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What is the official etiquette on answering a question twice?

I came across a question which has several answers by the same person.

I don't immediately see why these should not be consolidated into a single answer. However, rather than flagging for moderator attention, I thought I'd ask here on meta (I'll inform the person in question of this discussion).

  • 3
    I'm the person John is referring to. I posted answers to keep each "solution" isolated from each other, allowing each to be voted upon independently. If the question is regarding "points" I'll CW whatever you wish.... My intent is to find the "best" answer for this issue. Mar 12, 2012 at 19:26
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    If there's more than one good answer then the question should be closed as "not a real question" because it's overly broad, shouldn't it?
    – CanSpice
    Mar 12, 2012 at 19:35
  • Conversely, I don't think there any "Good" answers for this. So far it seems like one would have to choose from the lesser of several evils. AFAIK - there is no solution (yet) Mar 12, 2012 at 19:39
  • @CanSpice I agree that the question is pretty broad but narrow questions can still have many good answers.
    – user154510
    Mar 12, 2012 at 20:00
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    What can be changed in the question to make it not too broad? Constructive advice is appreciated. Besides, I want to contribute open useful questions, not closed off topic ones. Mar 12, 2012 at 20:03
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    What's the reason for the downvote? Mar 12, 2012 at 20:46
  • He probably ran out of room. Is there a character limit to answers?
    – Cody Gray
    Mar 13, 2012 at 4:58
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    @CanSpice, no, that is not true! Some real questions have multiple possible answers. I can attest that the question under discussion is a real question. It would be inappropriate to close it as "not a real question", in my opinion.
    – D.W.
    Mar 13, 2012 at 18:14
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    For what it's worth, I have been admonished in the past for offering several solutions in a single answer.
    – ale
    Mar 13, 2012 at 19:47
  • Closely related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/25209/… Oct 5, 2012 at 1:23

3 Answers 3


The number of answers doesn't particularly concern me; it's the nature of the question (possibly not constructive).

The community seems to like the question; is there some convention already established by which we can make it a canonical question?

  • I don't know of a mechanism. Sometimes I add such questions to the tag wiki. Mar 13, 2012 at 1:59
  • @RobertHarvey, why do you think it is not constructive? The question seems valid and constructive to me.
    – D.W.
    Mar 13, 2012 at 18:15

Multiple answers is fine. I think it is fine to post multiple answers. If someone has multiple different approaches to the problem to suggest for consideration, I would prefer that they post multiple answers, rather than merging different approaches to the problem into a single answer. That way we can vote separately on each proposed approach.

The question is fine. I think the question is valid. It is a real problem, with broad relevance to web security, one whose solutions are not well-documented, and one that admits constructive and useful answers. If we look at secondary measures: it has received a bunch of upvotes from the community, and it has received a bunch of useful answers. I consider myself an expert on this topic, but I learned some useful new information from the answers here (especially one or two of @makerofthings7's answers).

As far as what it says that a question admits multiple answers, well, sometimes there is more than one way to skin a cat. Sometimes there are multiple approaches that can be taken to a problem, with none of them superior in all situations. At its core, engineering is about tradeoffs, particularly understanding the space of solutions and their tradeoffs. Often, there's not just One Right Way to do it, but multiple plausible approaches. So I don't think this is a shortcoming of the question at all.

I think the burden of proof is on detractors of the question to explain why they think the question is unsuitable. I've explained why I think it's a good question; I think the detractors need to explain in detail why the question is inappropriate.

Bottom line. I don't think @makerofthings7 has done anything wrong here. I think this is a great, relevant question that spurred some informative responses! We should encourage more like it.

  • The question is valid, but is certainly not the typical, constructive, Stack Overflow question. In the sense that it doesn't lead to a single correct answer, it's not quite right for our format. Yet, it has led to several answers that the community seems to appreciate. I don't know what to do about that. Mar 13, 2012 at 19:26
  • @JohnSaunders, "typical" doesn't seem like the right criteria to judge merit. Perhaps you should elaborate on why you don't think it is right for the format? As far as I can see, the format seems to be working fine, but maybe you see some issue that is not so apparent to me?
    – D.W.
    Mar 13, 2012 at 19:52
  • Our Q&A format is meant to elicit answers which can be judged on merit, so that the best answers can receive the most votes, and the question deemed best by the OP can be accepted. This question is close to being a "list of X" question: list of all the possible solutions to this problem. Mar 13, 2012 at 20:17
  • The answers to this question can be judged on merit. The best answers can receive the most votes. By the criteria you mention, it seems to me like this question fits the format pretty well. P.S. I don't see this as a "list of X" question. I understand why it is problematic to ask for a "list of your favorite books"; but this question is asking for solutions to a well-defined problem, which can be evaluated on their merit, so I don't think it's the same. Just my take; I realize others may have different views.
    – D.W.
    Mar 13, 2012 at 20:48
  • Any question on SO with more than one answer is a "List of X", and the best X is upvoted and (hopefully) accepted. The key difference here is that I'm adding many distinct non-overlapping answers. It's interesting to see that many of the answers offered by other users may cover repetitive points that won't work (e.g. encrypt the cookie), they have a score of zero. I'm surprised there is no discussion of removing answers that overlap and don't add value. Mar 13, 2012 at 23:12
  • @makerofthings7: don't get me wrong. I don't actually have a "problem" with what you did. But it was the first time I had seen this sort of thing done, so I brought it to the attention of the community, then let you know about that. Mar 13, 2012 at 23:24

The answers given by that user are not "small" by any means. In fact, consolidating them would create an extremely long and difficult-to-follow answer, so that breaking them up would give each answer its own focus. I agree, however, that if the answers were much smaller or if one answer was just a "followup" on another answer, then they might be consolidated. That's not the case here.

  • If each answer is its own approach, then perhaps there should be multiple questions, each one about one approach. Then this "master" question could be a table of contents to the approaches. Mar 13, 2012 at 19:27

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