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I recently had a(nother) question closed because it was a duplicate of another. I completely understand the practice, we don't want SO bloating with the same questions.

However, I was wondering if it might make sense to merge all questions considered duplicates into one question or question-like entity. This way, the OP of the duplicate would still have a link to the question in his/her own user-page AND the discussion around the duplicate (and thereby frequently asked) question would be more robust.

I have no idea how this might be implemented, but it seems like it would be an improvement over the binary "open or closed" methodology.

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There is a merge system, as Michael Mrozek noted. But, one curious thing you bring up that I do think might be something worth dwelling on is the linking of the merge in the duplicate author's profile. Not sure how to do it cleanly, though, but it may be something to think on. –  Grace Note Feb 9 '11 at 16:21

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One of the goals of SO is to have a few duplicate questions to capture various search engine traffic. Different people will phrase a question differently. However, as one of the site creators has said, too many duplicates is a problem. (But so are too few.)

There is a lot of discussion on meta about handling duplicate questions.

To that end, my 2¢ is that duplicates should be merged, in the sense that all of the original questions and answers appear on the same page. In other words, all of the questions' various phrasing is kept intact, to capture appropriate search traffic, but all of the answers are aggregated together. This prevents users from having to click the links that lead to the questions that are the original of the duplicate.

To address the technical side of things, when viewing a question that has been previously merged with any other question, there would be elements that show the question is a merged question.

  • A notice with a counter, like: "This question is 1 of 8 merged questions."
  • Arrows, tabs, or another navigation control to let users page through the duplicate questions (mind you, the answers are combined just as if they were originally posted to the first question)
  • The merged questions could be sorted by votes or another metric so that the "best" question is the most visible

Useful References from Jeff Atwood's Blog:

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Merging questions already exists, but it can't be reversed and it's somewhat dangerous, so it's only available to ♦ moderators. If you see a post closed as a duplicate that has useful answers not already shown on the duplicate post, flag it for mod attention and ask them to merge it. Generally duplicates aren't merged unless they both have useful answers and it'd be helpful to group them together

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