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I'm a big fan of Stack Overflow, but I just wanted to offer some feedback regarding the "similar questions" column that appears as you're typing a question. I find it rather distracting how it changes the contents every few words you type. In general if there is a major change to the document contents, it causes me to look away and throws off my concentration. This can be troubling when writing a programming question because it requires almost as much focus as actual programming.

This for example is the reason I (and I think a lot of other people) don't use Google instant. Even though in this case the feature is very useful (in that it helps avoid duplicate questions), there has to be a way of providing the list in a less obtrusive manner.

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Solve my problem. Oops, after 2 million it isn't that likely to be unique. It very likely isn't. –  Uphill Luge Aug 19 '11 at 22:45
    
It's freaking 2 million already? How time flies by. I still remember Welbog's quote from when the first million was reached: "One million people who should have Googled" :) –  Pëkka Aug 19 '11 at 22:56
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Crop it out by narrowing your browser window. That's why I do when reading websites that have "columns o' distraction". –  Igby Largeman Aug 19 '11 at 23:09
    
@charles yeah you can do that, although I'd rather not have to –  user136507 Aug 19 '11 at 23:40
    
I'm assuming the 5 downvoters all work for SO :) –  user136507 Aug 19 '11 at 23:41
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I don't work for Stack Exchange. I downvoted because I think the only time to update is while your typing. Perhaps there should be a way to disable it, but -- given the number of duplicate questions -- I'd prefer there wasn't an option to do so. –  M. Tibbits Aug 20 '11 at 0:55
    
It is puzzling to me why you think the downvoters work for SO/SE. This isn't just a problem that the developers have; it's one that regular users have, too. We don't really like to see duplicate questions pop up all the time. We get tired of the same thing over and over. I don't know about others, but I'm here first to learn something, and second to get some help myself. I can't learn anything about issues that have already been solved. –  Cody Gray Aug 20 '11 at 3:59

2 Answers 2

Hmm, you make a fair point here. I agree that it is annoying for this list to constantly change while you're trying writing a question. The less visual "noise" on the screen, the better. This is exactly why I don't use Google Instant, a point I've made here several times in the past. So in contrast to what seems to be the general opinion, I upvoted your question.

But the problem is (and the point that several of the commenters are trying to make) is that duplicate questions have become a real pervasive problem. Lots of users (and not just newbies) are re-asking questions that have already been asked and received good answers in the past. Rather than duplicating these questions all over the place, we prefer that they be consolidated into a central location where the answers are easier to find. Hans points out that, given the site's enormous success, nearly 2 million questions have already been asked, and that makes it rather unlikely (statistically speaking) that your question will really be original.

This feature is the best way we've come up with so far to get people to re-consider posting duplicate questions. If you have a better idea, I suspect that the team would be all ears. But if your position is just to simply eliminate it altogether, well, that's a no-can-do because we want people to stop and consider the existing questions first. We want people to notice this.

In order for this to be a real , you need to propose a workable alternative, one that respects the original intention of limiting or controlling the number of duplicates while still (preferably) not being so annoying. I don't have any better ideas; do you?

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The reason the list keeps changing is that, basing on what you write, the list tries to provide a list of questions that are really related to the question you are asking. That is done because there are many duplicate questions, and helping the OP not to ask a question that has already answered is considered one of the priorities.
The fact you noticed the list keeps changing means it has had the effect they wanted: Making you aware of the list of possibly related questions that it is being shown you. As for being distracting, I asked questions different SE sites (including meta sites) and I have never found the list of related questions keeping to be refreshed too frequently; it can happen if I keep editing the sentence I am writing, but if I am writing a sentence without to correct it, the list is not refreshed every 20 seconds, as far as I noticed.

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It's refreshed every 45 seconds. –  Hendrik Vogt Aug 20 '11 at 8:11

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