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How do we discourage all these simple questions that are duplicates of other questions? A lot of the more experienced people know that simple questions are great for getting lots of reputation from, so way more incentive to answer it rather than close it.

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RPG-like XP system. Level 30 characters shouldn't get any XP from killing rats. Puny level 3 characters should get lots of XP from killing dragons. Just my 0.02 USD –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 1:06
@GGG: You will surely be interested in this answer: meta.stackexchange.com/a/104423/159251 –  Josh Caswell Feb 28 '12 at 2:23
@JoshCaswell yes indeed, I think that guy shares my vision :) –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 3:04
@ggg I know you are not entirely serious, but what makes a question a "dragon"? This leads us down the dangerous and uber-subjective path of "let's classify questions on a continuum from easy to hard". We could increase value of unanswered questions over time, but that would just incentivize asking difficult to answer questions that are "hard" for all the wrong reasons. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 28 '12 at 13:04
@JeffAtwood I think that deserves more of a response than I can fit in a comment. Let me organize my thoughts and get back to you on that. –  The Community Feb 28 '12 at 14:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If a question is, in fact, a duplicate, then closing it is the right thing to do. There's no point in building up a bunch of answers in multiple locations to the same question.

You express concern that there exists an incentive for people to answer these duplicate questions in the hopes of earning easy reputation, rather than voting to close them as a duplicate. I agree that this "problem" does exist, but I think it solves itself. Recall that the closing of a question is generally the first step toward its deletion, and that when a question is deleted, it takes all of its answers with it. That means that the answers those users posted in the hopes of gaining some easy rep will be [eventually] removed, taking all of that reputation gained with them. Even better yet, we're now making these reputation fluctuations happen immediately, rather than having to wait for a manual recalculation, which might have been quite rare indeed under the old system.

I don't really see a lot of duplicate questions that miss getting closed. I'm sure there are a few in some of the less popular tags, but there are enough high-rep users with close vote privileges on SO to make this not a real problem. Furthermore, once a close vote has been cast, those questions begin to appear on a list accessible to all 10k+ users. A significant percentage of us go through that list regularly, casting our own close votes where appropriate and hastening questions toward their impending closure.

If you do come across a stale question that should be closed, hasn't, and is unlikely to amass the 4 other close votes necessary, you should consider flagging it for moderator attention, explaining your rationale. If those of us who are conscientious and care do our part to keep the site clean, history tells us that generally things will work out in our favor, even if there are some users who try take advantage of the system.

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If closed questions slowly move to being deleted, especially if trivial, then that solves a lot of the problem. –  Keith Nicholas Feb 28 '12 at 1:33
There's a flaw in your second paragraph, and that is that duplicates are considered pointers for their "master" question, and their deletion is discouraged. –  Josh Caswell Feb 28 '12 at 2:26
@Josh: Perhaps. I considered that, but my general feeling is that it depends very much on the particular question. If it's duplicated as a result of sheer laziness on the part of the asker and any reasonable search would have turned up the original question, I vote to delete it. If it's a particularly bad question (a "broken window", if you will), I vote to delete it. If it provides something positive in the form of a pointer to the original question—if it actually uses different terminology or describes the problem in a different way, then there's definitely no harm in keeping it around. –  Cody Gray Feb 28 '12 at 3:02
I agree with you, but I don't think that we're in the majority. –  Josh Caswell Feb 28 '12 at 3:06
@Josh: Since when should that bother me? :-) Anyway, my experience casting delete votes on SO is that there are a sufficient number of users who are in agreement about this so as to ensure that the poor questions I describe actually do get deleted. For questions with a score of 0 or less, it only takes 3 of us. And I suspect that the answers to the question you linked to are a bit out of date. Back in '09, we weren't dealing with a flood of really poorly-asked questions and otherwise useless content. I think the rules have had to be modified just a little bit, preserving the original spirit. –  Cody Gray Feb 28 '12 at 3:09

How do we discourage all these simple questions that are duplicates of other questions?

By doing what we do now: down-voting to oblivion, closing, and--if necessary--letting the question ban algorithm do its job.

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