There are certain type of questions which typically generate multiple diverging answers in a relatively short time, all posted in the same time window. These questions, for example:

What is the best way to use [common language feature]?

After posting my own answer, I come back 15 minutes later to find that another user had revised his post to include all of my arguments. He had essentially included a "detailed" version of my answer in his own.

I'm confused how aggregating other's posts in your own answer is viable when all posts are versioned and and all revisions, time-stamped. When I agree with what others have posted, I upvote them, and explicitly refer to their answer in my own if I must.

I'm extremely tempted to downvote, even though the answer is not necessarily wrong. I'm worried that if I let this go, the other answer will be accepted and receive the most votes.

What is the proper reaction to this? Should I call them out on it, just downvote the answer, let it go?

  • 18
    The proper reaction to a question like "What is the best way to use [common language feature]?" is to close the question. Mar 4, 2012 at 21:40
  • 9
    @Commenters - instead of being hung up on the (bad question) example, why not concentrate on the actual issue being raised?
    – Oded
    Mar 4, 2012 at 21:43
  • @Pekka, I suppose. That's why I didn't do anything. It simply looked too suspicious to me, and I then asked this question. As to whether the question was subjective, I'm not sure. I may have phrased it wrong, it was more like Should I do this or that, and why?. Mar 4, 2012 at 21:47
  • Stop answering trivial "link me to the manpage" questions and you won't run into this problem.
    – Incognito
    Mar 5, 2012 at 2:45
  • Personally, I just stew over it for hours and let it ruin my day - possibly not the most constructive reaction... Aug 14, 2012 at 0:20

3 Answers 3


When you post on a Stack Exchange site, your post is licensed under the Creative Commons license (see the footer of every site for details). Your issue is covered by:

to Remix — to adapt the work

This means that this is allowed and permitted. It always has been on Stack Exchange.

What you can do is post a comment and request attribution, however the poster has no obligation to do so.

However, as @Pekka commented on your question, unless the text is verbatim off your answer, you can't be certain the poster didn't come up with the content themselves (and even if it is verbatim, this can be coincidence, in particular for short code samples and widely used phrases).

Definitely be sure before accusing anyone of plagiarism.

  • 1
    Thank you for clarifying. I shall exercise much more caution. Mar 4, 2012 at 21:50
  • 11
    Content on Stack Exchange is licensed CC-BY-SA: if the user did, in fact, adapt the original answer, he or she must attribute the original author.
    – user149432
    Mar 4, 2012 at 21:58
  • @Mark, I agree, but based on Pekka's arguments, it is not feasible to prove, especially in practical-subjective questions. Mar 4, 2012 at 22:12

Firstly and most importantly, consider the possibility that the user didn't steal the content from your answer - they might simply have gone away to do some research, and returned with the same arguments. This is bound to happen all the time when multiple people answer the same question, especially in a field like IT where many problems are common patterns with a limited number of correct answers.

And even if they made an edit based on something mentioned in your answer, being inspired by somebody else's arguments may not be very nice (and upvoting the person who came up with it first is the right thing to do), but it's near impossible to prove and as long as they do the actual writing legwork, I tend to think it's not that big a deal.

IMO, the only scenario where downvoting and maybe even flagging is appropriate is when the author has clearly copy & pasted from your answer, and does not properly cite you. That is a violation of the CC license, and I'm sure a moderator will remove the contribution if you flag it.

  • Good point about "stealing", and sometimes also the perspective matters that is shown by the context (description, enclosing code), even though the core message is the same.
    – Wolf
    Nov 13, 2013 at 10:04

If they integrated it to produce a better answer: upvote.

  • 2
    +1 - Chances are they may upvote you as well too. (I considered adding another answer based on yours and upvoting your answer in hopes that you would upvote mine) :)
    – jmort253
    Mar 5, 2012 at 4:01
  • @Henk Holterman: concise answer (thus +1), but don't forget the SA part of the licence (when appropriate).
    – Wolf
    Nov 13, 2013 at 10:06

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