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What should I do if somebody posts answer which is the same as (or very similar to) the one I posted?

Example:

I wrote an answer: "Try following code: <html>". After one/two/... minutes, the other person posts the same answer, but in a little bit changed form, like: "That code might be helpful: <html>".

Arghhh...

That makes me irritated. Why? Because his answer is going on the top of the answers list and is earning reputation, and my answer, although it has been posted as the first and with the same meritorious content, is generally in a worse position...

Conclusion

What should I do? Flag it for moderator attention? I have done that, but I received this answer: "declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention." Contact the author? Is that prohibited, in general? If not – I request to make that forbidden...

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3  
Answers posted within one or two minutes of each other are usually posted in good faith, unless the wording is identical (i.e. it was a copy/paste). –  Robert Harvey Mar 6 at 21:52
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Just ignore it, this happens from time to time. A better path might be to post lengthier answers which not only address the narrow version but the broader topic as well. –  Travis J Mar 6 at 21:52
    
@TravisJ Yeah, but why somebody will get reputation, if I had as the first answered that question? –  Ty221 Mar 6 at 21:53
    
As Robert Harvey said, if it is a short time-span like that then it probably isn't plagiarism. You have to take into account things like, if it is a somewhat lengthy answer that takes some editing, if it is a common question that there aren't many variations of the answer, people may start an answer and get distracted briefly. There are lots of valid reasons for an almost identical answer to be posted within a couple of minutes. –  codeMagic Mar 6 at 21:55
    
Reputation tends to go to the most accurate and well written explanation of the situation. The order it is given in is not really as important, although the first correct solution does tend to get a few more votes in the short term, long term this will work itself out. –  Travis J Mar 6 at 21:55
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Upvote it. After all, if you're correct, then the other answer certainly must be helpful as well. –  Bart Mar 6 at 22:24
    
Sidenote: you're only at the bottom of the list if you sort by 'active'. I think most people (should) have it sorted by 'votes'. Equal votes shuffle it every time you load the page. –  Jeroen Vannevel Mar 6 at 22:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you have compelling evidence that the post is plagiarizing your content, then you can say that, either through a moderator flag, or through the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page.

You should be describing, specifically, why you feel the post is copying your intellectual property.

Note that in many cases, when dealing with simple questions, different people can arrive at the same solution independently. This may well have been the case here. You should be providing evidence that it's either not possible, or extremely unlikely that this other user happened to provide this solution on their own.

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Yes, but if somebody is answering after 1 minute, he had to see my answer. –  Ty221 Mar 6 at 21:55
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@Ty221 not necessarily. I don't always check new answers when I am in the middle of posting. In fact, I often don't if I've already got time in it and I think I have a good explanation. –  codeMagic Mar 6 at 21:57
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@Ty221 No, actually he didn't. In fact, the fact that the answer is posted so quickly means he probably didn't see your answer. He probably started writing his answer when you started writing yours, and didn't realize you had answered. If he posted his answer a month later, he should have seen your answer before posting; such duplicates are actually much more likely to be plagiarism. –  Servy Mar 6 at 21:57

Don't do anything - especially if the answer is short or simple.

You have absolutely no proof the user copied you. So what if they posted after you - that doesn't mean they saw your answer before they posted theirs. They may not even have got the "new answer" notification before they posted.

This has happened to me before several times - I have posted a very similar (almost identical) answer as someone else, and others have done the same to me. It happens, get used to it.

Just to be clear, let me explain how this can happen:

  • user scans down the list of questions, using the middle mouse button to click on question titles they want to look at further
  • question pages open in a new tab
  • user then iterates through these tabs answering questions as they go
  • usually a "there are new answers to this question" notification will appear if a new answer has been posted, however
    • there is no guarantee this prompt will appear
    • there is no guarantee the user will take any notice of it
    • even if they see it there is nothing to stop them carrying on with their answer

Because his answer is going on the top of answers' list and is earning reputation

This is exactly the reason why the order of the answers is randomised with the accepted answer shown at the top. If the other answer hasn't been accepted then you will both be at the top of the list at various times.

Flag it for moderator attention? I have done that, but I received this answer: "declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention."

The moderator did the right thing. If you had posted a complex answer that couldn't reasonably have been accidentally copied then they would have something to go on. For simple short answers you have no grounds for claiming plagiarism.

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There can be cases where there is sufficient evidence to investigate the possibility of plagiarism. Saying that it's never appropriate to discuss whether or not an answer is plagiarizing content isn't right. –  Servy Mar 6 at 22:05
    
@Servy I'm pretty emphatic about mentioning short and simple answers. Even if the user did rip it off, a mod cannot prove that it wasn't coincidence. It should only be flagged when there is conclusive evidence. Its important to remember that coincidence happens - it's happened to me a few times. That's life. –  slugster Mar 6 at 22:09

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