Today, the behavior of duplicate close votes was changed so that a question can only be a duplicate close vote target if it has an upvoted or accepted answer. I think that this change is not a good one and that it should be reversed, for the following reasons:

  1. The purpose of being able to close questions as duplicates is to aggregate all answers to a question in one place. This new change makes that more difficult because if a duplicate question is asked and the original does not have an answer, neither will be closed. And as @BenBrocka points out:

    what happens when one of the questions gets an answer? The effort to find the duplicate earlier goes wasted and someone else has to find the dupes yet again after one is answered, and know which one is answered just to be able to close.

  2. Whether a question is a duplicate of another is entirely independent of whether it has an answer.

  3. This change is open to abuse. As @fbueckert points out, one could

    Ask question, get no answer, ask same question with sockpuppet, continue until answered.

    Abusive behavior obviously isn't allowed, but if someone is even a little clever it could take two or three iterations to realize that this is what's happening and that it's not just different people asking the same question around the same time (That happens sometimes on Arqade when new popular games are released).

  4. This change provides minimal benefit. It's true that new users have trouble getting old questions attention, and asking another question is often their only recourse. But if a question is old an unanswered and the new question really is identical, it would probably take a bounty to get the question answered anyway. And if the new question is not identical to the old one, this shouldn't be a problem anyway.

  • I'd be wary of suggesting that sockpuppets are ever "allowed". "Hard-to-identify" in that scenario, perhaps! Feb 2, 2013 at 0:12
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    No, they are definitely allowed. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/65604/… Feb 2, 2013 at 0:13
  • Oh! Didn't know that. Okay then.. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:14
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    Dup-closing all these stupid SQL didn't-do-error-checking questions was time-consuming enough already. I really don't need to have to get past an extra filter layer. I do have some real life left. But if it doesn't get done then that tag is just going to implode under its own weight. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:29
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    Related: Buggy bug bug bug bugging bug! Feb 2, 2013 at 0:51
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    The worst thing, IMO, is what happens when one of the questions gets an answer? The effort to find the duplicate earlier goes wasted and someone else has to find the dupes yet again after one is answered, and know which one is answered just to be able to close
    – Ben Brocka
    Feb 2, 2013 at 17:01
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    @BenBrocka Yes, I was attempting to say something like that in my first point. Feb 2, 2013 at 17:02
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    Never mind sock puppets. On Server Fault we routinely see people who repost their question using the same account, often exactly as originally written. Sometimes it's because they didn't get an answer, other times because their question was closed and they didn't know they should edit it. Feb 4, 2013 at 19:33
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    I specifically mentioned sock puppets because under the new system, the questions you describe can be closed, but only if they are asked by the same user. Feb 4, 2013 at 20:27
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    If anyone has a good example of an unclosable duplicate question, I'd be grateful if you could post it as an answer to the specific-questions-that-cant-be-closed-as-duplicates-because... question.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:24
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    +1 this modification is just brainless, I've come across this question which is a duplicate of this question but we are not allowed to mark it as a duplicate because the original one doesn't have answers. Of course it doesn't have goddamned answers when it's low-quality, shows no effort and was closed because of that! So we should be able to close the second one as a duplicate.
    – H2CO3
    Jul 28, 2013 at 5:58
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    Can we reopen some of these highly upvoted questions on Meta where Shog9 or one of the others team members post "I don't fuckin' care enough" answers? May 11, 2020 at 16:57

13 Answers 13


I'd like to point out that we tend to have a fairly established process for handling or updating duped questions on Arqade. If we can engage the new user (ie. They don't leave in a huff the instant we close their question), we expect more from our more established users to help them out, mostly in the form of bounties. A question hopefully gets an updated answer, or an answer at all, and everybody's happy.

For updating answers, we can continue this same process.

