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Recently, while reviewing late answers, I've noticed a latecomer.

The question was asked few years ago. Person who asked has accepted some answer(which in detail explained how to solve the problem). After few years, our latecomer decided to answer the question, too.

And it'd be fine if he provided some meaningful input, but I think his input wasn't that great: (from now on, I'll refer to Accepted Answer(er) as AA)

Firstly, his answer was less accurate version of AA(not a copy, but you would already know everything from the accepted answer).

Secondly, his answer was rather poor; The language wasn't as precise as AA's, instructions weren't as clear as in AA. They might even be a little confusing; not misleading, but surely not as easy to follow as AA's.

And thirdly, question had already an answer, and was asked few years ago.

Third argument isn't strong - any solution that wasn't listed is valuable, as it might help someone(and actually be simpler to execute); however, the fact that he didn't show any new solution or didn't explain it in a simpler way makes me feel it's just redundant and unnecessary.

I didn't know how to react. From the style I knew that asking him to refine his answer wouldn't help much; I also didn't know how to edit his post, since the best version was already in AA. Should I just leave it there as 0-score answer, flag it somehow, or ask user to take some action?

  • 1
    Any new answer is better than none. – neverMind9 Apr 9 at 19:19
26

Just leave it alone. You could, if you like, suggest to the OP that they improve the answer, or you could do it yourself. Apart from that, just let it be. We all produced some pretty sad excuses for answers when we first started posting. With any luck, this new user will spend some time on the site, see how things work here and improve.

In the case you describe, I don't think it deserves a downvote and there's not much point in doing anything else apart from attempting to improve it as I suggested above.

  • 5
    I leave downvotes for really poor answers/questions, or answers that are misleading. This wasn't the case, so I didn't downvote. – MatthewRock Sep 4 '15 at 17:53
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    @MatthewRock sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you had. I just wanted to point out that there's no reason to downvote. – terdon Sep 4 '15 at 17:54
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    No need to apologize, I'm not offended. I wanted to point out I knew that :) – MatthewRock Sep 4 '15 at 18:10
4

You don't know if the latecomer is hoping to become a serious member or not. Maybe he himself or she herself doesn't know that yet. You can do several things to improve the question.

  1. Upvote the right answer (and other answers that are useful and no copies). That's a positive downvote for the latecomer's answer.
  2. Comment on the latecomer answer and explain that his answer does not provide new insights.
  3. Explain that if he wants to build up reputation, he would better focus on questions where he can really improve the given answers. Copying answers can result in downvotes, which destroy your reputation.
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    He wasn't really copying answer - it looked like it was 100% his input - just redundant. I also wouldn't upvote an answer I don't find worth upvoting for the sake of "positive downvoting". Option no. 2 seems the best, but I think that leaving it might be an option too. If he wants to get serious, he'll learn, after a while. I guess that many people(myself included) are used to forums - and SE has different philosophy, so it takes some time to get used to. – MatthewRock Sep 10 '15 at 11:00
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    “+1” for the positive downvote meme; excellent! – Incnis Mrsi Sep 11 '15 at 12:27
1

I see loads of this same type of answer across the SE network. It would be nice to do something about it.

Downvoting might be seen by some as a bit harsh in this case - depending on whether our definition of that famous tooltip "This answer is not useful" is

  • passive: only for counterproductive answers
  • or active: includes redundant ones.

I'm not sure how I feel about this dichotomy, really.

Anyway, aside from that, I would certainly suggest leaving a comment saying something somewhat like...

  • 'Hi, welcome, blah blah,
  • but this answer (although not inaccurate) does not appear to be useful in this context - because X and Y (e.g. already answered, and 3 years ago).
  • Could you please tell me if I've missed something?
  • Otherwise, please check over our rules (or informal guidelines, or canonical meta threads, or whatever) to learn why the community would generally advise against leaving answers like this.'

This way,

  • You're not leaving a downvote that might go against the stated purpose of downvoting and/or be interpreted by the recipient as offensive
  • but you leave something for them - and, in some cases more importantly, other readers - to see and think about why they might want to avoid leaving the same kind of answers in future.

But I'm not known for being an expert on netiquette!

  • How many knowledgeable people are willing to spend their personal time for social-networky fuss of third-class importance? How knowledgeable would be those who are willing? Ī̲ vehemently oppose to conversion of SE to a social media like Wikipedia, with scores of do-nothing-of-use etiquette zealots distracting people from actual shortcomings and abuses. Sorry, nothing personal. – Incnis Mrsi Sep 11 '15 at 12:35
  • I'm not concerned about your personal opinions on different sites' ways of handling things and whether you think they're relevant here. Anyway, did you downvote based on whether my reply addressed the actual question soliciting opinions, or just your personal dislike of my suggestion? You'll notice it's not prescriptive - and I specifically said I'm not an authority on matters like these. Take it or leave it. I'm not forcing you to become a Wikipedia bot or whatever you apparently think this is. – underscore_d Sep 11 '15 at 14:50
  • There is nothing wrong with the question. But your proposed solution would encourage social fuss and, hence, compromise the wall defending SE from the outer incompetence. – Incnis Mrsi Sep 11 '15 at 14:58

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