On Software Engineering I've been adding a message along these lines to old(ish) questions that have enough answers to be CW if they start getting new answers.

Please read all of the existing answers before posting yours. The question is relatively old and has a reasonable number of answers already. There is a good chance that your answer has already been posted.

I know most people don't read dialogs and just click "OK" to get through them, but if we can stop a few people adding to such questions then it's got to be good right?

The age of the question and the number of existing answers required that trigger this message can be configurable.

  • I can understand the number of answers, but I fail to see how the age of a question has anything to do with the likelihood of duplicate answers. Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 19:03
  • @Kop - I usually see this on old questions. They'll lie dormant for ages and then have two or three new answers posted a couple of months or more later. I suppose age doesn't really come into it.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 19:08
  • What's the answer rate at p.se? Is that the real problem? Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 20:22

3 Answers 3


Good idea. We should definitely add more friction here.

From this point on, if there are more than (certain threshold - see below) answers ...

  • the answers' unupvoted comments will be collapsed
  • the post editor will be initially hidden
  • there will be a button titled "Answer This Question"
  • clicking it will produce this dialog:

    This question has more than {x} answers already.

    Did you read through all the existing answers first to make sure your answer will be contributing something new?

    Also, please note that you can click the edit link on any of these answers to improve them.

So, perhaps that will at least remind folks that once there are a lot of answers, they should really think twice about adding a new one to the pile -- and maybe click that "edit" button instead.

this question has more than 30 answers already.

The thresholds may change, and are configurable per site, but currently they are:

Back when we automatically converted certain questions to community wiki, these were the thresholds used for one of the automatic conversion criteria. We no longer do such conversions, but still set the old thresholds for this feature, so this is why collapsing comments and showing this message are currently tied to the same threshold.

  • 1
    What do you think of my idea to put the "Answer" option only on the last page of answers?
    – Gabe
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 4:29
  • 1
    @Gabe I like it, but it seems extreme. Perhaps extreme measures may be warranted now... Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 9:13
  • 2
    My logic is that if you haven't gotten to the last page, you could not have possibly read all the other answers, so you have no way of knowing that your isn't a dup.
    – Gabe
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 11:37
  • bounty awarded for acknowledging the issue and attempt to address it
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 16:17
  • @Glorfindel Where is the post documenting the change to 5 answers? Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 17:39
  • @Ano good question. I couldn't find it, but here is a SE.SE question with 6 answers where you can verify that I'm right :)
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 19:23
  • @Glorfindel I'll ask an employee on chat. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 19:24
  • @Glorfindel Did you find it because you searched for it or because you were lurking in chat? Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 19:34

Perhaps you could make it so that the "add an answer" button is only on the last page of answers. That way somebody who wants to post an answer to a question that already has 30 or more answers will have to at least know to click on the last page to do so.

That minor obstacle should prevent drive-by meaningless answers while at least giving them a chance to read the others.

  • 1
    That's a good idea. I know there's supposed to be low friction for asking and answering, but I think this is one case where we need to add friction.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 19:02
  • not a bad idea, but extreme. This would be darn close to prohibiting answers in my book; how would you know that page (n) has the button to add a new answer? Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 4:30
  • @Jeff: I'm just expecting that the odds are extremely slim that somebody would have something unique to add to a question that already has over 30 answers, not know that the last page would have an answer button, and decide not to read all the answers because they don't think they can post. Of course, I could be wrong.
    – Gabe
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 4:40
  • 2
    we'd have to put a "read last page to add another answer" help text at the bottom, otherwise it's security by inscrutability. Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 4:41
  • 2
    @Jeff: Even better, make it "read all pages to add another answer" and make sure they've at least loaded every page of answers. If they haven't, odds are they're adding a duplicate. Of course, odds are they're adding a duplicate even if they have read every page. :)
    – Gabe
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 4:45

In a ideal world, not bogged down by moderators having to fix this issue (removing CW) and not having programming constraints around the SE2 site engine, the solution could be

moderator: there are already tools to see new answers to old questions. perhaps another list of "posts recently made auto-CW"

site change: deleted answers (including merged by moderator) should be omitted from the auto-CW triggers, and even retrospectively. this includes reverting the CW flag while preserving the auto-CW ability (without triggering inoculates those specific posts from ever being auto-converted to community wiki again - Is there a way to remove community wiki status?)

related: flag for moderator attention when question might be community wiki?

  • Yes, I would be very surprised if deleted posts were considered in auto-CW.
    – Gabe
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 0:29
  • That's a good idea. I know there's supposed to be low friction for asking and answering, but I think this is one case where we need to add friction.link
    – user275280
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 10:21

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