For unanswered questions, though, you're shortcircuiting our process. We can't close their question, and by leaving the duplicates kicking around, we raise the noise ratio and fragment our effort in answering as well. Like @murgatroid99 said, once we get two questions that ask the same thing, and can't close one of them, the chances of either being closed gets reduced drastically.

Arqade currently does a pretty good job of trying to keep questions together and close dupes. This new rule seems to encourage dupes of unanswered questions, which, if no one can answer the question, means we just gather un-closable questions. I suspect we'll shortly get answers that do nothing but go, "I don't know", and get upvotes, just so we can close them.

The point of new rules is to encourage good behavior, right? What good behavior are we encouraging by this new rule?

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    +1. This new rule seems to encourage dupes of unanswered questions Pretty much sums it up for me. Feb 2, 2013 at 1:32
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    "What good behavior are we encouraging by this new rule?" Exactly!
    – deadly
    Feb 4, 2013 at 10:26
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    It's even worse. I today stumbled upon a dupe on ASE: Question A had no answer, question B only an unaccepted answer. I tried closing A: No way, as B has no accepted or upvoted answer. So if the questioner never checks back (to accept the answer), we still cannot close the dupe -- or we need to fake-upvote an answer which might not be worth an upvote otherwise. So do we encourage asking duplicate questions, and giving stupid answers if encountering a dupe?
    – Izzy
    Feb 4, 2013 at 19:53
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    Well... this is what it is encouraging right now: four steps to work around the system.
    – gertvdijk
    Feb 4, 2013 at 22:42
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    But if there is no relevant question with an answer at all, this doesn't help at all. It just spreads any possible future answers across multiple questions, and since none is closed as a duplicate it makes it harder for people to find those answers. And I would thank you for not assuming laziness as my main motivation just because you don't agree with my stated arguments. Feb 8, 2013 at 3:22
  • The good behaviour we are encouraging is directing the OP to an answer instead of to another similar question.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 7:30
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    @AndrewC That's not what's happening, though. If there's no answer to direct them to, we're doing squat. And in the process, lowering site quality due to the same question being asked more than once, and being prevented from cleaning them up.
    – fbueckert
    Feb 8, 2013 at 14:27
  • @fbueckert If you have an example, I'd be grateful if you could post it as an answer to the specific-questions-that-cant-be-closed-as-duplicates-because... question.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:19
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    @fbueckert Re "We're doing squat" You could post a link in comments, then they'll appear in each other's Linked list on the right hand side. If you're feeling diligent, post it in the comments of both to make it more visible.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 15:21
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    This inability to close duplicates is particularly annoying when Arqade is running contests, such as the Heart of the Swarm contest going on right now. We get a high volume of questions in a very short time frame, leading to a lot of duplicates that we're unable to close.
    – Sterno
    Mar 13, 2013 at 3:24
  • @AndrewC One such example would be asking about a game that just came out. Answers may take a while to figure out, but until we can figure out what the answer is, any number of users can ask the same question. This new system seems to discourage taking time to give great answers. Instead we should give immediate answers, regardless of accuracy, just so we can avoid duplicates. Dec 3, 2014 at 17:08

I could not agree more.

Whether a question has answers has nothing to do with whether some other question is identical.

Often we see users getting all disgruntled because their question got closed, then re-posting it in an identical fashion just to "get around" the closure. If the question was that bad in the first place that nobody answered (which happens), then we can no longer close the new one as a duplicate. Why?!

This dude agrees:

Whether the original has an accepted answer is not often a criteria used for closing a duplicate.

