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I'm not aware of any site that would permit many people to post the same or very similar answers to a question. I thought that this was rather obvious, but there's no place in the Help Center to point someone to when their answer is down voted and/or deleted because it doesn't add new value over any of the existing answers individually or the sum of the existing answers.

A small header and a couple of sentences on the /help/how-to-answer page would be extremely appropriate. I would insert it between the "Answer the question" and "Provide context for links". I suppose it could also be a part of the "Answer the question" paragraph, as well.

I don't have any suggestions for the exact wording, as long as it clearly communicates that an answerer should read the existing answers before posting a new one and add new or updated information.

  • If a simple question is asked and happens not to be a duplicate then multiple people can and do give similar answers, that's not a problem surely? If someone adds an answer months or years later then maybe that's a problem because at that point it could be plagiarism. – Robert Longson Jan 29 '18 at 11:43
  • Also some sites like code golf get lots of similar answers so it can't really be universal. – Robert Longson Jan 29 '18 at 11:44
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    @RobertLongson If two answers are posted relatively close to each other, that's not a problem - the two authors could have been writing at the same time. This has happened to be more than once. But if the next answer is posted hours, days, weeks, months, or even years later, the answer should add some new information or add value to people who find the question. I would assume that this also applies to Code Golf - new answers should be interesting in some way, such as using a different language or showing a new technique. – Thomas Owens Jan 29 '18 at 11:58
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    A sentence on not repeating existing answers could perhaps also fit in the tooltip new users see when trying to answer a question: i.stack.imgur.com/0Z6GJ.png – yannis Jan 29 '18 at 12:00
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    @yannis Indeed. It should also be in the pop up warning if a question has more answers than the site's threshold (if it's not there now). Definitely a few places to put this. – Thomas Owens Jan 29 '18 at 12:01
  • Just to note, on PPCG (CodeGolf.SE), we do allow exact duplicate answers, though we're already trying to get site specific edits to our pages – muddyfish Jan 29 '18 at 23:53
  • @muddyfish That's slightly troubling. I'm sure most people who come to SE probably don't come through PPCG, but for those that do and go to other sites, it's definitely teaching bad habits and norms. I can't be for sure, but I'm sure that nearly all of the other sites would discourage answers that don't add something new - any new answer should be somehow better than existing answers, whether that's an alternative solution or a different explanation of a topic or introducing new information (including new developments that may not have been available when the previous answers were posted). – Thomas Owens Jan 30 '18 at 0:40
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+50

On The Workplace we link to this FAQ post when applicable. We've been using this for a few years, and I think it's a good starting point for broader guidance:

How should I answer?

Make sure your answer adds helpful information and is a complete, stand-alone answer. Read other answers first and be sure not to completely restate information that has already been posted.

On our site we have a second paragraph here about backing up answers, the wording of which might need to be refined for broader use:

Please note that answers should be backed up either with a reference, or experiences that happened to you personally. You should always include in your answer information about why you think your answer is correct.

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    We have a similar meta post on Software Engineering about duplicate answers. But this is really something that should be in the Help Center. Unfortunately, it doesn't make sense to put it on any of the mod-editable pages. – Thomas Owens Jan 29 '18 at 18:10
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    @ThomasOwens agreed -- we need wording like this, but we don't have a suitable place to edit it in ourselves. Besides, as you said in the question, it should be on all sites. – Monica Cellio Jan 29 '18 at 18:38

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