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Turning @Shog9's original idea into a feature request:

The way duplicates are handled should be revamped. When a 3k+ user votes to close a question as a duplicate, instead of a "possible duplicate" comment or the new banner showing up, the system should automatically generate an answer containing the duplicate link.

It could look like this:

enter image description here

The answer would be special in that:

  • It's visually distinguished from other answers, eg. through a lightly coloured background

  • It cannot be edited (or maybe it can, it's a detail that would have to be discussed)

  • It can be voted on by the community, but doesn't generate rep (= auto-CW); the voting doesn't influence the closing process

  • It has a "confirm" button to the right that allows other 3k+ users to check out the suggestion, and either agree or disagree with it (a shortcut to the "vote to close" dialog, which would stay in place). Agreeing gives the post a +1, disagreeing a -1

  • If the OP marks a suggested-dupe answer as accepted, the question gets automatically closed as a duplicate.

  • Five 3k+ users disagreeing with a dupe suggestion automatically reopens the question

This would not change the existing "vote to close" process. It would still take five 3k+ users's close votes to close the question as a duplicate. However, the whole community can cast a vote on the suggestion and hence express its agreement or disagreement with it. Every new dupe suggestion becomes an answer of its own, and can be discussed separately.

Clicking Confirm or upvoting as a 3k+ user automatically brings up the confirmation dialog containing the suggested dupe. There is no dupe-voting without having to actually check out the suggestion. This part of the process does not change.

enter image description here

This is f██ing cool for a plentitude of reasons:

  • Dupe suggestions get a lot more exposure this way, instead of being hidden behind close(3)

  • The entire community gets to vote and comment on the suggestions, which increases everyone's incentive to verify them

  • The fact that there is a possible duplicate becomes even more prominent than with the new banner, but in a less obtrusive way

  • People currently composing an answer are notified of the suggestion (because it's a normal answer) and can check it out. If they find the dupe provides good answers, they can stop wasting their time, or consider answering the original instead

  • Users who find the duplicate get the recognition they deserve

  • Votes on these pseudo-answers introduce a new metric of citizenship. A high number of dupe suggestions that were confirmed by 4 other users is one good indicator that you're a good citizen

  • OPs can accept a dupe suggestion, which adds an additional signal that there is another place that has great answers for future generations of Googlers.

  • Multiple duplicate suggestions become trivially easy to handle and discuss separately.

  • This will feel much nicer for non-3k users. Until now, to the normal user, the closing process feels like something a cabal of 3k+ users prepares in secret, until the edict comes down. This way, a dupe suggestion becomes a contender for the public vote just as any other answer.

There is a "lite" version of this request now: Create CW answer for every "Vote to close as duplicate" vote

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5  
Wait, you mean we're not a cabal of 3k+ users preparing in secret? –  animuson Feb 8 '13 at 19:46
    
Why would you need to auto-wiki it? If it's helpful to the new question, why not let it get rep? –  Mysticial Feb 8 '13 at 19:48
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@Mysticial: Because by all standards of SO that's not a real answer. It's just being shown as one. I don't believe posting a link to another question is worthy of reputation, despite that feature-request out there that pleas for reputation for finding duplicates. Imagine how much reputation Tim Stone would have if he got reputation for his duplicate links... –  animuson Feb 8 '13 at 19:49
    
@Mysticial that would be officially introducing rep for dupe suggestions, which has been shot down so far. It wouldn't be impossible though –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 19:49
    
@Mysticial: Because close votes currently do not generate rep. Perhaps a lower rep award would be better (less then an answeR) –  Second Rikudo Feb 8 '13 at 19:49
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Oh ok. I misread. I thought the answer was to be pulled from the destination. So voting on the link would actually vote on the existing answer. (which of course would be broken if the destination answer is not an answer to the new question) –  Mysticial Feb 8 '13 at 19:50
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Damnit Pekka, just apply to work in NYC already. –  jcolebrand Feb 8 '13 at 19:53
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Detail: button should be "Confirm..." since it opens a dialog rather than immediately confirm ing. –  Josh Caswell Feb 8 '13 at 20:09
    
How about having a different section for duplicate question containing answer like meta.stackexchange.com/q/166804/183757 –  Zaheer Ahmed Oct 1 '13 at 7:33

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted
+500

I think this idea makes a lot more sense now that we're (sorta) mandating that duplicates be pointed only at answered questions. In my experience, it's often much easier to identify duplicates when the answer to the older one clearly fits the newer one. Obviously, there's always the danger that two completely different problems just happen to share a single solution - but that's even more reason to make duplicate links compete with actual answers to the new question.

That said, I have a couple of suggestions:

  1. I don't see any reason to disable editing. I'm not sure how often it would be used, but allowing someone to edit in a short explanation for why the question is a duplicate could potentially add a lot of value - even if the question didn't end up being closed:

    Dup-closing is by far the cleanest tactic, but not always applicable: sometimes, the questions are subtly different and while the answer to the old question applies, it also needs some introduction before the new questioner will be able to make use of it. In that case, write your introduction, quote some or all relevant portions of the original answer as you like, mention who wrote it, and link to the original answer.

