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See this answer, for instance. The answerer divided it up into 3 numbered pieces, each of which is a separate solution to the problem.

As I understand it, the way the site works is that distinct solutions should be posted as separate answers, using the "Add Another Answer" button. This way they can be compared and voted up or down independently, and someone else looking for the solution will find an accepted answer with only one solution, not an accepted answer with three different solutions, and no way to know which was actually used by the questioner.

Can we encourage this in some way? Is there a way to break up other people's answers?

What is the official etiquette on answering a question twice?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It really depends how different the solutions are; if they are radically different then you may be right. If they are only moderately different and mostly related, then it might make sense for them to stay together. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Atwood Sep 3 '11 at 13:34
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I have given different solutions to an answer in the past, but then mainly when the question was something like "What possible ways are there to...?", where the asker expects a list of possibilities. I try to avoid it when just a solution is asked, and on at least one occasion I've split an answer which had two solutions into two answers.
Separate answers look more clearly structured if they're not directly related other than being answers to the same question. Knowing that they're by the same author isn't an added value.
On the other hand, if they're separate answers you can vote for each solution separately. I'm with Ed Koch on this, often asking myself "How am I doing?". Votes are good for this; if an answer of mine does get few or no votes at all I sometimes try to improve it.
Multiple answers in a single post may not get a vote from me, often because I'm not so fond of one of the answers. The poster will never know.

So, yes, I'm in favor of splitting up different solutions into different answers.

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In my opinion this isn't a big deal. I suppose you're right from a purely structural sense. However, in reality people just want to type their answers, and often it's legitimate to present several possible solutions. I agree with Jeff, that it might be worth it to write multiple answers if they really are very different, but most of the time that isn't the case. Personally, I'm not likely to bother writing separate answers. If anyone doesn't like that, they can have all their money back they paid me for the free advice.

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(1) I suggest that this question be closed as it is a direct duplicate of the reference that endolith gave as an example :-) - that's a joke by the way.

(2) (Please) leave my answers alone, divide up your own answers any way you like, I like my answers just the way they are, more or less :-).

If I put 3 "answers" in one post (as I did and which lead to this question) it's because I thought it was useful to do so. I have already explained why in the comments attached to that question.

I'm surprised that as endolith is specifically "attacking" an answer of mine that he did not provide a reference to it.

This is the question in question.

Here the relevant portions of our discussion:

  • I think this should be split into multiple answers – endolith Sep 1 at 5:28 3

  • @endolith - serious question - why split it? This is all on his topic AND forms a single point resource for others. – Russell McMahon Sep 1 at 6:10

  • @RussellMcMahon: Because there are several different solutions here. They should be in different answers so we can vote each one up or down and comment on each independently. – endolith Sep 1 at 13:33

  • @endolith - I'm here to try to answer useful questions usefully. Others can split up their questions to maximise voting outcomes if it please them :-). Very hopefully people will not seek to splt up mine by editing. – Russell McMahon Sep 1 at 14:14

  • @RussellMcMahon: I said split up the answer not the question. You have 3 different answers here. – endolith Sep 1 at 23:56

  • @endolith - sorry yes, split up answers is what I was referring to. There are 3 circuits but it's all one "answer". As I said, together they form a potential resource that allows ease of comparison, internal reference etc. I'm very happy for such things to be done as a whole. – Russell McMahon Sep 2 at 0:17

Note that this answer has a "score" of 10 so far and has been accepted. That seems like it is of value to a number of people. as a resource the various versions are clustered together and where relevant comments can be made on more than one of the circuits and the results of each can be compared.

Splitting the answer up would seem to be more about scoring and getting points than about being useful to the users. Frankly, I'm with Ret Butler on that one :-).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Something the split-it-and-vote argument seems to miss is that when the sub-answers present a variety of tradeoffs (as almost everything in engineering does), selection between them should be driven by those technical tradeoffs in the context of the specific application requirement. Voting is better for evaluating things like the clarity and accuracy of answers than in selecting between design tradeoffs - especially as the latter often requires more information about the application than has been posted. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Nov 21 '11 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton, In my opinion it allows a user to vote specifically for the technical content of the answer and improves clarity of the site, as jeff said is a pretty good rule for this. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jun 29 '12 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk - that's not a workable approach, as it would often see people posting 5 answers to a given question. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Jun 29 '12 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton, I heavily disagree with that. I rarely see someone post more then 2 answers in a single post. If someone honestly has 5 good workable ideas I would like them to share them and allow the community to do its job and sort for the users which options are good ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jun 29 '12 at 17:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk you are letting a belief in the merits of voting trump the way engineering is actually practiced. Providing a variety of solutions to a problem is an important thing to be able to do; prematurely dividing and having them selected between by 3rd parties who do not have full knowledge of the problem is inefficient. At any rate, your opinion is not holding sway here - it's common for posters to provide multiple solutions together, multiple answers from the same person tend to happen only when they are extremely distinct or provided at different points int the evolution of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Jun 29 '12 at 18:39

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