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I thought about the current ways to handle duplicates and how the system could be improved.

First thing, duplicates today are hard to close, not enough people vote, you get a lot more reputation/badges when you answer a question than when you're explaining that's a dupe, etc.

In this post I will talk about 3 things :

  • DQ : Duplicate question, the newer question
  • OQ : Original question, the older question
  • DA : Duplicate answer, a new type of answer which only contains a link to the OQ. The DA unicity is based on the OQ link and the DQ on which it's posted.

How could this system be improved?

Give incentive for finding duplicate questions.
Best thing to do is giving incentive for a OQ finding, this way users who answer to a DQ take part to the community and are rewarded for their work.

But how could this be done?

Here is the problem, today posting an answer with a link to OQ isn't acceptable.
But yet it should be, after all isn't this an answer? Doesn't it help the OP with his question?
There is the close option (reserved to high reputation users) but it isn't really an answer, just a simple comment, and if the post is closed, a simple message explaining why.

Proposed better way of handling duplicates.
DA can be an alternative to a classic answer. Today it's impossible to say to every users "it's okay to post a link to the OQ as an answer", so a new type of answer, a DA would allow a new way to detect duplicates.

With a special textfield, the answerer could enter the URL of the OQ (like the "This question is a duplicate of which other question?" pane).

What is the point of having a new kind of answer?

  1. You can upvote/downvote. The community is doing the moderation, not the first 5 persons which come to close the topic, or the 5 next which vote to reopen it, etc.
  2. As it's a new system, new steps in the reputation could be added. One to create DA, one for voting up and one for voting down. This way more people are involved in the cleaning work.
  3. DA are visible, they're not hidden in a ton of comments, written in a 50 height pixels line mostly ignored by the OP.
  4. It's based on the current answer system. Really easy to understand, no new crazy features or anything else (I'm speaking for users only)
  5. A The system can control that this DA is unique. A DA containing a link a certain OQ can't be posted twice. Multiple DA (based on different OQ) can be posted, the best ones will earn reputation
  6. More than 12 votes a day are allowed
  7. It's a more community-oriented solution

What are the rules?

  • You can't post a DA if this one as already been posted
  • You can gain/lose reputation if your DA is the right one or not
  • You don't gain/lose reputation when you vote on a DA. You're only moderating, so no reputation
  • If a DA has a better score than the accepted answer, it should be listed before in the answers list
  • As a standard answer, a DA has comments. The DA only contains a link to the OQ, if the answerer wants to add more information, he can use the comments
  • A DA can't be edited
  • Only the owner/moderators can remove a DA
  • A DA can be flagged for a moderator attention
  • A DA can't become a community wiki
  • A post which contains a DA is closed if this DA is the most voted answer and if the score of the said DA is more than 5
  • If any classic answer has a better score than the DA, the post is reopened
  • If the DA is downvoted to a score under 5 the topic is reopened (unless another DA is eligible by the above rules)
  • A DA can't be migrated

What next?

With this new system you can add later more features (I don't prone any of them, it's just additional features that could be done) :

  • new badges
  • different rights to post a DA (I think that anyone [or at least almost anyone] should be able to post a DA)
  • different rep amount needed upvotes/downvotes a DA
  • different rules to close a post based on DA (a minimal number of votes, most voted answer, parallel vote system, etc.)
  • no reputation for classic answers of the closed post
  • no reputation for the OP (or only negative reputation) if the post is close
  • add an easy way to migrate your answer from the DQ to the OQ (regain of reputation if the 4th point is applied)

What do you think about this idea?

I know it's a lot of work, but hey, it would completely change the way questions/answers work. The good questions/answers would be more consulted/accessed and the dupes would be simply ignored later.

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"But yet it should be, after all isn't this an answer ?" I don't think so. "Why is the sky blue?" "This question has already been asked by _______ at _______." –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 26 '10 at 15:29
    
What's wrong with adding a comment? Why does it have to be an answer? –  random Sep 26 '10 at 15:54
    
@random, because the comment will be hidden by other if there is to many of them, and because a comment is really light 50px height, I read them, I think you read them too, but I'm not sure that everybody will read every comment on a post before answering. In the other hand it's more likely that anybody will read already posted answers before replying. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 16:03
    
Neither do people read all previous answers before posting similar and dupes. No difference other than your proposal is more in your face for the sake of collecting more EXP and far more noise. –  random Sep 26 '10 at 16:08
    
