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Some questions on Stack Overflow get repeated many times, for example basic Java IO questions.

Maybe I'm being the devil's advocate, but isn't there a possible hidden benefit to having dupes? I.e., then we attract more Google queries? Also - it allows some newbies to build reputation?

I guess what I'm asking is, do the negatives of dupes to Stack Overflow really outweight the positives, when it comes to having duplicates?

Edit: Just want to clarify that I'm supporting what Kate said.(in light of the current situation regarding closures vs. deletions. ) , Keeping dupes around while still closing them. I do see a benefit to, when the situation exists, directing users to high-quality dupes versus low-quality dupes. Although I'm not sure that we have a reliable way to differentiate what exactly qualifies a post as the "canonical duplicate." But overall, my original intent was more aligned with avoiding deletion(but allow closure).

marked as duplicate by Michael Petrotta, Josh Caswell, Danubian Sailor, Rosinante, Hugo Dozois Mar 16 '14 at 19:58

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    It depends on the question. Some duplicates do use different terms, possibly terms that can be found by later people searching for the same problem. Many, however, don't, and aren't providing any improved searchability for the topic. Most duplicates don't end up providing value, even though some do. And of course, duplicate questions that aren't closed as the duplicate of a canonical question hurt a lot as they can end up being search targets that obscure search targets with a real/better answer. – Servy Mar 16 '14 at 18:17
  • @Servy - Hmm , Ok understood. That makes sense to me, though I wonder still about whether leaving dupes alone might be a decent option. – Adel Mar 16 '14 at 18:20
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    @Adel Under certain circumstances, sure. It's not universally good to delete them. Most aren't helpful though. – Servy Mar 16 '14 at 18:25
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    Jeff's opinion on the matter is well worth the read: Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication – George Cummins Mar 16 '14 at 19:06
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    It's not a dupe of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/32311/do-not-delete-duplicates because that is the question that led to duplicates not being deleted. Since duplicates aren't deleted, Adel isn't asking us not to delete them. I think the ask is "don't close things as duplicates even when they are" which is assuredly not a dupe. – Kate Gregory Mar 16 '14 at 19:59
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    @KateGregory If that's the intent, then the question is badly formulated because a) it mentions closure nowhere, and b) any "benefit to having many duplicates" depends only on the existence of these duplicates. When they are closed they still exist, but when they are deleted, they do not. (Well, they don't exist for the majority of people visiting the site.) – Louis Mar 16 '14 at 20:06
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    @Louis perhaps Adel should edit the question to make it clear how it differs from "don't close duplicates" – Kate Gregory Mar 16 '14 at 20:08

There is plenty of benefit to a duplicate existing but being closed. This is why questions closed as duplicates are not deleted. They do indeed have a chance of containing different keywords and attracting googlers as a result.

There is no benefit to keeping duplicates open, each attracting their own answers, because it might result in a situation where A and B are duplicates, A has a great answer, but the googler found B and thinks there's no answer, or only the not-very-good answer (less detail, less explanation, missing example, missing link to documentation, out of date now) that was left on B.

When I'm looking for solutions to programming problems, I quite often upvote questions I find that are dupes, since that asker chose the keywords that worked for me. Then I follow the link to the dupe, upvote that for attracting useful answers (if there are some) and upvote all the answers that are useful. 5's and 10's for everybody!

I can't tell from your question but are you suggesting that when A and B are clearly dupes we should leave them both open so everyone can get extra rep? If so, I strongly disagree.



And not even hidden but quite open.

Without duplicates, how are all the rep-hunters supposed to get their points? As a matter of fact, duplicated and silly questions is a fuel for Stack Overflow, making it live, feeding thousands of lamers with one-manual-lookup answers and rep-hunters with their hard-gained rep.

If you look at SO policy, you will see that everything is bound to reputation points. But as time passes, fewer and fewer questions are left unanswered. It means fewer reputation points for the newcomers. How they are supposed to gain? A good programming question happens once a day. Yet there are hundreds volunteers starving for their daily dose. Without duplicates they will just quit, deserting this great site. Don't tell me you want to desert Stack Overflow!

  • Well , I dunno - rep-hunters will be rep-hunter regardless of whether we strictly enforce dupe measures – Adel Mar 16 '14 at 18:26
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    Yep, you've got the point! dupe measures are strict already. Yet nothing can beat a rep-whore hungry for the points. – Your Common Sense Mar 16 '14 at 18:32
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    Well said. Look at this question asked ~10 minutes back; it would have numerous duplicates. But, alas, only a couple of votes to close. And 7 answers already! – devnull Mar 16 '14 at 18:46
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    And now the question is being upvoted! A faq has to be a useful question :) – devnull Mar 16 '14 at 18:50
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    Hey if you can't beat'em join'em – Adel Mar 16 '14 at 18:52
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    There would never be a single duplicate if SO rep could be traded for bitcoins. – devnull Mar 16 '14 at 18:54
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    As a matter of fact, upvotes are the easiest to come by for answering the silliest of questions. – devnull Mar 16 '14 at 18:55
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    @YourCommonSense What do you mean by dupe measures being strict? Finding dupes seems harder than it should be (many times I've thought there's gotta be a dupe but failed to find a satisfactory one), closing as a dupe is a thankless job which reguiries reading minimum two questions and perhaps bunch of answers, and asking and answering dupes does not carry any meaningful punishment (mostly the opposite for well written posts). – hyde Mar 16 '14 at 19:04
  • @YourCommonSense ...or was that sarcasm? – hyde Mar 16 '14 at 19:04

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