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Use case:

  1. Joe asked question Q1
  2. Joe asked question Q2
  3. Ben answered question Q2 (A1)
  4. Q2 is closed as dupe of Q1
  5. Ben posted similar answer to Q1 (A2)
  6. Q1 was later merged to Q2
  7. question ended up with 2 identical answers from Ben, spliting votes

Proposition:

  • let Ben merge A1 and A2.

Rationale [edited]:

  • author should be able to merge his own answers if there is more than one in the same question (at least if question was merged).
  • the point is not transfer votes between posts; objective is to provide some incentive to fix answers eventually duplicated when a question is merged.
  • we already track the origin of votes (in order to prevent someone to upvote the same answer several times), more than one vote from same voter would be discarded - no chance for gaming the system.

Shog9 argues "it's easily possible now - just edit the information from both into one, and delete the other". I agree 200% with Shog9! That is precisely why we don't merge questions in the first place - just delete the dupe and copy any good answers to the remaining - Oh, wait... We do merge questions!

The same rationale behind merging questions should be applied to the feature of merging answers (not in general, just if there is more than one answer from the same author to a single question).

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I'm not sure what need there is for mechanical merging that can't be done by the author just copying the text from one answer, pasting it into the other, and deleting the first. –  Grace Note Jan 5 '11 at 19:48
    
@grace: how about the votes? –  Paulo Scardine Jan 5 '11 at 19:50
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@Paulo do we really want to encourage people to provide duplicate answers to duplicate questions? And what about a single person upvoting both answers? –  user149432 Jan 5 '11 at 20:02
    
@Mark: 1) if a question answered by me is closed as a dupe, should not I post my answer to the original? 2) Is it dificult to merge votes as 1 vote per unique voter? –  Paulo Scardine Jan 5 '11 at 20:16
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@Paulo I'm not saying you shouldn't, but if a merge or a close occurs, you can just delete the answer from the closed question. You shouldn't be able to benefit from a closed question. Regarding the difficulty, I don't know but it'd be entirely opaque (how do I know the votes got merged correctly?) –  user149432 Jan 5 '11 at 20:22
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If Ben answered both questions he should have been aware that the 2nd one was a dupe and stood to be closed when answering. Ideally Ben would have voted to close himself rather than answering. –  Martin Smith Jan 6 '11 at 0:28
    
Could always do a recalc... –  AviD Jan 6 '11 at 6:24
    
@Martin: as dupes appear first on the queue, Ben didn't saw the previous question. –  Paulo Scardine Jan 7 '11 at 12:14
    
Mark: Ben already scored for both answers, he doesn't care and it is not the point here. If you allow merging of duplicate answers, Ben has an incentive to fix duplicated answers (which personaly I find very ugly). –  Paulo Scardine Jan 7 '11 at 12:24
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1 Answer

That's already possible: just consolidate all information into one answer and delete the other.

Allowing users to transfer votes between posts just creates needless inflation (why should an answer that got posted twice be ranked higher than one which wasn't), assuming of course that they aren't from the same people anyway.

There's also some opportunity for gaming, which could be worked around with some non-trivial amount of complexity in the system (tracking the origins of answers). Doesn't really seem worth it.

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You have to track the origin of votes (not answers), which you already do in order to prevent someone to upvote the same question several times. Seems simple to me. –  Paulo Scardine Jan 7 '11 at 12:28
    
@Paulo: if you didn't want to allow a user to merge two answers posted directly to the same question, you'd have to track the origin of answers as well... I rather suspect that's not currently done. –  Shog9 Jan 7 '11 at 15:49
    
@Shog9: I was not aware that you can directly post more than one answer to the same question. Do you see any reason to prevent merging of 2 answers from the same author posted directly to a given question? For me it seems like the right thing to do. –  Paulo Scardine Jan 10 '11 at 11:22
    
@Paulo: it's discouraged... Answerers are expected to edit their existing answer to add information when possible. –  Shog9 Jan 10 '11 at 17:00
    
@Shog9: I can't think of a valid reason for double answering; it should not be allowed. It being discouraged but not forbid means that newbies will do this - one more reason to allow (and incentive) users to fix their mess. But my main concern is allowing users to fix the mess caused by questions merged. –  Paulo Scardine Jan 11 '11 at 1:38
    
@Paulo: again, it's easily possible now - just edit the information from both into one, and delete the other. I'm all for users cleaning up their own messes, but I don't see that SO needs to put in effort to minimize the cost of a problem they didn't need to cause in the first place... If anything should be done, it should be done to reduce the occurrence of duplicate answers in the first place. –  Shog9 Jan 11 '11 at 3:05
    
@Shog9: I agree 200%. That is why we don't merge questions in the first place - just delete the dupe and copy any good answers to the remaining - Oh, wait... We do merge questions! And when SO merges two questions causing duplicate answers the problem IS caused by SO. The same rationale behind merging questions should be applied to the feature of merging answers (not in general, just if there is more than one answer from the same author to a single question). –  Paulo Scardine Jan 11 '11 at 13:32
    
@Paulo, if a user posts kind of the same answer to a similar question, then maybe that user should actually have voted to close the question as a duplicate instead? (And even when merging one's own answers were possible with a single click, then still there might be duplicate answers from different users. Just too much effort to implement this, I think.) –  Arjan Jan 11 '11 at 13:48
    
@Arjan: user answered a question, a few minutes later the question was closed as a dupe. But user thinks it is a really good answer, so he posts same answer to the open question. Later, moderator choose to merge questions... Bingo, dupe answers. –  Paulo Scardine Jan 11 '11 at 20:32
    
@Paulo, not trying to be a nitpick, but shouldn't that user then have deleted their answer at the closed question, after copying it to the duplicate? In that scenario the user 100% knows it's a duplicate, no excuse to leave 2 answers. :-) –  Arjan Jan 11 '11 at 20:37
    
@Paulo: both of which are still owned by their author. So he deletes one of them, and all is right with the world. And yes, this is pretty much how it's supposed to work when a single user posts multiple, identical questions as well; merging was added due to the need to preserve non-identical answers. –  Shog9 Jan 11 '11 at 20:37
    
@Arjan: users don't care about closed questions. Some want answers and some want reputation... –  Paulo Scardine Jan 12 '11 at 0:46
    
@Shog9: I understood your point the first time, no need to repeat. But do you agree user has almost no incentive to perform this cleanup (delete one answer)? –  Paulo Scardine Jan 12 '11 at 0:55
    
@Paulo: The only possible motivation here is a desire to make life easier for readers. If you're after rep or just don't care, then neither merging nor deletion help you. –  Shog9 Jan 12 '11 at 1:19
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@Paulo: Sounds like incentive to answer, rather than close, duplicate questions - if they never get closed, you still collect, and perhaps without competition from the users who answered the original you get more votes on the dup; but if the question does get closed and merged, you merge your answers and the result jumps ahead of the less-crafty competition. What problem is this solving? –  Shog9 Jan 12 '11 at 2:55
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