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I occasionally see things getting closed on the various SE sites, which I don't think should be closed. While usually the questions are similar, they aren't exact -- exact duplicate means exact duplicate -- not similar question.

Some of the justification I often see is "well, the answers in these two places are the same, so the questions must also be the same" -- but this justification doesn't make sense. If you're closing the question as a duplicate, the answers should have no bearing. For example, if I ask these questions:

  • Where can one cash in Lottery tickets?
  • Where can one buy eggs?
  • Where can one get a good cup of coffee around here?
  • What serves as the center of town?
  • What is your most successful business?
  • What's the most crime riddled establishment in this town?

and the answer to all of these could be "the corner store." But the questions are very different.

Why does this phenomenon (using answers as justification for calling questions duplicates) exist, and should steps be taken to discourage it from occurring?

Real world example:
@Nikita + @phwd: Example: Is there anything special about C++ functors? (Not closed yet but it's well on it's way)

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I understand somewhat your case though I think you need to use better questions ... those questions are not good examples I cannot see any SE community allowing those types of questions. –  phwd Apr 2 '11 at 5:23
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It would help if you provided actual examples. –  Nikita Rybak Apr 2 '11 at 5:25
    
I've seen this - I'll try and find a better example. –  Justin Apr 5 '11 at 3:10
    
Your C++ functors example is being close-voted because the title of the question (and its duplicate) are almost identical. It would have helped if the OP had asked his real question in the title. I changed the title of the question, and reopened. –  Robert Harvey Apr 5 '11 at 3:26
    
@Robert: Yeah -- not the best example. Kragen's is better. I just happened to notice this again today -- I was kind of grasping at straws writing this because I've seen a lot of it before, but didn't have specific examples lying around. I'll edit the question here with more examples as I see them. –  Billy ONeal Apr 5 '11 at 3:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I don't know how widespread this is, but I've seen this before too, for example it was proposed that Running Two Of The Same DLL's In The Same RunTime? was a duplicate of Referencing different versions of the same assembly because a user believed that the marked answer for the second question was a suitable answer for the first.

In reality the two questions are different and although the answer to the second question may have been a suitable answer to the first, the final answer in fact used a completely different solution which wouldn't have been applicable to the proposed duplicate.

This is why questions should be closed as duplicates if the questions are the same - not the answers.

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+1 Generally speaking, the two questions also have to be nearly exact duplicates of each other as well. Close cousins don't count. –  Robert Harvey Apr 5 '11 at 3:22

It doesn't work exactly like that—generally, an answer to your last hypothetical question would be something along the lines of the following:

The corner store on Fifth Street and Rose Avenue experiences the most crime because they tend to keep a lot of cash in the drawer on weekdays.

or perhaps:

The corner store on Third Street and Watch Avenue experiences the most crime because a lot of gangs have bases near there.

Neither of these answers would be a good answer to any of your other questions, because none of them have to do with crime. Both of them could be valid answers to the last question for varying definitions of "most crime riddled" (actually, I can't think of any, but I suppose it's possible). In fact, if we compare it with the fourth question (center of town), only one of them will be right—the other answer would be wrong because it arrives at an answer to the question by a different method.

The general rule of thumb to follow is to close as duplicate if the answers to both questions would arrive at the same answers and follow similar lines of reasoning, or if by answering one question, you get the answer to the second while defending the answer.

Obviously, this isn't a hard and fast rule by any means, and the specifics of the situation have a lot of say in whether or not one question should be closed as a duplicate of another.

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"The general rule of thumb to follow is to close as duplicate if the answers to both questions would arrive at the same answers and follow similar lines of reasoning, or if by answering one question, you get the answer to the second while defending the answer." <-- The issue is what I think this is wrong though. If the questions are not duplicates, then they are not duplicates. No matter what the answers are. Just because similar answers using similar reasoning applies to both questions doesn't mean that they are exact duplicates. –  Billy ONeal Apr 5 '11 at 1:30
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Couldn't disagree more - if someone believes that a question shares the same answer as another question then they are perfectly entitled to post an answer with a link to said question saying something like "This may help", but a question should only be closed as a duplicate if the question is the same - what if they are wrong and someone else has an alternative answer which is completely irelevant to supposed duplicate question? –  Justin Apr 5 '11 at 3:09
    
This answer is completely correct; holding up "the corner store" as an exemplary answer is a straw man, because that's a terrible answer across the SE network. These hypothetical questions (which are also terrible SE questions, btw), when answered properly -- with detail, background, and explanation -- have completely different answers and thus could not be closed as duplicates. –  Josh Caswell Jan 20 '13 at 22:23

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