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In this meta posting, Shog9 writes:

But don't delete duplicates

Seriously, don't. Unless they're literally word-for-word duplicates, just leave them be - folks tend to find all sorts of different ways of asking the same questions, and the more variations we have pointing to the same canonical answer, the better. Of course, you should

However, this seems to be at odds with the current auto-deletion policy, which makes no exception for dupe-closed questions that meet Jeff Atwood’s auto-deletion criteria for closed questions, which includes being closed, having a negative vote total, and having no answers. There are other ways for them to be auto-deleted, but that is the fastest one. When ЯegDwight asked Grace in chat why this is so, Grace reported that fixing it would make a pretty good feature request:

clipping of chatlog between Reg and Grace

So I am making that feature-request: I propose that questions closed as dupes not be subject to auto-deletion. The current process works against the idea of duplicates providing “many paths” that lead to the right question, because it removes them, and the path is lost. Expecting folks to notice the auto-deleted close-duped questions, manually resurrect them, and then vote them into positivity — as was for that very reason done here, is just too much work, and most such questions will be missed.

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I don't think dupes are auto-deleted. –  Mysticial Dec 16 '12 at 17:44
    
@Mysticial But they are: the resurrected one that I reference at the end was just one such out of several. We looked at the deletion log after the expiry script had just run, and caught several such, choosing to resurrect that one. –  tchrist Dec 16 '12 at 17:46
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Hmm... interesting. I swear I read somewhere that dupes are exempt from auto-deletion of unanswered closed questions. –  Mysticial Dec 16 '12 at 17:48
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@Mysticial If you can find the reference, it would be much appreciated. I spent nearly a half-hour searching for that very statement, and couldn’t find it anywhere. –  tchrist Dec 16 '12 at 17:51
    
You're right, I can't find it either. Wonder where I saw it? –  Mysticial Dec 16 '12 at 18:02
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A slightly different set of rules for auto-deletion, which includes "if not locked", here. (cc. @Mysticial, but of course locked != dupe) –  Arjan Dec 16 '12 at 18:08
    
Some time ago I read something about merging SO questions, but I never saw something related to such a feature again. Merging also would help in many cases, especially when there are useful answers to the duplicate question. –  feeela Dec 16 '12 at 18:55
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If the dup is worth saving, one might ask why it has negative downvotes. Good questions shouldn't be downvoted, and a duplicate can still be a good question. If you think something shouldn't be deleted, upvote it. That's no guarantee, but it helps. –  jmort253 Dec 16 '12 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

Since at the time of deletion, that post had a score of 0, it was auto-deleted under the following criteria:

  • 365 days old
  • no answers
  • low views
  • <= 1 comments (apparently this one isn't being applied, but I see no reason for it to be)
  • <= 0 score or <= 1 score with deleted owner

The key part here is low views. That means not very many people are even being redirected from that question to the duplicated one anyways. In one entire year that question only got 70 views (probably less considering it got a view spike from this question), compared to the duplicated question which has 1,600. So, it was an average question with no activity which wasn't serving as a very good signpost as a normal duplicate would (it's not redirecting much traffic at all). I see no problem with auto-deleting it.

As for the alternate question for negative-scored questions - well, they have negative scores. Generally on Stack Overflow only questions which have been duplicated a million times get mass downvoted for being a duplicate, but I can't imagine downvoting duplicates is that big of a problem on other sites that we'd need an exemption from auto-deletion.

I'd like to see stats on how many legitimate signposts are being deleted first. It seems to me like most of them are being legitimately deleted. (P.S. I wouldn't consider your example a good reason.)

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Fun fact: anonymous users are redirected to the duplicate right away. First, I wonder if that counts as a view, or not? Also, Google itself is redirected too, so folks who Google will probably not find the closed duplicate either. If so, that leaves only the SE search (and any external links; probably none) to get to the closed duplicate. So maybe the closed duplicates have no value at all anymore? –  Arjan Dec 16 '12 at 18:43
    
@Arjan: I was aware guests got redirected automatically (hence my edit to the question), but I wouldn't have thought it applied to Google crawlers too. Hopefully redirected views would count. It has to look up the question to begin with in order to determine that the user needs redirected, I can't imagine that they'd ignore incrementing the view count. If they don't, that should be the feature request (the ever-so-slight possibility these questions wouldn't be deleted if views got tracked properly). –  animuson Dec 16 '12 at 18:47
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On an aside: does anyone know if the comment criteria was intentionally removed and when, or if that's just a bug? I don't think it should be there, just curious when it got changed. –  animuson Dec 16 '12 at 18:58

I'm on the fence with this request. Some of the duplicate questions that are closed are most likely very poorly written questions. Why? Because they most likely show no research effort.

If someone didn't find a duplicate question before asking theirs, then there's a good chance they not only didn't search Stack Overflow, but that person likely didn't search at all. Questions with lack of research are also more likely to be missing the details like what you've tried, what error messages you got, etc.

Instead of being closed as not a real question, some of these questions are closed as duplicates, which inflates their value. Luckily, poorly written questions are usually downvoted, which means the auto-delete filter is working quite nice, assuming it's only deleted negatively scored posts.

Now, if a duplicate question was mostly well-researched, in that the asker searched Google, indicated what he/she tried, posted code and error messages, and wrote an otherwise great question, then hopefully the community has upvoted it so that it's positively scored. If so, then the filter shouldn't kick in to remove it. On the ELU example you posted, I'm not sure if it was scored at a 2 before the auto-deletion or if it's since been upvoted after being undeleted, but I fully agree that positively scored posts should not be deleted, except in cases where there are low views relative to other posts.

As animuson says, if a post is getting low views, what's the point in keeping it around? In that scenario, it's obvious that the value of having a linked dup is nil.

As an aside, if a post worth keeping around isn't positively scored, then perhaps we should be asking why?

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It had a score of 0 at deletion time, you can access the timeline. The two upvotes came in after it was undeleted. ;) –  animuson Dec 16 '12 at 19:49

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