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Over in the Perl tagged questions, we seem to have a much smaller group of people who are asking questions, and a small but regular group of folks answering them. We've been pretty good at catching, marking, and closing duplicates (I think, anyway.) I figured this was pretty much SOP for the rest of SO.

Then I saw a couple questions today:

Closures in C# event handler delegates?

The first answer explains the solution, and then as part of the answer, links to another SO question that answers the exact same question. For something like closures, sure, this might be more difficult to look up, but the one that really got me was this one:


Asking how to convert a string to a DateTime. In fact, in a cursory search of SO, using the exact text in the title, I came up with plenty of pages of questions. Slight variations of the question came up with many more answers, all either almost close or exact duplicates to it. In fact, this question was considered so "popular" by a few of the commentators that this was one of their "Once a month" questions (with the author then replying that he was compiling a list of once-a-month'ers.)

What !?

Not only does the author acknowledge that this was a duplicate, but he posted it anyway!? And on top of that, no one else bothered looking for duplicates?

(And just to avoid hypocrisy, I went through as many of the exact-duplicate tagged questions as I could to find one similar ones to this, and the closest I could get was this one about covariance. One might consider this question a general case of that one.

There was at least One Discussion about rewarding the finding of duplicates on meta before, but it looks like either the outcome of that discussion is either uncertain or still under discussion. )

Is leaving duplicates really the status-quo for questions in other parts of SO? Is it tolerated? Or is it just acceptable?

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I have had similar reactions when wandering into the high-traffic tags like C# and jquery when exercising the 10k tools. We've got it really good over in [perl]. Actually, the symtoms are similar, but not quite as severe yet, as those described in meta.stackexchange.com/questions/38391/…. –  Ether Feb 15 '10 at 17:23
That's like everyday on SU. –  random Feb 16 '10 at 2:07
Instead of closing egregious duplicates like this set of 8, moderators love to close more useful questions. –  Dan Dascalescu Mar 17 at 13:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I don't think we'll start to see a reduction in duplicates until we start removing reputation from answers posted to these duplicates.

We could also encourage people to look for dupes by giving out badges for closing. SO gives out badges for virtually every other behaviour that should be encouraged (sometimes too much, as a new user observed recently), but there is nothing to inform a 3k user that now he has the ability to close questions other than the appearance of a new 'close' link. He can merrily continue on posting answers to dupes and continue harvesting more rep, and if he never looks at meta, he'll never be the wiser that this is not the right thing to do.

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These are both really good ideas, although the badge for closing would need to be done somewhat cautiously to prevent rampant close votes all over the place –  Michael Mrozek Aug 6 '10 at 3:04

Clearly, there are some people who answer questions that are duplicates. Some of them may be doing this for the rep. Maybe not all.

The indication of close votes is up at the top of the page. The answers are at the bottom. It's possible that some of those answering don't see, or didn't notice, the close votes.

It's also possible that there were no close votes when the person started reading the question, but that they arrived before he submitted the answer.

In either case, I think there should be a warning dialog when answering a question that has close votes due to duplication. Something like, "This question has (n) votes to close as a duplicate. [list links to proposed duplicates]. You may wish to answer one of the duplicates instead, since this question may be closed as a duplicate."

Of course, it would then be nice if there were a way to automatically transfer the new answer to one of the duplicate questions. Otherwise, some people will answer the duplicate just to keep from retyping their answer.

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I like the warning idea. It'd also be nice if a) there were auto-redirects for duplicates and/or b) more merging of duplicates. –  Shog9 Feb 16 '10 at 4:39

The main reason duplicates are discouraged/not allowed is because it waters down the content of the site. You really don't gain value for having two of the same questions with the same answers.

A few duplicates are tolerable on the site. They should be closed and directed to the first question so the answers can be aggregated on one single question instead of spread out between a few.

In the end, this isn't the end of the world, duplicate questions are discouraged, but they can have their place too.

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