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There are many question on meta about plagiarism and I agree it should be addresses in detail inside the FAQ (as pointed out on Plagiarism should be addressed specifically in the FAQ).

Premise

For the problem I'll speak about plagiarism but the feature I'm talking about isn't not intended to limit or to highlight plagiarism. Its intent (of course in my opinion) is to provide a better way to build links within SO.

The problem, part 1

Looking around I found that many (too many) new users don't pay attention to this issue and looking for score they do a quick search and just copy & paste someone else answer (even from SO and sometimes even within the same question!!!) without proper attribution. I'm sure that:

  • they don't know it's better to don't duplicate answers;
  • it's nice to attribute "honor" to whom first found a solution because this isn't a game but a place to share knowledge.

Moreover I think sometimes (or often) they come to the same solution so it looks like plagiarism but in reality it's not (and this is especially true for short answers).

When I tried to make this clear with someone it's always finished with an escalation, even if I did choose answers unrelated with my own answers, so I don't think it's a really viable solution. No one loves to be named of plagiarism ("...don't you think I'm not professional enough to solve that by myself?...").

The problem, part 2

Sometimes to answer a question you just have to provide few links to other answers (or comments). To write a full answer with links only is not viable (after all link only answers are eligible for deletion) and it'll add more useless and duplicated content to SO. What's then best way to provide a link?

Actual solutions

Often I saw that older and experienced users don't even post an answer for very trivial questions but they just leave a comment (do that, see this, change that) and I think it's a very nice way to help someone else for very localized questions (questions that hopefully will be closed because too localized and maybe even deleted). What makes me very disappointed is to see someone else, see this for an example, (almost always newbie) that uses this comment to post an answer with just some make-up. I don't think to flag for moderator attention is a good idea because:

  • after all everything you post on SO is CC-BY-SA (as noted here);
  • moderators have a high work load;
  • to solve the "problem" they should check, compare, ask and it'll waste even more time but it won't give a reasonable sure answer;
  • after all...who really cares?

About problem 2 the only way we can do this is to post a comment (but often it's not visible enough) or to post an answer (but this won't solve the problem 2 because you add more duplicated content and more work for moderators to merge/review/delete).

The new feature

So what, finally, I propose is to add a button to connect answers to other answers and comments (a section accessible with a pop-up, for example, near the answer but separated from comments).

Benefits:

  • author, where applicable, will be able to attribute the source (I wrote many times "I don't remember where I saw this solution first time but...");
  • other users will see and judge (technically they may downvote, flag to moderators, add comments): more people will judge with the same mechanism used for votes to close;
  • who will read that answer in the future will have a more complete view of the topic (because this feature can be used to link related answers too) and this will remove comments made by one link only.
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"don't even post an answer for very trivial questions but they just leave a comment" - haha... I'm soooooo guilty of that... Personally, I don't mind if someone steals my comments into an answer. They're usually so trivial that anyone with moderate expertise on the topic would notice the answer instantly. –  Mysticial Oct 25 '12 at 9:52
    
@Mysticial, +1, I believe people who leave a short comment because they don't wanna waste time typing a big answer do not care about whether some1 else will steal their comment. –  SingerOfTheFall Oct 25 '12 at 9:54
    
So we're purely discussing "on-site plagiarism" here? That is, the copying of answers/comments with minor changes? –  Bart Oct 25 '12 at 9:55
    
@Bart, that's what I got out of the question at least...or was there a hidden meaning? –  SingerOfTheFall Oct 25 '12 at 9:56
    
@Mysticial yes, usually I just delete my own comment to don't leave useless garbage but...I always feel like sometimes children should be educated (LOL) –  Adriano Repetti Oct 25 '12 at 9:57
    
@SingerOfTheFall Not sure of a hidden meaning. I just want to get that straight since off-site plagiarism would be a far broader and more complicated discussion. –  Bart Oct 25 '12 at 9:57
    
@Bart yes, on-site plagiarism but the feature could (and should) be used in a more general way to make links –  Adriano Repetti Oct 25 '12 at 9:58
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@Adriano, there is already a feature to make links –  SingerOfTheFall Oct 25 '12 at 10:00
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Haha, and here's another one. I want my gold pundit badge already. :P –  Mysticial Oct 25 '12 at 10:02
    
@SingerOfTheFall yessssss but I would see a "Linked answers" section (like the one we have on the right but related to the single answer) without needing to add a comment for that (because it's not visible enough). –  Adriano Repetti Oct 25 '12 at 10:23

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm not fond of any suggestion that somehow institutionalizes plagiarism or makes it "okay".

Stealing another person's work stinks, inside Stack Overflow or outside, and we need to come down hard on it.

However,

What makes me very disappointed is to see someone else (almost always newbie) that uses this comment to post an answer with just some make-up.

this is a totally okay practice in my book, and not plagiarism. If someone is too lazy to write up a proper answer, and posts a comment instead, it is fine to copy the comment and make it your own answer. I occasionally comment on questions, and am totally comfortable with someone else taking the cue and posting a proper answer.

Answers should not be judged on whether they were copied from a comment; they should be judged on their contents only. (Of course it's nice to see the answer start with "As xyz said..." in those cases, but it's not absolutely necessary.)

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Well I did talk too much about plagiarism but it's not the central point for this request. I would see an easy way to associate links (internal or not) to single answers and an easy to use pop-up to see all that links. Anyway I don't think short comments are always because of laziness...sometimes answer is really short and easy enough to fit a comment (or it starts with "If you..." then it's just a guess so you don't feel comfortable to post an answer). –  Adriano Repetti Oct 25 '12 at 10:28
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@Pekka there's spelling mistake cue instead of clue. Please correct. :D –  Janak Nirmal Oct 25 '12 at 12:56

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