The Situation

A question has two or more answers. One answer (answer A) is either marked by the questioner or has a lot of upvotes. Another answer (answer B) is, in my estimation, better in some manner (more clear, more complete, better examples, more up to date, etc), but the A is correct as well.

My Question

What is the right thing to do in this situation? I believe the purpose of stackexchange is to provide the best answer to a well asked question. In voting, our goal should be to further this purpose. If I do not vote, nothing changes and A is still dominant. If I upvote both, the same occurs. If I upvote B only, it becomes more dominant. If I downvote A and upvote B, I get the best result towards making B more dominant. Only downvoting is unhelpful.

However, A is both correct and helpful, and had B not existed, ought to be dominant. Additionally, the author is deserving of positive reputation. B is just more correct and helpful, and also deserving of positive reputation.

Readers sometimes only see or read the top answer, especially if it is marked correct or highly upvoted. A reader would be better served by seeing B, in my opinion.


What is the right thing to do?

  • Only downvoting is unhelpful. By your own logic, it's equally as helpful as only upvoting. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 16:07
  • A is [...] helpful, Is it though? It's just a strictly worse version of another answer. Someone reading it is worse off than if it didn't exist, and they just read the other answer instead. In what way is the answer helpful? How is that answer benefiting the site, or the people using it? – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 16:09
  • @Servy I think there is a misunderstanding. When I said B was "better in some manner", I meant that there is at least one aspect that is better in answer B than in answer A, with all else being equal. I did not mean that B is in every respect better than A. I will edit my question to reflect that when I get off of work – Dent7777 Jul 28 '17 at 19:54

Again, as the tooltip suggests

This answer is not useful

So personally, I would vote B up while leaving A alone. Anyway, A isn't unhelpful, but only "not as helpful as" B, so leaving it alone makes more sense than downvoting it. I would vote A down only if it's wrong or totally useless.

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Just because answer A would be helpful in a fictional world where B doesn't exist, and would merit upvotes in such a world, that isn't the case here. B does exist, and because B does exist, A is an answer that's less clear, less complete has worse examples, and is out of date. People who read that as the answer are worse off than those reading the other answer instead. That makes the answer unhelpful.

You should be voting on how useful the answer actually is, not how useful it could have been (or used to be). You also shouldn't be thinking about what you think the author deserves. Vote on whether or not the content is useful.

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    Vote on whether or not the content is useful... without considering other content? An answer that is useful is useful, regardless of whether other answers are less useful... right? So both answers deserve upvotes, though the OP may wish to only upvote the one that they prefer... but that doesn't mean the "lesser" answer should be downvoted. It's still useful. – Catija Jul 28 '17 at 19:15
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    @Catija Why would you not consider other content? If an answer isn't useful as a result of another answer being better in every way, then the answer isn't useful. As I said in my answer, just because the answer could have been useful if there wasn't another answer, the fact remains that there is another answer that makes this one not useful. Since the answer isn't useful, your vote should reflect that. Saying that it could have been useful if another answer didn't exist has nothing to do with how useful it actually is. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 19:26
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    Then I have to strongly disagree with your answer. Two answers can both be useful. SE thrives on having multiple good answers to questions. Unless an answer is outright wrong, I don't see why a downvote should be given. I don't think answers should be judged based on the other answers at all. They should be judged on their own merits. – Catija Jul 28 '17 at 19:41
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    @Catija I didn't say it's never possible for multiple answers to be useful, just that in the situation described the additional answer is adding nothing of value. If one answer contains some information, and another answer contains different information where the information in each case is useful, then both answers are useful. But where one answer is just better than the other in every way, there's nothing of value to be kept having a strictly worse version of another answer around. It's not being useful. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 19:46
  • Votes are there to reflect whether an answer is useful, not whether it's correct. Lots of things affect an answer's usefulness besides just it's correctness. An answer that's technically correct but incomprehensible isn't useful. By your logic, since answers shouldn't be considered in the context of other answers, if I went around re-posting the same answer you've provided, to every question you've answered (obviously citing you as the source) I'd be adding value, and my answers would merit upvotes, because they're correct and would be useful if your answers didn't exist. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 19:46
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    @Catija So again, the fact that an answer would be useful in some fictional world that doesn't exist (where it's the only answer) doesn't matter. What matters is whether the answer actually is useful, in the real world, where it really exists, with the context that it exists in. Ignoring relevant information, like the fact that the answer is merely distracting people from a strictly better answer, and therefore causing harm, isn't productive. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 19:49

