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When flagging an answer there doesn't seem to be an option for duplicates. Is there an etiquette for this, or nothing in place?

If there is nothing in place can I suggest a flag as duplicate option. It seems rather annoying that people just rep hunt by duplicating previously stated answers, with changes that are limited or non existent.

I think the only use case where this might cause upset is when someone has genuinely submitted an answer, and someone else has just submitted theirs as they have been writing.

In this scenario, where the time between answers is short and a factor, then perhaps a 'merge' function could be introduced. Which then assigns joint authorship, splits the reputation for the answer and allows an editor to take the best of both duplicate answers.

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The time the answer was posted is a good guideline when looking to cast your vote, if two answers are basically identical. Don't forget, a few people may be working on a similar answer within the first 15 minutes of a question being asked. –  Tim Post Jun 5 '11 at 12:35
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+1, but only for the "flag as duplicate" option. –  Steven Jeuris Jun 24 '11 at 11:10
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I've seen a few answers posted months (or even years) later that are exact dups of earlier answers on the same question. I can't imagine a reason for doing this... –  Chris Dec 28 '12 at 4:02

2 Answers 2

You have the following choices:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Leave a comment.
  3. Vote the duplicate answer down - difficult as technically it is useful (assuming that the answer is correct).
  4. Flag the answer for moderator attention.

However, competing answers are part of what Stack Overflow is about. The highest voted one being the one that the community thinks is "best".

The only times I'd seriously consider flagging is when the duplicate is posted days or weeks after the original. Two people posting competing answers at the same time and editing them to make them better is not a problem.

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Sometimes in race to best, I guess people draw! –  addedlovely Jun 5 '11 at 11:44
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1. Doesn't achieve anything, of course! 2. Doesn't impact rep, to discourage people duplicating. 3. Doesn't really work as you point out, and in the case of two people answering at the same time, who do you choose? 4. Hence my original question, there should be an option for flagging duplicates! +1 Agree with the day/weeks requirement! –  addedlovely Jun 5 '11 at 14:27
    
What annoys me is that a duplicate answer will often appear a few seconds after mine with just a line or two updated so the poster could claim "I was working on the same thing", but by virtue of his/her answer being shown first, the OP selects it as the answer. The minuscule time discrepancy only becomes apparent if the OP bothers to hover over the post time to see it's seconds apart which they rarely do. –  stealthyninja Jun 7 '11 at 19:26
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@stealthninja - if you sort by votes and votes are equal posts should appear in random order. –  ChrisF Jun 7 '11 at 19:28
    
Why shouldn't we have delete duplicate answer vote for 10K+ –  user173320 Jun 15 '12 at 10:00
    
@gdoron - that's a separate question (though I'd put it at 20K+) –  ChrisF Jun 15 '12 at 10:01
    
Do you want me to open a separate question? –  user173320 Jun 15 '12 at 10:05
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@gdoron - if you want. Though at 20K you can vote to delete negatively voted answers so it sort of exists already - just down-vote the duplicate first. –  ChrisF Jun 15 '12 at 10:06
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Actually, I don't like having discussion in meta, I find the people here quite rude, so I think I'll pass. about me –  user173320 Jun 15 '12 at 10:07
    
@ChrisF I went through my downvoted answers (I actually flagged 14 of them), some with the option of being 'not an answer' etc, some custom, with an explanation of why I thought the answer should be removed -- usually that they've brought nothing new to the question, that was not already put in the original accepted answer.. Is this OK? I don't want to be a pest and take up moderators time, unnecessarily –  user223277 Jul 9 '13 at 13:32
    
@Yve - that is a waste of moderator time. You can delete your own answers if they haven't been accepted. You are very likely to get your flags declined. –  ChrisF Jul 9 '13 at 14:00
    
Oh sorry another misguided attempt to be useful , I am sorry –  user223277 Jul 9 '13 at 14:06
    
I found a question made 4 years ago, and another practically identical subject 2 years ago; both have accepted answers, and I would like to flag the newest as duplicate, but is it ok? –  Aquarius Power Aug 11 at 23:31
    
@AquariusPower Yes, this is the situation that duplicates are for. But consider the quality of answers first. The main criterion is not "which question was asked first" but "where should people go for the best answer". –  Behaviour Aug 12 at 0:40
    
@900sit-upsaday "where should people go for the best answer" indeed!!! thanks! –  Aquarius Power Aug 12 at 1:18

I really like the "merge" function idea. I often delete my own answers in favour of others that have posted a very similar one almost at the same time. I do this because I think it improves the overall question quality if we don't have 12 identical answers every time the question is somewhat trivial. But if there was a "merge" function, I would get a little more credit for the answer (and its deletion). Also I would probably spend some time in chasing after duplicate answers in other questions, marking them as "merge candidates"

So in the end, I really think an answer "merge" function would improve the overall quality of Stack Overflow

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I dunno; I would worry that nuances between answers would get lost, or the resulting merged answer would be confusing. It would also suck to get your answer merged with one that attracts lots of down votes because it was incorrect in a way the merge voters did not realize. Finally, the only answers that would be 100% clear duplicates would be extremely simple ones, I think; and I don't think they are worth the effort. –  Andrew Barber May 21 '12 at 8:56
    
@AndrewBarber: Wherever nuances are even possible, this wouldn't apply, of course. But there are many simple questions out there, where answers are really identical. With a flagging system (and a certain amount of agreeing flaggers needed), only the answers worth merging would be merged. But I can see that this is quite a bit of effort for some marginal problem –  Lukas Eder May 21 '12 at 9:00

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