I was recently viewing a few SO questions that addressed the exact same issue (i.e., duplicate question). However, the SO community responses were so drastically different in the most un-intuitive way.

The posts in question are:

a- randomly selecting items from an array python

b- How do I randomly select an item from a list using Python?

My concerns are these: I accept that doing a simple task such as finding a random element is relatively easy to find, and thus Googling and checking the documentation WOULD have easily given the OP his answer. However,

1) Despite the latter question being asked in 2008 and the former in 2012, what makes the (b) question--which provides absolutely no whathaveyoutried.com content and no critical thinking about the problem--a +97 upvoted question, and (b) a -3 downvoted question to be immediately flamed?

2) How much does reputation influence co-operation to the OP? Summing up Ray Vega's (b) reputation up until the point he asked this question, he was at 1899. By contrast, Fraz (a) was at 552. I feel like if he had 5 rep (new user), he would be even moreso reprimanded for not doing due-diligence (which I subjectively feel he has), but this is inconsistent, as (b) asked a question that clearly 'shows no research effort' and is lauded.

3) Does the overall utility of the question explain this huge discrepancy? Is (a) being punished because he was attempting to supply his use case?

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This has everything to do with the year. '08 was a long time ago. Lots of things have changed since then. –  Cody Gray Mar 27 '12 at 18:22
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Besides that, there wasn't a duplicate question on Stack Overflow that Ray could have searched for at the time that he posted the question. There obviously was for Fraz, as people have pointed out in the comments and implicitly suggested through their casting of close votes. –  Cody Gray Mar 27 '12 at 18:23
    
I'm less interested in the magnitude of the voting, and more interested in the direction. One shows due dilligence, one doesn't...over time, this means that (a) should (over time) slowly increase, versus (b) which should (over time) HAVE slowly decreased. –  hexparrot Mar 27 '12 at 18:23
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted
  1. The B question was asked in 2008. The rules were more lax then.

  2. The B question is clearly stated and well-written. The A question, not as much.

  3. The A question is a duplicate of B. All of the close votes are for "Exact Duplicate."

Jon Skeet has written an excellent article about what constitutes a good question at:

http://tinyurl.com/so-hints

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Looking at the conclusion of this question I think only exemplifies my point: the question was more expansive than the question it is alleged to have duplicated. Evidence 1) answer depended on a pairing, which was solved with zip(). 2) the answer was for sample() rather than single-element choice(). In my opinion, that feels less and less like a duplicate, but rather just the snowballing product of the initial skepticism and downvoting. –  hexparrot Mar 27 '12 at 18:30
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Read Jon Skeet's article. I think you will find that question A doesn't exactly fit the bill. –  Robert Harvey Mar 27 '12 at 18:31
    
Reading his article corroborates how A's question is not ideal; admittedly, there are plentiful areas for improvement. This does not, however, seem to warrant the pseudo-hostilities that came as a result. Apparently, you are alleging, in 2008, reading the documentation was NOT required for posting on SO (or at least, you weren't downvoted for it), as the answer was as easily found then as today: (docs.python.org/release/2.5.2/lib/module-random.html) –  hexparrot Mar 27 '12 at 18:36
    
@hexparrot What we're 'alleging' is that Stack Overflow was a very different place in 2008. Questions like that were heavily up-voted then, when the site didn't already have almost 3-million questions on it. Today, much more effort is expected. –  Andrew's a Unitato Mar 27 '12 at 18:37
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@hexparrot: Correct, people are more strict now about showing research effort. As to the pseudo-hostilities, I've been doing this moderation thing for awhile now, and I can tell you that, when people can't even be bothered to correct their punctuation and grammar, users tend to find reasons to close their question, and the duplicate question was an easy excuse to do so. –  Robert Harvey Mar 27 '12 at 18:40
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As a newbie to SO myself (as a registered user, at least), I have much less frame of reference of the climate of SO in 2008; if the expectations have changed much since then, that is exactly the information I need to know to color my reaction to these sorts of "discrepancies". thank you all for your inputs! –  hexparrot Mar 27 '12 at 18:45
    
@hexparrot: The good information about question quality is in stackoverflow.com/faq, and stackoverflow.com/question/how-to-ask, not necessarily in example questions that are three years old. Also note that the duplicate does answer the OP's question perfectly. –  Robert Harvey Mar 27 '12 at 18:50
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