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I have seen this many times, a question is being asked because a previous, duplicate question was asked and answered a few years ago and has no longer relevant answers.

The recommendation is to edit the old question, or add new answers to it, but it is not always happening.

I was wondering, should I still mark it as duplicate and vote to close it? Or just leave it as is?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 33 down vote accepted

If the new question is a better question or has better answers, then vote to close the old one as a duplicate of the new one.

You can flag and ask a moderator to merge after closure if they're exactly the same.

If they differ based on the versions of the relevant systems, then they're not really exact duplicates - make sure this is indicated in the questions themselves, and provide cross-links so folks looking for one but finding the other have a path to the correct answers.

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As I wrote before in this same thread, you're imposing unnecessary restrictions on my ability to express time-based relations by suggesting that "before" must mean "at an earlier date. –  Shogging through the snow Dec 28 '13 at 1:16
    
Then you need to determine what is wrong: The kind of answer to your question or the duplicate message? :) –  user2284570 Dec 28 '13 at 1:18
    
Neither. It is just as correct then as it was now when I wrote it. –  Shogging through the snow Dec 28 '13 at 1:19
    
If you were right, someone would have already asked a feature-request for changing the message... –  user2284570 Dec 28 '13 at 1:23

I see this all the time. Questions today are closed as duplicates of 3-year old questions, even though the version of the software/language available today (and relevant to the question) supports features that weren't available in the version relevant to the earlier question. It can be hard to convince folks that there should be a different version of the question for each version of the software/language, but sometimes that seems to be the case.

As an example, the best answer for splitting strings, calculating running totals or performing a merge operation in SQL Server is different depending on the version of SQL Server being used by the OP / reader. Does this mean the old question has bad answers now? No, they're just less relevant today since many people are not using that old version where the old answer is actually still the best answer. So closing either as a duplicate of the other will do someone a disservice.

The reason this still ends up happening is because it's like pulling teeth sometimes trying to get version information out of people. Duplicate or not, the version the OP needs to support can have a dramatic effect on the answers. I can't tell someone on SQL Server 2000, for example, to use ROW_NUMBER() or a CTE. So even though they may be trying to solve the exact same problem as someone else, they may have absolutely no use for the answer.

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If the new question doesn't differ from the old question, it should be closed as duplicate.

The fact the old question doesn't receive new updated answers doesn't mean a new question should be asked: An old question that has not been closed can always be answered. I answered some old questions, reporting what the actual situation is, and my answer was up-voted and accepted.
The difference is that, eventually, new answers for the old questions are not accepted from who asked the question, but future readers will read the new information the same. An accepted answer is just the answer that helped the OP more than the other answers; the fact an answer has been accepted doesn't mean it is necessarily the most correct answer. In fact, I have seen accepted answers with a negative score.

If users want to have updated answers for a question asked from somebody else, they can offer a bounty for the question. Alternatively, they should ask a new question making clear in what the new question is different from the existing one.

Take the following two questions as example:

  • What Drupal module can I use for [description of the task to achieve]?
  • What Drupal module can I use for [description of the task to achieve]? I have looked at [link to the previous question], but I cannot use any of the modules suggested in the answers there because [explanation].

The second question says the OP cannot use the modules suggested for the other question, which means it has more restrictive requirements about the modules to use.

If a question is asking the same thing asked by another question, and it is not putting restrictions about the acceptable answers, then it should be closed as duplicate, independently from when the previous question was asked.

Update

Since it is not anymore possible to close a question as duplicate of a question without any up-voted/accepted answer, the way to close duplicates changes. In the case the older question doesn't have answers, and the new one has an up-voted answer, it is only possible to close the old one as duplicate of the new one. The alternative would be writing an answer for the old one, and wait it gets up-voted.
If the older question has an answer that is not up-voted, you could up-vote it (if it is worth voting it), and then voting to close the newer one as duplicate of the old one.
If then both the questions has up-voted/accepted answers, the rest of the answer is still valid. I would also add that I would consider other factors, before deciding which question to close. For example, if the old question was asked when Drupal 5 was still supported, and the new question is asked when Drupal 5 is not anymore supported, Drupal 7 is the official release, and Drupal 8 is under development, then probably I would opt to close the old Drupal 5 question, and keep open the other question which would gather answers for the newer versions.

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I think in this case the terms "old" and "long since buried" that are used in the How do I get attention for old, unanswered questions? guidance are exaggerations.

In the case you're describing, it's the right thing to do (IMO) to post a new question.

The question you linked to is (or should be, IMO) explaining how to draw attention to a question you, or someone else, posted that is synonymous to the question you want to pose (and where the time frame is relevant), but does not contain the answer you want. Although even in this case I'd be against dragging a question up from the depths of more than a few months.

Changing the time frame of a question makes the existing answers redundant, can go as far as making the post a chameleon question, and looses its relevance to the people who want to find information about that time frame (e.g people stuck to using older versions of software).

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