Given two practically identical answers, which answer do you vote for?

Do you vote for:

  • Both?
  • The Lower Rep user?
  • The Higher Rep user?
  • The First one to Post (usually they're separated by seconds, mind you)?
  • The more recent?
  • Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
  • The one with more Votes
  • The one with fewer Votes
  • The one who has an avatar
  • The one with the cooler username
  • A combination of the above criteria?

How does meta-information influence your voting?

  • 2
    Is this assuming you are the question asker, a passerby, or either?
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    May 6, 2010 at 16:15
  • Good question. I guess it applies to either, but my mindset was from a passerby. The question asker can mark the answer and while that's related, it's votes that ultimately affect which answer gets marked as correct. How many times have you seen two identical answers, one with a lot more votes than the other. Generally, the question asker will choose the higher voted one. Perhaps it's a psychological fear of going against popular opinion, I don't know. May 6, 2010 at 16:18
  • I see accepted answers which aren't the highest-voted answer pretty frequently. I certainly don't care about vote totals when I accept answers to my questions (except for a bounty I offered on an SU poll once). Granted, there are many confounding factors at play.
    – Pops
    May 6, 2010 at 16:30

5 Answers 5


If they're both right, I vote for both. (This is assuming they were posted in the same minute or so. If the time gap is larger, I vote for the older one.)

  • If everyone did this... we wouldn't end up with hugely disparate vote counts. Sometimes it just takes a 3 votes to 1 to start escalating the votes. Once an answer is two votes behind, it won't recover. Ultimately the goal of the site is to get the correct answer, so it doesn't matter from that perspective, I'm just interested in the psychological factors in StackOverflow. May 6, 2010 at 16:33
  • When I use SO at work, I put it on a monitor which is oriented vertically. Many times, that happens to be just the right number of pixels to see the question and half of the highest-voted answer. That makes me suspect that many passersby will only look at the highest-voted answer, possibly upvoting it, before leaving. This would be true even for "normal" monitors, because why bother scrolling past what is clearly the best answer?
    – Pops
    May 6, 2010 at 16:43

I sort answers oldest first. If I have to pick one, I'll pick the one that was there first.

  • 2
    I agree, but not for the reason that one may think. I will choose the oldest, only because it guarantees that the newer one wasn't just copied from it. Therefore, if they're posted within the same few minutes, I consider them to be posted at the exact same time. Otherwise, I'm merely rewarding the faster typer. May 6, 2010 at 16:25
  • 1
    @Atomiton It's good to reward the fastest typer. One of the things that makes StackOverflow work is that you get your answers quickly, and we want to continue to encourage that. May 6, 2010 at 18:22
  • See, quickly to me is within 5 minutes. I think there is a quality vs. quantity/speed issue here. There is room for some compromise here... as the fastest gun in the west issue has been gaining more attention recently. There are ways to even it out for the first few minutes. May 7, 2010 at 16:51
  • @Atomiton, also see the graph at Discourage questions being marked as answered within an hour or so of being posted.
    – Arjan
    May 8, 2010 at 14:06

As I feel that practically identical 2nd and later answers should simply be deleted by their authors, I tend to upvote the first only. (Too bad, someone else posted earlier while I was composing the same answer? Big deal, I just delete my answer, and comment to the first if there were some minor additions.)

(I wouldn't downvote 2nd and later answers, as often one cannot know for sure if the first answer wasn't simply edited in the 5 minute grace period, while the 2nd answer might have been complete right when posting it.)


I just wrote a long answer about accepting answers, and realized you asked about voting. I would vote for both; why choose? Unless there was a long separation, which would indicate copying or at least not-reading, the answerers did equally good jobs and deserve the votes equally.

To salvage some of my original answer: I almost always accept the first to post. The primary goal here is to come up with good answers. But given the choice between "good answers quickly" and "good answers slowly," quickly wins every time. Fastest Gun in the West is a problem if and only if it leads to poor-quality answers. Of course, if the posts aren't effectively identical, or aren't helpful/correct/useful, this paragraph does not apply.

It's not an ironclad rule. If the answers aren't comprehensive, I might wait a few minutes before voting/accepting to see how the edits go. And if one of the answerers is someone I recognize as a solid performer but has low rep due to being new, I would give him the edge in the awarding of the coveted check mark.

  • I'd be interested in your original post. Sounds insightful. I think your point about being ...a solid performer but has low rep due to being new... is interesting and I wonder how many others do this. I'll do this sometimes. May 6, 2010 at 16:30
  • I will say that I am one of the 49 people who upvoted the trusted user idea; I strongly suspect that that effort died because of poor name choice, not inherent conceptual flaws.
    – Pops
    May 6, 2010 at 16:35
  • As for the original post, I'm sorry, I didn't save it, but thanks for asking. Fortunately for you, most of the interesting bits are already included above. I'll expand it if there's more interest.
    – Pops
    May 6, 2010 at 16:36

Weeding out those me-too answers I usually upvote all correct/good/value-adding answers.

As "me-too" normally qualifies that the answer is added considerably later and does not any particular new idea/code/etc.

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