I just saw something that's hard to explain - maybe someone has some ideas.

A user just asked a (java programming) question titled:

Difference between replace and replaceAll

Which was closed fairly rapidly as a duplicate of this, whose title is:

Difference between String replace() and replaceAll()

Experimenting, I opened the "Ask a question" page and pasted in the title... sure enough, the duplicate is right on top of the list, with 36 votes. This is without entering any tags, of which the dupe had all.

How did the user miss the duplicate?

The titles are nearly identical!

Does the UI need a rethink?
Can we be louder about duplicates? Should a confirmation dialog be added for strong matches?

P.S. As Nick has said - this is not an isolated case. This one is a standout collision, but there is a steady flow of "very close" duplicates.

  • 16
    Haven't you heard yet? People don't read. It doesn't matter how loud you shout, some people still won't read. – Martijn Pieters Jul 14 '14 at 7:52
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    What do you suggest? Audio? Smoke signals? What about a confirmation dialog box? This situation is ridiculous - it wastes time for everyone – Bohemian Jul 14 '14 at 7:53
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    The only way to get more attention is to hide the editor until they scroll down and click huge button saying "I saw the above questions and none answers my own case". 50 pixels font. – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Jul 14 '14 at 7:55
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    I suggest slapping them on the wrist anytime they post an obvious duplicate question. – John Dvorak Jul 14 '14 at 7:56
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    @ShadowWizard you mean like the "I have read the 50 pages of legalese and agree you now own my house" checkbox you are required to tick when installing software? – Bohemian Jul 14 '14 at 7:57
  • @Bohemian yep, exactly! :D – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Jul 14 '14 at 7:57
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    In case there's any doubt in the audience, this is by no means an isolated case. I could probably find at least 20 more from my own network-wide dupe-flagging history where the original I picked was sitting right there in the Related sidebar, plain as day from the title alone...and I've only been flagging dupes for about 6 months now. – Nick Stauner Jul 14 '14 at 7:59
  • @NickStauner oh yeah - they happen frequently - that's the point. I thought this one particularly was a ridiculous case. I had to vent. – Bohemian Jul 14 '14 at 8:02
  • @Bohemian: new users already are presented with such a box to tick. Note the ? at the end of that URL, and the checkbox at the bottom. It tells users to search and research, complete with search box. This user ignored that page but ticked the box. – Martijn Pieters Jul 14 '14 at 10:52

Haven't you heard yet? People don't read. It doesn't matter how loud you shout, some people still won't read.

I've learned how many people do read when the new Meta Stack Overflow site was added. The rate at which the old classic questions were asked was quite astonishing!

Clearly those questions were on a lot of peoples minds, but the rate at which duplicates for these questions used to appear on Meta Stack Exchange didn't suggest this; because most people actually did do their research first.

But there are some that don't. Such obvious duplicates as your example, that show no research and no reading comprehension, are the tip of the iceberg. More special casing for such people is just not going to help.

The traffic numbers on Stack Overflow pretty much guarantee you such questions, statistically speaking. You can put up more barriers, larger buttons, etc., but at some point you need to balance the benefits against the pain you are causing people that do read and end up being punished for those that don't.

Just because there are people that'll waste our time no matter what, is no reason to waste the time of everyone that does pay attention and did read the manual.

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  • And the confirm popup for high correlation dupes... sucks and/or won't stop em IYHO? – Bohemian Jul 14 '14 at 8:00
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    @Bohemian: It'll suck more than it'll stop. You cannot continue to make your UI worse for what is a tiny portion of the population. – Martijn Pieters Jul 14 '14 at 8:01
  • Especially at first. I see a long road of fine-tuning ahead of that idea. – Nick Stauner Jul 14 '14 at 8:02
  • Do duplicate questions count for question banning? Maybe they should... – Patrick Hofman Jul 14 '14 at 8:27
  • @PatrickHofman: Closed questions do. Downvoting helps too here. – Martijn Pieters Jul 14 '14 at 8:29
  • Surely you could only make it worse for those who repeatedly post duplicates, and leave it how it is for the rest. – JoelSolo Jul 14 '14 at 10:24
  • @JoelSolo: People rarely repeat the behaviour. They get told of pretty quickly, both with downvotes and dupe closures, and comment feedback. Those who persist don't last long as they get question banned. Targeting just the repeat offenders has very little use. – Martijn Pieters Jul 14 '14 at 10:33

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