  • Oh, oops, I was going to say that in my question. One second. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:11
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    By the way, it's honestly not hard to agree with the way things have been for years before the change; I'd rather be interested in hearing things in support of the new way.
    – badp
    Feb 2, 2013 at 0:16
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    @badp: Indeed. I was looking for a rationale but there doesn't appear to be one published yet. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:16
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    @badp I agree. If there is an answer that provides a good reason why this change will be beneficial to the site/network/community, I'd happily change my mind. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:20
  • If the same person posts the same question twice, you can still close those as duplicates. Unless they create a sockpuppet to do that.
    – a cat
    Feb 2, 2013 at 0:58
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    @lunboks: No, not if the original has no answers. Which it won't, if it was a rubbish question. Feb 2, 2013 at 1:10
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    Again, Lightness, while you may be correct about that at the moment, this is a bug. See Shog's and Jarrod's comments there. Feb 2, 2013 at 1:14
  • @MichaelPetrotta: It seems I missed that same-author-posts are exempted. Answer updated! Thanks. Feb 2, 2013 at 1:27

I predict the following.

  1. People start flagging-for-moderator attention to ask for merges in these cases.

  2. Moderators groan under the load.

  3. Something different gets implemented.

Compare the progression of the delete-vote story.

I fully expect to see a response from Shog9 to the effect that this wouldn't disturb him due to the low volumes.

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    I propose that all such flags be directed singly to Shog9's inbox.
    – user164207
    Feb 4, 2013 at 13:46
  • Oops -- your prediction already fulfilled partly: #1 was exactly what I did when I couldn't close those dupes today. I thought, maybe the mods can do it... So if that happens to me, I will not stay alone for long, and #2 will fulfill soon enough. Let's better go directly for #3 and implement the unimplementation of the current behaviour :)
    – Izzy
    Feb 4, 2013 at 19:56
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    Merges have always been a mod-only function. As for dup-closing: unless there are a crapload of these scenarios that folks have been ignoring up to now, this is a drop in the bucket mod-load wise.
    – Shog9
    Feb 4, 2013 at 22:14
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    And the fourth part of the prophecy has been fulfilled...
    – user164207
    Feb 5, 2013 at 15:30

This new change makes that more difficult because if a duplicate question is asked before the original gets an answer, it substantially decreases the likelihood that either question will be closed even if the other gets an answer.

In practice, this rarely happens anyway. It takes a little bit of time for folks to find duplicates, vote to close, etc...

Whether a question is a duplicate of another is entirely independent of whether it has an answer.

Well, I wouldn't say entirely. See, most duplicates aren't exact, word-for-word duplicates. In fact, the system will stomp on your fingers if you try to post a carbon-copy of an existing question. So what you actually end up having to close is something similar but not identical. Ideally, they're both asking for the same thing though, and if one of them already has answers you can cut right to the chase and verify this.

one could ... Ask question, get no answer, ask same question with sockpuppet, continue until answered.

You don't even need a deviously-clever puppetmaster to get that effect; we've had entire classes descend on SO to all post the same assignment.

But the truth is, dup-closing tends to be a slow, labor-intensive, painful way to approach this problem. New release excitement notwithstanding, Gaming has something like 37 questions closed as duplicates of other questions that didn't meet the new criteria. Stuff that generates a lot of excitement tends to get answered quickly too. Stuff that's abusive tends to draw rather more harsh responses.

This change provides minimal benefit.

It's pretty minimal, yeah. Because... Almost no one does this.

In all honesty, I don't expect it'll make a noticeable difference one way or the other. If it does create a problem, we'll fix it.

For details on why this change was made, and how it fits into the other recent changes to duplicate-handling, see: Changes to "close as duplicate" (part deux)

Here are some recent questions from Stack Overflow. All of these received at least one vote that would've been blocked with the new restrictions:

Update: Daniel Beck pointed out a problem with my query, which I've corrected - the proper number of results for Stack Overflow is 75 in the past 30 days, listed above.

