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I've had two questions closed now for being duplicate questions. In the first case, none of the words I used in my question showed up in the other question (they talked about "visiting the site each day", I talked about "consecutive days").

In the other case, annoyed that I couldn't locate the previous question, I asked how to locate duplicate questions. That question was a duplicate, as well, but the previous poster talked about "duplicates", which doesn't show up in searches for "duplicate", and they tagged their question exact-duplicate rather than duplicate.

It seems like the failure of the search engine, coupled with a proliferation of tags, makes it impossible to locate questions if they've been asked before. Shouldn't it be improved?

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I'm afraid this is a duplicate too. The answer Jeff has given before is to use Google and do a site search. –  ChrisF Jun 30 '10 at 16:57
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Also see Jeff's answer to this question - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/20432/… –  ChrisF Jun 30 '10 at 16:58
    
Searching is an art... I'll often try a half-dozen or so different phrasings for a question before finding one that works - more if I know it's been asked before but can't remember how. And yes, Google is much better at ordering results for title searches - SO's search seems heavily skewed toward keywords and newer questions. –  Shog9 Jun 30 '10 at 17:00
    
I've used Google and done a site search. Neither work. I'm just going to quit using meta.stackoverflow.com, if there's no way to effectively ask questions and get answers. None of the answers on any of the duplicate topics are useful. –  Chris B. Jun 30 '10 at 17:00
    
Personally, I don't really think that the line between [duplicates] and [exact-duplicates] is so large as to require two tags. –  Grace Note Jun 30 '10 at 17:03
    
Also, for the tag issue, the tag synonym system ideally will mitigate this problem by making searches for tags much better. –  Grace Note Jun 30 '10 at 17:12
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In the other case, annoyed that I couldn't locate the previous question, I asked how to locate duplicate questions. That question was a duplicate, as well, but the previous poster talked about "duplicates", which doesn't show up in searches for "duplicate", and they tagged their question [exact-duplicate] rather than [duplicate].

This is why tags are so key. I'm a huge proponent of proper categorization, particularly on Meta, as it's the main support channel for the whole operation. Personally, I prefer to search by tags instead of using the search box because the results are normally far more useful and relevant.

We're all waiting desperately for a tag synonym system so questions are grouped together in a way that you can find them. The two tags you mentioned were clearly missed in my recent cleanup effort, so for that I apologize.


Another thing when it comes to finding duplicates, which is of a completely different nature than tags, is familiarity with the site itself. I would say the majority of closing as a duplicate on Meta happens as a result of that.

Here on Meta, there aren't as many different topics started, so there are a lot of users that know what content exists, what doesn't, what is a duplicate, etc. It's also far more likely that a popular question was asked by a user who has vote-to-close powers.

Knowing exactly what you're looking for before starting to look makes it far, far easier to find the original question. Unfortunately, you'll have to gain this experience on your own; it's not really transferable.

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Very truth. A lot of duplicate identification comes not just from searching, but also previously seeing the original post. I have a 'quick list' of common ones personally, but just now I voted to close a question since I had just investigated the subject 3 days ago. –  Grace Note Jun 30 '10 at 17:28
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This is indeed a failure of the search engine.

We compensate for the lack by making it fairly easy to close as duplicates. And, as soon as a question is flagged as a possible dupe, a link is posted pointing the asker to the duplicate.

It is a fairly frictionless process, and we don't fault you for asking duplicates.

Also, we keep dupes around, so next time someone is in your place asking the exact same questions, they have twice the chance of finding the duplicate questions.

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I've gotten downvotes on duplicate questions, so you are penalized for asking duplicates. –  Chris B. Jun 30 '10 at 17:03
    
@Chris The downvotes generally won't come for merely the act of posting a duplicate. It generally comes for posting a duplicate of a bad idea (one would've gotten the downvote regardless) or willingly posting a duplicate (one should know better). In your case (you've only received 1 downvote), you had duplicated a question with -3 score anyway. –  Grace Note Jun 30 '10 at 17:04
    
Well, you can't be sure the votes are because it's a dupe. But, the system doesn't punish duplicates. Users might, but that is a topic for another discussion. –  jjnguy Jun 30 '10 at 17:04
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