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Should duplicates be downvoted as a punishment for not searching first, or is just closing enough?

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7 Answers

up vote 39 down vote accepted

I have several times asked a question that the "similar questions" search did not identify that I later found to be a duplicate of an existing question when someone pointed it out. I think, then, in the general case that a downvote is probably not appropriate because it is entirely possible that the user did search and did not find a question like their own in the list. The best solution is merely to close it with the reference to the existing question unless the question is bad in some other respect.

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4  
Indeed - I've often failed to find questions I know have already been asked. –  ChrisF Aug 30 '10 at 18:01
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All too often someone will post a question where a nearly identical title will show up in the "related" section. I usually do downvote in those cases. –  user27414 Aug 30 '10 at 18:02
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Note that in the scenario @Jon describes, down-voting can help avoid the situation where future searches rank the duplicates higher than the original, requiring multiple clicks to actually find answers. –  Shog9 Aug 30 '10 at 18:04
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Also, there is some subjectivity regarding what counts as a duplicate. –  lala Dec 10 '10 at 16:19
    
@user27414 but what if the question was better formatted and/or got better answers than the original? I realize it defeats the matter of principal, but what's more important: results or standards? –  Gary Mar 16 '12 at 3:00
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Downvotes are not meant to be used as punishment.

That being said, they are your votes, and you should use them as you see fit.

(Leaving a comment telling the user to search harder next time will probably be more helpful than a downvote.)

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then maybe you should disable the downvotes as such .. if you disagree, or think that the answer/question is harmful, you can just explain it in the comments. Though, it makes me wonder, how exactly a comment would help to a user who's making 3rd duplicate of his/her own question ... –  teresko Nov 19 '12 at 20:04
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I usually don't vote on dupes. However, if it was something that really should have been found in a search, I might downvote. It's not so much a punishment as it is a way of saying "this post was a waste of time".

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It's an easy mistake (posting duplicates). I confess to doing it myself more than once, despite having searched before. This is simply because each person uses a different vocabulary to describe the same thing. It happens.

To answer your question, I don't downvote for simple mistakes - I might if someone made a habit of it.

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According to the text displayed if one hovers over the down vote option, down votes should be doled out if a question is, Unclear or not useful. So, if, in your opinion a duplicate question is not useful (or unclear) then down vote away.

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The only valid reason to downvote a dupe aside Jon B's answer would IMHO be to discourage answers, which may themselves be dupes of the duped question's answers or worse, turn out to be good answers the duped question itself did not have and will not be read by anyone not finding the dupe first.

However, downvotes for that reason should also be removed after dupeclosing because they only judged the fact of an already existing very similar question, but not the question's usefulness itself.

edit taking back that "dupe!"-downvote would be made easier if this feature-request was implemented.

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A duplicate is the most obvious indication that no research effort has been made. So, absolutely, downvote away.

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Okay ;-) (No downvote was/is mine by the way!) –  Arjan Dec 28 '11 at 16:27
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I think it depends a bit on what kind of duplicate. Something like this - kill with fire. But for questions with a certain level of sophistication and complexity, I tend to just look up the original and be done with it - especially when it's new users. –  Pëkka Dec 28 '11 at 16:37
    
I don't see how this is any different from @PeterAjtai's answer on this very page. –  jadarnel27 Dec 28 '11 at 16:41
    
@jadarnel27: He picked one downvote rationale; I picked another (one which I think is more appropriate - research includes searching, and searching yields SO answers). –  Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 30 '11 at 14:47
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