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    OK, maybe I oversimplified a little. But that wasn't really my main argument, which is why it's third on the list. I'll remove that sentence, though, because I wouldn't want to perpetuate misunderstandings. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:47
  • Ok, well, I've edited in response to your edit.
    – Shog9
    Feb 2, 2013 at 6:11
  • Why don't we just bump the (unanswered) dupe target when a question gets closed a dupe of it.
    – Mysticial
    Feb 2, 2013 at 6:12
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    @Mysticial, see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/123351/…
    – Shog9
    Feb 2, 2013 at 6:14
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    @Shog9 I disagree with your second point. Answers can help us decide whether questions are duplicates, but they don't change whether they actually are duplicates. And I don't really think there is any good reason to leave open duplicates just because they don't have answers. And does your check of how many duplicates on Gaming that don't meet your criteria take into account when the answers were posted? Feb 2, 2013 at 6:25
  • To answer your question, @murgatroid99: yes, it does. However, I screwed up the check when it came to posts with owners who were later deleted; the actual number is 37.
    – Shog9
    Feb 2, 2013 at 6:38
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    @Shog9 You make some good points in your answer, but to me it reads like you are mainly arguing that my arguments aren't very strong. My most important point is my first: that limiting dupe targets is not a good thing. I would really like to see an argument for why leaving unanswered duplicate questions open is a net benefit. Feb 2, 2013 at 17:03
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    I disagree with your argument because if you do build a graph of unanswered questions, then when someone finds the answer it will go into the open question and the graph you describe will be pre-constructed. With the new system, we have to wait until someone answers one question, and then search to see if any questions become valid duplicates of the answered question, then close them. This will require us to search for questions to close given a dupe target, which is exactly the opposite workflow from what the close system is supposed to facilitate. Feb 2, 2013 at 17:29
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    @murgatroid99: that assumes no answered question exists. If one does, but it's overlooked in favor of an unanswered one, then that's bad (example:stackoverflow.com/questions/14474033/…). I've also come across a few (including TimYiJiang's above) where an answered question was closed as a duplicate of an unanswerd question) - this is clearly not ideal.
    – Shog9
    Feb 2, 2013 at 17:46
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    So then maybe the solution is to disallow closing an answered question as a duplicate of an unanswered question and floating answered questions to the top of the list when closing unanswered questions. Feb 2, 2013 at 17:58
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    The second part of that is already implemented; the first part is also accomplished by just disallowing closing as duplicate of unanswered. We could further refine the check to apply only when the source was answered. Reviewing the questions above, how many would you say closing was beneficial (directing either the asker or future readers appropriately)?
    – Shog9
    Feb 2, 2013 at 18:35
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    Looking over those example questions I note: Almost all of them (all of them period?) are closed, so it's not "almost no one does this" ; you've got like 20 examples where 5 people have voted to close such questions. I also note almost all of the duplicate "source" questions were answered...just with 0 score answers (or positive scoring answers, which I assume were voted on later). 0 score answers not counting is particularly stupid IMO. Basically the list seems to discredit almost all of your points except the more irrelevant ones (sock abuse, word for one dupes)
    – Ben Brocka
    Feb 3, 2013 at 23:26
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    @Ben: I had a bug in the query I was using to pull these - there were actually 75 in the last 30 days that meet the criteria, out of a total of 4500 quesstions closed as duplicates. You bring up an interesting point though: most of these do have answers, they just don't have any votes. It might suffice to just check for the existence of answers.
    – Shog9
    Feb 4, 2013 at 16:29
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    You've said a couple times that it's so minor it won't make a difference ... then why was it implemented? I am guessing SE does not usually pay developers to spend time adding useless things to the code at random :P
    – user154510
    Feb 4, 2013 at 21:34
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    @Shog9 - You mean to tell me that the developers didn't think of such an obvious question before making such a change?
    – user164207
    Feb 7, 2013 at 0:00

Ask Ubuntu and off-topic bugs

On AU we have the policy to close questions/issues about bugs as off-topic. Sometimes information related to the bug is very valuable and questions get updated in the comments or body. Even when it's just a link to the bug report, it's still information you don't want to add to every duplicate question over and over again.

