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This is a different question from Is it okay to copy-paste answers from other questions?.

Let's take a concrete example: Is it possible to define a class constant inside an Enum?

The bounty (given by the person asking the question) specifically asks for a canonical answer; where one of the answer just copy-pasted content from another answer and got accepted. The problem here is:

  • No incentive to come up with good answer with with any redundant information -> it is going to be copy pasted in the 'canonical' answer anyway
  • Attribution, we're talking different answers to the same question having the same content.
  • Why does the canonical answer gets the credit when it's not a community wiki?

Here is the scenario:

  • answer #1 contains content A (original content)
  • answer #2 contains content B (original content)
  • answer #1 is modified to also have content B (in other words, content A + content B)
  • author of answer #2 does not want to modify answer #2 to also have content A (content A + content B) because answer #1 and #2 would be identical.
  • answer #1 gets accepted.

My feeling is that whoever is first to copy-paste wins, that's a problem.


Are such bounties okay?


side note: I am not trying to antagonize anyone, and think the other author should be praised for his actions (splitting the bounty). I am asking this to try and generalize what's accepted behavior.

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the feeling I got there is whoever is first to copy-paste others' answer gets the bounty. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 19:26
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The guy has offered up a +200 bounty to award your answer. Why are you complaining? –  animuson Aug 6 '13 at 19:31
    
@KateGregory, seeing how the bounty was from the same person who asked the question, it's the same to me. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 19:31
    
@animuson, people can upvote both answers or whichever one they like, now that my answer is copy-pasted in someone else's then my answer is less complete, they have little reason to upvote both of them. few people go past the accepted answer. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 19:33
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@dnozay Note that all user contributions are under the cc-wiki license. You cannot prohibit others from incorporating content you contribute in their own answer, although it is required that they properly attribute your content when doing so. See the links at the bottom of every page for more info on the subject. –  Servy Aug 6 '13 at 19:37

4 Answers 4

It is entirely appropriate to add a new answer to a question that takes information from one or more other answers (on that question or elsewhere) and quotes, summarizes, or paraphrases content of theirs to create a single answer that they feel is better than the others. So long as they properly attribute the content taken from the other answers.

Posting a bounty asking for someone to do what is described above and to condense/refactor/combine one or more answers into something they feel is "better" is just fine.

In this case, the answer does state that others have helped, but it's not really specific as to where the content is taken from, or what is original vs not. I don't feel it does enough t be considered proper attribution, but the resolution here is to simply edit it to link to the posts/comments that were incorporated into the post, and to be more specific, in the post, as to what content is not the author's.

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Bounty and rep issues aside, what is the correct action to take if attribution isn't given? –  Esoteric Screen Name Aug 6 '13 at 20:38
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@EsotericScreenName You could edit it yourself, if you were confident that you knew how to do so properly, although don't get into an edit war if reversed. Flagging is appropriate, if you just want to let a mod deal with it and back off entirely. You could comment on the post and ask the OP to add or improve the attribution. If there was strong disagreement over how attribution should be performed (in context) or you weren't satisfied with the actions taken by the author or moderator (if applicable) then posting on meta to discuss how the post should be attributed is also appropriate. –  Servy Aug 6 '13 at 20:43

Disclosure: I'm both the OP and the bounty-awarder in this case.

My feeling is that, when a bounty is specifically offered in the hopes of getting a canonical answer, and especially when the answer in question would have been awarded the bounty even without the extra copy-pasted section (which it would have been; the awarded answer was already excellent), this is perfectly fine.

As a side note, it's fairly clear to me that Ethan was concerned more with providing a canonical answer to a question on the usage of his module than with rep-whoring; as evidenced by the facts that:

  1. He has continued to edit the answer after it was accepted/awarded, and

  2. He voluntarily added an additional bounty in order to share the rep gain with dnozay.

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I'm not asking this on meta as a "flag", but I do want to know what happens with such bounties. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 19:55

Bounties are only disallowed when they are being misused to:

  1. Transfer rep, or
  2. Overly promote a product.

In the latter case, the problem is solved by requiring a higher amount for each additional bounty on the same question.

For the most part, users are allowed to do whatever they wish with bounties. It's their rep to lose, after all. Moderators do, however, have the ability to refund bounties at their discretion.

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up vote -3 down vote accepted

Canonical answers are okay as long as they fit within the rules of attribution and bounties are okay as long as they aren't meant to abuse the system to exchange rep.


As Servy pointed out in comments: all user contributions are under the cc-wiki license. And more specifically: You cannot prohibit others from incorporating content you contribute in their own answer.

