Have a look at, for instance, this question. Someone asked for a text equivalent to wireshark, and I answered "tshark". Then some time later, someone else comes along and posts a second answer saying "tshark or tcpdump". I can't find the exact time stamps but I do know the second answer was posted several minutes afterwards.

I see this a fair bit and it gives askubuntu a kind of weirdly competitive feeling, as if everyone is trying to get the maximum reputation points by giving marginally better answers, rather than commenting so that we get one good well integrated answer. It's a bit icky.

Or is it just that there's no async notification when an answer is posted, so people don't know they're duplicating it?


3 Answers 3


Sometimes when I'm doing an answer the site will give me a banner that someone else has answered, I click load and see that someone has already given a similar answer and sometimes I question whether mine will add value or not. Usually I just say "we'll let darwin decide" and post it.

When the site was getting busy last time I noticed people tripping over themselves trying to snag the quickest rep and posting quick answers. Here's a discussion on this kind of thing:

Here's what I do:

  1. If the answers don't feel high quality to me and I know how to answer I do a search while the rep chasers post their half finished answers (and will use their partial answers to help my research) and then drop in a crushing complete tiger-blood uppercut answer full of screenshots and examples.

  2. If the answer(s) are good I'll chip in by adding a screenshot or a link to more documentation, etc. and usually won't bother answering myself. This is personally more fun for me since when people see an edit they hopefully think "oh I get it, we can just keep improving things over time."

Personally I think the competitive thing helps more than hurts.

  • That's a good discussion of it. I think the game-aspect helps, but in some cases the wiki-type aspect of getting one really good answer is losing out.
    – poolie
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 6:31
  • 1
    Crushing complete tiger-blood uppercut sounds very scary.
    – user7182
    Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 4:43

It really depends on the situation.

I typically have only three intentions when answering question.

  1. I want to just improve the entire question by adding another possible solution.

  2. I don't agree with a solution already posted and post the solution I'm sure is more appropriate.

  3. I want to write some kind of tutorial like answer like here or here where I simply don't care about the notification that an someone else already answered the question as I simply know that my answer will probably add more value.

That is the three types of scenarios where I typically answer a question with an answer posted already.

If however there is already an answer that mostly coincides with my opinion and I feel the answer is lacking either additional information, screenshots, unicorns etc. then I just edit that answer with what I think improves the answer.

  • I think those are all excellent reasons to post a second answer, and I would do the same myself. It's just the case of multiple nearly identical answers that irks me.
    – poolie
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 22:51

tl;dr This is exactly like Rousseau's Confessions except that I haven't peed in any kettles.

Anyway, I was the second answerer in @poolie's example, so here's what was up.

Oddly enough, I was trying to do the opposite of what you thought you were seeing (being competitive or ignoring the existing answer) by acknowledging the good answer that was already there. In that case, 'tshark' was, in my opinion, almost exactly as good as 'tcpdump' (which was the new info I provided), so I was also trying to give a thumbs up to that answer (as in, I, some other user with a reasonably high reputation, approve). And if you look at my edit, you'll see that I changed "tshark is fine" to "tshark is a good option" because I didn't want to give the impression that it was "merely" fine.

I have a lot of experience with packet capture software, going back before Ethereal/Wireshark was born. That experience was primarily with tcpdump, so I felt compelled to add that as an answer. It's still a good option, but not only have I used Wireshark more lately, but anything wireshark-related would possibly be a better option for a typical(?) askubuntu user. So I also added tshark and the apt-link to it.

There are definitely cases where I was feeling and possibly acting in a more competetive way. This happened to be a question where, ironically, my primary impulse was purely to add information I felt I knew something about (even though there was a very good answer present).

In my opinion, this means only that the example post you gave isn't a good one for your thesis, not that your thesis is wrong.

I'm sure that if I look back to when I first started on this site (waaaay back, less than three months ago), there are times when I didn't read the other answers completely. I know that I've looked at a couple of old ones where I had to thoroughly edit my answers because of some poor reading comprehension of both or either the question or existing answers. Sometimes I've given additional answers with only slight additional info, because it appeared to fill the dual purposes of being helpful and possibly getting me some upvote juice. Again, though, almost any answers I've given have the stress on the being helpful part. Most of my questionable but potentially helpful informational posting is done as comments these days.

To go farther than that, I expect I've posted several less than stellar answers. Some days, that's how I roll. My intention is generally to go back to them to make them better (or even awesome, comprehensive, and FAQ-like), but in some cases I haven't. That's OK. If they suck, I expect they will be down-voted, and I'll notice this.

This is fine, and I won't take that personally. That's how the site works. It probably means that my quality filter was broken when I posted, or that I mis-read or misunderstood something. I delete answers that I've made if they're completely wrong or broken.

Anyway, I don't expect that these kinds of behaviors are mine alone.
I would be shocked if they were.

The system here attracts people who want to be helpful, and keeps people who at least initially like the point and badge-bling system. People with varying degrees of altruism and greediness, or helpfulness or game-mindedness or competitiveness, come here and stay or leave.
I do notice that, lessening the impact of the competitive answer thing is the fact that I and many others seem to slow down with posting possibly competing answers after certain point boundaries.

For me, it's the same with editing. If I don't get hit by a bus, I'll eventually get the gold badge for editing stuff. But I'll continue to edit after that because I'm kind of OCD with some grammar and spelling mistakes, and because I want the site to be good, I want the answers to be helpful, and I want Ubuntu and this community to succeed.

  • What a nice answer.
    – poolie
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 1:31

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