I have noticed several times in a day many users asked questions that have been asked before. There is a list of suggestions as users type in the Title field but it's like most users don't look or overlook or something different.

Like today I wanted to ask "How to re-arrange my favourite tags". I searched and two records came up not related to what I wanted to ask. Then I assumed nobody had asked it. Then when I typed in the Title field, I saw three out of the suggestions that is exactly what I needed. That was because I know the penalty of asking duplicate questions. Most new users overlook this.

My suggestion is this: Is it possible to make the first 5 or 10 suggestions as the first answer with an anonymous user (e.g. community wiki, or another name) or as a comment. This will force the user to see the existing duplicates and also stop users responding with "Possible Duplicate" in the comment.

I think comment will be better. It is easier to delete a question with comments than a question with at least one answer. This will reduce the number of duplicate questions on StackOverflow

If the links don't meet the OP's requirement, he could then indicate so people would answer the question.

  • Do you mean that if the system detects a possible duplicate, then it will automatically post some community wiki answer of sorts containing links to the suspected duplicates (or their answers)? – Lix Jul 12 '12 at 20:10
  • Kind of. Just like we have the related links on the right and in the suggestion box which are sometimes overlooked by new users especially, have it as comment or first answer. Users are likely to check the comments if anybody posted an answer – tunmise fasipe Jul 12 '12 at 20:14
  • I think this idea has some potential... This auto answer of sorts could be removed if it's score reaches -3 - That's currently the standard for an answer to "fade out" slightly hence displaying its possible irrelevance... anything more than -3 and it could be removed just as automagically as it appeared... – Lix Jul 12 '12 at 20:18
  • This would work assuming people would read it... They didn't find the related links on the sidebar... perhaps this would be a way to "rub their nose in it"... so to speak :P – Lix Jul 12 '12 at 20:19
  • @tunmisefasipe did you know that the "possible duplicate" comments get generated when someone votes to close as dupe, and its often used by 3K+ users to see if they should also vote to close – Some Helpful Commenter Jul 12 '12 at 20:22
  • but users still post answers to such questions even after seeing the duplicate notice. I wasn't aware it was generated though, I used to think the moderators edit the question and inserted that. But this could prevent the DOWN-VOTES the user would get if he had seen the links – tunmise fasipe Jul 12 '12 at 20:26
  • Users still post answers because a question should still be answered, even if it's a duplicate. It's possible that the duplicate could receive an answer that is more elegant, recent, what-have-you than the accepted answer on the original. – Yawus Jul 12 '12 at 20:27

Your proposal of having an automated service post links to possible duplicates isn't any different from what many of us already without the automation. Many of us already post links to possible duplicates in the comment area and I would say that our quality assurance works fairly quickly.

The other thing about this proposal is that it's a reactive feature, in that it tries to mitigate damage after it's already done (i.e. after they posted their duplicate question). What I would propose instead is that for new users (or users below a certain amount of rep), we could possibly display a moderately sized arrow towards the sidebar, kinda like a "HEY! LISTEN!" without the annoyingly high-pitched voice and repetition every 5 seconds. This is more in line with a proactive attempt to prevent duplicates.

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