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I recently asked a question - What should I do if I have a nosebleed in the middle of a meeting? This question received at least 11 answers (2 of which were deleted).

I've read through all of the answers posted to my question, and I've noticed something: A lot of the information included in those answers seems quite... repetitive.

For instance, at least three answers all say to step out: (1), (2), (3).

At least two say it depends on the severity: (1), (2).

And another two focus on talk to someone: (1), (2).

Do I really need all of that information duplicated? No. If someone has already said something, and you are just going to state the same thing in different words, please think twice before posting a new answer. Of course, if you are going to include more information, then go ahead - but only if you are actually including information not mentioned in other answers.

This isn't just my question - see Is it rude to ask if a pregnancy was planned? Most of the answers there state the same thing: Yes, it's rude, and possibly suggesting an alternative way to ask. But it's spread out over 10+ answers, all stating the same thing in a different way.

While Interpersonal.SE may be different to other Stack Exchange sites, due to its subjectivity, that doesn't mean that it's suddenly turned back into a discussion forum. If someone has already said what you want to say, don't post a 'me too'. Doing so can get annoying, and unnecessarily duplicates content. This is why we close questions as duplicates - to make sure that content is condensed in one place. To avoid having it spread it across lots of different posts.


Note also that there is a difference between when two or more people were writing a similar answer at the same time and when the duplicate answer is posted after the second person has had ample time to read the first answer. In the first case, I do not think that they are a problem in the first case.


So what should we actually do with late duplicate answers?

Well, this has been raised several times on Meta.SE I happen to like this answer to How to deal with duplicate answers posted long after first answer(s), personally - which suggests the flagging and deletion of such answers.

This will help to keep the site from being flooded with useless duplicate answers, and serves to discourage people from posting said unwanted content.

What do people say?


See also Vote to delete answers as duplicates of earlier answers on Meta.SE.


Summary and clarification

I'm not saying that any of the answers that I linked should be deleted. They were just what made me notice that there's a bit of a problem here. The real situation in which I'd advocate deleting duplicate answers is when someone comes along later - I'd say at any point later than two hours after the original answer was posted, but that's hardly a hard decision - and posts an answer that has the same method, and the same result, and does not include anything that is not in the first answer.

Having multiple viewpoints on a situation is great. But we don't need a bunch of answers all having the exact same advice stated in a couple differing wordings of the answer text.

Now, real duplicate answers are rather rare. But before starting to write an answer, check to make sure that you're actually adding new information to the post.

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    Also, if you find that somebody has already written the answer you were going to write, you can signal your agreement with an upvote. – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '17 at 14:10
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That MSE answer differentiates between pile-on answers posted a few minutes later and late answers tacked onto old questions... Comments and downvotes are pretty effective for the former.

For the latter... It's reasonable to expect authors arriving weeks or months after the previous answers were posted to at least skim existing answers before writing another. "Me too" answers that offer neither a unique perspective nor novel advice are just noise. And straight-up plagiarism should be ruthlessly discouraged.

Related: How aggressively should we maintain and improve very popular questions?

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    Do you mean for the latter? – Catija Nov 7 '17 at 16:01
  • No. An answer posted weeks / months later that either directly copies (plagiarizes) previous answers or simply fails to recognize that previous answers have thoroughly covered the information presented should generally just be deleted; a comment is a courtesy, but - particularly in the case of plagiarism - isn't all that likely to result in improvement. For "fastest gun" answers, catching the author while they're still around and may be willing to expand the answer, direct interaction can be far more effective. – Shog9 Nov 7 '17 at 16:07
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I think we need to be considerate of the difference between two answers having the same exact solution and answers that have the same "TL;DR" but make granular - and sometimes valuable points. IPS is all about subtle differences. The explanation for why or how you make one action or another is as important, if not more so, than the action being discussed.

For example, doodlebob and SQB both say "leave" but one says

SQB:

Excuse yourself with a short explanation ("I'm sorry, but I've got a nosebleed, nothing serious, it happens sometimes, I need to go clean up"), leave the meeting and deal with the nosebleed.

doodlebob:

I'd just step out, stop the bleeding, and go back in.

