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I've noticed something of a pattern on many of our more popular questions. It looks like we're getting a lot of redundant and often lower quality answers.

It may just be my perception, but in most cases where a question gets 15 or more answers 4 or more of these answers will say effectively the same thing as the earlier answers with less or no explanation.

Some of these are of sufficiently low quality to flag for removal, but some aren't terrible answers, they're just redundant and not quite as good as the previous answers.

In a few cases I've commented pointing the answerer to the previous similar answer, but this doesn't seem to help the situation much. Often I downvote these, but without a comment explaining why I voted, it's only marginally helpful. With a comment explaining the downvote, users often get defensive. Unfortunately it seems that some users upvote these answers because often they are technically "correct," so I worry we may be sending mixed signals.

What's an appropriate way to address these answers, or should we even bother addressing them at all?

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Under those very-late-and-duplicate answers that add no additional information to the topic, I recommend leaving a comment explaining that so that others can choose to vote it down or delete it as well. Or the late-answerer might've not noticed the existing answers, and can, therefore, edit the answer to add additional information or remove it themselves.

The idea is to reduce clutter and to encourage others to quickly go through other answers before writing one themselves. Downvoting or deleting these duplicates will send them to the bottom of the page.

If it's a blatant copypaste of existing answers, then flagging for a moderator's attention might also work. Do briefly explain and link to the answer it copied from when submitting the custom flag.

However, if two similar answers have significantly different ways of presenting the information, perhaps some users prefer one over the other. So, in such cases, leaving them as is would be the better option.

Recommend reading Shog9's answer:

[...] Truly identical answers are noise - imagine someone else added a better answer later on - it would be ordered below the two duplicates initially.

That said, it isn't normal for moderators to delete duplicate answers unless there is a serious glut of answers - two short ones doesn't really present a problem for future readers. I might down-vote one of them though. [...]

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  • In the first case there's nothing wrong with using a custom mod flag with a link to the duplicate answer. – Catija Oct 6 '17 at 22:16
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    @Catija Perhaps that will be the case on IPS. Nice. But I've had some flags declined on other sites saying either: "use standard flags" or "does not require moderator's intervention". I avoided saying "flag it" for the first paragraph hence. – NVZ Oct 6 '17 at 22:20
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    I flagged an answer on another site for exactly just this reason and had it marked helpful and the post deleted... I think that when we have a site that regularly gets questions that have 10+ answers... removing duplicate ones is valuable. – Catija Oct 6 '17 at 22:28
  • @Catija would you mind giving a brief example of how you would like to see these flags worded? Should we include a link to the previous answer or is it ok to just flag as redundant and move along? Would you prefer these be handled by mods or in the vlq review? – apaul Oct 6 '17 at 22:38
  • @apaul34208 Link to the other answer in your flag message. Moderators cannot waste time going through the dozens of answers. – NVZ Oct 7 '17 at 6:14
  • @NVZ if they did they'd see the other 3 ;) – apaul Oct 7 '17 at 6:15
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    @apaul34208 Unless there is a comment explaining that it is a very late and duplicate answer, neither mods nor normal reviewers may see the point. They would opt for "looks okay" or even upvote it since it is a good answer, albeit a duplicate. So, if you leave a comment explaining the situation, it'll help deal with the duplicate quickly, either by mods or otherwise. – NVZ Oct 7 '17 at 6:16
  • @NVZ that was meant to be a tongue in cheek comment, a joke. I get what you're saying, I just hoped that Catija would elaborate on what she would like to see with an answer. – apaul Oct 7 '17 at 6:21
  • @apaul34208 here's one old example from ELU: i.stack.imgur.com/fhipe.png It was a copypaste-level duplicate but with some spelling changes. – NVZ Oct 7 '17 at 6:21

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