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Quite often (especially on ArQAde, but also on other SE sites) new users post late answers to years-old questions that already have great upvoted answers. That's basically fine - except, these new answers basically only state what the others have already stated. In contrast to answers posted at almost the same time (see ), in this situation there is practically no excuse for restating the accepted answer and it is most likely an attempt at rep-whoring or sheer laziness to first check existing answers (and there are usually not that many that skimming wouldn't reveal the similarity).

So, what's the correct behaviour towards these answers? Technically they are correct (and if they are phrased better than the existing answers they may even deserve an upvote), yet they basically bump an old solved question without adding any new helpful content and I'm actually tempted to down-vote them as I consider wasting everyone's time without reducing local entropy harmful. So, how to treat these answers?

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This MSO's proposal could fit as an answer here. It basically suggest a second queue on late-answers for moderation by users with high rep. and tag badges. –  Andre Silva Aug 11 '13 at 2:52
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@AndreSilva Thanks, I actually already upvoted that one :) –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 11 '13 at 10:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Assuming there is no plagiarism in the answers, the appropriate response is to downvote them. They are not helpful because they are stating information already available and vetted. That makes it clearly not helpful. Being not helpful is pretty much the definition of when you should downvote.

If there is plagiarism in the post in which it fails to site content that is not the author's original content than you can either flag a mod to indicate what you feel is plagiarized, you can comment on the post to ask the author to cite the copied content, and if you are either unsatisfied with the result of those actions, or are unsure what actions should be taken in this situation, you can post a question here on meta to discuss the post.

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Is a correct answer really unhelpful just because its a rehash of the same answer? Shouldn't they be reserved for incorrect answers or ones that do not answer the quest? There has to be a better way of dealing with late answers that while correct are just a repeat of information then downvoting them. After all wouldn't that just confuse someone who visits the question later and sees a similar answer with positive and negative votes but doesn't notice the time stamps? –  Joe W Aug 7 '13 at 14:12
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@JoeW So you think it is helpful to go around to questions reposing the same answer (with sufficient attribution to avoid plagiarism)? How is that going to help you? In what way is that making the site better? It is wasting people's time. That is unhelpful. The primary goal of downvoting such posts is to encourage the author to either edit them such that they add value, or to delete them and to discourage them from continuing such practices. If you don't, then they'll continue the unhelpful practice. That's how voting works. By upvoting desirable behavior you get desirable behavior. –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 14:15
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No but I also don't find it helpful to have the same answer with vastly different scores. For example if one user posts an answer and it has a score of positive 10 and later a second user posts a similar answer that gets a score of negative 5 just because it is a late answer wouldn't that send a confusing message? Sure the answer might get deleted eventually but unless you also post a comment with the reason for the downvote the user might not understand the reason for the downvote and what needs to be done to correct it. All I am saying is that downvotes might not be the best solution. –  Joe W Aug 7 '13 at 14:25
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@JoeW So then post such a comment. Problem solved. If you feel that downvotes aren't appropriate here, than what do you think should be done? –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 14:28
    
I am not sure what would be the best solution but just downvoting the answer won't solve the issue especially if no comment is left (since commenting on a downvote is not required and should not be required). There has to be a better solution possibly a new flag type for late duplicate answers that also notifies the person who posted the answer? –  Joe W Aug 7 '13 at 15:09
    
@JoeW But it's not a violation of any rules to post a duplicate answer (at least not on SO), so flagging would be inappropriate. There is nothing for a mod to do. The answer won't be deleted by a mod, so flagging it is just wasting their time; it will be rejected. –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 15:27
    
Then how would downvoting be appropriate? If the answer is correct and provides useful information even if it has already been answered a down vote would be inappropriate. Useful information is still useful even if it is a late answer to a question and similar to other answers. What you are proposing is a clear double standard in judging an answer by when it was answered rather then its content. –  Joe W Aug 7 '13 at 15:37
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@JoeW No, it's not useful, because the information already existed. If it's adding nothing new it's wasting the time of people who read it in which they learn nothing new. That doesn't help them. If the answer didn't exist people reading through the question would be better off. That makes it not helpful, and thus a downvote is appropriate. If the answer contains additional information, a better or more understandable explanation, a differing point of view, etc. then it would be adding value, not just wasting time. –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 15:41
    