@random, the main problem with comments it that they're simple lines in the post, they have a really low importance (I'm not saying that comments aren't importants, I just say that they're less visible and that's normal). The "probable duplicate" in a comment is de facto less visible and basically this proposition is based on the idea to make duplicates clearer and more visible. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 16:51
    
"duplicates today are hard to close, not enough people vote" - please revisit your assumptions. I see duplicates closed within minutes, if not tens of seconds. In which tags do you see the behavior you are describing? –  Piskvor Sep 26 '10 at 16:54
    
@Piskvor, are you saying that duplicates aren't a problem ? –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 17:11
    
@Colin Hebert: No, that's a straw-man argument. Duplicates are a problem - if they weren't, we wouldn't have tools for dealing with them, and we wouldn't be having this little chit-chat. I'm saying that duplicates are a problem which has a somewhat working solution . While your proposal might help with the problem further, its complexity could drive people away from trying to use it. In other words: I'm sorry, but I think that your proposal would be a cure worse than the disease. –  Piskvor Sep 26 '10 at 17:17
    
@Piskvor, by dint of thinking of this idea, I ended up losing sight of the complexity of implementation. You're right this could be overcomplicated. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 17:23
    
What exactly is "The DA unicity" ? –  Peter Ajtai Sep 26 '10 at 21:32
    
@Peter Ajtai, A rule to have only unique DA per question. This way, you can't have two answerers posting the same link to the original question –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 21:35
    
Thanks. I think I see. I would say that answers that merely state, "Take a look at the answers in Question XYZ" shouldn't be allowed at all, since those answers should really be close to votes due to duplication. –  Peter Ajtai Sep 26 '10 at 22:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First thing, duplicates today are hard to close, not enough people vote, you get a lot more reputation/badges when you answer a question than when you're explaining that's a dupe, etc.

Yes, this is true.

What do you think about this idea ?

It's far too complicated, and the more complicated something gets, the worse an idea is. You're trying to improve the existing "Close as Duplicate" system, which is a good idea, but making it more complicated is not going to help matters.

I know it's a lot of work, but hey, it would completely change the way questions/answers work.

When I see this, warning bells go off. Questions and answers are at the heart of Stack Exchange, and major changes to them should only happen for major improvements to the functionality. To be totally honest with you, this isn't one of them.

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I was re-reading all the topic to try to understand what was the main problem, but you're right, this idea (even if it started on good intentions) is overcomplicated for the base problem. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 17:18

No, no, no, no, NO.

This topic has been discussed at length already. You're asking the team to build an entire system to encourage people to do exactly what we're trying to discourage: Post and respond to duplicate questions.

Excessive duplication is harmful to a Q&A site. It literally goes against the fundamental principle, which is to provide a single authoritative answer to a question that's easy to find from the site and from search engines. Duplication scatters and dilutes the information and makes it more difficult for people to actually find what they need.

Duplicate questions need to be closed as quickly as possible so that they don't pick up any answers at all. If they do happen to pick up answers that are better than those submitted to the original, then they need to be merged as quickly as possible.

We are not going to encourage people to rep-whore by copying and pasting links to the duplicates. This is janitorial work, not contribution of content which is what reputation is given for. Badges are fine but this idea has already been proposed. In fact, it's been proposed twice three times - there's some delicious irony for you.

Another, better suggestion I've seen for dealing with the duplicate problem is to Add an alert when answering a question that has at least a close vote as duplicate. Ironically, again, that suggestion is also a duplicate.

Hilariously, even your suggestion is basically a dupe, with a few bells and whistles added.


Edit: Other problems that materialized in my mind after rereading the question and the comment thread:

  • It gives moderation capabilities to users who haven't earned it (there's a reason close/reopen is limited to 3k+).

  • It allows close/reopen wars to happen on a massive scale (anyone with downvote reputation can participate).

  • It's insanely complicated, I don't think anybody will understand and remember all the rules. The switching between reputation benefits for "classic" answers alone sounds like a nightmare if questions are getting closed/reopened all the time.

  • If it's a very easy question then the "DA" will get buried if it comes in late. The close votes are currently always visible right there at the top of the question.

  • If a question is massively duplicated (and many are) then it encourages everybody to post their own dupe link, which is a form of rep gaming in and of itself.

  • It still encourages the posting of normal answers to duplicate questions, on the gamble if they manage to out-vote the "DA" then they still get the rep for it (unlike the current system, where if their answer isn't sufficiently interesting/unique, then the dupe might get deleted instead of merged, or their answer might get killed during the merge).

  • Due to the above, it still encourages asking dupes; not only will it still attract answers, but the question author can help subvert the new "closing" process by downvoting the DA or upvoting other answers.

