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I have the following situation:

  1. There was already a question in the form Is there a program for X?.
  2. And I asked the more specific question Is there a free program for X?

The second question was closed as a duplicate.

But I am not sure about how this should be handled in general. Esp. in this case, this is kind of bad because none of the existing answers to 1 answers the second question (all given suggestions are non-free programs). The author already accepted one of the answers so it is unlikely that these questions will get much traction anymore.

There are probably a lot of very similar cases like these.

One example: Is there a free per-app network bandwidth monitor for MacOSX? closed as duplicate of Is there a per-app network monitor for MacOSX?.

The latter does not have answers to the more specialized version.

The answer to the latter is even a step more specific: Its suggestion is a commercial firewall application which also contains a network bandwidth monitor.

To take the thought even further:

The issue does also exist in the other way. I.e. if you have asked Is there a program for X, there always will be a question Is there a program for Y whereby Y is more general than X.

So, obviously, stating that the most general question should stay and all others should be marked as duplicate doesn't make sense. (The most general question in this case would be Is there a program which can do everything.)

To the given example:

  1. My question: Is there a free per-app net bandwidth monitor for MacOSX
  2. A question like Is there a net bandwidth monitor for MacOSX is already more general (because the question which I asked made two further specifications: free and per application).
  3. Now you can make it more general: Is there a system monitor for MacOSX (many system monitors probably also monitor the network card)

Every further generalization in this case would probably be closed as being too unspecific (e.g. if you leave away the operating system and accept just any tool). At some point you would end up with the question Is there some application which is obviously a very general version of all the other questions.

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Someone has downvoted this without leaving a comment/explanation. May I ask why? –  Albert Nov 2 '10 at 17:28
voting on Meta simply tends to indicate if people agree or not. The downvote wasn't mine, so I can't say for sure if this was just means someone disagrees about "in this case, this is kind of bad". Or maybe it was just because of your rant "Obviously (because SO people tend to close questions)"? –  Arjan Nov 2 '10 at 17:58
I will upvote the question for balance. Seems like a perfectly reasonable question to me. –  MarkJ Nov 2 '10 at 18:15

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

For that specific question:

I think the sole fact that the 2nd answer already referred to a non-free solution proves that closing the question was correct.

The first version did not state anything about requiring a free solution, while after the answer with the paid solution was posted the second revision said "I would prefer a free solution" (emphasis mine). Only after I voted to close, that was changed to "I want a free solution".

But even now that "free" has been added to the title, I still think that the duplicate questions do not exclude the answers you are looking for. Hence, I still think your question should be kept closed. (But not deleted; people could still find your question and post their answers to the duplicates, helping you and whoever has the same question after you.)

You could offer a bounty to one of the duplicates, to give it some more attention.

(But then: I voted to close, so I am surely biased.)

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Yea, in my first version I didn't specified that. So should I have made a new question after I saw that the general question was indeed a duplicate? I thought it would be simpler to just edit the question. What exactly would have been the difference then anyway? But that is anyway not the main discussion here. -- I could give a bounty but as the duplicates are already answered, this doesn't really help much, does it (who would get the bounty then)? –  Albert Nov 2 '10 at 17:58
@Albert, you have a point about posting a new question would not make sense. Maybe I was bit annoyed by your "because SO people tend to close questions". When starting a bounty, leave a comment about your requirements and promise it to whoever finds that free solution. –  Arjan Nov 2 '10 at 18:00
@Albert Bounties are not linked to accepted answers. –  Diago Nov 2 '10 at 19:33

The fear is that you encourage an seemingly endless supply of "Request for Foo with list of adjectives to distinguish it from other Foo requests" requests.

My opinion would be that the specialized version is only justified if the answers to the general version do not adequately answer the specialized version. If the answers to "Program to do X" include the extant free options then there is no need for a specialized "Free program to do X". Certainly it would be helpful if the answer to the general versions were clear about the difference, but that is a beautiful use case for editing the answers to the general version.

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If such followup questions are useful to someone other than the asker (which of course requires that they seek information which isn't already in the answers to the original question), they'll be voted up and maybe answered. If not, they'll be ignored. What's the problem, really? –  Robin Green Nov 2 '10 at 8:31
What I meant here are those cases where the general version does not have any answers to the more specialized version. I'll link an example. –  Albert Nov 2 '10 at 17:25

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