I've encountered a situation here where the poster of that answer has not only posted rather quickly (before the OP has had a chance to clarify their question), but has also posted two answers back-to-back within barely a minute of each other.

Confident in my belief of the (typically) avoidable multiple answer scenario, and thinking the poster was relatively new and perhaps thought SO was like a forum with conversation threads, I posted a note on the second answer indicating they can simply edit their original post. The OP replied, and I was all set to put fingers to the keyboard in reply when I realized they appeared to be making a fair point with their statement:

...If both of my answers are similar i could have edited, but here 1 is with GSON and another is without GSON...

In other words, they feel that since their two answers are distinct enough, they should be separated in to two individual answers.

I went searching around Meta for some related documentation to support either my or his point, and according to this post, it seems there is a significant amount of agreement to the idea of multiple distinct answers.

Fair enough, maybe I was wrong. But my internal conflict in this case is that since the OP's question is extremely general and has not yet been clarified (at the time of this post), the user's answers are similarly general. The poster is technically not wrong with their answers, but neither are they "correct" in terms of the question at hand, because we simply do not have enough information to give a single direct or concise answer.

Ultimately, I do not know how to respond to that user's question to me. Am I incorrect in this matter, that double-posting "general" answers should not be allowed?


It looks like the poster in question has deleted their first answer (or maybe a moderator did, I cannot tell as I'm not a 10k user yet), so this question might be a bit of a moot point. However, I am still curious about how a situation like this can be handled, and what sort of policies there might be on this (admittedly edge-case) situation to support either his position or mine.

  • To clarify: they were two answers to the same question, yeah? – Jeroen Feb 25 '14 at 6:26
  • If so, it looks like one of the answers got deleted. Can a 10k user verify whether there was a second answer from that user (but just deleted)? – Dennis Meng Feb 25 '14 at 6:26
  • @Jeroen Yeah, I just noticed too. Apparently the first one was removed somehow. The one you're seeing now is the user's second post. – Paul Richter Feb 25 '14 at 6:28
  • One of the answers, stackoverflow.com/a/22005433, was deleted by its owner. /cc @DennisMeng – jscs Feb 25 '14 at 6:28
  • Okay, just checking. I might put in my two cents to this question too. – Dennis Meng Feb 25 '14 at 6:29
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    Pic of deleted answer: i.stack.imgur.com/R3GxX.png /cc @Jeroen – jscs Feb 25 '14 at 6:29

If the question is vague enough that one person thinks two such drastically different answers are both appropriate, there's a very good chance the question is not a good SO question and should be closed.

People will occasionally post what are essentially guesses as answers (I'm sure I've done this myself a few times), but that's not really ideal. At the very least, once the asker has identified the correct answer, the question should be edited to make it more specific, and more clearly matching that answer. But this is one of the things closing is for: we want questions where a future searcher can clearly identify the problem as the same as the one she has, and can therefore move directly to using the accepted answer with a fair degree of confidence.

This is not a great practice on the answerer's part. Responding like this to an unclear question is not really contributing to a high-quality Q&A pair. There's also not a lot to be done about it, aside from commenting as you have. It's controversial to downvote answers that are "trying to help" and are "not wrong". I would say, however, that it might be justified if it's possible for you to pick one or the other that is more clearly off-track.

  • Thanks, those are some really good points. I guess my scenario is emblematic of a more general "guesses as answers" issue, as you said. I suppose my reply to this or similar situation would be the "guessing" issue you mentioned and the potentially too-general nature of their answers (as a result of the unclear question). In a more general (the irony, I know...) sense, would you say it might be better (depending of course) to comment on other "guesses as answers" posts (multi-answer or otherwise), or might it be better to leave them be and wait for the OPs (hopefully) forthcoming clarification? – Paul Richter Feb 25 '14 at 7:05
  • I fear that interacting with the answerers on this issue is more likely to generate acrimony than awareness. It's also putting the cat back into the bottle before you even shut the barn doors. The question should be your focus -- get it closed and/or edited ASAP, before more cruft accretes. That said, if you do figure out a way to suggest to answerers that they -- in future -- wait until the question is clearer, without them biting your head off, I want to know about it! – jscs Feb 25 '14 at 7:12
  • Fair enough. I agree, it might be too easy to generate a massive off-topic debate with such a comment. As you said, The question should be your focus. Ultimately, some users take such advice quite graciously, others not so much, but I find upfront (emotionless) honestly and logic or "facts" (as much as possible) tends to work best, which is partly why writing a proper reply gave me so much pause. I'll keep that all in mind. Thanks for the advice. – Paul Richter Feb 25 '14 at 7:28
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    Good luck, @PaulRichter! – jscs Feb 25 '14 at 7:30

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