When I answer questions on Math SE, I generally like to leave long, detailed answers that tie up all of the loose ends on the problem. Because of this, combined with the fact that I am a slower typer than some, it often happens that just as I am finishing up my answer, somebody else posts an answer saying pretty much the exact same thing as the answer than I am about to post.

When I find myself in this dilemma, it is hard to decide whether or not I should post my answer. If I post an answer that says the same thing (if perhaps a bit more thoroughly) it will seem that I am copying the other user's answer. When this happens, should I just delete what I have written so far and more on? Should I edit and add to the other user's answer? Or should I post mine alongside the other?


2 Answers 2


As the author of one of those questions and having learned a thing or two since, let me state up front that the joy here should be in the solution to a great problem. Whether you write it up or not in M.SE should be secondary. I know the human inclination to want credit for solving a tough problem, but let's face it: aside from very rare occasions, you are likely not the only one than can solve a particular problem here. So you can choose to be frustrated by people who are faster than you in solving or typing or both, or you can choose to simply be challenged by the problem itself.

Accordingly, my advice going forward is to wait an hour or so before writing up your solution. There will be less chance of someone stepping on your toes if nobody has answered by then. And even if someone has answered, you have not yet invested the time to write up and you can find opportunities to differentiate yourself. And chances are, you will.

If you do find yourself in a situation that someone steps on your toes while posting, then keep going and post. You know yourself that your work was yours and nobody can take that away from you.

People who have known me for a while know that I now rarely post. What they do not know is that I still solve problems, but I have found the race to post them rather dispiriting and excessively time-consuming.


I occasionally find myself in the same situation and I've proceeded as follows:

  • If the other answer has fewer details than mine, I still post mine as long as my extra details are relevant to understanding the solution.
  • If the other answer has "just as many" or more details than mine, I do not post mine.

If I post an answer that says the same thing (if perhaps a bit more thoroughly) it will seem that I am copying the other user's answer.

If someone accuses you of this, which is unlikely, just point out the timestamps to them. The timestamp on your question currently says "asked 4 hours ago" but hovering the mouse over it reveals the exact date and time that it was asked (2017-07-26 15:50:49Z in this case). Most likely you will be posting your answer within a few seconds of the other. It's unreasonable to expect you'd copy an entire answer in the span of a few seconds.


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