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A really simple question was asked recently, and I didn't think to check for dups before answering, and neither did a couple of others who have answered.

By giving answers to the dup, are we encouraging the asker to just ask away without searching first, either google or SO? Rather than answering the question, should we comment on it, kindly reminding the user to use the search function, and link to the original question, and let the higher-rep'd users vote to close?

Are we, in fact, part of the problem?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes and no.

Yes because the ideal solution is to close it as an exact duplicate and then ensure that there is a great answer on the original question

No because the best things you can do on the site are post good questions and good answers. Those are the two hardest things to do consistently well. It's not nearly as difficult for admins and moderators to then shuffle/reorganize a bit. Relocating content is much "easier" to do than it is to create good content.

That said, if you highly suspect there is a duplicate, simply look in the Related section on the right. They're almost always there within the first dozen or so.

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So I feel like a complete idiot. Overuse of Facebook has conditioned me to ignore the right column (always ads). The Related links section is brilliant. I've made similar answers to dupes and I'll henceforth check that list first! Thanks @DiPaolo! – M. Tibbits Jun 30 '11 at 1:38
But do you think that answering such questions is actually potentially harmful, because it teaches people that asking without searching gets them what the want, even if they know they're not meant to do so? I realise that things are never going to be perfect, and this is not a huge issue, but, on principle do you think that answering the question, when there is another just like it with good answers, is "The Wrong Thing" to do? – Cam Jackson Jun 30 '11 at 1:40
@CamJackson - I think the fact that you are bothered enough to ask this question should tell you. :) – JNK Jun 30 '11 at 1:57
@CamJackson even if you close their question as a duplicate, presumably that duplicate would have the answer as well and they get that link handed to them anyway so they get paid off either way, no? – Daniel DiPaolo Jun 30 '11 at 5:36
I guess so, but it at least tells the asker that they could have found it elsewhere, rather than just giving them the answer straight up. Although by that logic you may as well give them the answer, and add 'but you could have searched and found it here anyway'. This is turning into a bit of a sprawling discussion though. I think I consider this more or less answered :) – Cam Jackson Jun 30 '11 at 5:46

I think YES.

Any answer on an obvious dupe (that you can be pretty sure will be closed anyways) is just noise.

Think about it from the perspective of a person searching for an answer on google. If their search terms are closer to the duplicate question, they'll see that first. If they see any answers and/or other activity on that question, they're likely to use that.

Because it's a dupe, most of the serious experts are not likely to contribute AGAIN (assuming they did on the original), so the casual searcher reads the less exceptional info on the dupe than the canonical information on the original question.

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The implication that "high rep users" are just doing it to get a few easy upvotes annoys me. High rep users are obviously the most active users on the site. Statistically, a high rep user is more likely to answer any given question because that's what they do (otherwise, they wouldn't be high rep). Often, such users can identify duplicate questions quickly and vote to close. Sometimes, it simply doesn't occur to them that a duplicate question exists, and so they provide an answer. This is not just "getting a few easy upvotes". When this happens I'll answer and then join the vote to close. – Greg Hewgill Jun 30 '11 at 2:06
@Greg - IMO if there are already votes to close identifying the dupe and you post an answer that's an issue (but it sounds like you're describing a different scenario). That being said I probably shouldn't put that in there since it's not constructive so I'll remove it. – JNK Jun 30 '11 at 2:10
My apologies if I came across a bit rough! I was indeed describing the scenario where there were not yet any dupe votes. I also ran out of comment space. Anybody can download the data dump and count the number of close-as-duplicate votes I've made. :) – Greg Hewgill Jun 30 '11 at 3:39
@Greg - no problem, I was making pretty broad generalizations. And my "you" was the figurative "you", not "You, Mr. Hewgill". – JNK Jun 30 '11 at 10:21

I've seen one or two cases where the duplicate question got better answers than the original.

I don't think you can modify the behavior either way - you won't stop it, and you're not encouraging it. The people who are inclined to ask first will always do so. Heck, I've even done it once or twice when I should have known better. Obvious duplicates often get closed before they can gather a significant number of answers anyway.

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