  • The entire problem could be much more easily addressed by giving rep or badges to the actual 3k+ community moderators who vote to close, if the question gets closed and stays closed (i.e. for at least 24-48 hours).

So again, I repeat: NO.

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I don't really see how it encourages anyone to post duplicate questions. People which ask questions without searching will still ask questions without searching. For the janitorial work, I agree it's a janitorial work, cleaning SO from duplicates is a work, which serves the community, this way best questions become references. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 15:30
    
@Colin: Read the links, especially the first one. Among other things, asking duplicate questions is a form of rep-gaming. Conferring rep for posting duplicate links as answers only discourages those same people from actually closing (because they get rep from the former), and less likelihood of a question being closed only makes it easier to justify not bothering to search. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:31
    
@Aarobot, But if you read my proposition this system will close duplicates, it's the main goal. "A post which contains a DA is closed if this DA is the most voted answer and if the score of the said DA is more than 5". Maybe I should have said "automatically", but yes, it's closed automatically if this rule is applied. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 15:35
    
Concerning the links you posted, I've already read them and I even linked some of them in my post ;) I know you might have seen a lot of posts like that before, and I know it's kind of amusing and ironic, but I did my research first, there are some idea from others and I tried as I could to answer the main problem with a solution. –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 15:38
    
@Colin: So, based on your previous comment, essentially you're asking the team to open up close/reopen voting to all users with more than 15 rep. And award them reputation for it. Using an insanely complicated and convoluted implementation. This sounds like a good idea to you? No thanks. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:44
    
@Colin: And in your implementation you've also added automatic reopening if another answer is voted higher than the dupe link. Tell me how that is not encouraging people to ask and answer duplicates instead of moderating? –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:46
    
@Aarobot, different rep amount needed upvotes/downvotes a DA, different rights to post a DA. Please, read the whole thing one time entirely I know it's not perfect, but please give me reasons that are valid. For the second part, people will vote to the best answer, and see the last part no reputation for classic answers of the closed post –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 15:47
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Oh, and downvoting under 5 automatically reopens it, which will inevitably lead to yo-yo close/reopen wars, wide open to everyone with enough reputation to downvote. Yecch, the more I think about this implementation of yours, the worse and worse it sounds. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:48
    
@Colin: You say, and I quote: "I think that anyone [or at least almost anyone] should be able to post a DA". Don't treat me like an illiterate. I read your idea. I just think it sucks, and I've clearly outlined the reasons. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:49
    
@Aarobot, okay, Now you've got a point. The yo-yo part. This problem is real and I think it could be solved by more strict rules on posts closed by a DA –  Colin Hebert Sep 26 '10 at 15:50
    
@Colin: "No reputation for classic answers of the closed post" - unless it gets reopened because your answer got voted higher than the dupe link. You're encouraging people to gamble by posting dupe answers. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:50
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@Colin: You're right, I skimmed over one or two sections because I knew it was a bad idea the second I opened it (it's way, way too complicated, for starters). I have since reread it in its entirety and can definitively claim that every point I've made so far still stands. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 15:52
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@Colin: Don't put words in my mouth. I said I skimmed it, not that I didn't read it. I do that often and almost always (this instance included) come away with the right impression. I don't know why you think you've refuted anything I've said; you've done nothing of the sort. When you post something that long and convoluted, people are going to skim it; it happens on some of my posts too, and I deal with it, I don't whine. Now I've reread every word of your suggestion and still stand behind everything I've already said. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 16:02
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@Colin: I give up. The bottom line is, you want a system that basically works like the current system, except it's mashed in with the answers instead of being cleanly segregated as a moderation function, and anybody can propose and vote for duplicates, and you get rep for it. I don't know how else to say it: The idea is ill-conceived and the implementation is a mess. What we have now is already better than this. You're proposing to add significant complexity and confusion for no tangible benefit. It won't happen. –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 16:12
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@Colin: But this won't accomplish that. People answer questions instead of closing them because they don't care whether or not it's a dupe, or because they think they can still get the rep for it. Neither of those causes are properly addressed by this. You think that the latter is, but it isn't; they might not actually get the rep, but they'll still try. And the way you worded the question, it's strongly implied that almost anybody can participate in this process; if it's only higher-rep users then why do we need this at all? –  Aarobot Sep 26 '10 at 16:20

At present when someone answers a duplicated question, they get to keep the up votes once the questions has been closed as a duplicate. Maybe there should be no rep awarded for any answers on duplicated questions.

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