I only say duplicates but I think this could be extended to several other flagging reasons. Since accepted answers/upvotes don't get reverted on questions I see people sometimes cut and paste the answer from a duplicate question without flagging as duplicate. In the end they can usually score a few upvotes and even an accepted answer.

Found this related question: Give an incentive for finding duplicate questions

Seems to have a lot of popularity but nothing ever happened

Jeff on Dupes

Those arguing for “remove reputation from dupes” have no idea of the Frankenstein monster you’d be creating.

That would be an awesome rep-denial tool for griefing others, first of all.

Second, it creates a MASSIVE disincentive to participation — even if you had no idea there were duplicates, you could be bushwhacked at any time even if you contributed a fantastic answer. Oops sorry dupe! Zero rep, buddy! Bzzzzt! Go away! Take your awesome answer elsewhere!

Incentives are fine, but penalties are an incredibly bad idea and would actively hurt users and the network.

I guess this answers my question, even if I disagree with jeff.

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    If they're flat-out copy-pasting an answer from another question, you should also flag the answer for deletion. – animuson Oct 9 '13 at 18:50
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    @Animuson Most posters will change the variables and such to suit the question. The answer remains the same but it's the "college code copier" trick. – James Sampica Oct 9 '13 at 18:53
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    Do you accept "the greater good" as an answer? – Bart Oct 9 '13 at 19:01

The warm fuzzy feeling inside that comes with knowing that you've made the world a better place, instead of focusing on increasing your imaginary number counter at the cost of the quality of the site.

There have been a number of proposals over the years of trying to provide extrinsic motivation for finding duplicates rather than being dependent on intrinsic motivation, but so far all suggestions have been open to abuse or otherwise would likely cause more problems then they'd solve.

It also helps to avoid raptor attacks:

Why you shouldn't answer duplicates

The above image is based on the image found here.

  • Whenever I don't have an answer to give (which is a lot of the time), I start picking up the trash around me. :3 And raptor attacks really hurt. – Jamal Oct 9 '13 at 23:32

Whether done through the review queue or without it, helpful flags can earn you the following badges:

Citizen Patrol:    First flagged post
Deputy:            Raised 80 helpful flags
Marshal:           Raised 500 helpful flags

Other than that, there isn't much point in having multiple questions in the system for the same problem. Chances are that an older question would have detailed answers that would have been viewed, revised by a much larger proportion of the community.

EDIT: (At the risk of being downvoted by and large)

As in the case of binary, there are two kinds of flags:

  • Flag as duplicate
  • Vote to close as duplicate

You need a certain bit of rep to be able to vote to close as duplicate (for example, I wouldn't see that option on meta yet). Very often, the first ones to answer an obvious duplicate would be the ones who can vote to close the question as duplicate. Yes, the might eventually vote to close it but choose to answer nevertheless. And, very often, those answers aren't of the same quality (rather don't exhibit the same level of detail) as in the original question(s).

In the end, it's a matter of choice.

  • Forgot about badges. Thanks – James Sampica Oct 9 '13 at 19:23
  • If you don't have enough rep to vote to close then you flag for closure. The question itself even acknowledges that by talking about flagging. When you say someone would VTC and answer, why is that? Why is providing a poor answer while also linking to a better one helpful? – Servy Oct 9 '13 at 19:23
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    @Servy For the points, I guess – user000001 Oct 9 '13 at 19:25
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    @Servy For your question, I've seen that happen on SO on numerous occasions. Please don't make me point to examples. Moreover, I didn't suggest that providing a poor or not-so-good answer is a better alternative to flagging/VTC, I just said that it happens pretty much all the time. – devnull Oct 9 '13 at 19:27
  • @devnull Sure, but it's lamentable, not acceptable, behavior. The answer indicates seems to imply that it's just fine. – Servy Oct 9 '13 at 19:31
  • @Servy The answer is more of a rant. I assume that it wasn't evident. – devnull Oct 9 '13 at 19:33

In addition to badges, another incentive is simply to keep the quality of the site up. 500 posts with the same question and answer is not very useful, even if it might gain you a few meaningless points.

