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I have noticed that users answer questions that are very old (example, 10 years old) with an answer that is basically the same thing as the accepted answer.

There are users from 2018 answering these questions. It appears that the user is fishing for upvotes on a topic that is common, but already well answered. It also makes the post messy IMO with loads of answers that are just repeated information of the first few answers.

  1. Why would someone want to answer a question that is old and has an accepted answer without bringing anything new and useful to the table?

  2. Should I be downvoting these kind of answers as they are simple reworded versions of already posted answers (with many votes already) from years ago?

  3. If downvoting these a day or will it be flagged as something like mass downvoting by the system?

  4. Instead of or in addition to downvoting should these posts be flagged for removal as they add nothing to the Q/A thread?

Maybe it doesn't matter, but it bugs me for some reason and I wanted to know if these kind of answers should be frowned upon and voted down or some other action should be taken.

To be clear my issue is with duplicate answers on the same post and not duplicate answers on duplicate questions.

  • cross-site duplicate: What to do with late answers which retread the same ground as previous answers (but not as thoroughly)? Though, given that the question you referred has over 2 million(!) views, guidance for diamond moderators provided by Jeff Atwood probably applies: How aggressively should we maintain and improve very popular questions? – gnat Aug 3 '18 at 14:17
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    @gnat thanks for the link. It appears to be much the same as my questions. I do think that the answer provided there is not 100% the best answer for example they say to flag the questions but as Servy pointed out in their answer below flagging can be hit and miss and may result in denied flag. Maybe meta users would have more insight into this as a whole for Stack Exchange rather than just for Stack Overflow. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 14:28
  • wrt flagging, myself I'd rather do that to the question (not answers), and I'd make 100% clear in my flag message that it is extraordinary case because of 2M+ views and I'd also refer Atwood's guidance mentioned in my prior comment. In fact, given that there are less than 100 such questions at SO all time it is maybe even worth bringing to SO meta or in Python chat room. Just don't forget to point to the fact about 2M views because it is what makes this question worth special attention – gnat Aug 3 '18 at 14:40
  • @gnat I used that question as an example because it contains many answer that do nothing for the question and have already been answered many years ago. My question does pertain to an overall issue with (even for less viewed post) that have the same problem. I can see that for the top viewed question it would be worth bringing up this issue for cleaning up our must popular post thought so that could be something someone could do as well. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 14:47
  • well, for less viewed questions answer provided by Servy applies (at least at SO, because other sites may have their own rules about repetitive answers). At large sites like SO amount of views makes a lot of difference, you essentially ask yourself if it is special enough to flag for moderators to intervene or there are hundreds / thousands questions like that and it would be too much work if moderators would have to deal with these – gnat Aug 3 '18 at 14:53
  • @gnat good point. Maybe something could be feature requested like a vote to delete due to duplicate answer that does not add anything new to the Q/A post. However that is a topic for another question. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 14:55
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    this feature request already exists, see Vote to delete answers as duplicates of earlier answers – gnat Aug 3 '18 at 14:57
  • @gnat great. I will go check it out. I think it is a decent idea and would not add more work to the mods. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 15:01
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Why would someone want to answer a question that is old and has an accepted answer without bringing anything new and useful to the table?

The only good reason I can think of is that they think they are bringing something new and useful to the table. You might disagree, and they may be wrong in thinking that, but it's the only good reason to post an answer to a question with other answers.

Should I be down-voting these kind of answers

You should be downvoting if you think that the post isn't useful. Given your description of the situation, you apparently think that the post isn't adding value. Feel free to reflect that opinion with your vote.

as I feel like the poster is just fishing for up-votes on a common problem question?

Don't waste your time trying to guess at why they're posting the answer. It doesn't really matter if they're posting their answer because they just want easy upvotes, or if they really think that their answer is adding value. What matters is your assessment on whether or not the post is useful, and actually adding value to the site. If it is, upvote it, if it's not, downvote it. The motivation of the author is irrelevant.

If down-voting these kind of post is acceptable, is there a limit to how many down-votes I should cast a day or will it be flagged as something like mass down-voting by the system?

You can cast up to 30 downvotes on answers in a day. They're free to use as you see fit, so long as you're voting based on your own honest assessment of whether or not the post is useful (rather than, say, based on your opinion of the post author, or handful of behaviors considered voting fraud such as voting for other accounts of yours).

Instead of or in addition to down-voting should these post be flagged for removal as they add nothing to the Q/A thread?

