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When I post an answer to a brand new question I usually find that someone else has submitted that same answer just moments before. (Matt Hamilton, usually ;-) )

What I've started to do lately is (I think) the right thing.

If I notice that another answer predates mine, and that I add no value over it, I immediately delete my own answer, and upvote the other guy.

I recommend that you too do the same. Otherwise the message will be diluted.

Similarly, if after posting your "answer" you realise that you are in fact wrong (and you've just misread the question) -- you can actually delete your answer.

Is this reasonable?

(The reason why I'm writing this down is because it feels completely counter-intuitive to delete your own stuff. But it really saves everyone time and effort)

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12 Answers 12

up vote 36 down vote accepted

I certainly think so.

But while you're at it, voting up what you would have said is helpful too.

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I have found it to be rare that questions are an EXACT duplicate. (1) Slight differences in the question can lead to very different answers. (2) Because each question draws different posters, I have often found that one version is answered much better than the other. I find this valuable. (3) Quite often, for instance in html or css, new methods have come to light or become popular to solve the same problem, so a CSS3 question answered in 2013 might bring up more relevant answers than the ones to a (for the most part) duplicate question in 2011.

That's my two cents.

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If the other answer was posted before yours and yours is an exact duplicate of it, then delete it.

If yours was posted first, then just leave it.

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Upvoting the answer you duplicated is more important than deleting your duplicate, in my opinion.

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I say leave yours there, the one that is clearest will get upvoted, just because someone beat you to the punch doesn't mean theirs is the easiest to understand.

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I don't think it really matters, in the end. If both answers are good, both are upvoted and both are shown next to the question. It's not really a problem if they are essentially the same.

If, however, you feel compelled to delete your answer, that's fine too.

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I think that having several similar answers is an annoying distraction. I'd have more value from my time (and my patience) if there are 5 answers than if there are 15 posts with only 3 actually different solutions.

If my post has something no other has, I keep it as is. Most text already appears in a previous post, but my answer makes sense if read alone. If there's nothing new, I delete it quickly so I don't clutter the discussion. It means I respect the time of readers and the efforts of contributors.

Those were my two cents.

Oh, and upvoting and downvoting probably helps too, I'm just not too sure how.

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I'd say leave your answer and upvote the other answers that you think are appropriate, unless it's an exact copy. There is not usually one true way, and other viewpoints help the answer-seeker draw their own conclusion.

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I think its right thing to do. I had once answered a question correcty (without any sample code) and it was accepted by the author and upvoted. Few minutes later I saw someone else has written a answer with exact code required. I went back and deleted my answer and upvoted the other person's answer

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For me, when I get an answer to my question, I'll edit my own question to include the accepted answer below. This helps when there are a few good alternative answers to the same question. I think it'll help in the event there's duplicate answers too.

Addressing all the accepted answers together with the question seems neater to me. An example would be my first question.

Of course, there's the problem of diligence (or the lack of it) on the part of the question author to edit the question in the first place — not everybody does that, unless there's some UI functionality to improve on this suggestion.

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4  
A bit late, but I think editing answers into questions adds lots of noise, and is not at all to be preferred. –  Arjan Jan 31 '10 at 18:00

I noticed a situation where I provided an answer, then somebody else answered with a less complete answer a few minutes later. Then the other poster edited their answer and copied mine into it, as if it was their own! I watched all this happen as I kept hitting Reload.

Since the other poster's answer was now closer to the top, having been edited more recently, they got the "best answer" checkmark and more upvotes.

(Obviously I have accumulated enough rep points now that this doesn't really bother me, but this sort of thing is bound to happen to others, too.)

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I guess you can note this in the comments section or flag it if you care about it. –  Andrew Grimm Oct 31 '11 at 1:36
    
I saw that pattern too today. I think in that situation it is a problem. Copying another person work is plagiarism and you should use the Flag option to report it. –  ForceMagic Jun 21 '12 at 6:56

If the questions are really duplicates, then a note should be made about it, and perhaps the answers should be merged. Higher concentration of peer review is a good thing, surely?

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Yes, that's true when two questions are duplicates. However, we are discussing what to do if two answers to a question are duplicate. –  David Cary Mar 15 '11 at 4:22

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