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I occasionally see this behavior on stackoverflow: a question is asked, someone provides an answer. A few minutes pass, and someone else provides the same answer with different words. Usually this someone has higher reputation than the original answerer, and their answers tend to get more votes.

And no, I'm not talking about cases where similar answers are provided at the same time - I mean there's at least few minutes between the answers.

The way I see it, this is lame reputation stealing. But is this acceptable?

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marked as duplicate by hims056, George Stocker May 17 '13 at 12:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Just noticed that pretty much covers this subject. Let's see what happens when I flag my own question as a duplicate... – 1615903 May 17 '13 at 11:35
I don't see this as duplicate. The present question asks if copying an answer is acceptable; the other question asks if after your own answer was duplicated, can you ask the OP to justify his/her choice of accepted answer. – martin jakubik Apr 16 '14 at 12:04
up vote 1 down vote accepted

We don't see that getting several answers to a question as a problem. Even if the answers are saying essentially the same thing, using different words - this means that there is a better chance of people understanding at least one of the answers.

The way I see it, this is lame reputation stealing.

How so? People can upvote as many answers on a question as they want - you are not limited to upvoting on one answer.

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+1 good points there, never thought of it that way. – 1615903 May 17 '13 at 11:37

My own experience of this is slightly different.

I'm going to cast myself in the role of the person with "higher reputation" here, feel free to disagree :-).

When I essentially post the same answer as someone else, especially someone with lower reputation, this is the normal sequence of events:

  1. I find question start answering.
  2. An answer is posted by someone else. I expand the answer to see if I should continue writing mine.
  3. I finish writing mine and post it a minute or two later than the other.

Why do I do this? My answer is better. I'm sorry but it's true. Those people with "higher reputation" have it for a reason, either they've posted hundreds of useless posts (depends on what you count as being "higher") and some reputation has stuck to them or they've invested time in learning how to answer a question well.

When someone posts an answer that is simply:

try this:
<some code>

I don't hesitate to post my own because I normally also include a full analysis of their problem, the code to fix it, why they should be using my suggested code, I highlight what changes I've made, provide links to the documentation and sometimes some more external links that I think will enable the OP to understand the concepts they're struggling with better.

I'm not going to claim that you're wrong, probabilities alone make it likely to have happened at some point but I would like you to honestly and objectively look at the competing answers. If the higher reputation users answer is better, then consider whether you should be doing the same. Everyone has the ability to do this and hopefully those of us that do encourage others to do the same.

P.S. I really hate the example answer I've just given. If someone is struggling with something then simply telling them to try something is the worst possible thing to do. You're feeding them the expectation that everything will be handed on a plate and they don't have to actually understand anything, it also doesn't help future visitors at all. No matter how correct I will never upvote this type of answer on principle.

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+1 agree that if you provide something new and useful, writing and answer with the same solution is ok. I accepted Oded's answer because it answers my question better. – 1615903 May 17 '13 at 11:49

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