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Given a series of almost identical answers, what is the proposed etiquette on which one to accept? Do I go for the user with the lower rep, or do I award it based on who answered first (of course accuracy comes first)?

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For whoever moderated me down, got any helpful advice? – jcolebrand Oct 8 '10 at 21:57
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Usually the oldest answer get my vote.
But if it's very close (~ same minute) and one of the answers is by a low rep user I usually give it to them as a sort of encouragement.

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This is essentially what I am trying to say in my answer above, but for some strange reason noone is able to decode my message. – Andreas Rejbrand Oct 8 '10 at 23:14
Well, of course, you "forgot" to mention one important thing: if there are differences in the quality of the answers, then, of course, you might choose the better answer, even if was not the first answer to be submitted. I understand that you are not saying anything else, but since some people seem not to understand such things, I think it is worth pointing out. Another difference between our answers is that I say nothing about the aspect of encouragement. – Andreas Rejbrand Oct 8 '10 at 23:18

It's up to you.

Ideally it should go to the answer that helped you the most, whether that was the first or last or whoever posted it.

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Keep a coin handy. – Michael Petrotta Oct 8 '10 at 21:49

Many times there are two or more virtually identical answers (and no other answers). Then you should accept the one posted first. It has actually happened to me at least three times that I have posted an answer, and just a few seconds or maybe a minute later, another user posts an almost identical answer, and leaves it there.

Every time I post an answer and notice that someone else has already posted the same information (even if there was no answer posted when I begun to write my answer), I delete my answer. But most users do not; hence, it is good practice for the OP to accept the first answer in such cases where the options are virtually identical.


Changed italics to boldface to emphasise the hypotheses even more.


What I mean is that,


  • you are choosing between accepting Answer A and Answer B


  • Answer A and Answer B are virtually equivalent, that is, they contain exactly the same information, and have the same level of clarity and linguistical accuracy


  • you should accept Answer A if Answer A was posted prior to Answer B


  • you should accept Answer B if Answer B was posted prior to Answer A.

If Answer A and Answer B were posted the very same second, it doesn't matter which of them you accept.

Clarification of Clarification

If there is another answer, say "Answer C", which is better than both Answer A and Answer B, in the sense that it contains more information, is more clearly written, or is more grammaticality correct, then you should accept Answer C, and none of Answers A and B.


Let's say I post a question, and when I return a week later, there are three answers, Answer A, Answer B, and Answer C. Answer B is not very good, but Answer A and Answer C are more or less identical. There are just minor differences in wording. Then I should accept the one of Answers A and C that was posted first.


I do not mean to say anything except what I am saying above.

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IMHO accepting the answer of an user that types first seems a really bad practice. What if another user post a really enlightening answer? You would just ignore it since the small answer came first and "solved" your problem? @ChrisF answer seems to be a better practice. – BrunoLM Oct 8 '10 at 22:19
In the case you mentioned, I would only accept the first answer if all others are duplicates and had no difference at all AND only if it really solved all my problems about the question. And of course I would give some time for other answers to come. – BrunoLM Oct 8 '10 at 22:21
@BrunoLM: You seem not to have understood my answer here. If user A posts an average-quality answer immediately, and user B posts an exceptional answer a minute later, then the posts are not "virtually identical", and so my rule doesn't apply at all. – Andreas Rejbrand Oct 8 '10 at 22:27
@BrunoLM: Really, if you can interpret a post at meta (or any other site) in two different ways, one being very arguable and plausible and one which is not, you shouldn't assume the worst case! – Andreas Rejbrand Oct 8 '10 at 22:33
@Andreas: Reading over and over. I always get the idea that users should accept the first (if virtually identical) right away without waiting for some more elaborated answer. I guess you can get the idea of what I mean in this post… – BrunoLM Oct 8 '10 at 22:52
Basically, it seems you don't care for quality of answers. – BrunoLM Oct 8 '10 at 22:53
@BrunoLM: Honestly, I have no idea how you can deduce that from my text above. – Andreas Rejbrand Oct 8 '10 at 23:09
Now it's even more clear... You say that if A and B are practically identical and one is older than the other, you should accept the one posted first. I say you should accept neither of them. If they are the same, it means the answer is VERY poor. I would only accept a good answer, or after some time without anything better I would post the solution I achieved and accept it. But I wouldn't accept a answer without any explanation, that can be "dupped". – BrunoLM Oct 8 '10 at 23:40
@BrunoLM: That is because you only ask the hard questions. Some questions are very easy and straight-forward. You are basically saying either that these questions do not belong at SO, or that they belong, but the OP shouldn't accept an answer to a question that is easy to answer (to a more experienced programmer). That is kind of an odd view. Indeed, a significant fraction of all questions aren't excessively advanced. Also, even if there were no "easy" questions at SO, my rule woudn't hurt anyone -- it simply would never be used, because two answers would never be similar to each other. – Andreas Rejbrand Oct 9 '10 at 1:09

Choose the answer that helps you the most.

FAQ Entry: How does accepting an answer work?

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But when they've helped me identically? Also, that post/faq really doesn't broach this topic does it? I've seen the advice stated to choose the one that would be best presented in a textbook, but I know that doesn't always apply. Meh, I'll just continue to go on what my gut says is right (not much more to do than that is there?) – jcolebrand Oct 8 '10 at 21:56
Yup, pretty much. – Rebecca Chernoff Oct 8 '10 at 21:59

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