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Can we give users with sufficient rep (10k? 20k?) the currently moderator-only ability to merge questions?

Some times a question is closed as a duplicate but its answers provide valuable content that will be lost if the question gets deleted. Since 10ks have the ability to (vote to) delete questions, shouldn't they also get the ability to (vote to) merge them?

I think deletion is only warranted when the content adds no value to the site. This is often not the case with answers to duplicates, and merging the original question means we'd retain some good content. This could also have the same "popularity" threshold needed to delete stuff.

Update: I realize the current merging system could pose some problems to this, but it could be improved to accommodate this feature (eg: by allowing the reversal of a merge). This of course wouldn't be the first time the merge feature got revamped.

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Since when do all duplicates get deleted? –  slhck Oct 8 '11 at 22:22
    
@slhck Some of them do. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 8 '11 at 22:25
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I would love to be able to merge random 10k and 20k users! They'll be so surprised! –  Adam Davis Oct 8 '11 at 23:52
    
We don't do this very often not because we need more users to have the privilege, but because it doesn't need to be done very often. 10k and 20k users have close and delete vote privileges because we need help with these tasks, but merging is too rare to be a burden. –  Kevin Vermeer Oct 9 '11 at 2:36

4 Answers 4

I do not really see the need for the privilege to merge for 10k/20k users. Firstly, this would require a major revamping of how the merging process is currently done. Right now, when two questions are merged, all answers from the source question "A" are simply moved over to the target question "B". There is no trace of "A" ever having received answers (the dev team could perhaps dig it deep out of the db, but otherwise, no). Even moderators cannot undo a merge.

Now coming to the request, if you find two questions that are reasonably similar, all that it takes to make them good candidates for a merge, is a clean up of the answers so that merged answers don't look like white doves in an unkindness of ravens. This merely requires a 2k rep privilege. Once you've done this, flag it for a moderator to merge.

Given that people don't do this even when they can, how can you expect folks to comb through in detail before performing a merge?

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Most of your post was arguing that the ability to merge posts should exist; you didn't really explain why 10k/20k users should have it. As I understand it, the main reason merging is mod-only is there's no mechanism for unmerging. Other things users vote on (close, delete) can be reversed if more users vote for the opposite, but the only way to unmerge posts is for a dev to get involved. Merging is also fairly tricky compared to closing/deleting, and I'm not confident users will spend the time going over all answers on both posts to make sure they don't duplicate each other/make no sense when transferred

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… but its answers provide valuable content that will be lost if the question gets deleted.

Your premise is wrong. First of all, a certain amount of duplication is not a problem per se. And, more importantly: Just because something is a duplicate, that does not entail it's going to be deleted. Maybe the title was phrased differently, so even that justifies keeping it to attract different search queries.

In any case, I'd rather vote for keeping them instead of deleting them.

Still, I vote against having a merge privilege.

Although merges can theoretically be reversed, this isn't done in reality, and mods can't do it as well. They need to be performed with caution, since questions often state a problem differently, and having answers that don't perfectly relate to the question is just confusing.

Merging is an edge case, and having one user (without peer review, just with "merge" privileges) do it could be disastrous if there wasn't enough care taken before the merge. The same goes for merging with votes (e.g. needing three votes to merge). This can't really be undone, therefore it's different, i.e. an exception to the system, which is what moderators are for ("exception handlers").

Many merges would need an additional cleanup before the actual process, and I haven't really seen that. Many users don't even care to clean up duplicates, make answers consistent, flag obsolete content for removal, etc. As merging is an even more complicated process, at this point I don't trust the community to do it.

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Does that mean moderator merges are done with peer review? –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 8 '11 at 22:42
    
Yes, because first of all there is a flag involved which can be disputed, and a flag allows for specific reasoning, which can then even be declined by a moderator. My point is that this is a really special case that can have drastic effects. –  slhck Oct 8 '11 at 22:42
    
You misunderstood me. I meant, if a moderator does a merge, where's peer review in that? –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 8 '11 at 22:44
    
Sorry, I rephrased a bit. It wasn't too clear now that I've read again. –  slhck Oct 8 '11 at 22:48
    
Just because it can't be undone now, it doesn't mean it should stay that way. See my updated question. –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 8 '11 at 22:53
    
I still stand by my opinion though. Being able to reverse a merge would still only fix the symptoms, not the actual cause of the problem (which is bad merges). It's like saying: Hey, we're adding an airbag to this car because people can't drive, rather than teaching them how to drive first. –  slhck Oct 8 '11 at 22:58
    
All other things being equal, would you rather drive a car with or without airbags? –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 8 '11 at 23:01
    
Sure, and I don't have a problem with adding a reversal process, but keep merges mod-only. –  slhck Oct 8 '11 at 23:03

Instead of a merge, why not just to give the links to the closed questions?

This way we would be able to retrieve all the related discussions even if they were closed as duplicates.

This link already exists in the other direction (from the child to the parent), I think it would be useful as well in descending direction (from parent to children).

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This is already implemented. The links can be found in the Linked section on the right, although it is munged with other links and not just duplicates. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 8 '12 at 16:33

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