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For example, a user asked a question.

Before long, an answer comes up, attempting to answer the question. Now, i've seen a lot of times that later, after about 15, 30 minutes, other answers popped out and basically, proposing the same solution as the first answer.

For example, take a look at this fresh question

The first answer proposed the use of collections.Counter. In the next minutes, another 3 pops up and propose the same thing. And after half of an hour, two similar answers were added.

Although my annoyance to this problem is a bit subjective, since i also attempted to answer that question, i feel that something should be done.

What should i do in cases like this? Should i downvote the later ones, or just let them be?

  • 4
    10 minutes isn't that long for larger, detailed responses. If we're talking about a week, that's quite a different story. – Qantas 94 Heavy Oct 29 '13 at 7:10
  • It's pretty usual to receive a number of (similar) responses for a possibly trivial question. There are many out there who make good use of the 5-minute window for edits subsequent to a post. – devnull Oct 29 '13 at 7:13
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The guidance for downvotes on answers is "This answer is not useful".

If an answer offers nothing new to one posted five minutes earlier I certainly would consider downvoting it.

Every additional answer adds noise.

The presence of many similar answers essentially all saying the same thing makes it harder for later answers that may contribute something new to be spotted.

Before posting an answer I personally check that what I am about to write isn't already covered adequately in existing answers. I expect others to do the same.

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Should I downvote the later ones?

If the answer solves the original problem then a downvote would not be appropriate.

In you example, multiple answers are proposing the use of collections.Counter but how a user has explained its use, could be different in all the answers. A good written and well-explained answer always deserves an upvote (even if they are similar, specially posted during a similar time duration).

A good answer contains:

  • explanation in clear and simple words
  • links to documentation
  • brief pros/cons of the approach used
  • relevant examples

Robert Harvey has a good answer (and no where he has mentioned to downvote):

Most answers like this come in the first few minutes after a question is posted. If a late user (10 or 15 minutes later) posts the same answer, I generally leave a comment to the effect that "[this user] posted your answer already."

If someone leaves an identical answer on an old question (for some arbitrary definition of "old"), cast a deletion vote or flag with a custom explanation, and ask for deletion.

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  • 1
    "a downvote would not be appropriate" -- that's why they say Stack Overflow technology makes me write bad answers -- "You're killing a great resource. Despite all the nice words and proper declarations, it discourages the reuse of the knowledge. And encourages fast on-site answers. Of course, the rules will tell you contrary... But mechanically, technologically it works in the way I described..." – gnat Oct 29 '13 at 8:30
  • @gnat I respect your opinion, but a downvote means the answer is not useful and maybe providing incorrect information. If someone has posted a correct solution then downvoting is not appropriate, I believe. As a recommended approach, other users should post a comment asking the answerer to provide a better and complete answer. Users who spend time to write better answers do get a higher vote count in the long run. – Aziz Shaikh Oct 29 '13 at 8:42
  • @AzizShaikh you have a valid point. But an answer that is just a duplicate is not useful. – aIKid Oct 29 '13 at 8:44
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    One can take a broader view of "useful" than "is a valid solution to the immediate problem", @Aziz; "contributing to the helpfulness of the site as a whole" is a valid perspective, and, I would say, the right one. – jscs Oct 29 '13 at 8:44
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    answer that repeats what has been written elsewhere, not adding details nor improving presentation would qualify as "not useful", wouldn't it? – gnat Oct 29 '13 at 8:44
  • @aIKid I agree, an exact duplicate is not useful at all. However, not all similar answers are like that. They usually differ in explanations, examples, links, etc (even though the central idea could be exactly the same). – Aziz Shaikh Oct 29 '13 at 8:46
  • @gnat you are correct that an answer which does not provide relevant details is less useful than other wellwritten answers but downvoting will also give an impression to future visitors that the answer could be incorrect. I think either the answerer should delete such answers or the community should upvote good answers, so in the long run less useful answers will remain at 0 score and good answers will rise to the top. – Aziz Shaikh Oct 29 '13 at 8:51
  • well I would not mind if it was presented as your opinion / point of view - even though it would differ from mine, it would be respectable one. Thing is though, the answer, as written now, presents this approach as the right, "appropriate" way - and I am not comfortable with that – gnat Oct 29 '13 at 8:54

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