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I posted an answer recently, after I don't know a minute another person posts the same answer. I find this fine. Except that he didn't include somethings that I did.

So he edits his answer to mock out mine. Code that I didn't include because I thought it was self explanatory was added.

Is this flag-able? Should it be? Here is the post: How to convert from Shapes to string, int, etc...?

I understand that the particular question I was asking about IS basic. That it will draw similar conclusions, that's why I figured it wasn't the best example. I hope that explains myself a little bit for the downvotes.

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Can you link the question? – Mysticial Oct 5 '12 at 0:39
The particular question has been worked out. But I would still liked to know the answer. – Nate-Wilkins Oct 5 '12 at 1:13
up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are two questions here:

Should answers that don't add anything new be flagged?

Yes. Maybe. It depends a bit on the circumstances.

There are a lot of questions that are pretty basic and will inevitably attract multiples of essentially the same answer posted almost at the same time as different people read the question and realise they can post a solution. This is largely fine.

If someone comes along a year later and copy/pastes the same answer again, that answer should be flagged and possibly removed. Or at least a comment should be left for the answerer asking them to knock it off.

Did Andrew Cooper steal your answer?

I think you're making some big assumptions there.

There is a difference of 30 seconds between your answer and Andrew's. Both your answers addressed the same basic problem with the code sample in the question. If I were reading that question 45 minutes ago, I probably would've posted something virtually identical in response too.

To me this seems to fit the first category above. (And in the end it turned out that the asker simply forgot a method name.)

The best approach in situations like this, IMHO, is to make your answer stand out in any way you can - more (relevant!) information, clearer explanations, and so on.

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Completely understandable, after posting this question I reread his and made the same conclusion that it was just similar thinking. – Nate-Wilkins Oct 5 '12 at 1:18

The goal of Stack Overflow is to be a resource of knowledge for years to come. To achieve this, answers should be written in a generalized manner that appeals to the general programming audience.

If you've left out things that you, or the asker, assume everyone should know, then you may be excluding a lot of people searching for the same answers who may benefit from the extra information.

When an answer is posted quickly, one strategy that you can use is to post an answer that's better than the others. Outright copying is of course frowned upon, but posting a better answer is encouraged and embraced.

If you can think of ways to make your answer better, I encourage you to edit it and improve it. There may be things that the other poster left out that may be helpful. However, at some point, realize that your answer may get too generalized and lengthy. In that case, leave it be. The community is likely to upvote both of your answers.

Remember, just because someone else gains doesn't mean that you necessarily lose. :)

Oh, I should add that, if someone does do something unsavory, like actually really plagiarize another answer, you could do one or more of the following:

  • Post a question on meta to get clarification, like you did here.
  • Leave a comment to the poster asking them to fix his/her post, politely of course. Sometimes people have good intentions, even if they do wrong.
  • Flag the answer using the custom flag reason, and describe the situation to a diamond moderator.
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Well hmmm It might really depend on the question/answer. So like if someone posted about some trivial simple things and someone gave a pseudo code answer? Should another user be able to look at that then post the code for it. – Nate-Wilkins Oct 5 '12 at 1:20
the upvote tooltip, if you mouseover the upvote button, says "This answer is useful". It is possible for a question to get a few useful answers, and as someone whose been combing the archives of Objective C++ questions lately, there have been a lot of +1 voted answers mixed in with accepted ones and +5 voted ones that still helped me wrap my head around some concepts. But you're right, it does depend on the question. My advice: Don't focus on rep. Instead, ask yourself if the post is helpful. If it is, great! :) That's the goal here. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Oct 5 '12 at 1:23
Yea it does thanks for clearing that up a bit! – Nate-Wilkins Oct 5 '12 at 1:25

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