More often than not I run into a question that had already been answered here. But the asker could not know it, because he lacks info on what to look for. Recent example: User asks if it is possible to create functional keys on a keyboard without ones. I know the answer. In short, it is "Yes, use Xmodmap" and I know there is a big and definitive answer on how to use Xmodmap. You see, the questions are in no way duplicate, they are just solved the same way.

But what should I do in this situation?

  • Write my own answer from scratch -- feels stupid.
  • Ctrl+C Ctrl+V the big answer or it's relevant part -- feels both wrong and stupid.
  • Provide a link to long answer in a comment -- I know that it is supposed to be the proper way, but... Stack Exchange boasts its gamification. I recieve some points for proper answer and feel rewarded. But I get nothing for providing a link. Psychologist will tell you that simply not getting a reward when one is usually expected feels like being actually penalized. I am providing not just a link, but add my knowledge that "this thing is that thing", and that sometimes requires expertise or research (manuals browsing). Please, don't get me wrong - I am not so greedy. It is OK to help without being recognized once, twice, twenty times. But on a hundredth iteration I just subconsciously revert to another variant in this list, the worst of them is...
  • Ignore this question and go to a more trivial question -- where I can actually type my answer in and get my green bird sign. Because answer is either really small or I can't easily find it on SE.
  • Write an answer containing a link and several lines of useless text for it to not be autoconverted to comment. -- isn't it enough boilerplate text on the Internet already?

It is only a very-very little discouraging that your would-be answer should better be reduced to a comment with a link. Very-very little multiplied by hundred times - well, you know. When somebody else provides a stub answer and gets points where you had earlier provided a proper link only - that is just sad. It is fun to share knowledge on site without reputation system. It is extra fun to share knowledge on a site with reputation system. But again and again doing activities for no reward on site with reputation system and achievements is just not fun. I am not offended or something. I am just a user experience enthusiast. I have witnessed many times how a little, unseen to most people nuisance like this can drive away lots of would-be devote users totally subconsciously. The site system suggest that #5 is a proper way to do, while community and stuff points at #3. This discord should be somehow solved.


May be I am missing something? What should I do in this case? And sorry for bad English.

3 Answers 3


First really check the question isn't duplicate. Not knowing about something (so not being able to use the right words) does not mean that somebody might not be explaining exactly the same problem.

If it's not, no problem:

  • Answer it.
  • Quote where appropriate (might be the whole post).
  • Give credit as required.

I would have no problem +1ing an answer that was even entirely quoted from another (provided it wasn't a duplicate question, and credit was given).

  • 4
    +1 "I would have no problem +1ing an answer that was even entirely quoted from another (provided it wasn't a duplicate question, and credit was given)."
    – don.joey
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 16:35
  • Oli, what if the question is a duplicate, but the OP of the dupe actually needs help understand the solutions described in the master post? would you leave the peer saying please help understand the solution on your own or should those flagging the post as a duplicate should take the responsibility to guide the new community user?
    – rusty
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 7:15
  • 1
    @rusty We have a few "What does this answer mean?" questions floating around the site. I don't think they're technically duplicate. Ideally they'd get the original answerer to improve their answer via comment, email, chat or telepathy, but I don't think there's anything wrong with another question if it helps somebody.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 7:19

Ctrl+C Ctrl+V the big answer or it's relevant part -- feels both wrong and stupid.

Not at all. You can reference other answers of other questions that are related but not quite the same. For example How to specify root for installing Ubuntu, seems like a "How to install Ubuntu?" question, yet it's asking for a small part of the process that the OP is not sure. In those cases I could perfectly make an excerpt of the step, or create it myself.

There are hundreds of questions that are sub-questions of others more general, or are deviations of the general ones (i.e. How to compile a functional nginx? vs How to compile nginx with SPDY3 support?) which are ok if you answer them.

You see, the questions are in no way duplicate, they are just solved the same way.

The fact that the same answer applies to different questions is not, and will never be, the only point of reference to decide if a question is duplicated of another. It could be a hint, but is not enough.


If you find a good answer or solution in another question - you simply supply a note & link. It's called cross referencing, where an answer is mutual to two questions.

a notation or direction at one place (as in a book or filing system) to pertinent information at another place - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cross-reference

  • Except that site engine automatically converts this into comment, which is the whole point I was writing about. You need to get around by writing something useless. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 4:21
  • It's only useless to you. Others my find it useful. First, if I find links to other issues with similar answers. I can determine if something is a bug or a settings issue. Next, Resolutions on one system may differ slightly on another. I usually look for multiple resolutions. I come here initially, for an overview - but don't find enough information, so I go to youtube, where I can see multiple solutions - without interference from a mod. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 19:49

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