Voting is up to you. You may either upvote or downvote answer A, or decline to vote on it. That said, the help center's description of the vote down privilege says:

When should I vote down?

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

Since answer A is "both correct and helpful" it doesn't need to be downvoted, at least according to the help center. Personally, in these situations I vote up the better answer (B) and decline to vote on the correct but inferior answer (A). In some cases it may make sense to comment on A in order to encourage the answerer to improve his answer.

Note that if answer A is the accepted answer then it is usually put at the top of the list regardless of votes (unless answer A is a self-answer). In that case there is no point in downvoting it for the purpose of moving answer B to the top -- answer A will always be at the top as long as it is accepted. The best you can do is to post a comment on the question to encourage to OP to accept answer B instead of A.

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  • Votes are there to indicate whether an answer is useful, not just whether an answer is correct or not. The correctness of an answer is just one factor, among many, in determining how useful an answer it. Lots of correct answers aren't useful answers. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 17:48
  • @Servy Although some answers are correct but not useful/helpful, the OP specifically says that answer A here is "both correct and helpful". Hence, using either the guidelines in the help center (as I quoted) or the tooltip (as iBug quoted) there is no need to downvote it. It's up to the user anyway. Furthermore, downvoting an accepted answer isn't going to move it down. It may still be worth downvoting, but not for the purpose of moving it down the page. – Null Jul 28 '17 at 18:04
  • They've said that the answer isn't as clear, or as complete, and is out of date. Those things make the answer not useful. The OP stated that the answer was useful, but everything that they've actually described about the answer says that it's not actually useful, so as much as they might want it to be useful, it isn't. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 18:07
  • @Servy An answer may still be useful even if it isn't as clear to the voter as another answer (though it may be clearer to another reader). Similarly, an answer that is not as complete as another one may be the most useful one for a user who is looking for brevity. An out of date answer is about the only case where the answer is no longer useful. The OP has not provided specific examples so I'm taking him at his word that answer A is correct and useful. – Null Jul 28 '17 at 18:16
  • At that point you're simply rejecting the fundamental premise of the question here then, that there's a better answer, and instead asserting that, contrary to what the question is actually asking, the answer isn't actually better to begin with, and you're not longer answering the question asked. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 18:18
  • @Servy You're the one rejecting the premise of the question that answer A is both correct and useful. I'm simply pointing out ways in which a correct but inferior answer may still be useful, either to the voter or some other reader. – Null Jul 28 '17 at 18:25
  • The OP provided conflicting premises. They stated numerous facts about the post, and then stated a conclusion that doesn't follow from those facts. I chose to consider only the stated facts, rather than the false conclusion, because that renders the entire question pointless (as you've now turned the question into, "what should I do when I see two equally good answers to a question?" which is pretty clearly not what is being asked about. Either the OP's statement that the answer is useful is false, or the entire rest of the question is false. The former seems far more likely. – Servy Jul 28 '17 at 18:29

If both the answers are correct, but I think one is more helpful than the other one, I up-vote the more helpful answer, and leave alone the other one. I would down-vote an answer if it is blatantly wrong, or if it is not helpful at all. (That is what the tool-tip for the down-vote button says: This answer is not useful.)

At the end, voting is subjective, but I would never down-vote an answer because I find it less useful than another one, which is still useful.
An answer that is blatantly repeating what another answer is saying, and it was written time after the other one, could deserve the down-vote, thought.

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