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When is it okay to post two answers to one question?

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See also Two Answers, One Question. –  Cupcake Aug 5 '14 at 19:15
See also Why is it possible to answer a question twice?. –  Cupcake Aug 5 '14 at 19:16
See also Single person answer more than once for a question. –  Cupcake Aug 5 '14 at 19:17
See also Can I post more than one answer of a question?. –  Cupcake Aug 5 '14 at 19:17
@Cupcake Five coments in a treshold of three minutes, when editing treshold for a particular comment is four minutes. Wouldn't it be better to put all links to one comment instead of making mess like here above? –  trejder Dec 10 '14 at 8:16

5 Answers 5

When you have two distinct answers.

It's better to post two different answers than to put them both into one answer.

Some questions will be multiple-answer types directly, like tips-and-tricks or best-practices. This allows the ones the community feels are the best/correct to float to the top.

Some computer languages have a lot of flexibility in how to solve any one problem, so by listing them both as separate answers (if very distinct) they can both be voted on by the community, and this will allow the better answer to float to the top. It also allows the comment threads to be more focused on each answer.

If you put two very different answers in one, then one could be a great answer, and one could be a terrible way to do things, but the upvotes (or downvotes) on the good (or bad) answer will drag the other along with it to the top (or bottom).

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only if they are radically and totally different answers, and even then I am not sure I agree. –  Jeff Atwood Oct 8 '09 at 22:36
Out of curiosity, Jeff, if you don't agree with answering a question twice, why does Stack Overflow let you? –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 8 '09 at 22:38
All of the multiple answers I've given to questions have been for non-specific questions on SO, though on SU I've given distinct 'tips' or 'shortcuts' as different answers. I can see though with some languages having multiple ways of doing it, putting both answers in so the community can vote on which is the 'best-practice' way of doing things. –  Lance Roberts Oct 8 '09 at 22:42
chris, you have to click through a special confirmation dialog to add a second answer. Does that answer your question? –  Jeff Atwood Oct 8 '09 at 22:52
@Jeff - Not really. It means you admit that there may be a valid reason for someone to answer a question twice, which counteracts your argument here that you don't think there is a valid reason to answer a question twice. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 9 '09 at 5:38
I've posted twice to an answer (and got a * Answer badge for both of them), but it was one of those old-fashioned poll-type "fun" questions that we wouldn't tolerate these days, so I don't think it's a good example at all. –  Ether Feb 6 '10 at 17:34
What do you think about this question? Is it ok to post multiple answers on this, like I have done? –  Starx Apr 25 '12 at 5:10
@Starx, I think those are fine as different answers, though you could also combine them as alternatives in one answer. It might even boost the top answer more, since it will have more content and people will think it more valueable. –  Lance Roberts Apr 25 '12 at 5:30
I disagree with "It's better to post two different answers, than to put them into one answer." A single post with multiple approaches is more authoritative that multiple posts, if for no other reason than people like to read the headlines and might easily skip the 2nd or 3rd answer. –  John Dibling Jun 5 '13 at 17:29
@JohnDibling, it's better because they will both get separate voting, so the better answer will float to the top. –  Lance Roberts Jun 5 '13 at 17:40
I've only done this once, and on SU. Compare answer 1 to answer 2 (which was written first). –  Michael Hampton Jun 6 '13 at 0:19
@John Kugelman, this Meta works for all sites, some of which allow those. –  Lance Roberts Dec 4 '13 at 20:10
@LanceRoberts not only is it good to post separate answers for voting purposes, but also for commenting. –  Dennis Jun 7 '14 at 20:01
Do you think this answer is still good advice? I'm a little concerned about the way it seems to endorse poll questions (which we often close) as well as the degree to which it encourages splitting up answers on non-SO sites. I'm a mod on cooking, where it's pretty common for there to be a couple aspects of a question, and more than one good idea, and I feel like if people interpret "distinct answers" pretty literally, we'd end up with way too many answers and way too little organization. –  Jefromi Jan 11 at 19:24
I agree with your answer, and it's true that poll questions invite such answers. But it seems that new users read into it more than it's saying, namely that poll questions are welcome (and should be answered with multiple answers). Could you please indicate in some way that this is not the case and that in current policy, poll questions should not be answered at all? I'd edit it myself, but I don't want to make radical edits to your post. This won't make your answer any less valid, as there are other cases where multiple answers are still welcome. –  rumtscho Jan 11 at 19:53

