I have noticed many folks jumping to answer a single question in the exact same manner.

i.e. I ask, "What's two plus two?" (Check out my questions, I'm pretty dumb.)

An hour later, Bob answers "4, obviously!". Two hours later Sal answers "Well, 4, thanks for asking". Two days later, Jenny says "4, and here's a link to a Wikipedia article."

I'd at least give Jenny some credit for citing her resources, but come on... Are people that hungry for little colored circles on their profile? And in fact, I have noticed that this "hunger" manifests odd behaviors from very intelligent people quite regularly in many ways around this site.

I shan't complain too much, as I have no suggestions for improvement, and I benefit greatly from the experts here. Just a discussion point.

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    $\begingroup$ Weren't there some past discussion about this? For example: Questions with multiple, very similar answers, What to do about extremely similar answers? or When are two answers too similar? $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2018 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ And I guess you could find a few more discussion on this topic if you check the duplicate-answers tag on Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2018 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not clear how much of your post is actually a Question (or complaint, if you prefer). In your hypothetical example, you ask a Question, however poorly, and get three answers that agree on the basic result. Do you really find it "odd behaviors" that "very intelligent people" would have very similar results? Would you prefer another behavior? $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ "Are people that hungry for little colored circles on their profile?" Absolutely. $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ Wait... what colored circles? The gold badge is denoted by a gold (yellow) circle (typically, folks usually don't earn a gold circle for their answers)... hmmm... but... what are the others? Don't discriminate against bronze triangles, or slilver squares! $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy Don't forget the all-important green rectangle. $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Apr 18, 2018 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @hardmath, I think OP's point is that the similar results keep coming in for days after the first one is posted. Simultaneous similar results is one thing – posting results when similar ones have been up for a couple of days is another. [Though whether this actually happens has not been established] $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2018 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ When asking a question there is a "How to Ask" Blurb... What if there was a "How to Answer" blurb that had things like 1.) Make sure that your answer contributes something new or illustrates the solution in a different manner from already existing answers. 2.) Make sure you answer in a manner that matches the context and level of the question i.e. Don't provide proof of reimann inegrability to illustrate the answer to a Calc II question. I think that would be very helpful. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2018 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ "...odd behaviours... around this site"... well, and around real life too :) $\endgroup$
    – Miguel
    Apr 19, 2018 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @rocksNwaves You mean something like this : math.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer? $\endgroup$
    – Arnaud D.
    Apr 19, 2018 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnaudD. No, I mean a blurb that pops up on screen as they are answering. Just like there is when asking a question, like I said. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2018 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @rocksNwaves This is a bit of an aside, but you are not required to "match the context and level of the question". Indeed, one of the benefits of a having a site with people at all levels mixed together is that you can see an advanced perspective. (Also, the OP isn't the only audience.) I do agree that you should make it clear that you are doing this and should not do it in lieu of providing a more level-appropriate answer if you can and one does not already exist. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2018 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ Another possible motivation is seeing that a question is about to be closed. If you can see it's already got three close votes, you don't have much time. Might as well squeak in something that's not that different from what's already been posted, and then worry about adding depth to your answer at leisure. $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2018 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of When are two answers too similar? $\endgroup$
    – KingLogic
    Apr 30, 2018 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Your (hypothetical but not unrealistic) examples are essentially a symptom of the site having many users, which means that easy questions are likely to receive several answers at almost the same time.

For more difficult questions, different answers are likely to be explained in different ways, even if they use the same techniques. That's potentially very useful because somebody who doesn't understand one of the explanations might find that one of the others "clicks" for them.

In contrast, different ways of asking the same question don't contribute much and the "duplicate" system helps collect all the answers in one place.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, 4 people start answering at the same time, 4 almost identical answers are likely enough to pop up. I more mean the cases when the answers are spread out in time but still identical. I definitely like seeing multiple points of view on the same answer as I often get bogged down by notation. This allows me to sift through and find an answer that is "on my level" when it comes to mathematical understanding. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2018 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ Answers that provide no new information and no new perspective (e.g., a different explanation) quite often get downvoted, whihc kinda moves them out of the way. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2018 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ I beg to differ, different ways of asking also encourage answers explained in different ways. E.g. if questioner A gets stuck at the end of the problem, the answers often don't include a detailled proof of the beginning. Hence if questioner B already got stuck at the beginning, then the answers to question A may be not helpful to him. $\endgroup$
    – klirk
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @klirk Then B should ask a question specifically about the beginning, explaining why the answers to A's question aren't helpful. Perhaps they didn't know about A's question but they surely will if people start to vote to close as a dupe of it. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2018 at 18:09

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