He goes more in-depth about that in his answer:

It is entirely appropriate to add a new answer to a question that takes information from one or more other answers (on that question or elsewhere) and quotes, summarizes, or paraphrases content of theirs to create a single answer that they feel is better than the others. So long as they properly attribute the content taken from the other answers.

Posting a bounty asking for someone to do what is described above and to condense/refactor/combine one or more answers into something they feel is "better" is just fine.

In this case, the answer does state that others have helped, but it's not really specific as to where the content is taken from, or what is original vs not. I don't feel it does enough t be considered proper attribution, but the resolution here is to simply edit it to link to the posts/comments that were incorporated into the post, and to be more specific, in the post, as to what content is not the author's.

the answer from Robert Harvey tells us more about when bounties are disallowed:

Bounties are only disallowed when they are being misused to:

  • Transfer rep, or
  • Overly promote a product.

Case in point : the content above is just annoying everyone and generates downvotes.


The reasons I dislike to see answers copy-paste content are:

  • not 100% of users give proper attribution,
  • that the content is already there, and it is just a waste of electrons,
  • users can simply summarize another answer and link to it (in the example above, I simply didn't)

Let's take the scenario:

  • answer #1 contains content A (original content)
  • answer #2 contains content B (original content)
  • answer #1 is modified to also have content B (in other words, content A + content B)
  • author of answer #2 does not want to modify answer #2 to also have content A (content A + content B) because answer #1 and #2 would be identical.
  • answer #1 gets accepted.

Both authors have their original content, then bounty comes in to "encourage" canonical answers. This shifts people attention from creating helpful new content to aggregating answers, which is a questionable activity. In the case where numerous answers are present and we need to sort things out I could see the benefit of such bounty; however when the number of answers is just a handful that is very much unnecessary.

A related question has already been tackled: Accept Multiple Answers or Split Bounty among Several Users. The answer to that question goes along the lines of "no, let's not mislead people into thinking this is not a competition". In other words it's a race, for both authors featuring great content, whoever get the all-inclusive answer first (by means of copy-pasting / summarizing or otherwise) wins. (I have a problem with that approach when the answers are not community wiki).

Another related question on this topic: Is it acceptable to add a duplicate answer to several questions?, we know how to handle duplicate answers to different questions, but handling duplicate answers to the same question is a grey area which we are trying to solve here... or maybe not. I guess the question: Why Isn't There a Way to Consolidate Answers? gives clues on how answers are consolidated on SO.

What if both authors do the same thing and come up with the same compiled content though? Why shouldn't they get both rewarded? "Oh wait... I look at the timestamps, this guy there was second, he must have copy-pasted". I wished that in those cases, the question would be made community wiki (What are "Community Wiki" posts?) and answers were made community wiki.

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It's worth noting that the answer referred to in the question, unlike this answer, provides a considerable amount of original content in addition to the linked content. Given that the amount of original content in this post is dramatically lower, it does reduce it's quality. That doesn't make it a violation of the rules of course, but that can be reflected in its votes. –  Servy Aug 6 '13 at 20:45
    
I know, but if answer A starts with content CNT_A, and answer B starts with CNT_B, later answer A is the first to contain CNT_A + CNT_B; does that mean it is bad for B to be changed to CNT_A + CNT_B? –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 20:50
    
also, the users that browse meta aren't statistically the same as the users that browse SO. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 20:52
    
To answer your question, no. It's perfectly fine for you to edit your question to include additional information. If it is another's content though you need to attribute it appropriately, of course. People are always encouraged to make their answers better. Many people feel that it's not a good idea to post an answer that has no more information than other answers that have been there for some time, and feel that if you're going to either radically edit or add a new answer you should be adding value, beyond what was already there, or just not bother, but that's not a "rule". –  Servy Aug 6 '13 at 20:54
    
The users that are active on meta are generally a subset of the users on SE sites (mostly SO). There are not very many people active on meta but not the main sites. The primary exception would be some of the SE staff, that are very active on meta and not active or not very active on main sites. They are a small subset though, there's no question there. –  Servy Aug 6 '13 at 20:56
    
I am not trying to put that person on the spot there, I am asking this question on meta, because ...well it's meta. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 21:08
    
please do not delete this answer as this is a case in point. –  dnozay Aug 6 '13 at 21:09
    
Both of your suggestions have been proposed before, the first quite a few times. –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 13:31
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To address the concerns in your edit: if there isn't proper attribution then it is a violation of the rules, and can be addressed. If the content isn't useful then people will downvote it (this is a good example). If the post uses the quoted information but adds value, that's good, if it doesn't, votes are there to address it. It's not about who copies everyone else first, it's about who does it best. It's about who has the best original content, who summarizes the content the best, chooses the best content to summarize, has the best analysis of all of the content, etc. –  Servy Aug 8 '13 at 18:45

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