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Not sure if this is much of an enhancement, but thought I would throw it out there anyway. I have noticed sometimes when I have posted an answer to a question fairly quickly and the answer was exactly what the OP was looking for, you still find other people posting the same answer....sometimes pretty much identical. I don't feel this aids the site in anyway, or give extra/additional help to the OP or others viewing the question. (the culprits usually just leave it on there for the hope of gaining some rep!)

I think something like a possible duplicate answer list (similar to like when you are posting a question) would be ideal when you are typing your answer up. It means that if you are going to post an answer it has to be from a different point of view or other perspective rather than simply repeating what someone else has said but changing the words a little.

Any idea's on this?

Another Possible Solution

Instead of flagging the answer before posting, how about something like a delete answer option where you can flag the reason why e.g. duplicate.

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I'm curious how you would implement this. –  Pops May 11 '10 at 14:12
    
Related but not dupe: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/49000/… –  Pops May 11 '10 at 14:12
    
@Popular: I would imagine using similar implementation of how the related question stuff works (as I mentioned) –  James May 11 '10 at 14:16
    
The "related question" list just has to get in the ballpark. People will care a lot more if their similar-but-not-duplicate answers are flagged for removal, or vice versa. –  Pops May 11 '10 at 14:47
    
@Popular: It doesn't have to be removed, or not allowed to be posted, it should just tell the user a similar answer has already been posted and just inform them its more than likely their answer will be ignored. It could ignore things like blockquotes to ensure if someone is just re-quoting from another answer it doesn't get flagged up. –  James May 11 '10 at 15:05
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@popular: A sufficiently large neural net trained over a year by users of sufficiently high rep indicating where one answer is "duplicate" of another. After a year let it loose and enable these same users to feedback where its missed some or falsely detected others. Well worth all the effort IMO ;) –  AnthonyWJones May 11 '10 at 21:00
    
@Anthony, well, now, that's just crazy talk. (+1) –  Pops May 11 '10 at 22:38
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is an old, old complaint, and it is a people problem and not the best candidate for a technical solution. Some things to note:

  • The site culture discourages outright coping when detected, and does a passing fair job of not rewarding it.
  • With "easy" questions many people will be able to answer quickly and they may write similar answer at almost the same time. (See also Fasted Gun In The West (FGITW) problem) In that case fine differences may matter more to the people voting and to the OP than is obvious to the people who wrote the answers.
  • The problem got worse when the team implemented the FGITW "fix" that radomizes the order of answers with the same rank.
  • While getting robbed (robbed, I tell you!) is annoying, I end up being the robber about as often as the robbee, so it all comes out in the wash.

My recommendation: If you see a pattern of one user making obvious copies, flag them. Better than asking for a general fix to a fairly rare problem and suffering the unintended consequences thereof.

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+1, and Note: When flagging or downvoting, make sure not to wrongly suspect or argue with anyone, it could lead to unexpected flames. –  YOU May 11 '10 at 16:11
    
It happened to me right now, that I and one of another answerer gave the exact same answer in the exact same time here. I got a downvote. Is the ultimate indication of a downvote to delete my answer altogether because of duplication? –  dmahapatro May 29 '13 at 2:51
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These will get sorted out by upvotes. Eventually, one answer will rise to the top. In most cases, there is one answer that is better. In some cases, two answers are identical. In the latter case, it really doesn't matter which one "wins".

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@tvanfosson: +1 lets hope you prove my point! –  James May 11 '10 at 15:01
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Normally, identical copy paste posts got flagged as spam. –  YOU May 11 '10 at 15:08
    
@S.Mark - agreed, though, I could just as easily have modified it a little bit to avoid that particular problem. I'm just trying to make the point that it does, in fact, matter which answer appears first. –  tvanfosson May 11 '10 at 15:16
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@tvan - On SO I would flag this for moderator attention to tell the teacher that you are copying off my paper. I think this is pretty rare, though. If you posted something similar but not identical, then everyone else gets to decide which post they like better. Keep in mind the whole idea here is to get quality answers to questions, not to win points. –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:27
    
And just to be clear, yes, I am only saying that because I have all the points that I want. :) –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:27
    