So when is the cut off time for providing similar answers? If someone posts something similar 5 minutes later should it get downvotes? Or would it be only days or months later? Downvoting a correct answer based on an arbitrary amount of time seems very counter productive to the stack exchange sites and can lead to confusion as visitors see an answer with a negative score that is similar to one with a positive score. –  Joe W Aug 7 '13 at 15:47
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@JoeW I would downvote the answer if it was clear that the answer existed before the other answer started being written. If it's just a few minutes, it's likely that the second answer was started before the first answer was posted. The longer an answer appears to have been taken to write, the more time would need to be incorporated. If you get to the point of it being even a few hours, it's rather likely they should have seen the other answers. In this case though, the question is specifically calling out very late answers in which this wouldn't be in question. –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 15:52
    
You still have can have an issue that the second answer may be better worded and better understood by the person who asked the question so it may not be fair to downvote it just because it was a later post. –  Joe W Aug 7 '13 at 17:28
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@JoeW If it's better written then it's adding value, as I just described, and so this wouldn't apply. I just addressed that exact case in my earlier comment in which I specifically said that I wouldn't downvote such a post. –  Servy Aug 7 '13 at 17:32
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@JoeW I concur with Servy here: If the new "answer" is merely a slight rephrasing of an existing answer that is severely older (like weeks or, as I have often encountered, years) it deserves a downvote - answers without context cannot be judged. And relevant context is not only the question but also the answers; or at least the highest voted / accepted ones. And as the down-vote tool tip suggests, such an answer is "not useful". But I agree with you that one should not simply downvote but also comment on why this basically correct answer got downvoted. Heck, I rarely downvote without comment –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 9 '13 at 6:41

In the Arqade help:

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are:

  • commentary on the question or other answers
  • asking another, different question
  • “thanks!” or “me too!” responses
  • exact duplicates of other answers
  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

And, as you say:

except, these new answers basically only state what the others have already stated

I don't know your exact definition of "basically", but you can use your own discretion to follow the rules. If you think it's a duplicate, and adds nothing new to the conversation that would be beneficial for the reader to see, then take action.

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I wouldn't say such an answer needs removal, which is relatively harmless - the answerer should actively learn about their mistake (by a few downvotes) and move on. Yes, for new users a downvote may seem harsh, but while being nice is very important, being honest is even more so –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 9 '13 at 6:44
    
exact duplicates are rare, I think they are even detected and refused by the system itself. But those are then most likely stemming from spammers attempting to gain rep to become more harmful. In that case I'd not only flag for deletion but also have a quick look at the respective user's other posts and flag for mod intervention if its a repeat offender. –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 9 '13 at 7:04

If they are obvious copies of another answer, flag them as such.

If they don't add anything new for you, yet aren't stealing as such, ignore them. They might be a rephrasing that might work well for other users if not for you.

I had a flag declined, in part due to this statement: The answer doesn't add anything not already stated in at least two other answers. When I asked, the moderator commented:

To which I'd answer: So? We have thousands upon thousands of instances where users provide the same information in different answers. It's one of the things that makes Stack Overflow great.

I'd made another error in my flag, that is irrelevant for this question. For the full discussion, see here.

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I wouldn't propose deletion for such a case, that I only consider for actively harmful content like spam, should-be-comments etc. But I consider such recycling answers (when not performed exceptionally well) passively harmful by encouraging these answerers to continue in this behaviour - that's why I downvote and comment –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 9 '13 at 6:46
    
I can't see the answer I flagged as it was deleted and I don't have 10k rep. As I recall it, it was an almost verbatim subset of another answer. Ie not identical, but still obviously plagiarized - and to a question that had several answers that were too identical to really fall within the rephrasing hat. I this case I can see that the mod subsequently deleted some of the almost-identical answers, but it is obviously a judgement call. –  user213634 Aug 9 '13 at 6:57
    
Ok, if it's pretty obviously a rip-off, I'd also suggest deletion. After downvoting it into oblivion, that is. And as you see you were not the only one to consider the gone-answer harmful enough to warrant deletion - mods are also humans who happen to err sometimes. In fact I disagree with said moderator's comment about how great having the same information makes SO great - depending on whether they mean same = same solution, different approach (ok) or same = identical approach (waste of my time) –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 9 '13 at 7:01

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