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This question is related to this: What is the connection between an answer and its poster, none?

What do Stack Exchange rules say about use and re-use of answers? Are users restricted from answering their own question based on something another person posted earlier?

3 Answers 3

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All user content contributed to SE has the CC wiki licence applied to it, which allows others to republish and created derived works from the content posted, so long as the original author is cited. So it's absolutely fine for the user to use your work in creating their own answer, they simply need to cite your post as a work it is derived from.

Additionally, if you feel that the original contribution that the author has provided to the post when transforming the work it is derived from isn't valuable, you are free to reflect that in your vote. If they're only re-hashing content provided by others and not adding value to it, you may feel that the answer isn't useful, and vote accordingly. Alternatively, you may feel that they have added value on top of the derived work, creating a useful answer, and choose to reflect that in your vote.

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Accepting an answer is the OP's prerogative. If they feel one of the existing ones answers their question, they may choose to accept. If they feel none of them do, they are free to accept none. If they feel one of them comes close but isn't quite there, they can choose to post their own, modified version and accept that. After all, that was the one they ended up using and the one which solved their issue.

We sometimes seem to forget that the green tick mark simply marks the personal preference of the OP. Not "the best", just the one the OP happens to like best. There are many examples on the network of an accepted answer being outscored by another. There's even a badge for that; and a gold one, no less!

Now, I can understand that if someone has spent a lot of time on an answer, and they see the that OP took their answer, modified it slightly, reposted and accepted it, they might get annoyed. They might feel that the OP's answer is not helpful, for example. In that case, a downvote might be warranted. However, if the OP has substantially improved on the original answer, it seems petty to object if they post it and accept it. Not if it was the modified version that really solved the problem.

I can also understand why someone would be annoyed if the OP's answer includes features that weren't actually mentioned in the original question. OK, but it is often the case that the requirements only become clear along the way. The OP might not have realized they needed them. Or, while writing the new version of the answer (I am thinking, specifically, of scripts posted as answers here), they might have thought of a few improvements of a general nature that make the script more versatile and powerful. In that case, we should be grateful that they took the time to come back and post their solution and improve the content of the site.

So, if an answer is substantially different, the best course of action is to post it separately. With attribution, of course. And yes, accept it if that is what really answers the question. If it is only slightly tweaked, it might be simpler to just add the improvements to the existing answer and accept it. If it is the exact same answer, of course, then that's pure plagiarism and should be flagged accordingly.

In all no, there is absolutely no reason a user shouldn't post their own, improved version of an answer they received, and absolutely no reason not to accept it. Quite the contrary, they should since it benefits everyone.

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As long as you provide attribution, you are allowed to re-use another user's answer and modify it. This is a consequence of the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, which is valid for all content posted on Stack Exchange, as explained in the Terms of Service (chapter 3).

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