@Jon -- The point is, really, that it does matter -- thus we have mechanisms in place to deal with it. Sorting is done first by votes, which gives earlier (good) answers a slight edge. We can, as you noted, flag cut/paste answers for moderator attention -- if it didn't matter, why bother? Flagged answers, in some cases, receive downvotes both from flagging and from people who feel that cut/paste is wrong, further increasing the earlier answer's edge. Unfortunately, if you're not careful, the random sorting of equal voted answers can mask this and you end up flagging the earlier answer. –  tvanfosson May 11 '10 at 15:35
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@tvan - A copy and paste answer is just plain "cheating", and should hence be flagged for a mod to sort it out. Similar answers are perfectly OK, especially when they are added nearly simultaneously (as often happens with "easy" questions). –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:37
    
@Jon - also, I'm not advocating that we do anything about it, in terms of a new mechanism to deal with duplicates. I think the mechanisms that I mentioned seem to be working ok. I'd prefer that we return to the older, inadvertant, according to @Jeff, time-based secondary ordering, but only because I believe that it's a more natural ordering. I can see where others might feel differently, that it might confer too much of an advantage. –  tvanfosson May 11 '10 at 15:40
    
@tvan - I think we're more or less on the same page. I have mixed feelings about the randomized order. The new way is imperfect, as was the old way. –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:44
    
@Jon - every time you talk about flagging an identical answer, you're making my point. It does, in fact, matter which one "wins". It matters because the second person is earning reputation off the first person's work. That's fundamentally unfair, even in a game. Honestly, I mostly posted this as a joke and only marginally to contradict your point. I hope you're not taking this more seriously than I am. –  tvanfosson May 11 '10 at 15:46
    
@tvan - we're agreed. I somewhat misundestood you at the start, but I think we're making the same argument. I am basically saying this doesn't matter because we have a system in place to handle it already. Which means it does matter enough to warrant the system. –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:49
    
BTW - I didn't flag this; I thought it was clever :) –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:56
    
@Jon, the flag was from me, as I said those identical posts got flagged as spam. thats something intentional :-) –  YOU May 11 '10 at 16:03
    
@S.Mark - I figured that there would be some people who would take it seriously -- that and no desire to farm rep from a joke is why it's community wiki. –  tvanfosson May 11 '10 at 16:09
    
@tvanfosson, actually I upvoted at first and noticed that another 2 upvotes, and I realized that would just lead to prove duplicated answer can get more upvotes (its unlikely on SO), so I revoked my upvote and flagged the post and commented. Its rather intentional than seriousness –  YOU May 11 '10 at 16:48
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These will get sorted out by upvotes. Eventually, one answer will rise to the top. In most cases, there is one answer that is better. In some cases, two answers are identical. In the latter case, it really doesn't matter which one "wins".

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Not everyone sorts their questions by oldest though and sometimes people who post first never actually get the votes because so many people posted after them with the same answer (so it appears like they posted later). Just seems a little unfair at times. –  James May 11 '10 at 14:49
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"doesn't matter which one 'wins'." oh, really? –  tvanfosson May 11 '10 at 14:52
    
@James - it doesn't matter if people sort by oldest. Posting first does not entitle you to votes. –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:24
    
See thats probably were my issue is then because I always have the attitude first come first served :) –  James May 11 '10 at 15:28
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@James - The first post will always have a certain advantage. But speed != quality, and quality is what we're really looking for. –  user27414 May 11 '10 at 15:30
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You are right, probably there are some people that cut and past a good answer to get more reputation and I'm with you, it's not a nice. But I think that it's not so common and anyway this behavior don't compromise the goal of the site: collect good questions and right answers.
So I think it's not so important implement a voodoo piece of code that try to guess if the answer it's copied from another one.

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Sometimes I will post an answer that's similar to another, if I think it's better. I may like how I explain it better, or I may have included more information. (Or I may decide it isn't better, and delete it.) I don't see how an automated process is likely to give me useful information for this decision, I don't see how it's likely to alter people's behavior if they're the sort that leaves what are effectively dupes there anyway, and I don't see that it's necessary. Let the voters sort it out.

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