    Regardless of how the close-as-dup system works, I would like to encourage that behavior for answers to questions that are almost but not quite duplicates: not only does it benefit the new asker (who gets a personalized answer to his question), it benefits the answers to the previous question (which get more attention). IMHO, this is a win-win scenario - in stark contrast to link only answers, plagiarized answers, and possibly even FGITW answers.

  2. I think this should work hand-in-hand with the new "banner" display for duplicate links. The answers provide a venue for discussion, revision, confirmation and removal of links prior to closure, while the banner provides a visible indication of where the question will be pointed if and when it is closed (and a quick, easy-to-access menu once it is closed).

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1  
I strongly disagree with #2... The new duplicate system is prominent enough as it is, adding a dupe-answer as well moves the Q&A view into a dupe-hunting view, with Q&A's squeezed in. –  Matt Feb 8 '13 at 20:25
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I'm not sure that's a bad thing, @Matt. If you poke around here, you'll find more than a few complaints about dup-closing being too invisible - both from the folks posting answers (without realizing answers already exist), and from the folks closing (irritated that folks are posting redundant answers instead of just voting to close). Deciding that a question is/isn't a duplicate shouldn't have to be entirely separated from the process of answering - I'd wager the folks able to answer a question are also among the most qualified to decide whether or not it duplicates a previous question. –  Shog9 Feb 8 '13 at 20:43
    
-1 Sorry! I don't like downvoting the almighty Shog9 and I fear the unicorn reaper. But I very strongly disagree with allowing editing. I believe that it could allow answers to be taken either out of context or substantially changed to fit the duplicate post. Moreover, if the question was not a duplicate, and the answer was edited, it could potentially ruin it for the original post. Sure there is editing oversight, but is it enough to handle this situation? I think it would put a lot of content at risk to test that theory. –  Travis J Oct 1 '13 at 3:50
    
That's legit, @Travis - but I think perhaps you're misunderstanding the request here: Pekka's suggesting a new answer generated on the duplicate question that merely links to an original - the generated answer doesn't contain the content of an original answer, nor does editing the generated answer affect the content of the original. –  Shog9 Oct 1 '13 at 3:54
    
@Shog9 - I think I am too, because your explanation in that comment seems different to me than Pekka's suggestion. When I read "automatically generate an answer", to me that meant that an accepted answer would be pointed to by a possible duplicate via a reproduction but that it would be affected by the changes. So basically, there would be some sort of template answer that could or could not be confirmed to be the duplicate of the post, or could be edited to match the duplicate post? Is the generated answer a wiki? The original author gets no credit? Doesn't that encourage duplicating content? –  Travis J Oct 1 '13 at 4:09

I have reservations about creating a link only answer to another question on the site. While it might be seen as special, it still looks like the system is saying "oh, this kind of answer is OK", when in reality, it's not.

It's a whole round of education that doesn't need to happen, IMO.

And while close votes and the confirm button are nice, there should just be one system. It all seems too noisy to try and figure out the duplicate.

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Shog's original suggestion was that only 3k+ers get to vote on the question by either agreeing or disagreeing with the dupe vote. I like the community involvement, though, but this could be fused into one system (just the upvote/downvote) –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 19:50
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Well the link-only answer would presumably decay to nothing, either as the close votes age away or ask the post is completely closed as a duplicate. I saw it more as a placeholder until the post is closed/not closed –  Ben Brocka Feb 8 '13 at 19:51
    
Yeah, I'm not really worried about the link-only answer either - it's clearly a special case, and the community would be quick to educate people about it. I think the advantages would far outweigh the possibility of slightly more link-only answers happening –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 19:51
    
@Pekka웃 You seem to overestimate the lengths people will go to justify their link only answers. That problem may be manageable, but it will be a problem. The more that these "answers" are visually distinguished from other answers the less of a problem it will be though. –  Servy Feb 8 '13 at 20:06
2  
Probably worth noting that link-only answers that link within SE get converted to comments automatically. –  Shog9 Feb 8 '13 at 21:12
    
And the problem with link only answers is mostly link-rot, which can/should not happen within the same site. (It might be only accessible by 10k+ or the site might be deleted, but that are small problems IMHO.) –  Johannes Kuhn Oct 1 '13 at 7:30

The answer-but-isnt-an-answer-because-its-a-dupe-link is too confusing IMHO.

Either make it an answer, and copy the answer into the answer, or have a separate part (above/ below/ sideways) to display the duplicate link in.

People don't read, they skim or glance. Doing that at a link-only-dupe-link-that-looks-like-an-answer will, I believe, make some people think link-only-answers are acceptable again.

