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:
- 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?
- 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?