Some questions, more frequently - some easy questions, usually have a number of answers with only one or two being unique.
Is there any mechanism to clean/detect those or is it only in the hands of up/down votes of community? And if not - shouldn't there be one?

  • 4
    What harm do they do? If they were created at the same time, just let it be. If it's a significant amount of time after the similar answers, downvote if you feel there is a need to.
    – Bart
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 13:18
  • My mistake. I thought you were talking about duplicate answer from the same user on different questions.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 13:24
  • @Bart The only case where I see it being harmful is clear cases of plagiarism, which would be able to be acted on.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 13:50
  • From the OP's perspective, the question is which answer should he choose? Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 20:55

3 Answers 3


Suppose I post a solution and then I see that someone had already posted the same solution just few seconds before: I would delete mine if I don't see any improvement to do.

I don't think there is more mechanism than each one deciding what to do with his/her answer. Maybe there could be one, but then it would be quite difficult to fix the level of "similarities" to make one be "equal" to the other.


If two answers are identical or one is an absolute sub-set of the other (and looks to be plagiarizing), you should flag the plagiarizing answer for moderator attention, and write why you are flagging it.

Note that this doesn't apply if the answers have arrived shortly (within minutes) after another, or if the shorter answer is much older than the better answer.

But especially if you come across a new answer to an old question in the review queue, and you notice that the new doesn't add anything, then you should flag it for removal.

  • 1
    This would apply if you felt that one was clearly plagiarizing the other. If it simply contained very similar information, but clearly wasn't plagiarized content, then there isn't anything for a mod to do.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 13:49
  • Note that it doesn't really matter which answer is longer/shorter/better/worse. If one is newer than the other, and you feel it was plagiarized then it should be flagged. If you feel neither plagiarized the other then neither should be flagged.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 15:19

I'm not sure if such a mechanism currently exists, but to make sure all of the valuable SO knowledgebase is preserved, if a clean-up system is made, that system should somehow merge the questions and not delete them. As an example, yesterday I was searching on very tough issue and I got 11 questions with the similar title. Even though most of them were marked as duplicate of each other, only question #10 contained the answer for my specific problem. I just want to say we should be very careful on deleting information, even if they appears to be duplicate.

  • 5
    There is no policy by which answers are deleted for being a duplicate, barring plagiarism. You're proposing changing a policy that doesn't exist. Also, this isn't an answer to the question.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 15:51

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