With the new close-as-duplicate system it's impossible to mark these questions as duplicate. Here's an example of question of which we get a few per week of:

green dots on youtbe videos which is a duplicate of Why is Google Chrome displaying artifacts in YouTube?

The latter provides useful information and if I was able to mark it as the duplicate it would be a lot easier to post updates about it. Also, we now have to close all duplicates as off-topic individually which is a bigger turn off for new users (probably) than pointing them to a question with more information.

Note: As Gilles pointed out, I could just upvote one of the answers in this case, but maybe this was not the best example given. If it were to be closed sooner it wouldn't have any answers in the first place.

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    Why not upvote the answer that cites the bug number? Feb 4, 2013 at 9:53
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    @Gilles These bug reports should not have answers at all on AU. They only have answers because they weren't closed in time. It may not be the best example then.
    – gertvdijk
    Feb 4, 2013 at 10:24
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    So maybe you should change the policy to writing an answer that says “this is bug #xxxx”. Feb 4, 2013 at 10:38
  • @Gilles Good idea, but then still people need to upvote that usually considered "low quality" answer. Which isn't hard, but just inconvenient.
    – gertvdijk
    Feb 4, 2013 at 10:40
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    @Gilles Upvoting an answer to then allow closing the duplicate is just a workaround. While it is a good suggestion, I think we should be able to cast close votes when we find a duplicate, whether the suggested dupe has answers or not. This issue is new, just for the past few days. The 'Vote to close' button is disabled, and I think this is a bug (or a major unannounced policy change?). Feb 4, 2013 at 15:22
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    @TomBrossman I think you've missed the reason for this Meta post to exist in the first place :) Changes to “close as duplicate”
    – gertvdijk
    Feb 4, 2013 at 15:24
  • @gertvdijk Ugh, I'm an idiot. I typed the above comment without scrolling up to read the original question. I'll hang my head in shame now... Feb 4, 2013 at 15:26
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    Upvoting answers and then duping is a workaround, and it turns AU into a bug tracker. NOT what it is for. We should close them without answers
    – ɥʇǝS
    Feb 4, 2013 at 20:36
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    Why not just close as off-topic, and provide a link to the closed working solution in a comment? Simply closing as a duplicate does not tell the OP that the question is off-topic, so it gives the wrong impression of your site's scope.
    – Rachel
    Feb 6, 2013 at 20:45
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    @Rachel The answer to that is right there in, well, the answer ;). The latter provides useful information and if I was able to mark it as the duplicate it would be a lot easier to post updates about it. Also, we now have to close all duplicates as off-topic individually which is a bigger turn off for new users (probably) than pointing them to a question with more information.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Feb 6, 2013 at 21:54
  • @TomBrossman the work around explained.
    – gertvdijk
    Feb 7, 2013 at 1:32
  • I think Rachel's right. If it's off topic, it's off topic, and should be closed as off topic. You can comment a link to the question which has helpful comments/unupvoted answers if you want to be helpful.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 1:20
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    AU is a bit different to other SE sites in this respect I think. Wish I had time today to come up with a "part deux" post about it.
    – gertvdijk
    Feb 8, 2013 at 8:51

I agree with the OP but I understand the reasons for doing this. Having unanswered duplicates closed in chain makes it less likely that any will get an answer as a potential answerer has to go through the entire chain to find the correct question to answer.

I think this could work, with one proviso; that it's still possible to vote to close as a duplicate. These "Possible Future Duplicate Votes" (PFDVs) would be stored in the database with both question IDs. If any question in the ensuing network gets a "good" answer, however that is defined, then there should be some mechanism, probably manual, of either merging the questions in that network into the original or closing the entire network as a duplicate of that question, as appropriate.

Otherwise, the original point of SE is, to a certain extent, undermined. There is no single canonical answer to a question that the knowledge can remain spread out over multiple questions and answers.

