Skip down to about the middle to see an example of what I'm proposing.
A modest proposal: rethinking modes of information acquiry in web 2.0.
Be prepared, this is fairly radical change of thinking about how we communicate over the internet.
Oftentimes on sites like this, someone will ask a noob question, and people will respond "Dupe: [link to existing question]".
proposition: Human beings are social animals, and we prefer to converse with our peers rather than do research or look stuff up.
propostion: With digital technologies, copying, linking and referencing information is easier, cheaper and a more robust technology than searching and finding, both from the technology perspective ( "Related Questions" suggestions ) and the user perspective ( actually finding your question and and answer for it )
proposition: Human beings like feeling welcomed and included in social groups. Not having a question answered directly, and being told instead to participate in a non-social activity (looking things up) rather than the social group ( conversing ) feels unwelcoming.
proposition: stack overflow is a site mainly for asking questions, not doing research ( although research, and other stuff like social networking, are good parts of stack overflow )
With these three propositions in mind, what I actually propose is very simple technically ( having website functionality ) and socially ( actually doing it ). We're really already doing it. But I think it would represent a very radical change in the way we perceive learning and information acquiry and interact with each other as nerds.
Instead of deleting dupes, 'dupes' would be welcomed, and there would be easy functionality for a human user to link up, or integrate other questions and answers to new ones, and import or cross-reference answers from previous questions.
Basically, instead of saying "It's already out there, go away and look it up", we'd be saying, "It's already here, here it is, and welcome :)"
So, instead of
"How do I a line break on a line of code in python? Dupe: [link to line continuation question] Delete this question, please!"
we would do this:
"How do I a line break on a line of code in python? [text of question imported, copied, or referenced by user from another similar question] [answer copied, referenced or imported from that question] "
We're already referencing duplicate questions to ones previously asked. What I'm saying is that we can do it in a way that welcomes participation, instead of how we do it now, which feels unwelcoming. People are already referencing existing quesitons when they make the case that a new question is a dupe, so this doesn't involved any more work on the part of users or the community.
The main thrust of Stack Overflow is to ask questions, not do research. Responding this way to questions encourages people to ask questions, and to keep asking questions, because they know they will be answered in a welcoming way.