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This is with reference to the following question: Adding 'Licenced To' name to pdf file at time of download

At present it has two separate answers posted by the same user. The first one discusses how a program such as pdftk can probably be used to solve the problem. The user then tried it out, figured out how exactly to do it and posted a second answer with the actual steps to be followed. He even edited the first answer and added a comment pointing to the second answer "for a step-by-step howto".

This is all well and good, but I simply don't see how two separate answers are justified. Neither are the answers "proposing two radically different solutions" as Jeff Atwood stated, nor does either answer "contain everything the user needs" as slhck noted. Essentially, they're two halves of a single answer.

Accordingly I flagged for a merge and left a comment explaining my reasons. It was rejected with "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer". However, neither answer is technically inaccurate or altogether wrong! If they were, I would of course have down-voted and possibly left a comment, rather than flagging. Also, I made it very clear in my comment that "both answers deal with the same program and should be merged". I was not asking the mods to pass judgement on the answers and summarily delete either one of them, which of course they are not allowed to do.

I know I could have edited the first answer, added the text from the second and left a comment for the user to delete the latter, or simply left a comment asking him to do the needful, but there's no guarantee it would elicit a positive response. Indeed, I chose not to do this precisely because of a hostile response I received in a similar situation once before. That's why I decided to flag and raise a merge request as the best possible way to deal with something like this. So why was the flag declined, and in future how should similar situations be dealt with?

(Just wanted to add - an hour later I flagged another question with the exact same problem, and this time the merge request was accepted and carried out, no doubt by another mod.)

  • Just adding a note: It probably would have been better to explicitly mention that there were two answers by the same user, which isn't exactly clear from the context (and one can easily overlook that). – slhck Mar 4 '13 at 6:22
  • @slhck: I guess I just assumed that a request to merge the answers of two different users is so nonsensical that no-one would attempt it. I'll be more explicit in future, or better still simply handle this myself as suggested below. – Karan Mar 4 '13 at 6:46
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My guess (I'm not sure since I don't know who handled the flag) is that it was declined for two reasons:

  • There's no special way for mods to "merge" answers. We can manually edit, and then delete, but there isn't a specific merge answers function.

  • As a 10K user you can merge yourself by editing, and then voting to delete and/or flag the 2nd answer for deletion.

Regarding your concerns about carrying out the merge yourself:

I know I could have edited the first answer, added the text from the second and left a comment for the user to delete the latter, or simply left a comment asking him to do the needful, but there's no guarantee it would elicit a positive response. Indeed, I chose not to do this precisely because of a hostile response I received in a similar situation once before.

There's no guarantee that the user would respond favorably if a moderator did it either, but as a >10k user, making an action like that is totally valid, and carries almost as much weight as a diamond doing the same thing. You've earned enough reputation to be entrusted with a subset of moderation tools, and it's OK to use them appropriately. Sometimes you have to do things that a user might not like, but as long as you're doing it with good intentions, aren't completely changing the meaning of the post, and are being respectful of the user, then we've got your back.

In essence, I think this situation just boils down to a misunderstanding (on your part) of what tools are available to the moderators, and a misunderstanding (on our part) of what you were requesting. In the future, I would suggest "merging" yourself by editing, and then voting to delete the other answer (and/or flagging it for deletion, explaining why).

Thanks for trying to help! I'll go ahead and edit/delete those for you now.

  • Thanks for the merge! I'll do as you suggest in future so that all you guys will need to do is get rid of the duplicate answer. – Karan Mar 4 '13 at 6:48

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