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In order to answer a question, I copied and pasted my own answer from another question, modifying it slightly so as to fit the fact that the question was put differently. At the same time I also voted to close the answer as a duplicate of the other question, figuring that my mostly copy-pasted answer would suffice in the meantime until others agreed with my decision to close as duplicate.

My answer was deleted by a moderator who gave me a public warning not to copy and paste answers: "especially my own".

Now, I've been a member of stackoverflow.com for a long time, and copying and pasting your own answer there is (or was) fine: encouraged, even. I've done it many times and it's always been received positively, because let's face it, there is a lot of redundancy in many questions, where the questions aren't necessarily the same, but often the same information can be re-used. And when I do it, it helps people. I've often re-cycled the same answer, changing parts of it in order to make it relevant to the different question.

Was this moderator wrong to warn me for doing this, or was I in the wrong for re-using parts of my answers?

Comments were disabled on my deleted answer so I had no right of reply to the moderator, which seemed a little unfair, especially since his telling me off seemed a bit rude (edit: he has since replied to me in a comment on the question, which is good, though I still disagree with him in principle about whether I did something wrong).

The answer in question is here. I'm not sure if other members are able to see it:

https://askubuntu.com/questions/517466/ubuntu-claims-its-out-of-space/517469?noredirect=1#comment702517_517469

Please feel free to tell it however you feel it: if consensus is that copying parts of your own answers is wrong here, I'll be happy to accept it.


Edit: most people seem to have fixated on the fact that the question should have been marked as duplicate, rather than whether or not it was wrong for me to provide a partly copy-pasted answer from another question. I am not asking whether it should have been marked as duplicate - I did mark it as duplicate. What I was told off for was not that I did/didn't mark it as a dupe, but that I copy-pasted from my own answer.

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I copied and pasted my own answer from another question, modifying it slightly so as to fit the fact that the question was put differently.

I have 5 answers that are more or less 80% the same answer, just trimmed and chopped and regurgitated to different proposes, which off the top of my head only remember two:

  • I can boot Ubuntu only if I plug my USB
  • How to move GRUB to a new disk

You would notice a common topic between them (namely the bootloader (GRUB)), yet, the question are different in propose and cause. So yes, you can reuse your answers so long you answer different questions.

The fact that the same answer can solve both, doesn't automatically make them duplicated.

  • 1
    The fact that the same answer can solve both, doesn't automatically make them duplicated it's a pretty strong indicator though, strong enough to at least flag them as possible duplicates I'd think. I didn't consider that mutually exclusive with providing an answer though, which is why I did both (vote it as a dupe - and provide a mostly copy-pasted answer). – thomasrutter Aug 30 '14 at 1:47
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    @neon_overload no, is not. You are not flagging duplicated answers but duplicated questions, you don't flag a question unless you are absolutely certain they are. Also, my point is not about that, my point is in bold "you can reuse your answers so long you answer different questions." – Braiam Aug 30 '14 at 1:58
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    For me, whether or not a question is a duplicate can be judged upon, among other things, whether the exact same answer would adequately answer both questions. So I use that as part of what I consider a duplicate question, which is why I mentioned that. I do understand your point that I should not have answered a question given that I had voted it as a duplicate. Or that I should not have answered with a mostly copy-pasted answer on a question that I had voted as a duplicate. – thomasrutter Aug 30 '14 at 2:04
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I'd have no problem with you posting the same answer a million times over as long as they answered different questions. This is a case where it is not only clear that they are duplicate but also that you knew the older question existed because you posted to both within a matter of minutes.

If you were a new user, yeah, I'd probably suggest more delicate handling. We try to spend some time with new users explaining how the system works... But as you point out, you've got 65K of network reputation. You should have an idea that the massive duplicate system that exists on these sites isn't there just to be ignored.

And in terms of how we handle communication with users of deleted posts, the comments are sincerely not supposed to be a public lambasting. Some other people can see them but —save for when people open a meta question about it— very few people actually ever see the deleted post. We just want you to know why we're doing stuff so we don't get "Why did a moderator rudely delete my answer?!" meta-questions.

In short: The comment could have been more explanatory but you should probably know better too.


In terms of the duplicate process, when you mark something as duplicate, it leaves a comment for the OP. This is more than enough. You don't need to copy your (or every other answer) over. That's not desirable for anybody.

If the question is closed as duplicate, that comment is deleted and converted into the header you see above the question. That is what happened here:

enter image description here

  • This is a case where it is not only clear that they are duplicate but also that you knew the older question existed because you posted to both within a matter of minutes. I'm sorry, but I don't exactly follow. Are you saying that I should have marked it as a duplicate? If so, then you probably missed the fact that I did indeed do this - I voted to close as duplicate, before adding the edited answer. I added the answer as well so that it'd at least have a relevant answer in the meantime. Is this the problem - that you didn't realise I voted to close as duplicate? – thomasrutter Aug 29 '14 at 11:05
  • When you mark something as duplicate it posts a comment for the user to see. When it is finally closed that comment is converted into the close banner at the top of the question. There is simply no need or desire to have a hundred copies of duplicate answers to duplicate questions rotting around the site. Answer once and link in. – Oli Aug 29 '14 at 11:07
  • I don't think it added a comment when I voted to close as duplicate - either that or fossfreedom deleted it when he overruled my close vote? Either way I now know not to add an answer when marking a question as duplicate. If I understand correctly the problem is not that I copied and pasted from my own answer but that I added an answer at all to something I'd marked as duplicate, correct me if I'm wrong. – thomasrutter Aug 29 '14 at 11:12
  • It did leave a comment; I've added a screenshot to show this. What is wrong is posting duplicate answers to duplicate questions. It doesn't really matter that you flagged it (that is both better and worse in different respects). – Oli Aug 29 '14 at 11:22
  • Ok thanks Oli for letting me know your position as a mod on this. In regards to that screenshot, why did that comment get deleted, and who is the "Community" that deleted it - a bot or regular mod? – thomasrutter Aug 29 '14 at 12:24
  • It's a bot. Again, this is all part of the normal close-dupe process. The same thing would have happened if 4 other normal users had also voted to close. – Oli Aug 29 '14 at 12:56
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Without looking at the topic it is about: if you can copy the answer the question is (more than likely) a duplicate and should be flagged as such.

--- edit ---

Was this moderator wrong to warn me for doing this, or was I in the wrong for re-using parts of my answers?

My opinion? no and yes.

Comments were disabled on my deleted answer so I had no right of reply to the moderator, which seemed a little unfair, especially since his telling me off seemed a bit rude

In general I consider it not a good idea to use comments, questions and even meta for discussions about a moderation (mods probably will state to use meta). I would have done this in AU Chat to ask about this.

fossfreedom is not that bad a moderator and I am sure you are reading his comment in a way that seems to tick you off but that was not intended as such.

  • I did vote to close as duplicate at the same time. I figured that if others did not agree that it was a duplicate, then at least it'd have a relevant answer. Whether it was a duplicate was possibly borderline. When I copied my answer I had to modify it, rather than copying and pasting it verbatim, due to the difference in the way in which the question was asked, but essentially it was the same issue at heart. – thomasrutter Aug 29 '14 at 9:48
  • I was not aware of AU chat, thanks for suggesting it. – thomasrutter Aug 29 '14 at 9:50
  • why are you not there yet @neon_overload :=D – Rinzwind Aug 29 '14 at 10:02
  • I'm a bit of a chat virgin, I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable there, maybe once I've observed it a bit more and got a feel for it. I also am cooking dinner and bathing my son this eve so I'm a bit sporadic. – thomasrutter Aug 29 '14 at 11:13

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