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I've been seeing a lot of answers to questions that are basically duplicates. There may be some nice variants, but it’s basically already been answered.

How can we discourage this? How can we encourage folks to write comments when they just want to add a wrinkle on an existing answer?

We've been getting more and more answers that say "I agree and here's more" what can we be doing better?

It is important to point out that deleting duplicate answers is SE pretty much policy. By not doing this we aren't meeting SE norms (which may be a bad thing as we think about getting out of Beta).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "How can we encourage folks to write comments when they just want to add a wrinkle on an existing answer?" can easily be seen as endorsing and encouraging answers in comments. Should we remove that sentence, or are there specific kinds of comments you had in mind? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 16 '17 at 7:57
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To paraphrase a proverb about treasure and trash: One user's duplicate answer is another user's differently-nuanced answer.

So just because someone thinks an answer is duplicate, doesn't mean it is. Often I've seen two similar answers called out as duplicates, but I will see an important difference that makes me vote for one and not the other.

This is a good thing!

We want to choose the best answer, not just the one that is close enough but that's not quite perfect. To be able to do that, we have to allow people to post what might look to us to be duplicate answers. Let the voters sort them out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I often give what I could see some people would call duplicate answers. I do it because I feel I can answer the question better. Sometimes I'm right and I end up with more votes, occasionally I'm wrong. No big deal either way. Darwin can't work too well if there is only one answer! \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Nov 4 '10 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pat Ludwig: That's exactly the dynamic I was thinking of. :) I think it works quite well. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 4 '10 at 5:44
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many people post an answer at the same time. You decide who to vote. If you don't like an answer or consider it relevant enough, just don't vote it. Downvotes are for annoying, or useless answers, or wrong (when the question can be answered with a single, specific answer)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think if there are answers at the same time, or proximity than some pruning on the part of the answerers is called for. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Aug 27 '10 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree here. Down-voting people for having a similar answer at roughly the same time seems ridiculous to me. It's going to happen a lot (especially for questions that have a specific answer), and down-voting for it is only going to discourage people from posting. \$\endgroup\$ – bifflechips Aug 27 '10 at 20:46
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My hopeful guess is that lots of identical answers will lead to spread out rep; people who post focused answers to questions that don't have a lot of answers already will get more rep, and that will encourage appropriate behavior better than down-voting. This process can be encouraged by upvoting that sort of question, always assuming it's a good question in the first place.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure. I'm really feeling like we're getting 3 or 4 answer that all say the same thing. People need to be encouraged to use comments more. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Sep 11 '10 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ What Bryant said. SE is self-regulating on his point, and it's a waste of our energy to police it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 22 '10 at 22:01
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I think this is a general problem with the Stack Exchange system. You can’t comment (or do hardly anything) until you get some rep. Just about the only way for a new user to get rep is by posting an answer. So, for a new user, your choice is either to post a duplicate answer or do nothing. If you take the “high road”, that can make it really hard to find an unanswered question you have an answer for.

Of course, once you get a little rep, that problem goes away. So, this isn’t a general answer to the question, but I think it is a significant one, and one that only gets worse as the site grows. Most of the questions you have will have already been asked and most of the answers you can give will have already been given. It took me forever to get just a little rep on Stack Overflow.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ask a good question. As a new user thats the fastest way to get rep. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 3 '10 at 13:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, but the whole idea here is to have a searchable database of questions with answers. So, every day it gets harder and harder to come up with a question that hasn’t been asked before. You are nearly completely locked out of participation until you come up with a unique question or a unique answer. Newbies are forced to go for the big hammers (questions and answers) rather than starting by participating in smaller ways (comments and votes). \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Fisher Nov 3 '10 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think we're anywhere near being close to answering even a small portion of possible questions. Just as SO still has tons of new questions every day that don't get closed for duplication (so many that they have an unanswered problem). If people can't think of a question to ask then they aren't trying. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 3 '10 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ "[Y]our choice is either to post a duplicate answer or do nothing" The fallacy of the excluded middle is in action here. This answer seems to assume that any answer is a duplicate if there's been even one answer to the question already. No. Please do add an answer to questions that have already got some answers. The only time to abstain is when someone has already given the answer you were going to. (In which case, vote them up!) Questions should have more than one answer posted, else we can't vote for the best! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 4 '10 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That was not my assumption. I’m speaking from the fact that on SE sites there have been many times when I felt I had a contribution to an existing answer. A comment would have been warranted, but my answer would have been a duplicate of an existing answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Fisher Nov 5 '10 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Robert Ah, I see what you mean. I don't see posting duplicate or nearly-duplicate answers due to lack of commenting permissions a problem, really. The voters will either see it as distinct and reward it, or as a duplicate and ignore/downvote it. Real duplicates get shuffled down the page where they belong. The problem here, I think, is that people aren't satisfied with bad answers getting a 0 or worse and wish they'd go away, but I think that's beside the point of SE. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '10 at 16:26
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We need to be doing a better job (to quote the SO faq) "Don't just rip off other answers - but refer to them and build on them."

Too many of our answers just paraphrase what is said elsewhere with a comment. There is a reason there is a comment button beyond chatter. If your not substantially building, make it a comment and allow the original poster to edit it into their answer making it more complete.

When you look at successful SEs you do not see this high level of repeating. People need to be better at not restating whats been said, of editing and when necessary deleting their answers.

And not upvoting subsequent answers that don't add value.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you give an example, Jeremiah? \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Oct 30 '10 at 12:46

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