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There are two answers to this recent question by the same person

How to find underground resources (water? caves?) on Mars?

He could have edited what he added to his previous answer. For whatever reason, he instead answered again. The second answer has a different theme and I suppose could stand alone.

But then I think... so, if people figure they can answer twice as long as there is enough to distinguish the two responses as genuinely different, can that be gamed? And would people game it?

And maybe it helps keep the page shorter if everything a person wants to say is in one answer.

What do you think?

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I had just been writing "Perhaps Brian himself will chime in with his reason(s)" when his answer appeared.

I think the system works well the way it is. One this site and the others that I frequent, multiple answers are rare (I recall noticing only three in the many thousands of posts I have read). The reasons for posting multiple answers could be

  • Is this answer different to the other answer?
    It could be that the author has completely changed their mind (not the case here I think). In the current case the second answer is different enough.

  • Does the other answer have history that could be invalidated by updating it?
    This could have been used by Brian (but he does not report that) because the previous answer was accepted. In another case I have seen extensive pro and con commentary that would be invalidated by an update.

Could it gamed? How would that work? One might imagine that multiple answers might give the author more votes, and it works in the cases I have seen because the answers were different. And that's OK.

But if a person posts an answer that is very similar to a previous answer, users often vote it down, regardless of the author. To me, this is the key. The community rewards the behavior it likes, punishes behavior it doesn't.

So my conclusion is that there is no need for change.

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I wondered about that myself when I put the answer. There is a pop-up from SE that discourages you from doing this and asks "are you sure?". I concluded, as I you noted, that the two answers were different. I felt, that adding the newer piece of information was sufficiently distinct from my earlier answer that it could stand alone.

People could then comment and vote on each one separately. That was my thinking anyway.

I was also tempted to add a comment to that effect, but decided not to, to discourage discussions in the comments which are better on meta.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm leaning towards the thought that if it doesn't happen much, it can be an option in specific situations. What exactly validates doing it i'm not sure. Do i understand correctly that you felt votes and comments on each would be ways to distinguish the merits of each approach? ...People seem to have a pronounced tendency to not scroll down once they figure they have read one good answer. Notice that Kirkaiya even put a comment under the question to attract more attention to your answer. I do fear people doing it simply to get more points, too. If it escalates, maybe it needs to be stopped. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Apr 11 '15 at 14:43

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