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I know a lot of people really want to get lots of SO rep points to improve their quality of life. I get it. When I read a question, I think about whether I know the answer or not. If yes, then I take the time to write up what I deem to be a reasonable answer. If not, then I think about whether or not I want to try to figure it out. If so, and if I do, then I repeat the "know the answer" step. I don't try to flash answer questions. I'm just not the type.

But what's bugging me lately is the copy cat answerer. I read a question. Think. Formulate an answer. Then answer. This takes at least a few minutes. Four times this week, about 5-10 minutes after I post my answer (which comes 10 or more minutes after the question is posted), someone else posts the exact same answer! Even the same code with the same variable names! That's annoying. I don't really know why it bugs me so much, but there you have it. I'm annoyed.

In my annoyance, I feel like voting the answer down. But technically it's a correct answer, so I shouldn't do that. Maybe I should leave a comment? Maybe I should let it go? Probably the latter. Then again, duplicate questions are closed, why not close duplicate answers? Any suggestions?

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Just leave a snarky comment. Everyone loves those. –  Cody Gray Jun 4 '11 at 5:24
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If it's exactly the same, flag it (if you have enough rep). Let the mods know that someone copied you and it will be taken care of. –  ughoavgfhw Jun 4 '11 at 5:27
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@Cody Gray, @ughoavgfhw : I think I may just do both. Thx! –  PengOne Jun 4 '11 at 5:41
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Do you have an example or two handy? –  Anna Lear Jun 4 '11 at 5:43
    
    
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I'm sure they will rocket to the top of the leagues with that answering strategy! –  Rick Sladkey Jun 4 '11 at 5:47
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Those two examples look like they might be coincidence. It can be creepy sometimes, I admit. In any case, experienced voters will seek out the first correct answer and will find yours. –  Rick Sladkey Jun 4 '11 at 5:58
    
@Rick Sladkey, the first may well be. The second I'm more doubtful. I've calmed down a bit now. It just happened too often in too short a time, so I got my feathers a bit ruffled. –  PengOne Jun 4 '11 at 6:00
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I have witnessed this many times, also like you say - with the same variable names! My favorite snarky comment to these answers: "Looks familiar." linked to my own answer. It's embarrassing to the poster. I've seen a few deletes from doing that. –  Wesley Murch Jun 4 '11 at 6:12
    
Here is an example stackoverflow.com/questions/9492823/…. User Ankit Rajput copied my answer but edited some of the prose. I downvoted him, commented and flagged it because I saw that user was copying answers systematically; he pissed me off. –  daniloquio Apr 20 '12 at 15:06
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It depends a bit on the question. Some of the easier questions will attract multiple answers that look the same not really because they were copied, but because it's hard to formulate a unique solution to them.

When that's not the case, I'd say "leave a comment saying they should upvote the existing answer instead", but since it's your answer that they'd be upvoting... yeah, it might feel rather weird about leaving a comment like that. But, on the off-chance that you aren't weirded out by things like that, leave a comment on the other answer and (optionally) downvote it for good measure.

If the user has low rep, I'd probably go a bit easier on them and explain how Stack Overflow works. With higher rep users, though, you shouldn't need to explain in as much details.

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I like the last part, and that makes sense. Oddly, I don't really care about the up votes or acceptance, somehow there is a principle here that I don't want to let go of. If I take the time to answer, then I don't want someone else just to copy it. In the end, it will discourage me from answering anything but very stale questions (though I hear there's a badge for that, so there's my silver lining:) –  PengOne Jun 4 '11 at 5:49
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It depends a bit on the question...

Some of the easier questions will attract multiple answers that look the same not really because they were copied, but because it's hard to formulate a unique solution to them.

When that's not the case, I'd say "leave a comment saying they should upvote the existing answer instead", but since it's your answer that they'd be upvoting... yeah, it might feel rather weird about leaving a comment like that. But, on the off-chance that you aren't weirded out by things like that, leave a comment on the other answer and (optionally) downvote it for good measure.

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Looks familiar. :P –  Robert Harvey Jun 6 '11 at 16:51
    
Recursive Humor –  sehe Jul 4 '11 at 14:27
    
First time this site ever made me lol. –  whiskeyspider Apr 16 '13 at 21:41
    
+1 for the laugh. –  Jamal Nov 6 '13 at 7:33
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What if they are not copycat answers, but just the one obvious answer to the question asked? Who is to decide?

Here is an example from the other day, where a question on a macro substitution resulted in three simultaneous answers with identical code. They are identical because that is the only correct answer to the question.

this macro replacement multiple times should give error?

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Simultaneous is the key here. But you are quite corrct, who's to say? –  PengOne Jun 4 '11 at 14:04
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