I've noticed the following happen a few times:

  1. A user posts a question.
  2. The question is closed as a duplicate and the usual "Possible Duplicate" links are added at the top.
  3. The user promptly removes the duplicate links, even though the question is still closed as a duplicate.
  4. (excessive use of list items =P)

Now, I could understand this behavior if there was some dispute about whether or not the question was a duplicate, and the OP were to remove the links and post reasons why they disagree with the closing. However, I've noticed this happening without any attempt to defend the question (such as here).

In my opinion, no one should be allowed to remove the "Possible Duplicate" links as long as the question is still closed as a duplicate. The links should remain for the benefit of the community, so they can navigate to the duplicate questions and either post answers there or read them over and judge if the closing was actually fair. Once/if the question is reopened the links could be edited out if one so chooses.

I guess this is part discussion, part feature request:

Could the "Possible Duplicate" links remain un-editable for as long as the question is still closed?

  • 1
    Sounds to me like that would be architecturally impossible, based on my limited understanding of their db. – devinb Sep 15 '09 at 19:17
  • Well you can't really "remove a link" unless it's only mentioned in one single place and that place is somewhere you can edit. I think it would be better to say "Should users be allowed to remove the “Possible Duplicate” notice on closed questions?". Links can also come from comments and answers, and are often included in more than one of them. – hippietrail Oct 24 '12 at 17:47

This has now been implemented as part of the changes described here.

Instead of being edited into the question body, the banner is now generated as-needed and displayed separately above the question (in a fashion that appears more or less the same as the edit would've). If the question is reopened, it's removed. As a bonus, this displays the target's answer count, and is automatically updated if the linked target's title is edited. This is also generated for the author as soon as someone votes or flags to close, along with a button to immediately close the question, so the author can know right away that there's an existing solution to be found and close it themselves.

Since this can't be unilaterally rolled back by the asker, they must instead edit to explain why the question is not a duplicate. At least, that's the theory, and the guidance that is provided in the notices.

  • One unintended downside of this solution is that it's now no longer possible to add other (possibly better) duplicates to the list, so whatever ones were suggested by the original closers are fixed unless the question is reopened. Would it be possible to allow mods only to edit the text? – Alan Munn May 31 '13 at 16:19
  • @Alan no point in this; moderator can simply re-open and then close properly. Saw it happening few times. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask V2 Jul 1 '13 at 6:56
  • Should we remove old auto-generated "Possible duplicate" banners if we see them? – Stevoisiak Jun 7 '17 at 0:13
  • 2
    Not unless the question has been reopened (or re-closed and now has two banners), @Steven. For many old questions, the edited-in banner is the only way for readers to find their way to the target. – Shog9 Jun 7 '17 at 1:10

I don't feel like this feature is necessary. If you ever see a user engaging in this behaviour, you should just reinstate the link. If the user then rolls back your change, flag for moderator attention.

I don't feel like the effort required to implement the feature is warranted considering that it does not seem to be all that prevalent, and we can easily roll back any abuses we see.

  • 5
    +1 for parallel usage of the verb "warrant" with my response – ベレアー アダム Sep 15 '09 at 19:24
  • 2
    +1 to both for using the word "warrant" – BinaryMisfit Sep 15 '09 at 20:00
  • 2
    How the hell am I supposed to pick an accepted answer with so much symmetry! – gnostradamus Sep 15 '09 at 20:59
  • Alright, I finally broke the symmetry by picking the answer that was given first. You got Adam by 42 seconds. – gnostradamus Nov 1 '09 at 2:27

It should be obvious from the close reason that the question was closed as a duplicate, and anyone can go into the revision history to see which questions were dupes if the OP wants to throw a tantrum.

I don't think it happens often enough to warrant special code to protect that markup. Not every irrational behavior that humans can display needs to be addressed in the implementation.