SQB specifically mentions explaining why you're departing, doodlebob does not... but SQB's answer is more recent. If we really said "no duplicate answers", we'd prevent or delete SQB's answer despite being a more complete and detailed answer.


So, unless the posts are very short and have no differences between them at all, it's unlikely that we will have any truly identical answers. I see this on sites like Cooking where questions often ask "what's a good way to do X". It's pretty common, over time, to get several (usually very late) answers that suggest "I do Y" and Y is already the accepted answer or a very highly-voted one. Many of the answers here have contained similar advice but have differing reasoning or explanations or examples. These should be retained.

It's worth keeping in mind that people think about things differently. Two answers that have the same premise may be explained in ways that make sense to one person and not to another. We should embrace this, not punish users for being late to the game by telling them they can't have an answer that boils down to an existing one.


We also need to remember that answers posted shortly after the question is asked, within a short period of time (15-20 minutes) are often written without knowledge of each other. As someone who's spent upwards of an hour on an answer, I think we should be even more forgiving with similar answers posted within a short period of time as it's even more likely that there's no ill intent.

  • That's why I put the part in about Of course, if you are going to include more information, then go ahead - but only if you are actually including information not mentioned in other answers. – Arwen Undómiel Aug 24 '17 at 16:41
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    OK. So rather than calling all of the groups of answers out as being "repetitive", perhaps you're better served only pointing out answers that are actually duplicates? Right now I'm responding to the implication that the three answers in one group and two answers each in two other groups are identical because you're presenting them that way. If you want to use them as an example of answers that say the same thing but not quite and it's OK to post them both, that's saying something different. – Catija Aug 24 '17 at 17:14
  • Alright, I'll edit it soon, when I have a chance. – Arwen Undómiel Aug 24 '17 at 17:23
  • Even granting that they are not duplicates, do we really need both of those answers? Couldn't SQB have commented on doodlebob's answer instead? Why does everyone always reach for the answer button? – Kevin Aug 26 '17 at 4:59
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    @Kevin Fearing that their comment would be removed for being an answer, perhaps. – NVZ Aug 26 '17 at 5:55
  • @Kevin SQB's answer is much longer and more in-depth than doodlebob's. Why would that be relegated to a comment? Why not welcome someone who uses the same solution but explains it in a more detailed way to write that more detailed answer and be rewarded for it? – Catija Aug 26 '17 at 5:58
  • @NVZ: That's a moderation problem, then. Catija: The parts you quoted are of identical length. If you're arguing length, you should say so explicitly. – Kevin Aug 26 '17 at 6:04
  • @Kevin How is that a "moderation problem"... I was quoting a specific example of detail inclusion. Length != detail. Two sentences can be identical in length but one can be mostly fluff, and less useful. – Catija Aug 26 '17 at 6:08
  • @Catija: Based on the parts you have quoted (because you cannot assume people will scroll back up to the OP and click through), it looks like you are saying "SQB had this one extra parenthetical, and that merits a whole new answer," which I strongly disagree with. As for "moderation problem", if people believe that their sincere attempts to help others improve their answers will be deleted, the moderation is messed up. – Kevin Aug 26 '17 at 6:09
  • @Kevin So, how about rather than complaining about my answer being somehow faulty, you ask me to include the direct links so that you don't have to scroll up? I think your logic is faulty, though, to assume that I'd quote the entire content of two posts here for comparison. – Catija Aug 26 '17 at 6:32
  • @Catija: it's not about scrolling. Until this lengthy argument, I had not seen SQB's answer at all, and therefore your answer looked preposterous. If you want your answer to look preposterous, don't let me stop you. – Kevin Aug 26 '17 at 6:51
  • @Kevin What if two people are answering at the same time and they happen to say similar things? What if neither wants to compromise with a comment or by upvoting the other person's answer, instead? – Tycho's Nose Aug 31 '17 at 13:52
  • @Kevin, because stack exchange sites reward answers more than comments. – Justin Ohms Sep 1 '17 at 23:30

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