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I've seen some questions (usually in links from a question) that are, I believe, duplicates of an old question, with a different phrasing.

Typical case:

Both questions are more than a year old, have high reputation, and have very good and enlightening answers. However, they are duplicates, in my opinion.

Should I flag the less old one? Should I consider them as so historic that they should stay as they are?

On the one hand:

  • moderators and high reputation users capable of voting on duplicates probably have more urgent and useful things to do
  • users can still find those questions in the "similar questions" column

On the other hand, the question and answers would benefit from being "merged" officially.

I don't think this edge case is covered on Meta, nor in the FAQ, so I asked.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I agree with you that they're dupes. Considerations:

  • Closing as a duplicate still allows the posters to keep and gain the rep from the posts.
  • The older one has fewer views and votes, and is less direct, less clear, and more ranty.
  • Merging them would not be a ton of work, but it would be significant. And it would cause the poster of one of them to lose rep.
  • There are a couple bad answers that should probably be deleted.

Based on that I would close the older one as a dupe and delete bad answers from both. They shouldn't be merged.

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Hmmm, from the wording in the flagging system, I assumed flagging as duplicate caused an automatic (or manual) merge at some point later... – Kheldar Sep 2 '11 at 21:24
@Kheldar Nope! Occasionally mods will merge dupes, and they always merge double posts if both have answers, but it's not the general case. – Matthew Read Sep 2 '11 at 21:26
Then I guess it answers my question. Letting it open for tonight in case someone wants to chip in with a stellar idea. – Kheldar Sep 2 '11 at 21:31
@Kheldar The older one has now been closed as a dupe of the newer :) – Matthew Read Sep 3 '11 at 6:42

My take: Have a look if there are also other duplicates of those, and then flag all but the best one as duplicates of this, where "best" is determined by both question and answer quality. The age does not really matter, though often the oldest is better because it had more time to ripe.

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