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Some of our questions, especially good ones, draw a LOT of answers. Unfortunately, a lot of the time many of those answers make the same points over and over, often without introducing any new information. Even when they do differ somewhat we often have a situation where someone asks something like "Does X let me do Y?" in a given system and gets "No, because A", "No, because B", "No, because A&B", "No because A, B, and/or C", "No because A and B but definitely not C", "No, because A, phrased differently" as answers. This is a problem if I believe the answer is 'Yes, because D' because the pile of answers, as long as they are above 0 votes (and in such cases the majority of them will be, albeit just slightly), but adding another answer to a massive pile of answers seems problematic because the signal/noise ratio on the page is so low and even if I'm reasonably convinced my answer is correct and the existing answers are incorrect it is hard to justify the inherent increase in page noise.

Generally it's not that we have a lot of different answers — that would be fine because then probably there's an answer I agree with and can upvote instead of posting another one. It's that we have a lot of the same answer, kinda spread out into a mess. Usually it's not so obvious that the answers are the same and each one repeats a lot of stuff (often unintelligibly unless you've read the rest of the answers), but also makes a perhaps-off-topic, perhaps-on-topic point or two that feels like the real reason the answer was posted. Sometimes, though, they are entirely redundant and add no new material whatsoever.

Is there anything we can do about this? Are other people also experiencing this?

For example, Make the player roll even if there is no chance of success? has duplicate and semi-duplicate answer pairs of the nature I'm talking about. Note in particular:

And here's another question with a lot of regurgitation of material in answers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Any chance you could link some of the examples that had you wondering? I mean, the general answer would be some combination of downvoting, flagging, protection, but perhaps you're seeing that's not sufficient? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 24 '17 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related past discussion: Giving answers that already exist \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 24 '17 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 The answers here seem to show some of this problem: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/76526/… note in particular rpg.stackexchange.com/a/76530/14848 and rpg.stackexchange.com/a/76532/14848, and rpg.stackexchange.com/a/76528/14848 and rpg.stackexchange.com/a/76564/14848 \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 24 '17 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 this seems particularly egregious. While it kinda-sorta pretends to be a resynthesis of existing information it's actually just an excuse to vent frustration by being mean to the OP. Sort of the 'someone on the internet is wrong! I must tell them!' response, which didn't let itself get stopped by the fact that someone else had already posted the exact same thing just without the mean tone. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 24 '17 at 1:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, there's crud in both those examples, thanks for finding them. I will ask, then: other than there being crud, is there a problem they're creating? It looks like all the repetitive/underdeveloped are pretty low-ranked; it's not like their overwhelming presence is preventing cream from rising. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 24 '17 at 1:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you put those in the question and include some commentary on what they mean to you/to the question? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 24 '17 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie better? \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 24 '17 at 5:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I don't know. I personally find the crud extremely discouraging to posting new answers because I don't want to contribute to the meaningless noise. I mean, I think my answer is good but presumably so did the other 8 people who posted garbage, you know? Also, while it's true that they are ranked low they are still ranked positively and that bothers me-- especially because 'low' in this case is easily up to 4 or 5 upvotes-- far more than even an excellent answer on not-dnd-5e-fate-AW can expect to earn. But that's a different problem. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 24 '17 at 7:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting--thanks. I think that's really good to know: experienced/high-rep user is discouraged from posting. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 24 '17 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree these dupes basically inhibit new answers and hide good new answers down in the muck resulting in less attention and fewer upvotes/less improvement than they would get due to the dilution effect. I personally have looked at questions with a chain of 12 mostly identical answers and chosen not to bother to answer as a non optimal use of my time. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 24 '17 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk and the worst part is these are often the really intriguing, powerful, exciting questions. Sometimes they're good enough I decide it's worth my time anyways, but even when I don't the question is usually still really good. It bothers me that our best questions often get our worst answers. They usually also get some good ones, but I feel like our site is missing the opportunity to give the best answer to those questions we could, and that sucks :( \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Feb 24 '17 at 20:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly, I get drawn in and think "that's actually a potentially deep question, maybe I'll contribute," go there, see the swamp, and think "never mind, no sense tossing something of value into the bottomless marsh." If you're not on the scene in the first 15 minutes, may as well forget about it. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 24 '17 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk on what basis would answers need to be culled/deleted? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 '17 at 1:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I had a clear answer to that, I'd write it in the answer block below. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 25 '17 at 5:11
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There is plenty to be done: its called voting

In theory, the voting system allows better answers to float to the top and poorer answers to sink into the swamp. In addition, the OP has the power to bring a single answer right to the top by accepting it.

In practice, a question with many answers will usually result in new viewers only reading the first few answers and voting (or not). This is unfortunate, however, voting by participants is neither compulsory nor deliberately subject to guidelines (unlike accepting an answer where it is suggested that people wait a day or so).

Does this dissuade latecomers from provided what might be the best answer to the question? Possibly. If they overcome their trepidation does it mean that this world's greatest answer gets mired 3 posts from the end? Probably. Is this a problem? No.

This isn't a problem because the stack is not about providing the world's greatest answer: its about providing an answer that satisfactorily solves the OP's problem and then leaving that as a legacy for those who follow.

Questions that attract a lot of answers (>5) are typically subjective (hopefully good subjective) and, by definition, there are better and worse answers to those types of question but there is no right answer. As an example, there isn't be a best answer to the following question but there are lots of good answers and many, many bad ones:

War and Peace is a historical novel. Tolstoy made great efforts to ensure the accuracy of his facts and dates, and the characters of Tsar Alexander I, Napoleon, Speranski, and other dignitaries generally respect historical factuality. Yet almost all the important and interesting characters in the novel are fictional. Why does Tolstoy merge fact and fiction in this fashion?

(Anyone want to guess what I happen to be reading right now?)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Furthermore, I fundamentally disagree that the Stack should be about solving problems. We have this idiotic obsession with problems. The only reason that problem-oriented questions are useful is that they tend to generate better framed questions as the querent has necessarily done at least some research by virtue of being present in the experience of the problem itself. It's great that problems can get us better questions. But question and answers and the transmission of knowledge, not the solving of individual OP problems, is and should be the focus of the stack. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 6 '17 at 6:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides, what if the OP abandons the question? What if there is no accepted answer, because the dozen or two 3-4 upvote crap answers are crap? Do you want our 'satisfactory' answer to be chosen at random from a pool of 4 contradictory, mildly vitriolic, poorly written, equally upvoted appeals to emotion? \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 6 '17 at 6:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Our quality on this site right now is quite high. We have, on average, good answers and okay questions. The situations where this problem comes up are pretty few, but they don't go away on their own so they are always growing. I want our site to become even better and I think that solving this problem is a route to that that will be the best route to take at some point. I don't want to stop trying to make things better because if we stop trying to make things better they will rapidly get worse. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 6 '17 at 6:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I appreciate that your opinion differs from mine. I do not appreciate a series comments that amount to a rant against my answer. If you have a different answer please post it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Mar 6 '17 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, that's not intended as a rant, that's intended as strong vocal disagreement-- I'm interested in discussing the issues with you and others in comments (this is a discussion meta after all!) I apologize if the comments were brusque. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 7 '17 at 6:42

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