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This answer was posted a few hours before this one. They contain the same code and I don't see any significant difference between them. However, it is the younger answer that is accepted.

Is it wrong to post an answer that duplicates an existing one? Should such answers be flagged/downvoted/etc.?

Update: Those users seem to be related to each other:

  • Asked by Ali and Ramiz-Raya's answer accepted
  • Asked by Ramiz-Raya and accepted answer is Ali's though it seems to be incorrect (see comment)
  • Both users provided their answers
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There were some issues beyond what appeared to be answer copying which have now been dealt with. –  The Anti-Santa Sep 19 '12 at 22:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you see an answer that copies part or all of another answer without attribution, flag it for moderator attention. Be sure to give a link to the copied answer.

Note that it is possible that the posters independently posted a very similar solution. This mostly happens when a question is relatively easy and has a well-known solution — on popular tags, it's common that several people answer it in similar way within minutes. See also What is FGITW and SCITE on MSO?

Answers that provide a similar method, but explained in different ways, are not duplicates. A duplicate answer is one that does not provide any new material — whether by way of code or explanations. For example, Nikola K.'s answer and mtk's answer (as of revision 2) provide similar methods, but worded in different ways that do not subsume one another; the site is better off for having both. On the other hand, Ramiz-Raja's answer does nothing but repeat Nikola K.'s code without any extra information, so it does not make the site better.

(In addition, that Ramiz-Raja's answer is accepted is odd, since it is both more recent and less informative. As you noticed, the asker and the answerer seem to interact quite a bit, which should be brought to moderators' attention if you happen to notice it — note that this has already been dealt with as I write.)

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Well, for starters, I wouldn't say that there is no significant difference. One answer has a better explanation and adds a bit of extra info. In this case, the first answer is the one with the additional information though.

In my opinion it's not quite enough for me to call it plagarism, so I wouldn't flag it, but it's clear that he posted an answer with the same (or less) information than an existing answer, and it wasn't close enough to the same time for him to have just not seen it. For me, that's something that I would just downvote.

If it was more code (that was textually exactly the same) or there was an explanation that was textually exactly the same, then I'd be more likely to say copy/paste and consider further action. Here the code sample is so short, and the possible variations so small, that it seems reasonable to me that they independently came up with the same code.

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