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I have run into this several times: I answer a question and someone else provides the same answer with roughly the same amount of quality within a few seconds. What's the appropriate thing to do at that point? Should one of you delete your answer? How should the questioner decide?

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3  
No holds barred cage match to the death? –  John Rudy Dec 1 '09 at 22:13
    
me cues the Star Trek fight scene music: du du DA DA... –  OMG Ponies Dec 1 '09 at 22:15
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If you and Jon Skeet answer a question at the same time, Jon Skeet wins. Because Jon Skeet always wins. –  Steven A. Lowe Dec 2 '09 at 3:40
    
I don't mind losing to him if I can answer as good as him. That itself is very comforting to me already. :) –  o.k.w Dec 2 '09 at 4:24

8 Answers 8

up vote 14 down vote accepted

If you think you can improve your answer, do so. Then they won't be identical anymore, and the questioner will have an easier time deciding which one to accept.

Otherwise, consider deleting your answer. You don't have to - you can wait it out and hope for luck... But while you're waiting, the other author may well improve his answer, thus reducing your chances. And even if he doesn't, leaving two identical answers is just leaving noise.

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Exactly. Everything else being equal, if I can't improve on my duplicate answer, I'll delete it... especially if it came later. –  Robert Cartaino Dec 1 '09 at 22:44
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If it's a good and correct answer i don't think deleting it is always a great idea - even if they say the same thing, there are some questions where the questioner may understand something worded one way over another even if they are both saying the same thing. –  Dmatig Dec 1 '09 at 23:28
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@Dmatig: again, if you can see some value in your answer over the other one, then keep it. But there are a surprisingly large number of cases where multiple authors post answers that are very nearly identical, and there's really no reason to keep duplicates on these, even if they are all good and correct. –  Shog9 Dec 1 '09 at 23:46
    
If both users who post answers at the same time follow this advise, then both answers would wind up deleted more often than not. –  eleven81 Dec 2 '09 at 13:22
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Only if neither author can find any way to improve on his answer. And only if neither author knows how to find the "undelete" link. –  Shog9 Dec 2 '09 at 15:49

For the OP/questioner: Vote both up and flip a coin or use some other arbitrary method to select the one to accept if there truly is no material difference.

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If they are the exact same answer, then usualy the first answer is kept and any following ones are deleted by the orginal answerer. This is of course up to the answer poster to do and not done by mods or anything.

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Downvote their answer so you have a leg up in the sorting order.

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I see what you did there... –  jjnguy Dec 2 '09 at 3:56
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lol, nicely played! –  Jeff Atwood Dec 2 '09 at 6:29

Generally i favor the person with less rep, but then that's just me...

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If you feel you can improve your answer and you can be bothered to spend even more time on a question that's already been answered, go for it. Otherwise what you should do is take Stack Overflow less seriously and just leave it. You might pick up some rep depending on which of the simultaneous posts comes out on top until people vote. I wouldn't delete my answer though unless the other person's is obviously much better.

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So you're advising him to leave an answer that serves no purpose because either deleting it or improving it would be too much work?! –  Shog9 Dec 4 '09 at 21:47
    
Hmm, I was going to write a stinging retort here, then I read your comment again and realised that yes, that is what I'm advising them to do. Because acting like every single user of Stack Overflow is the curator of a body of knowlege that must be polished to perfection is a reality distortion that I don't buy into. Just look at the flood of crap, repetitive questions that flow in every day and realise that while this site 'gets the job done', it isn't even Wikipedia. –  U62 Dec 5 '09 at 2:51

Downvote their answer so you have a leg up in the sorting order.

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Downvote their answer so you have a leg up in the sorting order.

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only because repetition is the key to comedy gold –  quack quixote Dec 2 '09 at 8:00
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Yippee, I was hoping that we'd get some more. –  Rosinante Dec 2 '09 at 23:33

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