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Someone on Twitter mentioned their answer to a question was deleted, just minutes after being posted. I asked him to post the question, intending that I would be able to offer some reasoning as to why the answer was deleted. Here is the deleted answer, for 10k viewers, only

I am stumped, though; I can not come up with any obvious reason why this answer was deleted. Am I missing something, or was this a mistake/misclick in the flag handling process?

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I can't even imagine why this might have been flagged by another user - in other words, what brought it to @GeorgeStocker's attention so quickly (or at all)? – Aaron Bertrand Sep 23 '12 at 21:05
@AaronBertrand Indeed. The only thing I can think right now is something of a comedy of errors lead to its accidental deletion. – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '12 at 21:07
Is the deleted answer what is now contained within the comments? (<10k here, so I can't see it) – Bart Sep 23 '12 at 21:07
@Bart Oh, I didn't notice that; that's it in summary, yes. – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '12 at 21:07
@Bart roughly, yes. I didn't parse it for exactness of the code (since I simply cannot read code samples posted in comments) but most of the wording seems identical. – Aaron Bertrand Sep 23 '12 at 21:07
Okay. A quick Google turns up this:… or this Google Cache Perhaps this was a massive copy-paste of the same answer on multiple questions? – Bart Sep 23 '12 at 21:10
@Bart Ahhhh... yes; that one always gets even me, as much as I'm prone to flag stuff for deletion! That seems like a likely explanation. – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '12 at 21:11
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I deleted the answer.

Normally I'll post a comment explaining, "Please don't post the same exact answer to multiple questions. If they are duplicates, flag or vote to close them as such. If they are not, then please tailor your answer to the specific question asked."

During the course of moderating at that particular point, I had already cleaned up at least five such different occurrences by different users.

It's one of the more annoying things to moderate because in the course of moderating that content, you have to do the following:

  • Check all questions the user posted their duplicated answer to, to see if the questions are duplicates.
  • Find the oldest question (or the question that has the best answers / most views), and use that as the 'canonical question'.
  • Close all the questions that are duplicates of that question.
  • Delete all instances where that user spammed their answer and that question was closed as a duplicate.
  • Leave at least one comment to the user who did it to remind them, "Hey, you really shouldn't be doing this."

In this particular case, I didn't do the last step. I was somewhat frustrated at that point and had the view, "Hey, this user knows what they did. If it's deleted, then they'll realize they probably shouldn't have done what they did."

It wasn't really right for me to do that. I should have left a comment for the user, on the chance that they didn't realize it's a 'no-no' to post duplicate answers.

Mea Culpa.

Really, the system already flags it when a user does that, so the system should take it one step further and automatically warn a user when they're about to post duplicate content. Maybe something like the following?

Please don't post the same exact answer to multiple questions. If they are duplicates, flag or vote to close them as such. If they are not, then please tailor your answer to the specific question asked.

I'd even go so far as to say that the system should not allow duplicate content, but I'll take what I can get.

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My theory is that it was removed because it was an exact duplicate post. It picked up an automatic "identical post" flag, pointing out the other copy here. Ironically, the other question was deleted because it tripped our automated deletion thresholds...

I restored the answer linked in this question, since that question is still alive.

In general, my advice is to flag questions as duplicates instead of posting the exact same answer to them. If two questions are answered in the exact same way, odds are they're dupes. If they are not... then answers should be tailored to the questions better.

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Excellent; I totally missed that possibility when looking at the answer, despite sometimes flagging things that way. I linked the OP to this discussion, so he should see it here, too. Many thanks! – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '12 at 21:12
@AndrewBarber Yeah, this is one of those times when leaving a comment before deletion could clear things up immensely. :) Thanks for bringing it up. – Adam Lear Sep 23 '12 at 21:14
It's strange, though, that the answer was deleted but no comment was left as to why. If it was identified as a dupe of another question, shouldn't the question also have been affected? – Aaron Bertrand Sep 23 '12 at 21:14
@AaronBertrand Not necessarily. The primary goal of that flag is for people who go around spamming multiple questions with the exact same promotional post. In that sense, the flag is dumb and simply turns up exact matches of answers. I agree that a comment would've been very helpful, though. – Adam Lear Sep 23 '12 at 21:16
[...] it was an exact duplicate post. It picked up an automatic "identical post" flag — kudos for whoever implemented that feature! – Arjan Sep 23 '12 at 21:16
I say repurpose that flag for exact duplicate questions, either posted by the same user or posted by totally unrelated users. Those questions are almost always a bad sign. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 23 '12 at 21:17
@BoltClock: there's detection in place for those as well - IIRC, they're blocked outright. – Shog9 Sep 23 '12 at 23:54
@Shog9 In theory. Usually I see it when someone deletes the question and tries to repost, but that might just be because that's not very intuitive and raises complaints. – Adam Lear Sep 24 '12 at 0:03

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