  • As I said on the other post, I am nearly positive that duplicate chains get collapsed, with each closed question pointing to an open question. Feb 2, 2013 at 16:37
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    @murgatroid99: no, that doesn't happen, at least not automatically.
    – Shog9
    Feb 2, 2013 at 17:27
  • Oh, my mistake. Feb 2, 2013 at 17:28
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    Having unanswered duplicates closed in chain makes it less likely that any will get an answer - exactly - why is this so hard to understand. Feb 6, 2013 at 21:03
  • I love the Possible Future Duplicate Votes idea - keeps everyone happy, including the OP.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 3:14
  • I like this "Possible Future Duplicate Votes" idea. The one issue is that it adds another layer of complexity to everything. It would probably have to be yet another type of vote on questions and I'm pretty sure it would be the only action in the network that only has a visible effect in some indefinitely distant future. Feb 8, 2013 at 3:30

I disagree with this suggestion.

People come to StackExchange for answers, and it is very frustrating to spend time writing up a question, only to have it get closed as a duplicate to another older question that has no good answers.

It's not just the question-askers that find this frustrating too. There have been times when I find a SO question that exactly matches my situation, but it's closed as a duplicate, so I follow the duplicate link only to find no good answers there, or that the linked question doesn't exactly match my situation so the answers listed don't apply to me.

As Shog said here (emphasis mine):

Additionally, close targets are restricted to answered questions even when specifying the ID or URL directly (with the exception of questions from the same author, and meta posts). Moderators can override this last restriction if necessary

So if someone really wants to take the time to create a bunch of extra accounts to abuse the system and keep re-asking the same question, our "human exception handlers" can step in and take care of the situation.

As for having multiple unanswered questions that ask the same thing, what's the problem with that? There's now a higher chance that the question will actually get an answer, as it increases the chances that one of the questions will cross paths with a user that knows the answer.

To keep all the unanswered "duplicate" questions together, simply link the two via a comment so it shows up in the "Linked" question list on the right side. Once one of them gets a good answer, users can go through the list and close all the duplicates.

And last of all, minimal benefit? I would disagree.

It's so frustrating to post a new question, and have it get closed as a duplicate to an older unanswered question. Older questions do not get nearly the same attention that new questions get, and there's no guarantee the OP of the older question is still around to answer questions about their post, or to provide any input at all towards getting a good answer.

In addition, the OP of the closed questions won't get notified of answers/comments posted on the duplicate question, so they are unlikely to see any new answers that get posted there or to respond to comments asking for clarification.

The new rule of only closing as a duplicate to answered questions is much more helpful to people seeking answers, which is primarily who the StackExchange sites are for.