I have already had a couple of "real" (e.g. not a poll or fluff or humor) questions where I answered with 2 or even 3 solutions, explaining the reasons to pick each one. And i'm a relative newbie on SO (only 4k rep).

One place where this situation is especially likely to come true is Perl (aka ThereIsMoreThanOneWayToDoIt language).

While I usually squeeze all my ideas into a single post in such situations, I greatly appreciate the ability to NOT put them in one basket, so to speak - e.g. when I feel that posting one of the answers is education and adds to the site's useful content, yet the other one is "more deserving" (e.g. cuter/more elegant) and you don't want the up/down votes from one to affect the other.

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Now you have 50K rep in SO :) –  Anoop Vaidya Mar 9 '13 at 2:08
Woohoo! And my meta answer outscored Jeff Atwood! –  DVK Mar 9 '13 at 4:08

When they offer different approaches to the problem?¨

Sometimes one answer may be directly related with the problem the user is asking.

Other answer may be something that you suggest as an alternative.

For instance, "How do I shoot my self in the foot with C++"

1st answer ... .First you do #define if while etc. etc

2nd answer ... Why use C++, you can use ( this, and that, and the other )

There always can be two answer for the same question ( specially when is vague )

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Why not just roll the alternatives into the same question and punctuate with subheadings? –  random Oct 8 '09 at 22:38
@random - s/question/answer/; –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 8 '09 at 22:41
so they can be voted on, so the best 'answers' will float to the top, not have one be voted on and drag the other with it. –  Lance Roberts Oct 8 '09 at 22:43
@random: That's what I do most of the times. An answer and a complement/alternatives/workarounds. But when the answers are totally different, better is to post them separated. The first answer my solve directly the problem ( how to shoot your self in the foot ) the other may go either deeper, or in another direction or simply point something that on your experience is not what the user asked but what he needs ( like NOT shooting him self on the foot, when he can shoot someone else's foot in first place? ) –  OscarRyz Oct 8 '09 at 22:49
@Lutz - Question/Answer slip crappy crappy. Darn it all to Beck. –  random Oct 8 '09 at 23:08

If it is possible for a question to have two valid answers from the same person, the odds are high that it's a bad question.

(in other words, it's a poll question.)

In general there should be one answer per person per question; if you need to amplify your answer, edit it!

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Jeff - I fear I must point out a counter-example for you. In 2 words: "Perl" questions. I can frequently think of 5 different ways of answering a given question before even getting my breakfast, to paraphrase from Alice. –  DVK Oct 9 '09 at 2:56
P.S. However, I agree that, with some exceptions, the practice of posting multiple answers is Not A Good Thing, and therefore highly approve of SO's solution (allow but add extra hoops to do so). –  DVK Oct 9 '09 at 2:58
I like editing, too. Too bad my answers turn into CW. –  Sinan Ünür Oct 9 '09 at 3:05
Sux - I just lamented that about Sinan's answer no longer than 3 hrs ago –  DVK Oct 9 '09 at 6:15
Why does it matter whether the two answers are from the same person? Who cares? –  Rob Kennedy Aug 16 '13 at 3:09

I can't think of a good reason for doing that, except for polls, which are not welcome (except occasionally on meta sites).

If you have two solutions to the same problem, post them in a single answer. Explain when you would use this solution and when you would use that solution. This is better than two separate answers that don't address when to use each solution. For example: “If you have version 1, do <this>. If you have version 2, you can use <this simpler solution> instead.”

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