I came across an answer that consisted of nothing but a paragraph copied from wikipedia. Someone had downvoted for that reason. Can we expect answers to have original content or is parroting allowed?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Show me where and I'll downvote it too. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Aug 6 '13 at 12:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ That is 100% okay if they reference the source and cite it. Same as our site policy. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Aug 6 '13 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: on the other hand questions can be closed if they "don't show any research effort". How can you then tolerate laziness in answers? :) While downvoting may be harsh I don't think such answers deserve upvotes. \$\endgroup\$ – Johan.A Aug 6 '13 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Johan.A The answerer is donating time to the person asking to give them an answer. The asker is asking for our time to help them find an answer. If an answer is not useful you just skip it, if a question is terribly researched you dont answer it. Not specifically this question, but, generally, a section of wikipedia with a link might be a full valid answer with a link for further reading. I would grade it on how well it answers the question, not source. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Aug 6 '13 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I looked at that question, and I while I didn't like that answer being just a copy from elsewhere, I decided not to downvote it since it is at the bottom already anyway. Instead, I upvoted the question and the two answers that contained original text. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Aug 6 '13 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ It shouldn't be hard to see that the widespread habit of demanding more information when someone posts a link-only answer is in many cases an invitation to plagiarism - and not just from sites where the content can be easily licensed. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 8 '13 at 6:03

I think people get the wrong idea about what should be voted up or down. Posts should not be rewarded based on effort, but based on utility. If someone writes 10 pages of crap over the course of a week and rambles on and on without answering the question, that answer is as useless as an ejection seat on a helicopter. I would much rather have a succinct and correct post, even if its just a (correctly cited) quote.

Why should we demand that people always paraphrase their source? What utility does that add?

Or worse, why would we think that writing an answer from memory is any better than from a reliable source? I've seen posts that are just plain wrong written out of thin air with no research, and people blindly upvote them if they are from a high rep user or posted first. Giving incorrect info is even worse than giving no info at all.

If you see that someone has plagiarized, just add in the citation yourself, leave a non-hostile comment and move on. If it at least partially answers the question and is useful, vote it up. Otherwise, vote down.

Giving the parrot 10 points is an insult to the people who spend more time on answers.

No, its a indication of utility. You're taking this way to personally if other people's upvotes are insulting you.

I wish I could vote for the answer and the person independently (the latter depending on how much effort he seems to have put in it).

This is entirely contrary to the Stack Exchange model. If you want to praise other users or rage on them, go to one of the jillion forums. Here, we evaluate the utility of the post, not the user.

See What to do when plagiarism is discovered? (more detailed list of actions) and I've been accused of plagiarism. What do I do? (good link to refer offenders to).

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Why should we demand that people always paraphrase their source?" Especially Wikipedia, the whole point of which is to freely enable copying forever and ever without paraphrasing. That's why it has a free license, and why Stack Exchange has a free license. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Aug 14 '13 at 16:13

If the question is just "how does X work?", where X is a thing that is well understood, documented on the internet, and probably well-explained by Wikipedia, then I vote to close the question as too broad. How people answer is irrelevant. The point of closing a question is to prevent answers, which will invariably be bad by the nature of the question. To read them may be a waste of time; to evaluate them is not productive; to downvote them is redundant; and if there was an answer that I thought worthy of an upvote, then I wouldn't think the question should be closed.

If the question is good, then maybe an insightful quote is useful. If the quote is properly cited, and answers the question well, then I upvote it. Sometimes knowing where to look is the hard part. Often, Wikipedia is well-written and accurate, and someone who has quoted it as endorsed it as such. If they could do better, then they should edit Wikipedia, then quote it.

If the quote is not properly cited, I flag it for plagiarism.

If it doesn't answer the question, I downvote it, just like any other answer that does not answer the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with this post, is there a "flag for plagiarism" option somewhere? This is something of a crying need on this site: some members blatantly copy content without citing source. Or, do you just flag with reason as "Other"? \$\endgroup\$ – Anindo Ghosh Aug 19 '13 at 5:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the post can be made better just by adding a citation, and you have already found the source (catching the plagiarism) it is an very small effort to simply add the citation. We were given the power to improve other people's posts with the edit feature, so we should use it. In many cases, people may just be being forgetful, or too inexperienced to understand correct citation. In that case, they just need a small correction, not a spanking from a mod. If the OP refuses to allow proper citation, e.g. by rolling back the edit, then yes, it is time for a mod flag. \$\endgroup\$ – travisbartley Aug 19 '13 at 6:50

Kortuk says "I would grade it on how well it answers the question, not source", and I understand that. An upvote then means "this answer is useful".

On the other hand the 10 points are not just for the answer, the answerer gets them as well. The way I see it is that it is a reward for the delivered effort. And here I have a problem: I don't think somebody who just copies wikipedia content (less than 1 minute's worth) deserves the same reward as someone who takes the trouble and time (maybe 20 minutes or longer) to write a comprehensive answer, possibly drawing a schematic. Giving the parrot 10 points is an insult to the people who spend more time on answers.

I wish I could vote for the answer and the person independently (the latter depending on how much effort he seems to have put in it).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes knowing what to look for in Wikipedia is a valuable contribution. (Not necessarily for that particular question, though). \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Aug 8 '13 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ But if it answers the question clearly, why not give it to them? Just because they copied the material doesn't mean they didn't do any work; they may have read up on the subject quickly and then used different keywords the OP didn't. Like what @ThePhoton said, Sometimes knowing what to look for in Wikipedia is a valuable contribution. It is hard to find some things, and if it helps the OP... \$\endgroup\$ – Anonymous Penguin Aug 9 '13 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ The old joke about the plumber and the cruise ship owner. The plumber takes 3 minutes to diagnose and fix an issue on the cruise ship and charges the owner a few thousand bucks. When the owner complains, the plumber says "It's now what I did, but knowing why that should be done in the first place". The owner shuts up and writes the check. The point being is that when something accurately answers the question, the perceived effort shouldn't matter. Work smarter, not harder. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 17 '13 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it takes someone 3 hours to answer a question that 2 minutes and a paragraph on wiki will properly explain, I think that person doesn't deserve the points either tho. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 17 '13 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby, except when the answer is more clear and to the point. Wikipedia has to be general, answers here can be specific to the question, with the required details. \$\endgroup\$ – Johan.A Aug 17 '13 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby: Stop worrying about the points. They're not useful for anything anyway. Rep is just a way to remind people that their contributions are helping others, to motivate them to contribute more. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Aug 17 '13 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @endolith, "Rep is just a way to remind people that their contributions are helping others," even this remark strongly indicates we should strive to attain rep points (indication of helping others) and build a system where reputation accurately indicates amount of helpfulness. Anyway, what difference does it make how someone regards rep points? Let people find motivation or enjoyment where they will, the ends justify the means. \$\endgroup\$ – travisbartley Aug 19 '13 at 7:05

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