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I have tried and failed to find an answer to this is Meta or the help topics. If someone can point me to something I missed, I will happily close this question. I've taken a look at the help page on deleted answers, the community-curated FAQ concerning the same, and the help page on flags.


There is a clear and easy method for flagging questions as duplicates. There is not, however, a clear method for marking answers as duplicates that may need deletion. As an example, this answer has exactly the same solution as the accepted answer. It was posted about 15 hours after the accepted answer. I commented and downvoted.

Is the downvote sufficient because it'll push it towards a review queue or should I be specifically flagging it as well?

Geobits pointed out a similar question on $\mathrm{Meta}^2$ (How to flag duplicate answers?) and it answers how to flag but not should we flag.


After further investigating on Meta.SE, I have found the following relevant posts:
Flag Answer, duplicate
How should one respond to "duplicate answer" flags?
Duplicate Answer Flag
option in "flag" popup for "duplicate answer"

I have come to the following conclusions:

  • The problem of duplicate answers is more prominent on Puzzling because a valid answer may be extremely short
  • ... and because we may have a high rate of new users that saw a puzzle posted on Facebook (or Friendster, MySpace, LiveJournal, etc.) and don't understand the community guidelines
  • ... and because most answers are in spoilers so it's quite possible that users are required to be a bit more studious to avoid posting duplicates
  • There appears to be a system-generated flag for duplicate answers and a review queue is available to moderators (Could a mod confirm this?)
  • Sending duplicate answers to moderators would increase their workload without adding much value for the site

My tentative decision is to downvote and comment on such answers. If they improve and I am alerted to that (I.E., if they reply to my comment), then I'll remove the downvote and potentially upvote if they can really contribute.

Does anyone have some insights that I missed?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd just like to point out that requiring/strongly encouraging answers to be in spoilers as the community does is just begging for loads of duplicates. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Jun 23 '15 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin That depends. IMO the spoilers are there so that people don't have to see the solution before trying the puzzle themselves, not so that they don't have to see other answers before posting their own. Personally I almost always read the existing answers before posting my own. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ The automatic duplicate answer flag is (roughly speaking) based more closely on a literal match, and doesn't actually catch things like this. $\endgroup$ – Aza Jun 23 '15 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul That's what I suspected based on my readings. Thanks for confirming. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jun 23 '15 at 20:14
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StackExchange sites are about finding the "best" answer, as voted on by the community. Answers providing the same information are encouraged, provided they answer the question in a different way. (I.e. Not just reword another answer.) Additional information, or other ways of presenting information are welcomed, allowing the democratic nature of the SE system to allow the community to decide which answer they feel "best" explains things.

StackExchange sites are not about rewarding the first person to post an answer, giving them "exclusive rights" to that answer. As such, duplicates across the StackExchange universe are not "punished" with downvoting or deletion (or even flagging). This is standard.

Read more here: Flag Answer, duplicate

If this community is going to behave differently to other SE sites, that's fine, but it should be clearly stated somewhere.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't disagree. If an answer expands upon a solution or explains it more clearly, then it should be upvoted. That is exactly the goal. However, the answer I linked in the post (on a now deleted question) was short and actually explained it less than the first. It was a math-based puzzle where the answer was a single formula so all the answers were fairly short. However, the accepted answer showed each step of the calculation whereas the one I was worried about just showed the original and the final answer. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Nov 20 '17 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ @EngineerToast Sure. If the answer very poor quality by itself, then you'd expect it to be downvoted. That's fundamental to the democratic nature of SE sites. $\endgroup$ – Chuck Nov 20 '17 at 16:28
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I'm not a mod, but the best option here seems like

in need of moderator attention
A problem not listed above that requires action by a moderator. Be specific and detailed!

If you're going to flag an answer as duplicate, you should point to the original (just like you do for questions). That will save time when handling flags. So, you should throw a custom flag and include the link.

The downside is that (I think) only actual mods will see those flags, not other flag handlers. I'm not sure that's optimal, but I agree that it doesn't fit the "standard" flag reasons, so maybe it should be a mod who looks at it.

There's a similar question on big meta, with a not-very-definitive-sounding-to-me answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ I considered framing the question as "Should we add a Duplicate flag for questions?" but revised it after reading the help topics and realized that maybe a flag wasn't appropriate. If flagging is the way to go, I would support adding a Duplicate flag as moderators shouldn't have to deal with that. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jun 23 '15 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't search meta^2 and I should have, thanks. I agree that it still doesn't answer the question of should we flag but it does answer which flag to use if we were going to flag. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jun 23 '15 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, a new flag would be better IMO (as long as it required a link, like dupe questions). Unfortunately, I think that would need to be taken up on meta.se. IIRC there aren't options for per-site custom answer flags. $\endgroup$ – Set Big O Jun 23 '15 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ Unlike with a Question, there is no default way to "flag an answer as a duplicate", nor is there a way to "point to the original answer". This is because poor quality answers are designed to be handled with voting, not moderator attention on SE sites. $\endgroup$ – Chuck Nov 21 '17 at 10:55

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