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    In a lot of these cases it may be appropriate to just close the older question as a dup of the newer one, in the event that the old one has no [good] answers. Possibly some mechanism to encourage always closing the poorer question as a duplicate of the better question would be better than always closing the newer question as a duplicate of the older question since in practice, the latter is what always happens.
    – Servy
    Feb 6, 2013 at 21:27
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    To your first point, having your question closed is always frustrating, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. And if a question got no answers, there is no reason to expect that another copy will get an answer. And if it does, it still makes sense to me to have one of the questions closed as a duplicate so that any visitor to either will be redirected to the canonical question and when it does get an answer, both questions will already point to the canonical answer. Perhaps a better solution is to bump an old question if another question is closed as a dupe of it. Feb 6, 2013 at 21:33
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    The problem with this from the point of view of people looking for answers is that if there are two unanswered questions asking the same thing, and one gets answered, the other one will likely not get closed as a duplicate and when people find that question they will see a question with no answers instead of a link to the answer. Your proposed solution seems like just a workaround to the problems caused by the new change, while I am suggesting avoiding those problems in the first place. Feb 6, 2013 at 21:36
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    @murgatroid99 - "And if a question got no answers, there is no reason to expect that another copy will get an answer" - of course there is. The new question is likely to be seen by a new batch of users who happen to be looking at the relevant tags at the moment. Feb 6, 2013 at 21:40
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    When the new question is closed it should redirect at least some attention to the old one through the dupe link. But that might not be enough, which is why I suggest that a better solution might be to bump old questions when other questions get closed as dupes of them, or as Servy suggested, to close old unanswered questions as dupes of new unanswered questions. The point is that I don't think both questions should stay open because that spreads attention and reduces the chances that both will link to a canonical answer once one does get an answer. Feb 6, 2013 at 21:47
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    @murgatroid99 It's not always frustrating to have your question closed. I never mind having my question closed as a duplicate to an answered question that provides me with the answer I am looking for. What I do mind though, is having my question closed as a duplicate to an unanswered question, as then I don't have my answer, and I wont won't get notified of new answers.
    – Rachel
    Feb 7, 2013 at 14:53
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    As for having multiple unanswered questions that ask the same thing, what's the problem with that? The problem is, we end up with a cluttered mess of a site and our answer rate goes down. I thought the while point of SE was to not be like a forum, with data/answers spread out over the whole site. If we can't somehow close the unanswered duplicates, we end up like a that. Maybe we shouldn't close them as a duplicate, but they should (in most cases) be closed somehow to keep the site clean.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Feb 7, 2013 at 23:30
  • Err, I meant "Whole point" not "While point". Sorry.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Feb 7, 2013 at 23:36
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    @murgatroid99 "it should redirect at least some attention to the old one through the dupe link": How many times have you seen a question closed as a duplicate and thought "Hey, let's go see where that link leads - perhaps there's an unanswered question for me or a great but unloved answer I can upvote." I don't. The chances someone linked to an unanswered question are very small, so Closed=No fun if I know the answer; only the people who want to know (so don't) will follow the link. Closed-as-dupe questions are less likely to be answered than open ones, not more.
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 3:12
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    @AndrewC Well, my point still stands. Even if there is a problem with getting duplicate questions answered, there are better solutions than the one that was implemented. Feb 8, 2013 at 3:16
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    @murgatroid99 What's more important on a Q&A site? Getting answers or closing questions? The clutter should stay until we find an answer, we can always close the dupe after, and link to it now in comments so they show up in each other's Linked list at the right hand side. I think this comes up very rarely because duplicates are normally easy questions from new users. It's unusual for easy questions not to have answers. Did you have any examples?
    – AndrewC
    Feb 8, 2013 at 3:29
  • @Seth I can where you're coming from, but I don't agree. People come to SE sites instead of forums because they want answers, not discussions. If they ask a question suitable for the site, we should not close that question unless we can provide them an answer for it too. We can always close as duplicate after an answer has been found for it.
    – Rachel
    Feb 8, 2013 at 13:17
  • 1
    People come to StackExchange for answers Not all. Some of us come to Stack Exchange to write answers, and don't we deserve a bit of slack too? Why optimise for people who can't be bothered to search before posting their question? Optimise for us free-time-givers instead. You should have searched, then offered a bounty on the existing question or bumped it in another way, instead of posting a duplicate. Feb 17, 2013 at 14:58

Merge by linking to one "master" question.

Since the user/admin has already located duplicates, the messy and error-prone work is done. Merging would only require...

  • Close the "slave" questions for edit and additions and add a "Merged to" link at the top (bottom?) of those questions pointing to the chosen "best" question which becomes the "master."
  • Only the "master" question would continue to allow edits and additions and "Merged from" links would be added to the bottom of it pointing to each of the "slave" questions.

This would allow the frustrated, relatively new, user to post a new question (which may very well contain additional aspects to the issue) and more experienced users to later "merge it" with the "master".

The inexperienced users would not be driven away by perhaps their first question being unceremoniously closed without answer, while at the same time providing a potential path to a solution. At the very least, the related questions would likely provide additional keywords for research.

