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Let's say I'm a good SO citizen: I have a question, I search on SO and on google to see if someone's asked the same thing, and I can't find anything that shows up, so I go ahead and post a well-written question on SO. Then later it gets closed, because it's a duplicate question for something that I wasn't able to find on my initial search. Great, the system worked.

Is there ever a case where I should delete the question I posted? Why or why not? Do duplicate questions cause much resource bloat for the site?

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possible duplicate of Do not delete duplicates! –  Andreas Bonini Aug 26 '10 at 2:31
Hey! I asked mine first! :P –  Jason S Sep 7 '10 at 12:43

6 Answers 6

up vote 31 down vote accepted

If there are good answers on both, flag for moderator review and ask for a merge.

If not, then leave the dup as a signpost for future researchers...

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What about the downvotes accumulated on the signpost? Wouldn't it be beneficial to the poster to delete the question? –  Pacerier Dec 30 '14 at 16:38
Maybe. But not all duplicates get downvoted, and downvotes don't always outweigh upvotes... Nor is deletion always an option simply because we discourage askers from deleting questions that, duplicate or not, someone has spent time answering. –  Shog9 Dec 30 '14 at 16:53

I think Joel's take on this would be do not delete it. I don't want to speak for him, but he's said before (or I think he's said) that he likes duplicate posts, especially with different wording, because it catches all the people who searched for the question using your terms instead of the original terms.

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Mind you adding a link to who the hell is Joel? I guess that's him: joelonsoftware.com –  Cawas Mar 2 '10 at 20:17
Apparently the reference is meta.stackexchange.com/questions/32311/do-not-delete-duplicates –  tripleee Sep 12 '12 at 6:11

I agree to some degree with Jeff's argument about how duplicates increase visibility by making it easier/more likely to find a question when searching (since different people will word questions differently). As such, I don't see any problem with multiplying the signal.

However, I don't see any value in multiplying the noise. Having multiple copies of black-and-white, programming-related questions can be helpful, but having multiple copies (exact or very near duplicates) of gray, non-programming-related questions seems pointless. How many questions are really needed for tangentially-related discussion-y topics? Are many copies really needed for jokes, or influential video games, or "Should I get a Master's?", etc.?

In short, I think the programming-related nature of the question should dictate whether a duplicate is deleted or not. If it's off-topic and/or subjective discussion, pitch it. Otherwise, let it be.

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I don't think that deleting the question is a good idea. If you haven't found the question in your first search, then probably other will not find it either. But they could find your question. Even if it is already closed they will find the link to the other question - and of course the answers ;-)

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(relates mainly to enforced closures - not the OP deleting their own question)

If they are 100% reposts (same author, identical question), then I do either delete or merge. Beyond that, it gets tricky - as you often need specialist knowledge in an area to understand whether it is the same question, or a related question. I do perform merges (usually when flagged by the community), but relatively rarely. Maybe Jeff would have a different stance...

Another issue is that if we delete/merge too quickly, then the person asking the question might not find it... so best to just close initially (unless it becomes obvious that they've seen the dup).

Of course, one option here might be some kind of "leave it in the OPs homepage, but with a redirect to the merge-master". I don't know how easy that would be...

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The short answer is it depends.

First, I suggest you read Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication. There's nothing inherently bad with a duplicate question. To quote Jeff Atwood

One thing I want to be clear about, though, is that duplication is not necessarily bad. Quite the contrary — some duplication is desirable. There’s often benefit to having multiple subtle variants of a question around, as people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds people can find the answer they’re looking for. And isn’t that, really, the whole point of this exercise?

The simple idea is that there are good duplicate questions. These are questions that word a concept in a slightly different why or use different keywords to describe a problem. These are actually beneficial because they are signposts to help users find duplicate questions that they might not have otherwise find.

Conversely, there are bad duplicates too. These are the duplicates that result from lack of research because googling the title or a few of the important keywords results in 5 different posts from your favorite Stack Exchange site. These questions are not sign posts because the signs already exist and we don't need another.

So if you ask a duplicate question, you need to decide for yourself. Is it a signpost to help another user avoid the same problem? If so, then leave it up. If not, delete it.

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