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On all SE sites users can post multiple answers to the same question. There is a warning dialog if you do that, reminding you that you can also edit your existing answer.

The only valid reasons for adding multiple answers I can think of are

  • They are single-item answers to recommendation questions, which are discourage anyway
  • It's on meta, and they are about different approaches. Separating them allows the community to properly vote on them.

Invalid uses of that feature that I have encountered are self-deletion and reposting to get rid of downvotes as well as reposting moderator-deleted answers.

If you want to provide two fundamentally different approaches to the same question on the main site, I think a comprehensive answer discussing both is better than separating the answers. If you provide multiple approaches, an important part of the answer should be detailing the advantages and disadvantages of them. This can be done better in a single post than in multiple ones, in my opinion.

Multiple answers also don't play nice with the reptutation system, they are often perceived by the community as a cheap reputation-grab. The availability of this feature can mislead users into using it inappropriately, as there are only few cases where it is actually useful.

So, does it make sense to allow multiple answers on the main site, or should this feature be disabled? To be clear, I want to keep it on the meta sites, as it is useful there.

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The only reason to post two answers is so that they can be voted on independently. I can't think of a case where that would make sense at the moment, but such cases could exist. –  Tim Post Nov 8 '12 at 8:42
    
@TimPost The only cases I can think of are recommendation questions and other non-constructive kinds of questions where users post single-item answers. –  Mad Scientist Nov 8 '12 at 8:44
    
stackoverflow.com/questions/12573816/… - in my opinion, these types of posts (there are a few in [c++faq]) should not be blocked. The content posted simply doesn't fit in a single answer. –  Mat Nov 8 '12 at 8:45
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@Mat The character limit is 30k, those answers would all fit into one. And if you hit the 30k character limit, maybe the question is just far too broad and should be split up. –  Mad Scientist Nov 8 '12 at 8:48
    
Maybe they technically fit, I didn't measure. Having them linkable is a plus. Indeed the topic is broad, but there's tons of questions that come in for that particular topic (same for other Q&As of that form), and I find this sort of thing really useful. Much better than having those answers attached to 6 or 7 different questions. –  Mat Nov 8 '12 at 9:07
    
it's can be very useful to split your answer into separate answers, for example when a user asks a question, and there are 2 paths to follow, you can then submit an answer for both paths –  Hrqls Nov 8 '12 at 9:41
    
(sorry, i have to get used not to press enter) ... the poster of the question might follow path A, but another reader of the question might like a different approach and chose for path B (the second answer) –  Hrqls Nov 8 '12 at 9:43

2 Answers 2

A case where I think that could work is exactly the one you said, i.e. when a user may want to provide two different solutions to the problem the OP presented. Certainly, most users will provide the two problems in the same answer, but others might want to split them up for various reasons (they're too elaborated to fit in the same answer, or they're really different).

Bill the Lizard has presented a more concrete example of this case in a comment under his answer to this question:

[...] If I leave two different answers to a question (one in JavaScript and one in jQuery, for example) then the community can vote on which one is a better solution.

That would definitely be a good use of the feature. Now, the point is: this cannot apply to every site. Not all sites have the same kind of "answers" so this case might not apply to non-programming sites.

Therefore, concluding, if it really needs to be disabled, there should be strong arguments proving it just doesn't work on a given site. It's a feature that gets abused from time to time, but it also exists for valid reasons. Disallowing it just like that might not be the best plan of action. My suggestion is to judge case by case: merge answers where necessary and leave them separated when they work as such.

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I'm not convinced it is all that useful to let the community vote on different solutions from the same user. In the example, the decision whether to use the jQuery or JavaScript depends strongly on the situation. I think having the most broadly useful answer with multiple alternatives at the top is more useful than trying to vote on the different alternatives. –  Mad Scientist Nov 8 '12 at 9:51
    
@MadScientist I'm not expert on programming to be able to say that jQuery or JavaScript can be used in the same question, but it certainly shows that there might be cases where this use can be constructive and justified. After all, if a question can allow multiple approaches, voting on the best approach singularly might make more sense. What if one of them is simply not good and the other one is the most useful one? Putting them in the same answer might be a problem, considering our voting system. You cannot vote parts of an answer. –  Alenanno Nov 8 '12 at 9:56

No links, but I have seen a few cases where the question is self-answered by the asker, with the later answer an improved and much more effective attempt at solving the problem. Surely such answers can be deemed as constructive? Such questions often tend to have low views and are not much of a reputation magnet.

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