A long time ago, we experienced some strange effect in our IT system, and I asked a question on Stack Overflow. I couldn't get an answer helping me with that problem.

Over a year later, we experienced another problem. I asked again on Stack Overflow. While both problems were not totally different, the view on the observed behaviour was totally different (and a year between the 2 questions), and the two questions were formulated fundamentally differently.

But it turned out that they both had the same underlying problem. When I found out about it, I answered it. Since it was also the answer to the old question, I put the same text there. My goal was to help others searching for their problem to find the answer in both places no matter which effect they observed.

The answer on one of the questions was deleted by a moderator because answering two question with the same answer is a no-go. The moderator suggested that I mark one question as duplicate. But the questions are not duplicates, only the answers are.

What is the best way to solve this problem?


If both of the answers are the same, the question is too, or the answers aren't tailored towards the question enough to make them really stand out.

If the two questions are really different more than just a minor details, you should make sure your answer reflects that difference too. There should be something different in your answer, maybe some additional steps, some more explanation, etc.

If you can't provide any, probably the questions are more duplicate that you think and the question should be closed as such.

As a side note: since you were the user asking the first question, it seems you were profiting from the answer given to you for your own gain, with no attribution at all. That might be a reason your answer was deleted.

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  • yes, I guess I should have taken the time to tailor the answer towards the other question. And I understand the issue about double reputation, maybe I shoudn't have accepted the answer in the 2nd question – EasterBunnyBugSmasher Jul 30 '18 at 12:31
  • If both questions have the word-by-word exact answer, there should be something wrong @JasonBassford – Patrick Hofman Jul 30 '18 at 14:31

A question that's a duplicate of another question should be marked as such.

This is true even if the two questions have been answered differently. (In some cases, two questions can actually be merged so that the result is a single question that contains all of the answers from the original two combined.)

However, it's incorrect to assume that there is an exact 1-1 correspondence between questions and answers. In other words, while duplicate questions may lead to the same answer, it doesn't work that way in reverse.

Duplicate answers don't always lead back to the same question.

It's quite possible to have two different questions, both of which can be answered in the same way.

Q: What colour is used by most stop lights to signify "stop"?
A: Red.

Q: What is the colour of the maple leaf on the Canadian flag?
A: Red.

Here, these questions are most certainly not duplicates of each other despite the fact that their answers are identical.

Although this is a simplified example, I am sure there are some situations where different questions can be answered by identical answers of a more complex nature.

In the scenario presented in the question asked here, the answer for one question was deleted because it was used as the answer for another question. The reasoning given was that using the same answer for two questions is disallowed.

However, as per the example above, this makes little sense. When two clearly different questions actually do have the same answer, then that answer should be allowed in both places.

In fact, even that is a moot point—because even incorrect answers are normally allowed to remain.

I'm not aware of any policy that says "bad answers" (aside from those that violate codes of conduct) should be deleted. It's actually the point of these sites to not do that—and to let the community judge an answer's validity through comments and votes. (Just look at the number of questions posed on this site that complain about bad answers—and the continuing decision that that they should remain.)

If the questions in this case are actually duplicates, then one of them should be marked as such. But if they aren't duplicates, then the answer should have been allowed to stand in both locations.

If something entirely different was going on in this case, then that hasn't been made clear from the details provided, and we need more information before being able to make an informed judgment. For instance, links to each question and an indication of the answer that was deleted from one of them—along with the actual reason stated for the deletion.

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    When answers are more than one word long, using the identical text in multiple places is often spam, or irrelevant accurate-looking stuff posted everywhere it might fit - sometimes to gain rep, sometimes to promote a book or other resource. When it's not, the author should be able to tailor the answer to the actual question asked, not just "here is some stuff I know about this topic". – Kate Gregory Jul 31 '18 at 12:14
  • @KateGregory So, this becomes speculation as to whether or not the moderator thought that the duplicate answer was spam—and, therefore, violated the codes of conduct. I can agree with that as a reason for deletion, if that was the case here. But I don't think that "duplicate answer" automatically means "spam" in every case. – Jason Bassford Jul 31 '18 at 14:03
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    No, I'm saying the reason for the rule is that the vast majority of identical answers are not well intentioned. It's easy enough to make answers non identical if you have good intentions. – Kate Gregory Jul 31 '18 at 14:23

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