Additionally, isn't this only a small improvement over the "possible duplicate" comment? Users < 3k can vote on the comment, and >3k can act on it. Waffle's original suggestion of bringing in the question, not just linking to it made the duplicate more attractive and prominent; Shog's alternative (and therefore this ) doesn't do this.

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1  
Copying is not going to work unless it is an exact-exact duplicate including variable names and everything. –  Mysticial Feb 8 '13 at 19:56
    
Shogs suggestion made the duplicate more attractive and prominent by bringing in the question I don't understand this part, could you explain? (I copied the procedure 100% from Shog's suggestion so I don't grasp the difference that you are seeing) –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 19:57
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Doing that at a link-only-dupe-link-that-looks-like-an-answer will, I believe, make some people think link-only-answers are acceptable again. maybe, but that can be remedied. The visual distinction between an auto-generated system message and a real answer will be very clear. –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 19:59
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@Pekka웃: Eugh, sorry... I was referencing the old question from memory (I took part)... I was accidentally talking about waffles' original proposal (teleporting the post) rather than Shogs suggestion. –  Matt Feb 8 '13 at 20:00
    
Ah, I see. Well, I think it would be a huge improvement for the reasons mentioned above, even though technically and procedurally, it's not a big change really. (That's why I love the idea so much) –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 20:01
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@Pekka웃: Another concern I have is that the dupe link will get lost in a sea of FGITW answers; duplicates are not always quick to find. The dupe-link may want to be glued to the top of the answer list, or again, displayed in a separate section. –  Matt Feb 8 '13 at 20:03
    
@Matt interesting point - but having them among the general population would be really attractive, too, IMO. The "vote to close" dialog could remain as is, so it would still be possible to 3k+ users to see that there's closing going on. –  Pëkka Feb 8 '13 at 20:04
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@Matt: I'm not entirely sure that's a disadvantage - if the dup-answer can't compete with new answers, shouldn't it lose out? –  Shog9 Feb 8 '13 at 20:05
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@Shog9: Because it's not really an answer. If "Your question may already be answered here." was posted as an actual answer, it should lose out via downvotes and comments suggesting VTC instead of answering. But here, we want it to be treated specially, not voted on using the same criteria we apply to the other things that resemble it. I like this idea overall, but making these fake answers immediately and clearly distiguishable -- as well as clearly officially sanctioned -- would be very important. –  Josh Caswell Feb 8 '13 at 20:13
    
@Shog... Interesting perspective, but I agree with Josh... If the dupe was posted as a post, then I like your idea and will like to see the post compete with other real answers... Otherwise, they're apples and oranges. –  Matt Feb 8 '13 at 20:29
    
I don't like the "mirrored answer" idea because it assumes the questions are, in fact, exact duplicates - that absolutely no context from the original question is needed when reading the answer. In practice, this is pretty rare; even in cases where only a few words or variable names differ, that can be very confusing when they come out of nowhere. In cases where questions are merged, it's not uncommon to have to do some cleanup to the merged answers before they stop looking out of place. –  Shog9 Feb 8 '13 at 20:33
    
@Shog9: Eugh, I keep forgetting that problem. Again, the alternative would be to segregate duplicate posts from actual answers, I guess. –  Matt Feb 8 '13 at 20:44

This is an awesome topic. Bettering duplication detection and handling is a place where headway can be made at a cheap cost.

That being said, I am hesitant to agree with all of this feature request. Overall, my rundown of the list is that

  • I agree it should be visually distinguishable
  • I agree it should not be editable
  • I disagree that positive votes on the original answer give no rep
  • I disagree that there should be + and - voting for duplicates
  • I disagree that accepting should mark the answer as accepted for the dupe

I like a lot of the direction in this post. Overall, I think having a preview of the answer at a duplicate post could be a good thing. It could also be bad so I think it is important to widely vet the implementation.

My two cents on implementing this feature are along these lines. This is just my opinion, so just assume "imo" is before these points because they are not set in stone for me

  • When a duplicate is selected, show the link as usual in a comment.
  • When a duplicate is selected, show the accepted dupe answer as a preview.
  • The preview will be below the post in the area where close messages go.
  • The preview will contain as a header the name of the possible duplicate question.
  • The preview will show the duplicate accepted answer.
  • The preview will show the vote count (no +,- available).
  • In place of the checkmark in the preview will be a button "Confirm duplicate".
  • Clicking the button will be a vote to close as the duplicate shown.
  • If the OP clicks the button the question is closed as duplicate.
  • The preview will show the author's gravatar and link to their profile.
  • The preview will show the share link, but not the edit or flag link.
  • The preview will not show the comments.
  • Re-opening will be done through normal means.

What that all boils down to can be seen in this image. As I only made this as a rough draft, it is not a real duplicate of the question and there are no close votes showing. I zoomed out a little so that the spacing and placement could be examined.

Suggested Preview

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It should also stick to the top of the answer list, no matter what the sort order. I really like the idea of being able to leave comments specifically on the duplicateness of the linked-to question.

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