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I like the UI and the cleanliness of the Stack Exchange sites, but one thing that bugs me is the wording of the notification that something is a duplicate. I have had many questions closed because they are duplicates, but often, they aren't a true duplicate or an exact duplicate.

I'm not complaining about the looseness that questions get closed, I'm saying that the notification should be changed from "exact duplicate" to either "possible duplicate" or just "duplicate". The reason is because that is inaccurate. Questions that are exact duplicates should have the exact same question and the same answer. Saying that a question is closed as a duplicate would mean almost the same thing, but it wouldn't have a connotation that the question is exactly the same. Questions like these could be fixed with the wording of the notification and a bit of strictness on the reason to close as a duplicate.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, Manishearth, wax eagle, Rory, Martijn Pieters Jun 14 '13 at 14:27

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

The real problem is that hardly anyone seems to understand what exact duplicate actually means. –  Michael McGowan Feb 29 '12 at 16:22
@MichaelMcGowan Yes, that makes more sense. It's better to fix the problem (unnecessary closing) than to fix something to cover up the problem (fixing wording). –  CoffeeRain Feb 29 '12 at 16:24
+1, although the explanation reads "This question covers exactly the same ground as earlier questions on this topic". But then again, who reads that...sigh. –  Bart Feb 29 '12 at 16:26
Oh God yes, please. Right now, we have "exact", as well as "identical" (which ironically, is used for "exact" in the moderation tools). It's all ass-backwards. –  casperOne Feb 29 '12 at 16:28
About, "questions that are exact duplicates should have the exact same question and the same answer," I would say that different answers doesn't mean different questions, as I could ask "What time is it in Italy?" and "What time is it in Rome?" and I could get two different answers simply because I am asking in two different moments of the day. To make a concrete example, I could ask a question about Drupal for which the answer could be using a module, or the other; both the answers are valid, but the question could be a duplicate of another one. I agree that the phrasing should be changed. –  kiamlaluno Feb 29 '12 at 17:49
@MichaelMcGowan I certainly don't. Apparently the C# question Is it possible to create an “Island of Isolation” scenario in .NET? is an exact duplicate of a Java question that asks Could anyone please explain the concept of Island of isolation of Garbage Collection? but I wouldn't have guessed that to be the case. –  Some Helpful Commenter Feb 29 '12 at 18:16
@Conrad: Tried to re-open that one, but couldn't get enough support in terms of re-open votes. I think it got up to 3, maybe 4, before they expired. I think closing it was an honest mistake. Jeff misunderstood the question and/or looked only at the titles, which were almost identical. I don't think that suggests that the policy on duplicates has changed. –  Cody Gray Feb 29 '12 at 18:20
@Cody I guess I was being tongue and cheek with a hint of bitterness about that one. If I had really cared I would have complained about it on meta. I've accepted that there's weirdness with "close as dupe". For example my meta question got closed as dupe of related questions. But this meta question asked three months later that really is a dupe wasn't. (seriously look at them side by side) –  Some Helpful Commenter Feb 29 '12 at 18:57
@casperOne: "Identical" is not the same thing. "Identical," as used in the moderator tools, refers to copypasta. –  Robert Harvey Feb 29 '12 at 19:15
@RobertHarvey I know what it means, I'm saying, it doesn't seem right. –  casperOne Feb 29 '12 at 19:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Exact Duplicate means that the question asked is the same question as one that has been asked before (the answers are irrelevant). In most cases, this means that the new question will be about a 95% match to the original.

The words "Exact Duplicate" are used because people find many reasons to vote to close questions as duplicates that are not really duplicates, such as:

  • Questions that cover similar ground, but are not really asking the same question.
  • Questions that have answers that answer the supposed duplicate, but the question is different.
  • Questions that duplicate a question asked on another SE site.

None of these are duplicates. Consequently, the wording "Exact Duplicate" is there to steer people towards the real reason to close a question as a duplicate: someone asked this question already.

Of course, that does not mean that a question has to be a copy/paste of an original question to be considered a duplicate. But it does have to be very, very similar.

See Also
Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication

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It seems that the suggestion to avoid the duplicates has been implemented on Meta, where the note at the top is the following now:

This question already has an answer here 

[original question] n answers

It should be propagated to SO, where the note at the top is still

This question is an exact duplicate of:

[original question] n answers

UPDATE: acknowledged, that majority of new closed duplicates does not have "exact duplicate" words in top note, the example I've referred in the comment should be considered as "intermittent bug".

Should this question have a tag "completed"?

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It has already been implemented on SO. You are answering a one-year-old question. New questions marked as duplicate are given the new notice, while this change is not made retroactively to old posts that have already been closed before the change. –  Antony Jun 14 '13 at 13:20
@Antony Look at stackoverflow.com/questions/5778267/…, it was closed 2 June and has "exact duplicate" –  Michael Freidgeim Jun 14 '13 at 13:37
This question is closed 19 hours ago and has the new notice. –  Antony Jun 14 '13 at 13:48

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