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When detecting a possible duplicate, users (including me) seem to put just a "Possible duplicate" link into the comments, referring to the already existing (and maybe answered) question.

I can't tell why others do it, but I do, because I don't know of other ways to help reducing the dupes and delegate the OP to the dupe (and possible answers).

It feels like the right way to me ("Vote close as duplicate" (3k rep) even automates this kind of comment, afaik), but doesn't doing so result in the same disadvantages as "Link-only answers" have?

I mean, no matter whether a link comes from a "Link-only answer" or a "Possible duplicate comment", deleting the link target will render both useless, right?

With "Link-only answers" it's recommended to add some context to the link, so that such answers still make sense, even if the link target got deleted.

Doesn't that mean, that we need to add context to "Possible duplicate comments" for the same reason? Or to never create "Possible duplicate" comments, but to create "link-with-some-context answers" only?

If not, why are these two cases handled differently?

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"I do, because I don't know of other ways to help reducing the dupes and delegate the OP to the dupe (and possible answers)." Well, you can click the "flag" link and select the "it doesn't belong here, or is a duplicate" option. That's available to everyone, even those without close vote privileges. It doesn't actually cast a close vote, it just puts the question into a flag queue that 10k+ users can see. Of course, there's nothing wrong with posting a comment yourself, as frequently, users with close vote privileges will come along, consider your suggestion, and cast a vote of their own. – Cody Gray May 19 '12 at 0:09
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Possible duplicate links are handled specially - They're edited into the question if the close is successful. They're always "on-site" so the link-rot issue can be handled locally. They're also the starting point for merging answers to two questions, which can never be done with (in particular off-site) link-only answers.

Comments are judged to a different standard than answers though: they're seen as ephemeral - that is they might not stick around or be useful for longer periods. Thus in general it's fine to say "hey I don't have a solution right now, but I think this might help" which someone else can take and run with to produce a complete answer. This also means that clarifications/requests for edits can be understood through comments which also become useless once the edit is made.

Obsolete comments should be flagged and deleted, or self-deleted but comments which might become obsolete aren't a problem in and of themselves. This is also the reason why long chains of comments are hidden by default - the assumption is they don't contain much value that the answer(s) doesn't.

It's also worth noting that there's an explicit warning message when voting to delete questions that are the target of a duplicate vote - I'm not 100% sure if that only applies to the last vote or all votes, but there are definitely mechanisms to make sure it doesn't become a big problem.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your input. You write "so the link-rot issue can be handled locally". Does that only count for "Vote close as duplicate" cases when the close is successful, or does the system generally remove all dead local links, e.g. comments linking to local questions which got deleted/closed? – Jürgen Thelen May 18 '12 at 15:47
@JürgenThelen That only counts for the vote to close case and it is still possible to end up with dangling local links even in that instance. You just get warned about it. The point of comments though is that they're usually content that is almost expected to decay in one way or another - if it's important it should be developed either into an answer or an edit such that the inevitable demise of the comment doesn't cause a problem. – Flexo May 18 '12 at 15:51

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