This is...controversial. Some mods have said yes, others no. You can try to take your luck and flag the post, but don't be shocked if you end up with flags declined as a moderator doesn't feel comfortable making a judgement as to the quality of a post (something they're not supposed to be doing) and whether or not it actually is an improvement over other answers. But in cases where it really is clear that a post is adding nothing of value, some will accept the flags and delete the post. Just don't be surprised at the outcome either way here. The specifics also matter a lot, so this is harder to generalize.

The main exception here is if you feel a post actually pushes the boundary into plagiarism, and feel that you have a case that someone is actually using the work of another without proper attribution, rather than providing a similar solution that they independently arrived at. It doesn't sound like what you're describing, but it does come up occasionally. You should always feel comfortable flagging a post if you think they're actually using someone else's work.

  • Thanks Servy. this is a good break down for my questions. I thought the last question may be a bit controversial and I only intend to flag questions that are obvious copies of other answers. I know that flagging can go both ways as I have experienced this with other issues. It is also good to know about the 30 down-votes a day. Is this a hard limit? Where it wont let me down-vote more in a day or a soft limit where after 30 down-votes a flag is raised for moderators to review the down-voting behavior? – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 14:24
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    On the first point, I usually start by leaving a comment along the lines of "this seems to cover the same ground as this older answer (link); can you edit to clarify how yours differs?". Then, if no edit is forthcoming, it's usually easier to get the community to delete it (for which it'll need to be downvoted). – Monica Cellio Aug 3 '18 at 14:26
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    @Mike-SMT It's simply a rate limit. That's how many votes you get in a day. – Servy Aug 3 '18 at 14:29
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My current procedure when I see answers that are duplicates of earlier answers is to

  • Downvote
  • Leave a comment saying something to the effect of "This doesn't add anything not in the other answers"
  • Reload and vote to delete the post
  • Flag as very low quality.
  • Usually these get deleted, sometimes I made a mistake and it does add something, in which case we keep them.

Simply restating someone else's answer or not reading the other answers before you write your own is worth downvoting. Otherwise we would end up with many extremely similiar answers that all say the same basic thing.

-1

A post's score is supposed to mean something. It's intended to be a shorthand way of saying "here's the good stuff" or "this is terrible; do not follow its advice". It's a way for the community to separate the good content from the bad content.

Of course, everyone has their own ideas about what "good content" and "bad content" are. But the goal here ought to be the same: an assessment of the quality of the content. As such, votes should not be used as tools of punishment or otherwise employed to correct improper non-content-related behavior. They exist to assess the content; nothing more.

If an answer is a virtual copy-and-paste duplicate, then that's plagiarism. That's against our rules, and it should be handled through mod-flags and down/delete votes (and comments, though plagiarism tends to require bad actors, so they're unlikely to help). But in this case, the downvotes are there to get the post a low enough score so that it can be deleted.

The moderators can handle the duties of sanctioning the user, when appropriate.

But if the answer is a re-explanation of an existing answer using different words, is that alone worthy of a downvote?

The way I would look at it is as follows. If the other answers didn't exist, would you still downvote it? If the answer is "yes", then feel free.

But if the answer is "no", then you would be downvoting it for the wrong reasons. You're not saying that this is bad content.

If your goal in downvoting is to get the content deleted (in the interest of keeping the question "clean"), that's a different matter.

When I see an answer with a negative score, I want to know that the content of that post is one or more of the following: terribly written, straight-up wrong, not actually answering the question, based on faulty assumptions, actively dangerous to employ, or encouraging bad practice. If the post does not contain information that is actively bad or difficult to discern, then it shouldn't be in negative numbers.


Here's a question: if downvoting the post did not impact the poster's reputation negatively, would you still care about downvoting such answers?

I ask this because you said:

It appears that the user is fishing for up-votes on a topic that is common but already well answered.

So you seem to think that a user is engaging in misbehavior. And they probably are. It's certainly not something we encourage.

But downvotes are not supposed to be a mechanism for correcting behavior. Or at least, if downvotes are for correction, they're to correct what you post, not where you post it.

Voting is not about impacting reputation. Voting is about the quality of the content of a post. Reputation is gratitude for providing good content.

So your thoughts about voting ought not be based on how it impacts the reputation of the poster. It should be about the content.


Maybe it doesn't matter but it bugs me for some reason and I wanted to know if these kind of answers should be frowned upon and voted down or some other action should be taken.

These answers should be frowned upon. But there should be no downvoting purely for this reason. And moderators have more useful things to be doing with their time than removing such posts, so mod-flagging is not good.

