I’d like to get some confirmation, or objection in case I’m wrong, on a topic about closing questions as exact duplicate. So far, I have always voted as duplicate when the other question handles the same topic—regardless of the title of each question.

In this particular case, the question I’m voting to close is this one: What does :-1 mean in python?. It is basically about a syntax feature called “slice notation”. As the poster obviously did not know about this feature, he had no idea about its name and could not search for “slice notation”. And as we all know the search is bad with symbols, so :-1 does not work well—similar how searching for e.g. the null coalescing operator is tricky.

I have voted to close the question because there is another one, which is a reference to said slice notation: Explain Python's slice notation. I believe that this question covers all information necessary to understand [:-1] and even more about it.

Unfortunately, I received a comment from a user who disagrees with this. I am unsure how to respond to this now, as I was quite convinced of the reasoning behind the vote. So, what do you think?

While something similar like this was discussed before, I think this is still different as the previous discussion was about a less clear topic. In this case I think it is more clear, as the user was directly asking what said notation means.

  • I think this is a good idea. It's similar to how many of the Java questions on which the problem is simply trying to compare strings with ==. They get closed as duplicates to "How do I compare strings in Java" even though the OP didn't know that was the problem. – Doorknob Jan 20 '13 at 21:41
  • @Doorknob Okay, I’m unsure what you are referring to now; what is a good idea? ^^ Also, if the OP didn’t know that was the problem, does it matter if he finds it out with a close, when the linked question does cover the topic perfectly? – poke Jan 20 '13 at 21:42
  • I am referring to the fact that I agree with closing as a duplicate. – Doorknob Jan 20 '13 at 21:44
  • @Doorknob Ah, alright then. – poke Jan 20 '13 at 21:46
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    You could comment back to point out: It's usual to preserve (not delete) the duplicate so it's a signpost to the other answer. Closing it just makes sure as many answers as possible go in one place. (Answers closed for other reasons are on the path to deletion, though.) – AndrewC Jan 20 '13 at 21:50
  • Related: Close reason proposal: "Answer exists elsewhere" – jscs Jan 20 '13 at 22:25
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    I truly don't understand the conniptions I see over closing as duplicate. We say to the asker "Good news! Your answer is already ready already at link". Anyone who wants to contribute an answer can go there, too. There's no real limitation of functionality; it's just organization. The closed question is left around to continue to act as a funnel to the original. – jscs Jan 20 '13 at 22:37

The user who disagrees nonetheless says that both questions have the same answer. In that case, closing this question as a duplicate leads the asker toward a highly-upvoted accepted answer, which is surely a good thing.

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I disagree with the commenter, and have voted accordingly. The questions are, for all intents and purposes, identical. The difference is, as noted in the comments, that the questions themselves have completely different titles.

If this question is closed as a duplicate then other users who also don't know that it's called a slice can search for the notation. They may find this question with a big link at the top of the question pointing them to a another with a number of answers.

Simply put, if the questions are identical (even if they're worded differently) it's okay to vote to close as a duplicate. It's actually helpful for the future by condensing all the best answers into a single question rather than spreading them out over multiple questions.

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Since I was the disagreeing user, it is only fair that I explain why I felt that this question is not a duplicate. Actually, I don't even have to that, because poke hit the center of it with:

It is basically about a syntax feature called “slice notation”. As the poster obviously did not know about this feature, he had no idea about its name and could not search for “slice notation”.

This question is more of a feature identification, i.e. what is this? rather than a request for reference, i.e. how do I use X? which is what the other question is about.The ideal answer to this question is goes something like this:

It is called Python Slice Notation, this one gets the last element of the list, see more info here, etc.

Now, for the more pragmatic question, what to do with it. If it remains closed (but not deleted) and contains a link to the other one it will still manage to:

  • answer the OP's answer - a good thing
  • provide an additional differently phrased question linking to the answer in the other one - a good thing, even if it isn't really searchable

So, while I still think the questions are not the same if they lead to the same answer, now that this one already is closed, the action that results with the largest benefit for both the OP and potentially other people is keep it closed (but not deleted).

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  • Your ideal answer has exactly been provided by the dupe closure. There's now a link right at the top of the question that says "It's called Python Slice Notation. Click here for info that's already been posted about it." Why does that info need to be in two places? – jscs Jan 20 '13 at 23:56

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