Update: problem description

I was trying to reduce the problem of clattering the list of answers with similar or same answers to the same question. The problem was discussed many times earlier:

In my opinion a user looking for an answer to a problem would prefer to read through a list of different answers, without duplication. If some answers are explaining the same solution, but one answer explains it better or in more detail, there is no need to keep the other answer which describes the same solution in a less clear or detailed way. It is better to delete it.

The original post

The problem of dealing with duplicate answers on SO does not have a good solution. Many suggested to upvote the quickest of the duplicate answers. But often the quickest answer is incomplete and then it is edited later. So it is sometimes impossible to determine who first gave the best and the fullest answer without knowing and carefully analyzing the full history and timeline of editions of the answers.

In order to reduce the amount of duplicate answers I suggest rewarding a deletion of one own's answer. The reward would not be immediate. When the user deletes their own answer A1, (s)he would be possible to specify another answer A2 in favor of which answer A1 was deleted. At this point A2's votes count would be increased to the sum of A1's and A2's votes (exception: the upvotes from the same voter to both answers would not sum up), but no one would be rewarded yet. The bonuses for all future upvotes of A2 would be divided between the authors of A1 and A2. The percentage of the bonuses given to the A1's author would depend on the following parameters:

  • the amount of upvotes of both answers at the moment of deletion;
  • the reputation of both authors
  • (may be) the history and timelines of publication and editions of both answers
  • What if both delete their answers? Who would undelete now? And who would decide A1 and A2? – Dawny33 Nov 26 '15 at 9:31
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    @Dawny33, If both try to delete their answers in favor of each other, only the one that tried this first would be allowed to do it. So the second one would not be deleted – Andrej Adamenko Nov 26 '15 at 9:34
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    Interesting scoring ideas. I was pondering something similar a while back to encourage people to collaborate on answers, but came to the conclusion that it can't be applied automatically because it requires too much logic to prevent system-gaming. In an ideal world everyone would be honest and trustworthy and it could work, but in reality it would create too many problems that require manual intervention. – Dom Nov 26 '15 at 13:10
  • The only think that is needed in my opinion is that duplicate answer deletion should be sanctioned by the official policy and the moderators, and perhaps some specific process or review queue should be made to handle them. People on meta seem to enjoy blindly following rules literally, regardless of whether they make any sense at all or in context. Providing benefits for answer duplication seems to be solving the wrong problem in the wrong way. – corsair992 Nov 27 '15 at 15:20
  • One problem I see with changing A2 to the sum of A1 + A2 is that some people upvote both answers. If one is deleted then that single person has now effectively given two upvotes to a single answer. – TTT Nov 27 '15 at 19:29
  • @TTT, this could be cared of. I updated the question: added "exception: the upvotes from the same voter to both answers would not sum up" – Andrej Adamenko Nov 28 '15 at 5:54

Now I came to an understanding how the suggested feature would lead to unfair reputation distribution and discourage from giving high quality answers; so I am against my suggestion finally.

Lets assume the following scenario. Someone quickly gives a low quality answer A1 and gets some upvotes for it, let say 3 upvotes. Later another answer A2 appears, which is high quality and better. But A2 does not have any upvotes yet. The author of A1 deletes their answer in favor of A2. Since A1 had more upvotes than A2 at the moment of deletion, the system would give the most of the reputation from the future upvotes of A2 to the author of A1, which is unfair and discouraging for A2's author.

| improve this answer | |

Why, exactly, are duplicate answers a problem?

In the event answers are literal duplicates, whoever plagiarized will certainly at least have the answer deleted. However, if you're just talking about answers which are general duplicates, well...

Suppose answer A solves your problem, and answer B solves it in a similar way. If there's really no difference between A and B, then their positioning on the page is somewhat arbitrary. To the reader who is arriving at the site for information, the existence of two answers saying the same thing is irrelevant.

But consider that perhaps there is a tangible reason for the discrepancy in position. Maybe A contains the same content as B, but explains it just a little better. Maybe A includes a link where B does not. Maybe... ad infinitum.

Point being: generally speaking, I think this is trying to solve a non-issue.

| improve this answer | |
  • I updated the question to add an explanation of the problem as I see it – Andrej Adamenko Nov 26 '15 at 15:06
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    "Why, exactly, are duplicate answers a problem?" Because it's a waste of time and space and energy to state the same information in more than one place. – endolith Nov 26 '15 at 15:30
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    "Why, exactly, are duplicate answers a problem?" Because it's a waste of time and space and energy to state the same information in more than one place. – endolith Nov 26 '15 at 15:30
  • @endolith For who is it a waste of time and energy? Once the answer is posted, the time and energy have already been invested; deleting it is even more a waste of time an energy. Space, well, again, why does it matter to the person who needs to read the page? – user206222 Nov 26 '15 at 19:37
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    The duplicate answer thing is a bigger problem for popular questions. Almost every single one of them have at least a dozen duplicate answers that add nothing new. Most of them are lame rep-grab attempts that get upvoted enough to be not be deleteable without moderator intervention. And mods tend not to delete duplicate answers unless they are literally exact duplicates (plagiarized). – Mysticial Nov 26 '15 at 20:38
  • @Mystical Again, why is that a problem? The question has one purpose: to help the future user that finds it. Do those answers interfere? – user206222 Nov 26 '15 at 20:42
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    @Emrakul Yes they do interfere. I don't need to see 10 answers that say the same thing - especially when they bury other answers and make the scroll bar smaller than my mouse pointer. – Mysticial Nov 26 '15 at 20:47
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    I just wasted 5 seconds of my life reading endolith's second comment. And since it made me laugh, I upvoted it. But those 5 seconds are gone and I'll never get them back, and I'm slightly peeved. – TTT Nov 27 '15 at 19:33

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