What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 130 Stack Exchange communities.

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

share|improve this question
    
See also Two Answers, One Question. –  Cupcake Aug 5 at 19:15
    
    
    
    

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 polls, 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).

share|improve this answer
7  
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
12  
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
2  
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
1  
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
20  
@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
2  
@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
1  
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
    
+1 I'm not sure if completely different can be defined well enough (consider different levels of voter's knowledge on subject) to serve as a rule-of-thumb. As my subjective opinion from my understanding of SO, multiple answers lead to confusion since as both answerer and asker, I expect the solution that worked to be accepted, the act being proof that it did, even in (so often) cases when from the question it's not clear (yet?) which one is most relevant. –  Alois Mahdal Jul 8 '13 at 23:23
    
Also what I hate and happens to me is that I get 2-in-1 answer, part of it being right and the other wrong (by which I mean, not solving the problem asked), but still interesting enough not to be deleted -- now what? Accept the wrong part? Then how will such Q+A+A pair be evaluated as a duplicate? IMO, final structure should be part of the communication, and that cannot be achieved without proper semantics. –  Alois Mahdal Jul 8 '13 at 23:30
2  
@John Kugelman, this Meta works for all sites, some of which allow those. –  Lance Roberts Dec 4 '13 at 20:10
1  
@LanceRoberts not only is it good to post separate answers for voting purposes, but also for commenting. –  Dennis Jun 7 at 20:01

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!

share|improve this answer
17  
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
2  
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
8  
Why does it matter whether the two answers are from the same person? Who cares? –  Rob Kennedy Aug 16 '13 at 3:09

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 )

share|improve this answer
3  
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
4  
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
1  
@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

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.

share|improve this answer
1  
Now you have 50K rep in SO :) –  Anoop Vaidya Mar 9 '13 at 2:08
2  
Woohoo! And my meta answer outscored Jeff Atwood! –  DVK Mar 9 '13 at 4:08

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.”

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .