A certain kind of questions attract many answers which are essentially the same answer repeated in different words, or posted with different formatting, or expanded to include all sorts of only vaguely related things. (Overly long answers and lack of brevity could be another topic, but I just mention it here, since the two usually go together). Such questions have a common theme, the answer to many of them can be started with "talk to your players/GM".

If you see you can add something small to an already posted answer, please do it in comments. And as far as I know there's a feature to view answers that were posted while you were writing yours, please use it.

I intentionally do not post any links to any examples here, since my intention is not to point fingers and make the people in question all defensive, nor to dissect every example and argue whether it was worth a different answer or just a comment. I feel that wouldn't lead anywhere. Thank you for reading and take no offense anybody :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 and starred. I completely agree with you on this matter and now I'm patiently waiting to see if someone posts a repeat of mxyzplk's answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Jun 2 '16 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ related: Giving answers that already exist \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 8 '16 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ small things added in comments to existing answers are routinely deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – psr Jun 15 '16 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @psr Only once they've been sitting around long enough (which varies from days to months) that they will obviously never get included in the answer, or instantly when they become an argument (which also indicates clearly that the author disagrees and will not be making the requested change). The only suggestions that are routinely removed are those in comments on the question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 20 '16 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've taken this outcry to spur me to vote more actively on questions collecting a large number of answers - especially, actively downvoting things I might've left alone on account of solving part of the problem. Now I'll downvote unless it actually provides a good comprehensive response to the core of the problem (and accurately identifies that core), and guides the person through courses of action in a way that shows expertise and experience. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 29 '16 at 3:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ my instinct here is to copy another answer and post it again, but I'll refrain :) \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 29 '16 at 20:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sejanus, comments, answers, and questions work differently on meta because it is used for discussion. In particular, we don't delete comments unless absolutely necessary, so repeated flags on comments that aren't doing any damage will generally be declined. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 4 '16 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did I repeat flag? Must have forgotten I already did it, sorry. Well, have it your way. But this reminds me a sandbox for mods to play however they like, as opposed to serious site with consistent rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Sejanus Jul 5 '16 at 5:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sejanus If you have a problem with how the site is run, your best bet is to talk about it in the open in a dedicated meta question instead of scattering passive-aggressive comments around the site. Since you've been already and recently asked officially and on-the-record to cease such unproductive and disruptive behaviour, it is extra-important to change this habit. (This is an example of the mods being consistent and serious.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '16 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I post about what I find to be a problem right next to the problem, exactly like you just did when you considered my comment a problem - you posted your message right here. I don't want to make a dedicated meta post because that would be blowing it out of proportion, making it a far bigger deal than what I think it is. Also, I have to disagree on "extra-important". I find it only mildly important, if at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Sejanus Jul 28 '16 at 13:44

Indeed. Frankly, there are two things going on that I find disturbing on "soft" questions like and similar - they always happened some but they seem to be growing in magnitude.

  1. Repetitive answers, as you mention. You should not post the same answer someone else posted, that's what voting is for.
  2. Pure opinion/speculation answers, not following Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

Don't make the mods feel like we need to have some new rule or something to handle out of control bad behavior. The community can control this.

  1. Downvote new answers that say the same thing a previous answer did. If they're better/more complete/have more backup that's fine. If not, the datestamps are right there - downvote and comment "-1, exactly the same as Joe's answer."
  2. Downvote answers that don't convey experience and are clearly "ideas" - REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH THE SENTIMENT OR NOT - and comment "-1, untested supposition" (or whatever's relevant in that case).

You can all help make these questions better!

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    \$\begingroup\$ While speculative answers are a problem, and should indeed be downvoted when discovered, I'm not sure why you mentioned them here. It seems a bit of a tangent. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 3 '16 at 2:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I said, because the "certain kind of questions" he mentions suffers both from the problem he mentions and this other problem. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jun 3 '16 at 2:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Recently I've seen a comment next to some answer, asking "have you yourself tried this?" I just couldn't upvote that enough. Everyone can come up with so called "ideas", we need tested and working ideas in the answers. As for GM techniques and such, it would be also nice to add what the idea was tested with. i.e. age group can matter a lot. What works with 30+ may not necessarily work with 16 and vice versa. \$\endgroup\$ – Sejanus Jun 3 '16 at 4:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I'm a big fan of the 'have you tried this' comment, and untested answers are something of a bugbear of mine \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Jun 3 '16 at 6:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ It can be hard sometimes to judge whether the content of an answer has been tried or not. Thus asking is a good thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jun 13 '16 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes you want to add a couple of paragraphs to already existing answer, and you cannot do this in a comment. So you start a new answer, and say, "I agree with Joe, but I would also like to draw attention to these aspects that Joe has not mentioned". Then you go ahead and explain them. Do you think this is acceptable? \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Savinykh Jun 25 '16 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @zespri I think that any answer that is adding more useful content towards the answering of the question should be acceptable. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas Jun 25 '16 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is better, however, to recap the other answer in yours in the event the other is deleted, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jun 25 '16 at 13:28

Let the votes decide the one to be kept. Many of the "repetitions" differ in key elements, and due to the non-forum nature, "As X's answer, but..." is not allowed.

Trust the userbase to be smart enough to spot the differences and vote accordingly.

Several times, I've seen two answers where one was excellent advice but badly disjointed, with poor organization; another answer makes the same points but in more cogent order, and makes the logic train easier to follow. There's no reason to delete either - but the voting process should make the better one rise to the top.

In other words, stop the calls for deletions and simply vote more.

As Doppelgreener noted in a comment:

Yes please. We can sort out the ones that suck pretty well. We very rarely get repeat answers - they're just very similar and not necesarily high quality. The situation where we tend to see this happen the most is when a question hits HNQ, and that vote noise + a drove of new (samey) answers is kinda just what happens. I doubt the people providing all those samey answers are even active meta users who will see this question or be aware of any rules we set. – doppelgreener 19 Jun 2016

HNQ = Hot New Questions

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes please. We can sort out the ones that suck pretty well. We very rarely get repeat answers - they're just very similar and not necesarily high quality. The situation where we tend to see this happen the most is when a question hits HNQ, and that vote noise + a drove of new (samey) answers is kinda just what happens. I doubt the people providing all those samey answers are even active meta users who will see this question or be aware of any rules we set. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 20 '16 at 6:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, often in these questions I'll see an answer raise some points - but also simultaneously a recommendation I find to be a problematic and unhealthy course of action. Later another answer arrives expressed more clearly and without such a recommendation. Not a repeat answer, and it gets my +1. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 20 '16 at 6:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ These rules are coming close to becoming a catch-22. You can't post an answer that someone else has posted, you can't post your variation of their answer, and if you comment on their answer to mention a change, there's no reason to think they'll change their answer, or even respond at all, and your comment eventually just disappears. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Jun 22 '16 at 7:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Strill Yeah, part of our system is you can take the stuff someone else provided, and post an improved answer. (It won't necessarily be expanded. You can express the same ideas far more clearly and get an improved answer. You can express fewer ideas and get an improved answer, because the ones you cut out were dragging it down - e.g. social problem answers regularly get held back by endorsing passive-aggressiveness as a solution.) I think this meta Q appeared shortly after a Hot Network Question in which we just got a dozen answers which were very lackluster in the space of a few days. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 22 '16 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ This, to me, is a great example of why RPG is a bad fit for the StackExchange Q&A format and its rules. These are real questions, some of them interesting, which do generate multiple interesting answers. It's not computer programming Q&A, which is what the SE rules were designed for. So yeah it's repetitive, especially with the silly rule that gets people to restate other answers as part of their own. As Strill pointed out, yeah, catch-22, and why on earth do you guys care? I don't think it increases the quality if the questions and answers are interesting. With new GM's asking them, they help \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jun 29 '16 at 6:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz Interesting discussion already has a home on the Internet in the form of numerous RPG discussion forums. RPG.se wouldn't be improved by attempting to just be one more such. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 30 '16 at 16:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I'm not suggesting it should attempt "to just be one more such." I'm suggesting there are cases where the guidelines are resulting in editing which has been reducing rpg.se's value as a Q&A site, for measures I care about. I don't agree that the guidelines fit or are more important than interesting varied content, as the editing I've seen seems to. Often the questions & answers I find most interesting, get eliminated because someone thinks they break a rule. In the cases discussed here, I tend to think the varied detailed answers tend to be valuable to the asker & others. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jun 30 '16 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz Perhaps I misunderstood what “this” is in your comment above that shows the topic of RPGs is a bad fit for SE. Rules and editing exist solely to improve the site for Q&A — if they're doing the opposite of their purpose and harming quality, that's a problem that should be brought up (with flags or on meta) when it happens, so it can be fixed. If it's just that some posts are being downvoted though, that's SE working well for the purpose. If “this” means something else, then I'm not sure what it is. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 30 '16 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I have two topics in mind. One is limited to this Question thread, where the Q and some A's suggests that a class of Q's (new GM/problem players) tends to have too many "duplicate" A's. My input's this seems like over-application of a rule on a non-problem, as I think usually in these I have seen some value in the different A's, & if anything too much trying to force a single best answer when I would say it is appropriate and best to have a range of approaches from different people, as an answer to that type of Q. I take this A to this Q as saying roughly that, and gave +1. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jun 30 '16 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz So you're just agreeing with this answer then? Okay! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 30 '16 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie The other topic I touched on is I think overall rpg.se has issues with over-enforcing SE rules & giving their principles more weight than increasing the value of the content, as I appraise it. I think the "one right answer" directive is misplaced and not terribly useful. I see various patterns that seem like issues to me, and I've discussed these with others who agree & mostly hang on other forums because of it. I think such ideas get drowned out and squashed here, and make the site a bit weird and a lot less interesting/valuable that it could be. Just chiming in. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jun 30 '16 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yes. Just agreeing and trying to add a glimmer of light from outside the box of conventional rpg.SE thinking. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jun 30 '16 at 21:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz The hive mind is imperfect, but it's also fit for purpose. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 5 '16 at 3:03

There are definitely times when someone chimes in just to repeat a point others have made. Perhaps because they didn't read the other answers.

But repeated answers can happen despite good intentions. Here's some advice if you have repeated an answer, or are tempted to do so because of problems with an existing answer.

The Race (and that precious reputation)

Several users answered the question at the same time. It's tough to delete the thing you spend 20 minutes writing just because someone else only spent 18 minutes to say the same thing, and you think yours is a little better. Plus, yours got some upvotes so you got a little reputation out of it. (The community, then, should not consider an answer posted soon after another one a "repeat" even if it is similar - as they were being written at the same time.)

If this happens, take a look at all the answers. (It does not matter if yours was a little quicker or slower than the others.) Is there a good point you are making that the others don't? If so, expand on that point. Your answer doesn't have to be the all-encompassing, it just has to stand on its own, and add to the topic.

If the answer has no real reason to exist, please do your best to hit that delete button. The reputation will come. (And, if you've recently gotten more reputation, consider deleting some of your older, not-so-awesome answers.)

("The Race" can be very bad over at Stack Overflow, where a quick and dirty answer to a simple question can get you 25 precious reputation from the OP, who is just looking to fix their current problem. It's less of a problem here, but if folks down-vote "repeat" answers that get posted shortly after a sloppy answer that makes the same points, then we could inculcate racing here.)


Another question might have answered the question, but left out strong evidence for support.

You might see an opportunity to "win" the question, but you'll make friends better if you first comment on the existing question, pointing out the missing evidence. (And anyone who notices your good teamwork may be more eager to provide comment to improve your answers, in the future.)

Unclear writing

Sometimes an answer answers the question, even though the language is not perfectly clear. Native English speakers might use colloqiualisms or regionally-known references that would leave others confused.

Again, before writing your own improved answer, point these problems out in the commments.

Or edit the answer yourself if you can do so without changing the meaning of the answer. An example of amight be adding a metric version of some measurement. (The rules might use "feet" as a measure, but that doesn't mean all English-language players need to know about the difference between and ounce and a fluid ounce.)

But sometimes, it is appropriate

Here's a recent example (Do rogues get sneak attack damage added to attacks made outside their turn?) of a question that has an answer that repeats a previous one, but (I think) improves it.

The existing answer, though correct, doesn't provide supporting evidence. Some strong supporting evidence (from the game designers) has been published since the question was originally asked and answered.

Also, the existing question was a couple years old, so it is kind of a historical artifact now, and the original poster may be done with it.

It's not a chat room or forum

Stack is a very different place from most other social media site. It's going to be an adjustment for any newcomer to get acclimated to the no-nonsense culture here. The site interface encourages new users to post questions and answers right away, but watching and learning a little first might not be a bad plan either.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If I'm reading your recent example correctly, then it's the answers and question(s) discussed in this meta post. The new (repeat) answer was originally posted to the new (duplicate) question; after merger it appears looking like a repeat. I'd have deleted rather than requested merger, but the author of the old, accepted, highly-voted answer on the old question said he thought the new one was actually better. What a mensch! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 12 '16 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me you're okay with rewarding sloppy quick on the draw answers over carefully structured thoroughly checked answers if they happen to be substantially similar. Surely the voting system is there to allow the community to identify which of 2 similar answers is most useful? (Not to mention the possibility of incorrectly identifying the "first" answer based on answered date, when it could have originally been a one-liner fleshed out some time later.) \$\endgroup\$ – Disillusioned Jun 13 '16 at 2:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CraigYoung - I'm not trying to say that. I was trying to argue (gently) that if answers come in around the same time, it's not really "repeating an answer." (Over at SO, there is a serious "race to the answer" issue with the more basic questions.) If the community here gets too free with the down votes because "Somebody posted the same thing 5 minutes ago" then answer-writers would start rushing answers. We should avoid that. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 13 '16 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for clarifying. I guess the problem comes down to understanding when you're talking about adding an answer some time later (in which case often small improvements to existing answers may be more useful than a whole new answer); and when the timing of answers is close. Your section The Race does seem to suggest deleting one's own answer when when slightly slower to Post. \$\endgroup\$ – Disillusioned Jun 13 '16 at 2:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @CraigYoung, I've tried to clarify that. I might just delete this answer - it doesn't seem to be getting much traction. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 13 '16 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget--weekends can be really slow for traffic, doubly-so on Meta. I wouldn't read too much into it "not getting much traction" in its first day. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 13 '16 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Your answer doesn't have to be the all-encompassing, it just has to add to the topic." Perhaps this is correct and I've been steered wrong, but I have been told to answer as if no other answer exists and not to refer to other answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jun 17 '16 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Wyrmwood - An answer can (and should) stand on its own without being all-encompassing. Consider this question which I recently answered (rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/82493/…). I liked (+1) Mayshar's existing answer, but saw a different way to approach the problem. I tried to steer clear of repeating Mayshar, although I agreed with what he had to say. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 18 '16 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "And, if you've recently gotten more reputation, consider deleting some of your older, not-so-awesome answers." Because the SE model hinges on content actually existing, I thought outright deletion of one's own answers that add something to the conversation was frowned upon and excessive deletion of one's own content cause for alarm, or am I overreading this part of your answer and it applies only to dupes? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 18 '16 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan, that's right, content is good, but repeat content less so. I'm all for leaving up answers that express a minority opinion, or even are basically wrong — that's what the voting system is for. You could even leave up an answer that you now feel that is incorrect (but not outright harmful) because that's relevant to the topic. But if it's just redundant, and has a negative score, maybe say goodbye to it. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 18 '16 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The culture in this stack is FAR different than on the other SE sites I'm on. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jun 20 '16 at 5:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aramis Is that worth its own meta-post, especially as an introduction to users transferring from other SEs? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 20 '16 at 9:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aramis, don't be coy. Are you suggesting new users to this board need to get used to this culture, or that this stack should better conform to the wider Stack culture? \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 20 '16 at 23:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure they're chatty, but no worse than these. programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/90139/… ux.stackexchange.com/questions/44609/… \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 21 '16 at 1:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @timster I'm hoping the culture here changes. This is the SE site I started on; I've complained of over-moderating repeatedly. the dozen or so others I've used all have less ... busybody senior mods. The closest is boardgames, but that's due to moderator overlap. The least alike? programming. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jun 21 '16 at 7:17

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