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With great reputation comes great responsibility, but I'm not quite sure what the responsibility is or how to exercise it.

I recently flagged two answers on this question: Generating all permutations excluding cyclic rotations. The answers were posted by the same user (Chris Nash). The first was an explanation of the algorithm that answers the question, and the second was a pseudocode implementation of the aforementioned algorithm. It seemed silly to have them separate, so I flagged them to be merged.

The answers were merged, but the response in my "Flagging Summary" read:

declined - With 20K rep, you could have performed this edit.

I had no idea I had this power/responsibility. When I hit 20K, I read the privileges wiki, but it didn't mention anything about this. So my question is two-fold:

  1. How could I have merged the two answers?

  2. What other privileges/responsibilities do I have that previously I would need to flag a moderator for? Can I move answers to comments?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

What I presume the moderator meant was that you could have copied and pasted the text of one answer into the other, then flagged it for deletion. There is no other way to merge answers.

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Oh. There were different numbers of votes, and I didn't want to person to lose votes. I thought there might be a way to combine the votes. –  PengOne Jan 30 '12 at 18:55
    
@PengOne hopefuly Chris learned his lesson and will edit next time. –  Some Helpful Commenter Jan 30 '12 at 18:56
    
Indeed, it's why I used the word "edit" and not "merge". The original flags used the term "merge". –  casperOne Jan 30 '12 at 19:28
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While he could have done that, is that a good idea? Personally I wouldn't do such high impact changes myself. –  CodesInChaos Jan 30 '12 at 20:18
    
@CodeInChaos Better to have the singular merged answer instead of having the answer fragmented across multiple sections of the page (the separate answers had different vote totals, obviously different dates on them). –  casperOne Jan 30 '12 at 20:28
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@casperOne I'm just not confident to do such a change myself as a plain user. I'd flag for a diamond, and wouldn't edit them into one myself. –  CodesInChaos Jan 30 '12 at 20:38
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@CodeInChaos That's fair enough, but at some point we're probably going to encourage those users (in an ever-so-encouraging way) to do the things they're capable of doing. If moderators were solely responsible for performing all of the edits on the site, we'd never be able to moderate it effectively. The system is heavily dependent on the actions of the entire community to keep the quality of the content so high. –  casperOne Jan 30 '12 at 20:49
    
Oh yea, it's so high.. :P –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 31 '12 at 21:18

With 20k rep, you have a few options actually.

  • Copy the content to the first answer. Flag the second for deletion.
  • Copy the answer into the other. Give it a downvote, then vote to delete it.
  • Merge the post yourself, and inform the user, having them delete the second one.

With 20k rep you can vote to delete, a fairly easy process - all it requires is a score of -1 on the post. The user won't lose rep - it will get recalculated soon enough. The second option here can only really be done if you catch it early

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Oh... I forgot about the Vote to Delete answers ability that 20k users have! –  Andrew Barber Jan 30 '12 at 18:56
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If you are in chat, deleting an answer can be really fast just by teaming together –  Simon Sheehan Jan 30 '12 at 18:57
    
Both answers had multiple up votes, so the deletion trick would not have worked in this instance. That's an idea I'll keep in mind for the future, though. –  PengOne Jan 30 '12 at 18:58
    
@PengOne Thats why I mentioned that you'd have to catch it fast :P –  Simon Sheehan Jan 30 '12 at 18:59

I was the one who sent you the message on the flag.

You actually put two flags down, each with the same message on each answer.

With that, I accepted one, and left you the message that I did. The thinking here is yes, you'll get one "helpful" flag (if you're counting, and it is helpful), and at the same time, I could inform you of the abilities that you have with your reputation level through the message on the rejected flag.

In situations where you perform that edit, it would be advisable to flag for moderator attention and indicate that you've made the edit to merge the answers into one. The reason for this is that you can also vote to delete the answer which is not the merged one, but it probably won't get the delete votes it needs, so best to let a moderator know and have them do it.

While your concern about the poster losing votes is a valid one, the primary concern here is the fragmentation of information on a page. The system nags you when you try to post a second answer to a question, and with good reason; if you post two answers, they should be completely separate answers.

There's nothing stopping you from editing your own content (and it's encouraged, in the name of creating better quality content).

So in this case, the person who posted the answers should have updated their original answer, elaborating on that instead of creating an entirely new answer to do so.

The accepted answer was chosen as the answer to be edited into because that would have removed the indication of what was most useful to the person who asked the question.

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I'm glad for this question and the answers; I've seen that a time or two and wondered what the use case was for answering multiple times, and if we should take action if multiple answers don't match that intended use. Now, I know! –  Andrew Barber Jan 30 '12 at 19:32
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Thanks for the extended explanation. I wasn't being critical of your actions, only try to learn from the situation. Based on the answers here, including yours, I think I'm well-informed for how to handle similar situations in the future. Thanks. –  PengOne Jan 30 '12 at 21:20
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@PengOne I know, a little transparency never hurt anyone, and now, you know how to do a little more which will help the quality of the site overall. No biggie. =) –  casperOne Jan 30 '12 at 21:22

To expand on mmyers' answer a bit, I follow this process myself:

  1. Edit the highest-ranked answer to include the other
  2. Leave a comment explaining what I did and why, and suggesting the user delete the other
  3. Flag the other for deletion because users who do this generally don't follow up (and if they do the flag will be cleared)

Simon's suggestion to vote to delete (when you can) is also a good one. Of course, usually when I do this it's on a site I mod, so I can be more direct :P

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Just to make it interesting, one answer had +4 and the other had +2 but was accepted. –  PengOne Jan 30 '12 at 18:59
    
@PengOne Ha, nice. Deleting accepted answers is usually not cool so I guess you would have to do the opposite of what I suggest. Surely unfortunate that the user loses rep that way, but unless the answers were entirely different approaches that deserved to be separate, it's the user's fault. –  Matthew Read Jan 30 '12 at 19:01

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