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Mi Yodeya may have an issue that is somewhat unique among StackExchange sites. Because of the nature of questions and answers about Judaism, there can be many completely different answers to one question, that would all be valid as standalone answers. For example, the famous question of why Chanukah is celebrated for eight days if the miracle was only for seven days has generated well over a hundred answers by various acharonim. This question was in fact asked on Mi Yodeya and currently has eight answers, but it could potentially have another hundred answers.

A slightly different scenario, but involving a similar underlying principle, exists with regard to answering questions with one answer containing a lot of sources. For instance, an answer can simply quote a Talmudic ruling, it can quote the codification of the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch, or any number of other rabbinic rulings. Each one of those sources on their own would (presumably) consist of a valid answer.

With this in mind, the following question arises:

What if there is a question that currently has an answer but (in the first scenario) the answer only contains one (or a few) of the potential answers, or (in the second scenario) the answer only contains one (or a few of) the relevant sources. Now someone else comes along and wants to submit a more comprehensive answer.

How should the new answerer deal with the information in the existing answer?

  • Should he incorporate it into his own answer? After all it would be a shame to have a very comprehensive answer missing one bit of information just because it's already in a different answer. This is especially so if the new answer is likely to be highly upvoted or accepted by the asker – presumably we want the top answer to be the best possible answer to the question.
  • If he incorporates it into his answer, should he give credit to the previous answerer? It may seem improper to not mention the other answerer, but on the other hand we generally try to keep non-answer content to a minimum.
  • If he incorporates it into his answer should he (or whoever has the ability) delete the existing answer as that answer is now entirely redundant? It doesn't seem quite fair to remove someone else's work (and the accompanying reputation), but on the other hand, it is now technically a "waste of space" as an answer.
  • Should he not submit a new answer and instead simply edit all the new information into the existing answer? This might be nicer to the previous answerer, but it seems a little strange to add a significant amount to someone else's answer that the person never intended (and maybe was not even aware of) and still have it as their answer. Would it make a difference if you are only adding one piece of information or you are adding 100 pieces of information?
  • Should he place a comment on the existing answer and explain the situation?
  • Should he post his answer without the additional information, and note that his answer is in addition to, rather than supplanting, the existing answer?
  • Should he just leave everything as is and not supply any new information?
  • Should he just post his answer with his information and then (he or someone else) create a Community Wiki that combines the two answers?
  • Is the answer different for the two scenarios mentioned above?
  • Does it make a difference if he only got the information in the existing answer from that answer, or if he anyway knew that information on his own?

To give an example of each scenario:

  1. רבות מחשבות's answer to this question cited the relevant ruling from the Shulchan Aruch. It is a perfectly valid answer. However, I subsequently posted an answer which elaborated on the issue and cited sources tracing the law from the Talmud down to the Codes. In that situation what should I have done regarding the information of the Shulchan Aruch's ruling?
  2. My answer to this question cited five answers given by various acharonim. WFB subsequently cited six additional answers from various acharonim. How should he have related to the information in my answer?
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A similar phenomenon does indeed occur on other Stack Exchange sites. For example, on the flagship site, Stack Overflow, for programmers, there can be multiple techniques to solve a particular programming problem, or multiple aspects or steps necessary to solve a problem. I don't know if such multiplicity of valid answers to programming questions ever reaches Ner lemeya levels, but it comes up enough on Stack Overflow to have merited popular discussion on their Meta site.

Following the guidance in the consensus answer there, by Kenny Nevitt, along with my own opinions about what works best here, I'll respond to each of your sub-questions:

Should he incorporate it into his own answer?

Yes. In general, the ideal answer post presents a single comprehensive answer. If you can make your answer closer to this ideal by incorporating information from other answers, that's a good thing to do.

If he incorporates it into his answer, should he give credit to the previous answerer?

Yes! See our citation guideline and the Talmudic wisdom it cites, as well as the attribution-requiring license linked at the bottom of every page on this site. Give credit!1

If he incorporates it into his answer should he (or whoever has the ability) delete the existing answer as that answer is now entirely redundant?

I'm not sure about this. If there's any value at all in the previous answer, including different phrasing, that didn't get imported into the big answer, then I definitely wouldn't delete.

Should he not submit a new answer and instead simply edit all the new information into the existing answer?

If it would only be a small addition to the previous answer, and you'd expect informed, reasonable Yodeyans to fairly uncontroversially consider the addition to be an improvement, then making that edit is a fine plan. If you think it might create conflict with the previous answered or others, it's probably better left alone.

Should he place a comment on the existing answer and explain the situation?

If you've edited the other answer, a courtesy "feel free to roll back if you think this isn't an improvement" comment would probably be a good idea. I don't see as much value in an "I incorporated this answer into mine" comment, but if you have a case in which you think it'd be valuable to alert the previous answerer of this, then sure, do so.

Should he post his answer without the additional information, and note that his answer is in addition to, rather than supplanting, the existing answer?

That's a valid approach as well, though it doesn't result in as clean a product as one comprehensive answer.

Should he just leave everything as is and not supply any new information?

If there's valuable information to share, it's best to figure out the best way to share it.

Should he just post his answer with his information and then (he or someone else) create a Community Wiki that combines the two answers?

In my opinion, that approach creates needless complication.

Does it make a difference if he only got the information in the existing answer from that answer, or if he anyway knew that information on his own?

I think that if you really don't use any inspiration, information, or language because you found it in a previous answer, you don't have to give credit. However, it's probably nicer to throw in a footnote along the lines of "as Felix already pointed out ..."

In that situation what should I have done regarding the information of the Shulchan Aruch's ruling?

Either referring to the Shulchan Aruch as quoted in רבות מחשבות's answer or copying in (with credit) the information from his answer are valid approaches.

How should he have related to the information in my answer?

Again, I think that either copying with credit or referring and picking up where your answer had left off are valid approaches.


1. To minimize distraction from the main text of your post, consider using footnotes for credit.

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