When flagging an answer there doesn't seem to be an option for duplicates. Is there an etiquette for this, or nothing in place?

If there is nothing in place can I suggest a flag as duplicate option. It seems rather annoying that people just rep hunt by duplicating previously stated answers, with changes that are limited or non existent.

I think the only use case where this might cause upset is when someone has genuinely submitted an answer, and someone else has just submitted theirs as they have been writing.

In this scenario, where the time between answers is short and a factor, then perhaps a 'merge' function could be introduced. Which then assigns joint authorship, splits the reputation for the answer and allows an editor to take the best of both duplicate answers.

  • 6
    The time the answer was posted is a good guideline when looking to cast your vote, if two answers are basically identical. Don't forget, a few people may be working on a similar answer within the first 15 minutes of a question being asked.
    – Tim Post
    Jun 5, 2011 at 12:35
  • 11
    +1, but only for the "flag as duplicate" option. Jun 24, 2011 at 11:10
  • 11
    I've seen a few answers posted months (or even years) later that are exact dups of earlier answers on the same question. I can't imagine a reason for doing this...
    – Krease
    Dec 28, 2012 at 4:02

2 Answers 2


You have the following choices:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Leave a comment.
  3. Vote the duplicate answer down - difficult as technically it is useful (assuming that the answer is correct).
  4. Flag the answer for moderator attention.

However, competing answers are part of what Stack Overflow is about. The highest voted one being the one that the community thinks is "best".

The only times I'd seriously consider flagging is when the duplicate is posted days or weeks after the original. Two people posting competing answers at the same time and editing them to make them better is not a problem.

  • 16
    1. Doesn't achieve anything, of course! 2. Doesn't impact rep, to discourage people duplicating. 3. Doesn't really work as you point out, and in the case of two people answering at the same time, who do you choose? 4. Hence my original question, there should be an option for flagging duplicates! +1 Agree with the day/weeks requirement! Jun 5, 2011 at 14:27
  • What annoys me is that a duplicate answer will often appear a few seconds after mine with just a line or two updated so the poster could claim "I was working on the same thing", but by virtue of his/her answer being shown first, the OP selects it as the answer. The minuscule time discrepancy only becomes apparent if the OP bothers to hover over the post time to see it's seconds apart which they rarely do. Jun 7, 2011 at 19:26
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    @stealthninja - if you sort by votes and votes are equal posts should appear in random order.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jun 7, 2011 at 19:28
  • Why shouldn't we have delete duplicate answer vote for 10K+
    – user173320
    Jun 15, 2012 at 10:00
  • @gdoron - that's a separate question (though I'd put it at 20K+)
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jun 15, 2012 at 10:01
  • Do you want me to open a separate question?
    – user173320
    Jun 15, 2012 at 10:05
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    @gdoron - if you want. Though at 20K you can vote to delete negatively voted answers so it sort of exists already - just down-vote the duplicate first.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jun 15, 2012 at 10:06
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    Actually, I don't like having discussion in meta, I find the people here quite rude, so I think I'll pass. about me
    – user173320
    Jun 15, 2012 at 10:07
  • @ChrisF I went through my downvoted answers (I actually flagged 14 of them), some with the option of being 'not an answer' etc, some custom, with an explanation of why I thought the answer should be removed -- usually that they've brought nothing new to the question, that was not already put in the original accepted answer.. Is this OK? I don't want to be a pest and take up moderators time, unnecessarily
    – user310756
    Jul 9, 2013 at 13:32
  • @Yve - that is a waste of moderator time. You can delete your own answers if they haven't been accepted. You are very likely to get your flags declined.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 9, 2013 at 14:00
  • Oh sorry another misguided attempt to be useful , I am sorry
    – user310756
    Jul 9, 2013 at 14:06
  • I found a question made 4 years ago, and another practically identical subject 2 years ago; both have accepted answers, and I would like to flag the newest as duplicate, but is it ok? Aug 11, 2014 at 23:31
  • @AquariusPower Yes, this is the situation that duplicates are for. But consider the quality of answers first. The main criterion is not "which question was asked first" but "where should people go for the best answer".
    – user259867
    Aug 12, 2014 at 0:40
  • @900sit-upsaday "where should people go for the best answer" indeed!!! thanks! Aug 12, 2014 at 1:18

I really like the "merge" function idea. I often delete my own answers in favour of others that have posted a very similar one almost at the same time. I do this because I think it improves the overall question quality if we don't have 12 identical answers every time the question is somewhat trivial. But if there was a "merge" function, I would get a little more credit for the answer (and its deletion). Also I would probably spend some time in chasing after duplicate answers in other questions, marking them as "merge candidates"

So in the end, I really think an answer "merge" function would improve the overall quality of Stack Overflow

  • 1
    I dunno; I would worry that nuances between answers would get lost, or the resulting merged answer would be confusing. It would also suck to get your answer merged with one that attracts lots of down votes because it was incorrect in a way the merge voters did not realize. Finally, the only answers that would be 100% clear duplicates would be extremely simple ones, I think; and I don't think they are worth the effort. May 21, 2012 at 8:56
  • @AndrewBarber: Wherever nuances are even possible, this wouldn't apply, of course. But there are many simple questions out there, where answers are really identical. With a flagging system (and a certain amount of agreeing flaggers needed), only the answers worth merging would be merged. But I can see that this is quite a bit of effort for some marginal problem
    – Lukas Eder
    May 21, 2012 at 9:00

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