  • 4
    (+1) for parallel usage of the verb "warrant" with my response – devinb Sep 15 '09 at 19:33
  • 2
    +1 to both for using the word "warrant" and for symmetry. – Bill the Lizard Sep 15 '09 at 20:34
  • 2
    How the hell am I supposed to pick an accepted answer with so much symmetry! – gnostradamus Sep 15 '09 at 20:59

EDIT: Per discussion below, I favor adding the "stop sign" to a question if it is done after the question is closed. The question gets marked "Closed as Exact Duplicate," when it is closed (making it crystal clear to everyone what happened), so if you really want a permanent link you can put it in the comments where the OP cannot delete it, or flag it for moderator attention so they can roll the question back and lock it.

To the downvoters: You might want to read the discussion below first before you pull the trigger. I didn't realize that the system now inserts the stop sign automatically, after the question is closed.

The "possible duplicates" edit is rude enough without making it uneditable. It's only purpose is to get the question closed faster for those who feel the urgent need to get it closed. I've thought all along that it is an abuse of the system, and that comments are far more suitable, but the community disagrees, so I acquiesced.

Leave it alone; it's good enough.

  • Mmm. It's so easy to leave a downvote with no explanation, isn't it? – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:43
  • 2
    Ok... There's nothing rude about pointing readers with real problems to existing solutions. If there's anything rude about the current system, it's that it doesn't insert the links until the question is actually closed, occasionally leading to authors wasting time writing duplicate answers. – Shog9 Sep 24 '09 at 2:43
  • That could just as easily be accomplished with a comment, and it preserves the content of the OP's original question. For the same reason that we don't make frivolous edits for minor spelling errors. Anyway, that's a dead issue; I just feel like making it non-editable is pushing the envelope too far. I've seen people make too many mistakes on identifying duplicates for this to be non-editable. If you really want it non-editable, leave a comment instead of editing the OP's question. – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:46
  • 1
    I just realized that you may have been referring to users who edit a question prior to closing. This is probably a bad idea now (as it will usually result in duplicate duplicate links once the question is closed), although it was common practice prior to the implementation of the current system for automatically inserting such links. In that case, yes - comments (and close votes) are a better choice. – Shog9 Sep 24 '09 at 2:46
  • I totally favor that approach. – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:47
  • There's a way to automatically insert the links? – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:47
  • Er, what? Who doesn't make edits for minor spelling errors? And why care about preserving the OP's original content - the whole point of the duplicate system is that they already have answers, and thus the only remaining purpose for the question is to serve as a signpost for future readers to help them also find the existing answers. – Shog9 Sep 24 '09 at 2:48
  • Yes - the current system for closing duplicates asks for a link (prompting with those already identified), and once a sufficient number of votes are in automatically edits the question to insert them. – Shog9 Sep 24 '09 at 2:49
  • The minor spelling errors thing is in the master FAQ...the one the founders wrote...Hold on, let me see if I can find it... – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:49
  • Here it is...It is point 1 of "In Defense of Editing." blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/in-defense-of-editing – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:53
  • 1
    Ah, got it. Yeah, generally if there's one typo or misspelling, there are several, and it's worth taking the time to catch them all. That said, i'll almost always edit a question to remove spelling errors in the title, just because it'll screw with searching otherwise. – Shog9 Sep 24 '09 at 2:57
  • 1
    To be honest, it's hard for me to resist editing for even a single spelling error. – user102937 Sep 24 '09 at 2:59

There are also cases where someone else comes along and edits it so that it doesn't seem like a duplicate anymore.

I edited the question: How do I differentiate between beta versions and normal versions? to make the question seem less like a duplicate of How to do version numbers?.

I should note that they are very similar, but the first person to vote-to-close, was also the last person to vote-to-open.

I would also like to point out that when a question gets reopened, those links do not get automatically removed. So I, or someone else, would have to come along and remove them. They would also have to do so, before someone sees it, because they might decide to vote-to-close, again. ( Which sort-of happened on that question, Ólafur forgot to remove a comment he added. It has since been removed )

Something you may not have realized, that became a feature, after users had already started editing-in duplicate links. Basically that feature was added to reduce the manual work for closing a question as a duplicate.


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