Suppose there are two questions that are very obviously duplicates of one another. The one that came first has maybe a few votes and no answers. The second has double the votes of the first and already has two answers. Obviously having two copies of the same question floating around isn't ideal, but what's not so clear is: which one should be closed?

I faced this decision a few minutes ago with this and this. I ended up closing the second, more popular one, but I'm wondering if I made the right choice. The author of the second post wasn't aware of the existence of the first post and unwittingly duplicated it. Granted, the idea time to catch this would have been when the post was first made, but obviously this can't happen all the time. The fault does lie with the person that posted the duplicate, but I'm wondering if this isn't an optimization for personal good at the expense of the good of the community.

I know that I wouldn't appreciate a post I authored to be closed as a duplicate of a post that came later, but at the same time there was already interest and activity around the duplicate, whereas the response to the original was much more limited.

There is an option moderators have to merge posts together. Though I've never tried it (so someone correct me if I'm wrong), I think that it copies all the answers from the duplicate into the master and deletes the duplicate question. In this situation it might be advantageous to move the responses, but I question if it should be used as a general rule.

In any case, I'd like to get some community feedback on this issue. Did I do the right thing? Should I have closed the other one? Or should I just have left both alone?

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@ToonKrijthe: I see what you did there... –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN May 3 '13 at 22:50
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marked as duplicate by Anna Lear May 21 '13 at 15:02

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Just merge them.

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There is an option moderators have to merge posts together. Though I've never tried it (so someone correct me if I'm wrong), I think that it copies all the answers from the duplicate into the master and deletes the duplicate question. In this situation it might be advantageous to move the responses, but I question if it should be used as a general rule.

I used this once. It moved all the answers from the dupe to the target, and deleted the original question. It also moved comments, and I think it may have migrated upvotes on the original question, but I don't recall. You get this plain-looking but informative output screen saying everything it did. Here's the aftermath of a merge. I moved 811 into it.

It's a powerful tool, but it doesn't give the users much indication of what the heck happened (no revision log, etc). Maybe there should be some indication from the user's perspective, then we could use it more liberally.

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Do you know what happened to the content, tags, comments, and votes on the duplicate? I imagine the content and tags disappeared, but it's conceivable that the comments and votes could be transferred to the new post. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 1 '09 at 4:18
    
Content disappeared for sure. I think everything else (maybe tags, definitely comments, probably upvotes) moved. –  Tom Ritter Jul 1 '09 at 11:18
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I've had occasion to ask a moderator to merge questions where the later question was preferable to the former. The moderator responding (good ol' Bill!) did an excellent job, leaving the later question and adding comments to the merged answers requesting that they be updated to reflect the tone of the new question.

IMHO, this is one of those areas where human intervention is preferable to a fully-automated system.

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