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There should be a way to consolidate answers into one or at least choose a set of answers as the accepted answer, as a question can sometimes have multiple answers.

For instance, if a question is asked for a list of software that can be used for the build process and many users suggest different software, there should be a way to consolidate these answers into one group. This prevents users from having to edit the question and consolidate the answers back into the question, or create their own answer with an amalgamation of the answers.

This would allow votes on answers to be credited back to the original answerer rather than to the person who created the consolidated answer, it would also prevent the person from having to group the answers together.

UI considerations do apply here as to what the best way is to group these answers together, as one can imagine that some of the answers in the group could possibly be fairly long, maybe a consolidation can come along with an edit to summarize the responses but still list and credit the answerers.

Edit:

On further consideration of this, it may be best to let the consolidated answer automatically become community wiki, but let it automatically link/reference the answers you have chosen to consolidate, so that users can vote on those answers individually if they like. It also prevents votes on the consolidated answer from going to any particular individual.

Edit:

An add-on to the above suggestion of making it community-wiki is to perhaps make it a special type of answer that combines the votes from all of the chosen combined individual answers, but does not have its own vote count per se. The votes seen on that question would merely be the combined amount. This allows votes to go to the respective answerers and still allows the person to choose an accepted answer.

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This seems to have gotten very complicated. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 20 '09 at 1:13
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3 Answers

The Stack Overflow Method of consolidating answers

  1. Pick an answer, any answer.
  2. Extract portions of other answers that augment the answer chosen in #1, and edit those portions into said answer. Cite and link to the answers extracted from, where appropriate.
  3. (optional, question owner only) Accept the (now-comprehensive) answer chosen in #1.
  4. (optional, if you're lazy) Upvote all helpful answers, post comments thanking the respective authors for their contributions.
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@shog9 : As far as #2 goes, what if that person doesn't want to waste their time with that. Wouldn't it be better for the question owner to compile a complete answer after a certain period of time? –  Breadtruck Jul 19 '09 at 0:34
    
The question owner, like any other SO user with sufficient reputation, is free to follow this method. Of course, there's a bit more incentive for someone who's already answered to do so first, since they can then choose their own answer in step #1... –  Shog9 Jul 19 '09 at 0:37
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Just live with the fact that stackoverflow doesn't really work that way...

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How is this answer helpful in any way? Isn't Meta StackOverflow a place for feature requests or suggestions as well? –  Laz Jul 19 '09 at 6:23
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It's not a feature request when the question leads with "why isn't there a way..." –  DisgruntledGoat Jul 24 '09 at 11:11
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Answer

I have been contemplating this same thing recently. I plan on accepting the answer that most completely or clearly answers the question but also inserting at the end of my question a section where I outline all of the parts of the answers that I found most helpful with each users name. I disagree that the person that asks the question should compile all of the answers together into their own and then choose their own. If everyone started doing that, the motivation to answer question well and completely would be partially lost.

Example

Summary of best answers

I have put together a list of the best parts of all the answers that I feel best answer the question

  • "accepting the answer that most completely or clearly answers the question" - Mike Grace
  • "Just live with the fact that stackoverflow doesn't really work that way..." - Tom Hawtin "insert at the end of the question an outline of all the parts of the answers that I found most helpful with each users name"
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I do not follow how the motivation would be lost, the combined answer the person creates would automatically reference the answers that this person chose to combine and possibly summarize. Reputation would still go to the individual answerers of the questions through people being able to see where a particular answer came from and vote up/down that answer. In the current method it is a manual process to create the answer you are referring to and put your own rather than a standard reference by the system to the answers you chose. –  Laz Jul 19 '09 at 6:12
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stackoverflow.com/questions/581794/… This question had many complementary answers, as I had the top answer at the time, I wikied it and tried to get it to reflect the consensus. I think this is a great example of the community getting together to provide a consensus answer. I have tried to do it at other times, but adding a new answer late to reflect consensus rarely gets up voted or accepted. –  Jeremy French Aug 17 '09 at 13:07
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