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Recently I answered a question, got an accept vote, pretty standard. Another person posted a one sentence answer with a link that wasn't very clearly explained, also standard.

Then, this morning, the person came back and posted a second answer that was a much longer, better explained version of their first answer. The substance was exactly the same, it was just properly explained with paragraphs and code instead of one sentence (this happened on Stack Overflow, but the idea of coming back with a more thorough answer is site-agnostic). If it had been an edit, I would have removed my downvote for sure; though, I would not have upvoted it because while it had useful, relevant information for the asker, it answered a different aspect of the question that was not being asked (and didn't answer the main thrust of what was being asked).

I have left a comment stating that the user's second answer should be deleted and submitted as an edit to the first. If they don't do that, I plan to flag for mod attention later today or tomorrow.

Is that the right course of action? I don't think they were trying to "submit a new answer to clear downvotes", because they didn't delete their answer, they just did the wrong thing.

This user has 272 reputation at the time of this Meta post.

  • Sounds like they didn't know about the edit function; was this a new user? – S.L. Barth Aug 5 '15 at 13:56
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    @S.L.Barth Edited in response – durron597 Aug 5 '15 at 13:57
  • I know it's off topic here, but, "it answered a different aspect of the question that was not being asked (and didn't answer the main thrust of what was being asked)." That's a pretty darn good reason to downvote an answer. – Servy Aug 5 '15 at 14:14
  • @Servy His answer sort of piggybacked on mine; he was responding to me more than the question asker. It was basically "you're mostly correct but you didn't do this bit of it properly" – durron597 Aug 5 '15 at 14:17
  • @durron597 Then that's not an answer, it should be a comment, and you should be flagging it as "not an answer". – Servy Aug 5 '15 at 14:20
  • @Servy Okay, I've flagged it as a Custom "This is NAA because..." We'll see what happens. – durron597 Aug 5 '15 at 14:25
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    I see people do this a lot, most probably because SE's functionality seems a lot like forums' to them. – M.A.R. Aug 5 '15 at 15:44
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What to do if someone posts a second answer that should have been an edit?

Your options are really just the tools the site gives us:

  1. Comment and explain their options. Be comprehensive if they're new, or friendly nudge if they're more seasoned
  2. Downvote either/both if they're poor. Usual downvote reasons, but not necessarily just because they posted a second answer, as both answers might be valid and/or different
  3. Flag if there is a valid flag reason on either or both of the answers

But mainly (1), commenting to educate or nudge someone. They may have reasons for doing this which you have not recognised, and while it might not be a valid reason, a comment might nudge them to sort it out (if not, then downvote/flag).

They might have innocently:

  1. Posted a 2nd answer because they forgot they'd previously answered (we are only human after all)
  2. Been unaware the edit button exists and wanted to add more info
  3. Thought they're on a forum (as per inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M's comment)
  4. Etc

This specific scenario

If it's the "How can I mock a private static method with PowerMockito?" (which I'm 99% sure it will be), then I would certainly comment to state their 1st answer should just have been edited (I have just done that now).

As it stands now with the 2nd answer, we can inform the user about their options and what might have been a better approach (edit).

We can downvote the 1st answer as it's weak.

It's debatable whether it's "link only" or not, and by "debatable" I mean some will state it is and some will state it's not because there is some textual info in the answer.

Personally, I'd still flag it as "Low Quality" and hope reviewers close it.
This gets rid of a low quality answer from the site, and the author still has their better answer.

I certainly don't think it's NAA, as the text in the answer is relevant to the question, so was clearly an attempt to answer.
An answer being bad does not make it NAA, NAA is for "me too" and "Thanks" etc.

We could also edit their 2nd answer and add the link "More info [link]" but as it's a link to another Stack Overflow answer, I wouldn't bother in this case.


Is that the right course of action? I don't think they were trying to "submit a new answer to clear downvotes", because they didn't delete their answer, they just did the wrong thing.

I agree, I think they're just a bit new to the site format/structures:

Member for 44 days; Profile on Stack Overflow only (no other sites); low rep, etc.

I've downvoted the poor (1st) answer, and flagged it as low quality. We'll see what happens. I'm quite sure community will just do it's thing and tidy up, removing their 1st answer and leaving their 2nd one.

  • Yeah, you're right about which question it is; I didn't want to distract from the general discussion by posting a link to the specific question. – durron597 Aug 5 '15 at 16:10
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Based on @Shog9's actions in this question and this related Stack Overflow question it seems that the right thing to do is:

  1. Edit the new answer into the first answer doing my best to maintain the integrity of the author's intent, except doing it the "Stack Exchange way"
  2. Comment to the author to explain what I did and why.
  3. Downvote and flag the new answer for moderator deletion.

This makes sense: minimize moderator work, maximize communication and education of the new user, and involve the moderator to do only what I cannot do myself.

  • I tend to disagree here. The 1st answer was low quality as essentially just a link to another answer on Stack Overflow. Whereas the 2nd answer was much more comprehensive, with code and descriptions (whether wrong or not, it was an acceptable answer not in need of moderating). And I feel merging the answers would unnecessarily create a single poor quality answer, and then you're moderating the poor answer along with the better one due to the merge. It's only 1 moderation task with or without a merge, and I'd rather moderate the poor answer and thus leaving an acceptable answer in place. – James Aug 5 '15 at 18:18
  • But we all seemed to agree that the 1st answer was low quality and flag-able. Why merge a low quality answer which can be deleted/flagged/downvoted with another answer? Just wanted deleting in my eyes. Although I can see what Shog9 did was fine too, but we cannot do that. We'd have to edit and merge the two answers and still flag/review to get rid of one of them (this only worked well for Shog because he can just merge then delete in one fell swoop) – James Aug 5 '15 at 18:30
  • @James I think Shog is saying that it's okay to temporarily have two answers with very similar content in this situation. – durron597 Aug 5 '15 at 18:31
  • I don't disagree with what Shog is saying, when the content is good in both answers. But it's pointless in this scenario as one of the answers was poor and just needed deleting. It's sorted now anyway :) – James Aug 5 '15 at 18:37
  • So... There's a third possibility here, which is merging the answers (anyone with edit privs can do) and then just informing the author that he should now remove one. Back when I did not have moderator privileges and the flagging system was much more primitive, this is what I would do, and it often worked just fine. Communication... @James – Shog9 Aug 5 '15 at 19:01
  • @Shog9 "informing the author that he should now remove one" I absolutely agree this would be the perfect solution, in an ideal world where users care about such things. But they "generally" do not and don't respond. I still try, as could be seen by my comment to this user, but the user had been commented to in various ways. This morning durron597 had explained the 2 answer issue and should edit (etc), and the user was last seen 9 hours ago (in between being informed and you editing the post). Some people just don't get it and action is needed, which is why I flagged their obsolete post. – James Aug 5 '15 at 23:07
  • They are also a new user, and doing all this for them means they don't learn. Tho, I don't want to seem like your actions were pointless, as they did resolve the issue and improve the question/answer/site etc. – James Aug 5 '15 at 23:11

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