If neither of those things motivate you enough, then don't bother, and leave it to people with Vote to Close privileges (arguably a better way to deal with duplicates anyway, as the community can get it done without requiring moderator/10K intervention).

Now, what you probably find quite a bit is just that people find it easier to answer a question than to go find a duplicate. I've been guilty of this personally, but if I caught my former self doing it today, I'd down-vote my own answer.

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    Flagging a question for closure doesn't require mod intervention, so long as you don't use the custom reason, it just puts the item in the close vote queue. – Servy Oct 9 '13 at 19:12
  • @Servy true, I was thinking custom, where a user pastes in the URL to the dupe in the other box, which I've seen multiple times. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:13
  • Ideally such a flag would be declined as "does not require moderator attention". – Servy Oct 9 '13 at 19:15
  • @Servy yes, understood, but it did waste a moderator's attention anyway, and I don't feel like ignoring those things just because it didn't cross my desk in the right way. Anyway, if you can vote to close, why flag? – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:17
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    If I were a mod (of course, I'm not) I'd still probably close the question, but I'd decline the flag despite acting on it, so that the user learned how to flag properly in the future. Also, where did I say someone with close privs should flag? – Servy Oct 9 '13 at 19:22
  • @Servy your initial comment seemed to imply that flagging and VtC were on par (as do other comments on this page). I think that usually if you can VtC that is better than flagging, that's all I was saying, I wasn't accusing you of anything. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:37
  • I fail to see the implication in the comment. What gave you that impression? How would you prefer it to have been phrased? – Servy Oct 9 '13 at 19:40
  • @Servy I don't know man, I'm bailing, eating a late lunch seems a lot more interesting than waxing pedantic with you. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:40

There are only a few explicit extrinsic incentives, and they've been identified already (badges, primarily). And then there's the intrinsic incentive -- that warm and fuzzy feeling that Servy mentions.

But there's also an implicit extrinsic incentive -- at least if you're a frequent answerer. After a certain point, it becomes tiresome seeing the same duplicate question asked and answered over and over. The more frequently duplicates are identified as such, the less frequently they will be asked -- because every marked duplicate increases the chance that clueless question askers will notice that they've asked a duplicate question. That's why I vote to close them whenever I can -- not because it makes the site better in some abstract sense, but because I believe it makes other (extrinsically motivated) contributions easier and more fun.

  • You have 35K on SO - why flag instead of just VtC? – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:14
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    @AaronBertrand, well perhaps I'm conflating the two inappropriately -- I was interpreting "flag" broadly... naturally I would vote to close, but the question seems to apply either way, doesn't it? – senderle Oct 9 '13 at 19:15
  • yes, but flagging is much easier to do the wrong way, so I'm always curious when someone who can vote to close chooses to flag instead. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:18
  • There are "clueless question askers", but I can't help but look at the question answerers purposefully taking advantage of a trivial question whereby any "reasonable" person would assume it has dupes everywhere. – James Sampica Oct 9 '13 at 19:18
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    @Shoe I think a lot of us have done that - probably some for the rep, but others simply because answering a trivial question is easier than finding a duplicate - and if it's a really frequent question, finding the right duplicate. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:20
  • Well to be clear I would not literally use a flag (in the narrow sense) to flag (in the broad sense) a question as a dupe. I edited my answer to use more precise language. – senderle Oct 9 '13 at 19:24
  • @AaronBertrand It can actually be a pain to find a good duplicate a lot of times people just find something that seems close but is not really a good duplicate which is worse in many ways because that won't help anyone coming to the question in the future. – Shafik Yaghmour Oct 9 '13 at 19:43
  • @ShafikYaghmour Yes, I've argued with people about picking really bad duplicates. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 9 '13 at 19:55

If done through the review queue, you can get the different review badges.

  • True enough, but I mean not through the review queue. – James Sampica Oct 9 '13 at 18:54

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