Update: This has been implemented according to the slightly more aggressive manner proposed in this answer below.


OK, so this is the second time I've come across a perfectly valid bug report here on meta.SO that was closed as a duplicate, and the question it was closed as a duplicate of then deleted.

Since I don't have 10k here on MSO, I can't really tell when or why those questions were deleted, but I assume there were valid reasons for it. However, regardless of the reasons for the deletion, having the questions that were closed as duplicates of the deleted question remain closed seems like a disservice to users.

Presumably, a duplicate of a deleted question either:

  • is no longer a duplicate, and should therefore be reopened; or

  • is crap, just like the deleted question, and should therefore also be deleted.

I therefore propose that, when a question is deleted, any other questions closed as duplicates of it should be automatically flagged for reopening and/or deletion.

I'll leave the exact implementation details for the devs to decide, but one option might be to just add the dupes to both the reopen and the deletion queue, and let the reviewers in those queues decide their fate. Or perhaps the 10k auto-flag system used e.g. for "questions closed without comment" could be adapted for this purpose too.

Edit: I like animuson's suggestion of automatically adding dupes of deleted questions to the reopen review queue, but with the "leave closed" button replaced with "delete" / "recommend deletion" (since just leaving the question closed is not really a useful option in this situation).

Update: this is now live since the end of January 2015

I agree 100% with the problem you've identified here: it's a terrible experience to land on a duplicate question, click a link to the "canonical" post and find out it's been deleted.

I'd actually like to propose a slightly more aggressive solution to this problem. Review queues are great, but I don't think shoehorning these types of questions in to our existing reopen queue is the best solution. Instead...

Don't let users vote to delete posts that are the target of dupes.

If a user (moderator or any other user) votes to delete a question that has duplicate questions linked to it, their vote should not go through and they should see a warning about why:

This question cannot be deleted because other questions are linked as duplicates of this one.

The "view duplicate questions" buttons should open a page that lists all of the questions pointed at the one they tried to delete. The reason this should be a separate page, rather than a list in the pop-up, is because in rare cases, there might be a few hundred posts that are duplicates of a single canonical one.

That way, if the user wishes, he or she can go deal with the duplicates first. If they don't wish to do that, they can just hit "cancel".

I like this approach because the options within a review queue should be consistent. Having your options sometimes be "leave closed" and sometimes be "delete" is kind of confusing...and it's weird to recommend deleting some closed questions but not others.

Anyway, preventing 404s is the primary goal I'm trying to solve here, and it gives the user very specific instructions for what to do if they still want to help deal with the bad post. It's a bit more work, but I think that's okay.

(Note that this doesn't solve the issue of duplicate posts that currently point to deleted questions, but we can tackle that issue separately.)

What do you think?

  • Given the often glacial pace of community deletion (or reopening) on sites like SO, I suspect my natural reaction, upon seeing such a message, would be to flag a mod to untangle the mess. Then again, maybe that's not a bad thing. It might be worth making a special exception for the relatively common case where the duplicate questions are asked by the same user; in those cases, I'd allow the deletion to go through, but automatically reopen the dupe (and maybe add it to the close votes queue, as if flagged for closing, just in case it should be closed for other reasons). – Ilmari Karonen Sep 18 '14 at 22:29
  • 2
    Is important to remember that sometimes is Community ♦ that deletes the target, ie OP reposted it's question, the first was closed as *put close reason, and the later was closed as duplicated of the first. – Braiam Sep 18 '14 at 22:47
  • 1
    Following up on @Braiam's point: if Community bot is also prevented from deletion of dupe targets, than it will never delete double-posted garbage at all: the first copy will be kept as dupe target, the second because it's closed as a duplicate. – user259867 Sep 18 '14 at 23:10
  • Excellent idea, any updates two months later? – Shadow the Welcoming Wizard Nov 20 '14 at 21:57
  • @Fundamental Negatively scored duplicate questions do still get deleted after 30 days. They're only exempt from the 9-day deletion script. – animuson Jan 8 '15 at 14:38
  • @animuson If they have no answer. In practice, someone posts a hurried answer before the question is closed as a duplicate. – user259867 Jan 8 '15 at 14:53
  • @ShadowWizard It's live now. – user259867 Feb 2 '15 at 0:16
  • 3
    How are things managed if it's Community ♦ the trigger of deletion? – Braiam Feb 3 '15 at 0:10

I created a query to figure out how many questions this affects. It returns over 1800 questions on Stack Overflow, and 200 here on Meta. There would definitely need to be a review option for this. We don't want an instant 2000 increase in our flags queue (which actually hit 2000 earlier today).

I propose just using the Reopen Votes queue for this. It's perfectly well suited to handle this situation and would only need one slight modification to make it workable:

Replace the Leave Closed button with a Delete / Recommend Deletion button. Obviously leaving it closed as a duplicate of a deleted question isn't a viable option. There are really only two viable options: Reopen it (and possibly re-close it if people think there is a better duplicate target, but that is not a task for this queue) or delete it.

Make that particular button work like the LQP does. The following actions would dismiss it from review:

  • Post Reopened event, either on the question directly or through review.
  • Post Deletion event, either on the question directly or through review.
  • Six (6) Recommend Deletion events from users without enough reputation to Delete.

Review lets the community handle its own clean-up, which it is perfectly capable of doing in this situation. There's really no need to hand this off onto the moderators, even when we clean up the existing mess.

  • Maybe Post Reopened should push it to the close vote queue? Dupes often have other issues as well. – John Dvorak Feb 19 '14 at 19:15
  • 1
    @JanDvorak There's still an "Edit and Reopen" option in that queue. I'd hope someone would use it in that case. But if it should otherwise be closed anyways, you're better off just deleting it. – animuson Feb 19 '14 at 19:16
  • I guess I didn't say this explicitly in my proposal, but I was assuming that this would only be applied to questions deleted after it was implemented. We could then go through the backlog manually afterwards, based on a query like yours. – Ilmari Karonen Feb 19 '14 at 19:17
  • @IlmariKaronen Either way, I'd still much rather them go to the queue than be flagged. There's really no reason a moderator needs to get involved with these. – animuson Feb 19 '14 at 19:23
  • @IlmariKaronen It's not really a problem to add a backlog like this to the review queues. These types of things have plenty of precedent, and tend to be cleared through reasonably quickly. – Servy Feb 19 '14 at 19:26
  • 2
    Thank you for the query, its helped me clean up what I can (so far - keep running out of votes) on P.SE. With a few tweaks to it that include views, score, answer count, comment count, and closed date - data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/177487/… - you can find a large number of questions that can be cleaned (deleted) quite rapidly (sometimes its the comments keeping it from being eaten by the roomba, or a single answer). But if its been sitting around for a couple months and only has a few dozen views on SO... – user213963 Mar 24 '14 at 2:29
  • animuson, they say at MSO this feature is somewhat broken in that asker can delete duplicate target if it is linked from their own question - even though it is said to be implemented so that "moderator or any other user" can't do that – gnat Sep 10 '17 at 8:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .