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In the question how do I echo $something >> file.txt without carriage return? which was asked and answered about a month ago, a new answer has been submitted which is essentially a duplicate (but stripped down) of a previous answer.

Is there a default policy as to what to do with it? Should I just downvote the duplicate answer? Or should I flag it? I looked at the options for flagging, but didn't see a specific option for "answer is a duplicate", but wasn't sure if it qualified as "other".

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    Your particular example isn't a duplicate answer; while they may look similar, they behave differently. The question about actual duplicates still applies though. – Bob Jun 22 '12 at 16:31
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If there's another answer added

  • much later than an already existing one, and it's
  • absolutely the same as another answer, content-wise

then there's rarely need to keep redundant information around.

I wouldn't call out users for posting duplicate answers – it's probably just because they haven't read the other answers or feel the need to add their two cents, but essentially there's:

  • No value gained from them
  • Less signal, more noise – the opposite of what we want
  • Potential reputation gain from something that has already been said, which I find unfair towards users who actually invested time in the original answers

By all means, if a new answer is added and there is nothing in it that hasn't already been said, then I'd flag it for removal. I'd add a custom text like mentioning the other answer as well:

Exactly the same has already been answered by @user


However — and here's where you should be careful — if the answer does contain more information or goes beyond what others have stated, then do not flag it. We encourage new answers at all times, even if a question already has an accepted answer. You can always improve on what is there. You can always phrase something differently, make it easier to understand, or approach a problem from another perspective.

Generally, if answers on some topics seem similar, that's somewhat to be expected. The only case in which I'd flag duplicate answers for removal are those questions that can simply be answered by a single line of code or sequence of commands (which happen to be the same), a folder path, a registry entry, et cetera.

If the question involves argumentation and its answers give more context, then just let those answers stay. Maybe inform the user who answered that something similar has already been posted by pointing them to the other answer(s).

In case of doubt, let it be.


Another edge case is users posting the same answers to multiple questions, thus "duplicates". I know this isn't specifically what you talked about, but this is not the kind of behavior we encourage and I figured I might as well mention that.

These kinds of duplicate answers are a good hint that the questions are actual duplicates and need to be closed. Try to identify which question is the most "canonical" one, and bring them to moderator attention, to Meta Super User or post them in the Vote to Close chat room.

  • In the question I linked, would you consider the second answer with printf to be a duplicate of the first and answer with printf? In looking at it, once printf is identified as a tool that could solve the problem, then I personally think the semantics of including "%s" to format, or not is not sufficiently different for it to be a completely new answer and the first should have been edited/commented instead. Would you consider it to be a duplicate? – killermist Jun 22 '12 at 18:42
  • No, I think this can stand as its own. It should have probably been a comment if the OP had had 50 reputation to leave one. There can even be multiple approaches even using just one tool. – slhck Jun 22 '12 at 18:45
  • "new answer is added and there is nothing in it that hasn't already been said(provided it's answered much later), then I'd flag it for removal" - yeah, I agree. – Sathyajith Bhat Jun 24 '12 at 15:51
  • Is my question a duplicate? – Milind R Feb 3 '14 at 15:55
  • @MilindR No, it's about something else – slhck Feb 3 '14 at 16:09
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Commenting that an identical answer, is well, identical and adds nothing new is a good middle ground. It lets the user in question know that he's being watched, and gives him a chance to explain what it adds to the body of answers.

If its obviously a comment, of course, flag away.

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    Except for those users who never return ;) – slhck Jun 25 '12 at 11:11
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    Why would someone not come back here? This place is awesome ;p – Journeyman Geek Jun 25 '12 at 13:40
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    Some users don't have the comprehension to understand the value of getting involved in the community (maybe plural). I know for a while I ended up using search results that happened to be (probably) SO questions for some things I was doing. And it took me several visits to find the sites that really pulled me in and gave me reason to be interactive, instead of just using answers as an outside observer. – killermist Jul 7 '12 at 23:01

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