provide.

This is especially true of "fastest gun" answers, which are short and quickly accepted. It may be functionally correct, but it is Spartan, sufficient, and perhaps overly brief. Someone can come along later with a real, detailed answer, and there's no reason for this answer to not be rewarded.

The only time I would say that downvoting a "duplicate" is fine is if it truly is duplicated. Either it is a copy-and-paste job (in which case it should probably be downvoted and flagged) or it covers the same material as the other. And even then, I wouldn't suggest downvoting it as simply not upvoting it. The other answer is accepted and likely upvoted. So the duplicate likely won't catch up. And you're not going to counter the reputation gain from any upvotes, so you're not really helping.

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What about when the a user was typing the answer and before he could post it, someone else posted it and he realized that its a duplicate of the one already posted? Both the answers were posted in matter of a few second or minutes. –  Virendra Dec 24 '11 at 20:32

The downvote tooltip suggests that answers should be downvoted if "This answer is not useful".

If an answer only repeats information available in another earlier answer and doesn't present this information significantly differently then I will regard that as not being a useful contribution and will likely downvote it.

When I submit an answer if I am beaten to it by someone else with essentially the same answer I will delete mine unless I can think of something else distinctive to add.

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This is entirely valid (in particular if the answer to a question is simple and like to be "the one right answer").

Having more answers is not considered a bad thing - it is to be encouraged, as it points towards what people think is correct.

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