Proposed Experiment
We could get some useful empirical data by initiating a practice of creating a "Duplicate Of" answer on duplicate questions. It would contain just links to the original and other duplicates. No need to establish a "master" per-se. The new duplicate would not be closed yet so by practice, the "Duplicate Of" answer could continue to be edited with additional links to potential answers. The better the answers on those other questions, the higher the "Duplicate Of" answer would get voted up.

If this proves useful, the first coded enhancement might be to automatically vote up the question being linked-to as well, like Google does for search hits. Another might be to only allow editing of the "Duplicate Of" answer with the rest of the question closed.


Could there be some way to automatically merge the questions when the prior near-identical one has no answers?

  • 4
    This seems problematic - merges (occasionally) cause enough trouble when done by moderators. Maybe an automatic bump for the target of successful dupe closures? Feb 2, 2013 at 0:21
  • 1
    The automatic bump is a good idea. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:21
  • The target gets an implicit bump via the closed question, though. Feb 2, 2013 at 0:22
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit an implicit bump is a lot less effective than an explicit bump. Feb 2, 2013 at 2:27
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz: What effect are we looking for? Feb 2, 2013 at 2:52
  • 1
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit increased attention to the question, ideally culminating in an answer, I'd think. Feb 2, 2013 at 2:55
  • 2
    @LessPop_MoreFizz: Ah, for targets with no answers. Right. Feb 2, 2013 at 2:57

I wish StackExchange would properly merge all the answers from linked duplicates. This would:

  • ensure that I get to see every answer to the question, no matter where it got posted
  • make the best answer of all the answers float to the top due to upvotes
  • prevent people closing similar questions as duplicates, when in fact the existing answers are to a slightly different question.
  • 4
    I think merging is complicated enough that this would be more difficult than it sounds. And this doesn't seem very relevant here, since I'm mostly talking about questions without answers. Feb 3, 2013 at 5:58
  • 1
    I hadn't thought of the notification aspect which ads significant complexity to the "merge" operation. However, I still think some kind of linked merge is the quality solution. We just need to figure out a process that's codable since anything that requires more than a click to initiate is probably not feasible. Feb 11, 2013 at 14:33

The two biggest problems I see with this change is that

  1. it promotes asking an unanswered question and answering it yourself (rather than answering the old question, stealing the original askers rep) and
  2. questions like this one are being closed as dupe of a different question, though there exists another question, which is the same as the first one, but is not being closed as a dupe.

I don't see the benefits outweighing all of the cons mentioned so far in the answers on this question.

  • Somehow I managed to post this answer in the wrong question originally.. I should keep less tabs open.
    – 3ventic
    Sep 23, 2013 at 14:35

When we cannot pick an original to the duplicate with zero upvotes / acceptance, we cannot encourage re-use on low-activity tags where the majority of users are first-timers who neither upvote or mark as accepted (i.e., no netiquette).


Many questions in the SML tag relate to university coursework, so we see an abundance of duplicates, and an abundance of new users who don't come back to mark their answers, but an excessive amount of re-asking the same question without looking for existing answers. There is also only a handful of people who answer questions, and if nobody is around to +1 your post, you can't actually mark it.

In this scenario, the "mark as duplicate" feature is practically removed with no gain.

This disincentivises giving good answers where there is a market for them.


There are 2 scenarios to see the message “This question does not have an upvoted or accepted answer” -

  • when current question has a good answer,
  • and both questions do not have good answers.

For the first case the current behavior is good. Just add the instruction

“Consider to close the referenced question as a duplicate of current one”.

If both questions do not have good answers, I like the idea of the deferred close from Changes to "close as duplicate" (part deux). Instead of current disallowing to close change the message to something like

“Neither current nor referenced question do not have an upvoted or accepted answer. We will record your vote, but only after one of the questions will have a good answer, other one will be considered to be closed”.

At the same time the standard “possible duplicate” comment should be added ( may be to both questions ?).

The vote shouldn’t go to “Close” queue, but wait until any of the questions will have upvoted/accepted answer.

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