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A user asked this question (casperOne seems to have closed it already), which was a problem that the user did not know how to accomplish, to which I answered and was able to help said user.

An hour and a half later, the same user asks a very similar question with a problem very similar to the first question, to which I also answered with a solution that is similar (but different) to the first answer.

Another user noticed the similarity, and commented on the 2nd question. I don't think it's a coincidence that seconds before (at 18:21:15 and 18:21:21) the comment was posted (at 18:21:24), both of my (correct) answers were downvoted.

I'm also not surprised that this was brought up in chat around the same time.

So, what gives?

People ask and answer exact duplicate questions all the time, whether they were asked an hour apart or a year apart. Granted these two questions may be similar, but their answers aren't identical, especially if you don't know about XPath or how it is used. Both of my posts answered the original questions, helped the OP, and included links to documentation and demonstrations for any future users to learn from.

The obvious answer is that someone thinks I'm rep-whoring. After being active on the site for almost a year and just now exceeding the 10k mark, is that really plausible? Or that I would be in some team to answer questions posed by someone I know?

I really don't think anything warrants downvoting my first answer, especially since the OP accepted it.

So I'm curious: What was / is the proper etiquette in this situation?

  1. Should I have ignored the second question, voting to close it as a duplicate of the first question (knowing that they're not duplicates, but similar)?
    • Side note: The 2nd question was closed as a duplicate of an even more off-topic question, as the solution to the original question is not in any of the answers.
  2. Should I delete my answer on the second question?
  3. Should the second question be flagged for removal?
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

What's most important is that this isn't just any exact duplicate. It's an exact duplicate posted by the same user, who clearly didn't read or make any attempt to understand the FAQ or how our community works.

Why Your Answers Were Downvoted

I didn't downvote your answers, but I suspect that the downvotes may have been because those users would expect someone with 20K+ rep to not perform actions that would encourage users to try to circumvent question closure by posting an exact duplicate.

The op in this case posted a question, and you answered it before it was closed, which is fine. You're trying to be helpful, and that's awesome.

Then, after the question is closed, the op, instead of reading the FAQ and trying to understand how to fix the first question, posts a duplicate hours later.

It's clear that you knew this was a duplicate, since the answer you posted is almost an exact copy of your original. Thus, the appropriate thing to do would be to vote to close as an exact duplicate, not answer it again. In fact, you could link to your answer in the comment as a note for other 10Kers to vote to close quickly and eliminate the noise.

How To Handle These Cases

The op in this case is clearly a help vampire, and you got caught up in his inability to think for himself. By posting the second answer, I'm afraid you only encourage more of that behavior, even though your intentions were good. You just wanted to help, but encouraging help vampires to not think for themselves doesn't help our community. It also doesn't help the op because he won't learn anything, and it wastes your time, because he doesn't learn anything.

I did consider downvoting your answer, but then I realized you're trying to be helpful, not be a rep whore. Your intentions were good, and we definitely want people willing to be helpful, even if he or she makes an occasional error in judgement. Also, it's likely both questions will be deleted, so an upvote or a downvote to your answer won't help anyway...

In the future, my suggestion is to continue to be helpful, but if you see someone is obviously abusing our community, don't give them any slack. Instead, leave them a polite, constructive comment suggesting they improve the behavior, vote to close, and move on.

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Check out this answer from this FAQ: Is it acceptable to add a duplicate answer to several questions? (specifically, the last few lines, which are in bold below):

(tl;dr: tailor each answer to their respective questions)

Copying and pasting the exact same answer to multiple questions is not acceptable.

If the exact same answer truly applies to two or more questions, then those questions are duplicates. The correct course of action is to vote to close or flag the lesser question(s) as duplicate. Users with 3000 reputation can vote to close a question as duplicate. Users with 15 reputation can flag for moderator attention. Once flagged, the answer can be added to the "canonical" duplicate.

If the answer applies to many questions which are not duplicates, then the exact same answer cannot apply to each of them. Simply copying the same answer to multiple questions indicates that the person answering does not truly care about providing a good answer. Therefore, simply copying the same exact answer to multiple questions is not allowed.

Users who find themselves answering multiple similar (but not duplicate) questions should tailor each answer to their respective questions. Copy-paste answers should be flagged for moderator attention.

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