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I saw a question that is a very close duplicate of a much older question with several answers, but no accepted one, and no answers that come close to solving the problem of the OP.

I posted what I think is a decent solution to the problem as an answer to the new question. Should I have posted it as an answer to the old question instead, and vote to close the new one as a duplicate? To complicate things, one of the not-so-useful answers to the old question has 10+ upvotes.

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Whichever one you choose to answer, please vote to close the other one. That is, please do not copy & paste your answer to multiple questions. Drives me batty when people do that instead of voting to close one of them. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 6 '12 at 14:18
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If the question is a duplicate of an existing one, I would vote to close the new question, and answer the old question, if I am able to give an answer without saying what already said in other answers, or adding more details to what already said in the existing answers.

The fact the old question doesn't have an accepted answer doesn't mean the new question is not a duplicate. The fact a question doesn't have an accepted answer doesn't mean anything, except that none of the answers were helpful to the OP, or the OP forgot to accept an answer, which could happen when the OP forgot her/his question.

If the new question is not a duplicate, then the user who asked the new question should evidence in which points her/his question is not a duplicate. It can happen that different users ask similar questions that are not necessarily duplicates.
Alternatively, if the user who asked the new question read the old question, and s/he looking for a solution alternative to the ones already given to the old question, s/he should say that in her/his own question.

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If you are trying to look for alternative solutions, shouldn't that still be done in the old question instead of making a duplicate? –  Travis J Dec 24 '12 at 10:19
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It depends; if the old question has requirements that are different from mine, it is rather better to ask a new question. If the old question doesn't have requirements that are different from mine, I could comment on a given answer to see if who answered can suggest me something else. –  kiamlaluno Dec 24 '12 at 11:29
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That's a tough one. I think the party line would be yes, vote to close, and post your answer on the older question; but I don't know how realistic that really is, or whether it will always benefit a newbie poster (if they didn't search first, are they even going to follow the "duplicate post" link?)

To be honest, I've done both on more than a few occasions: post an answer, or at least a comment, on the new question, but vote to close as a duplicate. Maybe it's just hedging my bets, but somehow it seems like the kinder thing to do to the question author.

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