We have a great influx of questions that are permutations of the same basic question. Among the most common examples in the tags I'm active in are
How do I parse this HTML structure with PHP?
How do I create pretty URLs like
sometimes with a dozen new questions in one day.
It is my opinion that most of these questions - those lacking any kind of originality - should be closed as duplicates, or closed in some other way. (I asked a Meta question about this, but got little feedback.)
I started a question titled "how to parse HTML with PHP?" a few days back. The intention was to build a reference question that contains the best generic solution to this common issue, with the goal of having one "best" option when it comes to closing as a duplicate.
It's CW, but I've promised bounties for the best answers to create an incentive to contribute. (I'm planning to leave the programming business, and thus cease daily participation in SO, next year. While I may keep my SO account, I want to bring my rep points to zero. My favourite idea would be to spend it on something useful like this. If this specific idea is rejected, it's no big deal either.)
The question has been relatively successful in terms of votes and responses, but has received very good points of criticism as well. Most notably from @Gordon, who by the way is a very active duplicate hunter.
Closevoting this, because IMO a reference question will shift attention away from the actual original answers towards this one, lowering the chance for reputation gain on the original answers. If anything, a reference question should collect the major topics and link to appropriate answers, so people still get a chance to be upvoted. It's more like a digest thing for those too lazy to use the search function then. How to approach FAQ question should be elaborated on meta first.
I can see a point in this. I also realize that creating "reference questions" like this is a bit artificial: It goes against the natural flow of people asking real questions, those questions getting answered, and the best questions and answers bubbling to the top through upvotes.
It is my opinion, however, that a solution for this is needed, and that having a reference question is a good thing. When I'm voting to close something as a duplicate, I want to make sure I point to the right duplicate, one that really helps the OP. Usually, I will look into the highest voted questions first to find some kind of reference. I love this way of finding great content. What I'm proposing (and what I would like a community ruling on) is formalizing this, so that closing duplicates becomes easier.
My questions are:
Are "reference questions" like this a good idea at all? Should the experiment go on, or should I close it down?
If yes: Is the execution okay? (Entirely new question, made CW, bounties for the best answers....)? Or should, instead of building a question from scratch, the best (most viewed / most highest-voted / most answered) existing similar question be used? (Every issue that needs a reference question already has brilliant answers somewhere.)
Or should we let the question base grow naturally, and view the plentitude of similar but individually specific questions as a compendium where, over time, everyone can find the solution to their problem? Although I don't share it, because askers seldom look for duplicates, it is a valid view.
Are there other ideas to deal with the issue?