At the end of the day, the harm these answers cause is pretty minimal. On any question of significant age, they will be sorted at the bottom by default. And while they might attract an upvote or two, that's not going to matter in the long-term.

If you want to inform the user that their answer is just a restatement of someone else's, you can comment on their answer. But anything more than that is either a misappropriation of a moderator's time or a downvote given for the wrong reason.

  • I have reworded my 2nd question as you still believe that I am more concerned with the intent over the answer itself. My pointing out that I think the user is fishing for up-votes is more of me pointing out a possible reason for someone to ever post on old content that is already well established. To answer your question in your post But if the answer is a re-explanation of an existing answer using different words, is that alone worthy of a downvote?. Yes. I think that simply rewording already existing answer is the same thing as plagiarizing. It does not add value to the post. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:08
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    In reply to Here's a question: if downvoting the post did not impact the poster's reputation negatively, would you still care about downvoting such answers?. If this was the case my question would not exist. The negative impact on the users rep is in my eyes a tool to guide the user to form better valuable answers/questions. If the user values their rep then they will conform to the guidelines our sites have. It serves to denote the quality of the post or the usefulness of the post. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:11
  • @Mike-SMT: Well, at least you admit that you're voting to punish a user's behavior rather than for the quality of their content. – Nicol Bolas Aug 3 '18 at 16:12
  • Call it what you want. The post itself should not be there. It is a repeat of already accepted answer and severs not useful purpose. It's not about the user. If it was about the user than one would simple go to the users profile and start finding post to down-vote(not condoning this just an example). You are hung up on this idea I want to punish the user. Do you think you are being punished for the down-votes you have received on your 2 answer you wrote here? I would think not. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:16
  • @Mike-SMT: I'm "hung-up" on that idea because that's what you said you wanted to do. You don't want to assess the quality of the content; you want to make the user remove the content by negatively impacting their rep. That's not what downvotes are for. – Nicol Bolas Aug 3 '18 at 16:20
  • Not how I see it. I asked several question in order to figure out the best way to deal with post that should not exist. Down-voting was an option and right now the only real option available so it is the focus of my question. There was the idea to flag it instead. I was open to ideas on how to deal with post that have no value and are copies of other answer. I wanted to know if these kind of answers should be frowned upon and voted down or some other action should be taken. You are focusing on a singular part of the question as if its all that my question is. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:23
  • You also made it clear in your first answer(deleted now) that you didn't even read the entire question as you thought it was about duplicate questions. Just accept my reply that I think the value of the post is == 0 and needs to be removed from a well established post. You can disagree but you are wrong in your assumption that I want to "punish" the user. I want the user to learn and be a contributing member with quality post. Just as I have strived to be on Stack Overflow. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:26
  • @Mike-SMT: If punishment weren't a part of that desire to get them to learn, why would you bother mentioning downvoting as an option? You talk about it constantly in your question. You admit that you're not voting based on the content's quality, and you admit that you want to use the effect of downvotes on the user's reputation to spark them to action. If you truly were trying to get them to be a better member... you'd just post a comment telling them that they're repeating information said elsewhere. – Nicol Bolas Aug 3 '18 at 16:30
  • Or to put it another way, this question wouldn't exist if you didn't want to smack the user into compliance. I don't care if enjoy smacking them or if you're smacking them for a purpose. I care that you consider it a viable option. – Nicol Bolas Aug 3 '18 at 16:31
  • Down-votes are the most common tool we have to manage content. Unless you have large amounts of rep to work with moderator tools. For this reason down-voting was the focus as it is the only real option we have to work with for most users. I do not know of other options and that is why I have asked about other options. I don't want to argue with you. You disagree with me and I disagree with you. It is clear we cannot see eye to eye on this topic. One addition to your question about if rep was not part of down-voting. I would still want to down-vote/flag the post for removal. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:35
  • @Mike-SMT: You said this above: "The negative impact on the users rep is in my eyes a tool to guide the user to form better valuable answers/questions. If the user values their rep then they will conform to the guidelines our sites have." Why are you walking that back now? – Nicol Bolas Aug 3 '18 at 16:37
  • Don't know what you mean by walking it back. I have not changed my mind on that. Your views on it and my views on it clearly don't mesh. That's why I am stopping this conversation as it is clear you and I will not be able to agree. – Mike - SMT Aug 3 '18 at 16:39
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    There's a good point here, it would be confusing to see a question with two almost identical answers, one with a high score and one with a very low score. It suggests to me that removal would be a better option for duplicate answers. – JeffUK Aug 4 '18 at 13:03

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