182

I keep seeing custom flags in the queue from question askers who are incredibly irritated because there is a big, prominent box at the top of their question. It's just a list of other questions which may have the answer they desire, and is only even displayed to them because the question is not closed yet.

This question may already have an answer here:
[list]

But to an ordinary user, it is not at all clear that the box is only shown to them, or that it will go away on its own if their question never actually gets closed.

Could the text for this notice be altered to make it more clear that:

  1. They are just suggestions for the person to view. Potentially if they agree with one, they should vote to close their own question as a duplicate of it.

  2. Their question is not closed yet. If they disagree with the duplicates suggested, they should clarify their question and explain why it's not a duplicate.

I was thinking of an altered wording such as:

You might be able to find an answer to your question here:
[list]

If those answers do not fully address your question, please [edit your question] to clarify your exact problem.

I went with a more direct wording for the bolded title. Since the notice is only displayed to the asker, it makes more sense to talk directly to them in the message rather than making it feel like it's supposed to be addressing the entire audience of the site. Emphasize that only that person is seeing it by talking to them.

It would also be helpful to append a "More info" link at the end of the message that links them to some further documentation about duplicates, and explains how the notice works - particularly that it will go away eventually or change to a proper duplicate notice if the question does get closed.

migrated from meta.stackoverflow.com Mar 10 '15 at 1:10

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

  • Out of curiousity, would you say the majority of this kind of flag is from OP before closing or after? – Carrie Kendall Feb 3 '15 at 18:00
  • 1
    @CarrieKendall I just declined one about an hour ago. Generally the reason we'd give is "This isn't actually closed, it's only a suggestion." We do get flags from people complaining about their questions being closed as duplicates, but this particular case is unique because there's not anything for the moderator to even do (it's not closed) but I can see why they're confused about that fact. – animuson Feb 3 '15 at 18:05
  • 2
    Okay, that makes sense. I understand where you're coming from but I am weary of believing that your minor wording change will stop these users from flagging. With that being said, I'm not a mod, just a pessimist :) – Carrie Kendall Feb 3 '15 at 18:08
  • 1
    Whatever happened to the automated duplicate comment? The OPs don't notice that, and that's why we have the banner? – Robert Harvey Feb 3 '15 at 18:23
  • 1
    I've seen some people complain about the banner when they dispute the duplicate. The extra information would still be useful. – user231078 Feb 3 '15 at 18:29
  • 11
    Small text at the bottom "This notice will disappear in N days if the question is not put on hold. More info". Kills two flagbirds with one informational stone: the question isn't closed yet, and the annoying notice isn't permanent. – Josh Caswell Feb 3 '15 at 19:41
  • 14
    Those things are only visible to the OP? I've gotten pretty ticked off in the past when I would have them show up falsely on a few of my questions, because even without the questions being closed, I thought the box itself was visible to everyone. The thing is, I'm not new to SE; this is something even experienced users are not necessarily informed of. – Panzercrisis Feb 3 '15 at 22:27
  • 3
    @Panzercrisis Same here. Why would I not think everyone could see it? They can see everything else. What's the visual/textual indicator which makes this element different? – bye Feb 6 '15 at 11:07
  • @Shog Are you aware? – nicael Mar 10 '15 at 6:50
93

Update: implemented!

Actual UI appears like this:

That solved my problem! / No, my question is different. I will edit to explain how

If the author clicks the big blue button, the question is instantly closed (With the Community user listed as a close voter):

This question's author approved a pending duplicate vote.

Community: This question's author approved a pending duplicate vote.

If, instead, they edit, then the choice will go away... At least until another duplicate close-vote is cast.


I like this idea. Any time we can motivate an asker to edit instead of handwringing we should be doing so.

The underlying problem here isn't that folks are disagreeing with the message... It's that they're flagging instead of editing!

This also brings to mind a few previous feature-requests:

Ideally, askers would be presented with a choice:

The first option would immediately close the question as a duplicate; the second would present the editing screen.

If the question is edited, the banner should be hidden (that is, the banner should only be shown if there's a dup-vote newer than the last edit date).

  • 16
    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to this. I can't count the number of times when I voted to close as duplicate, the OP 100% agreed, and then I still had to find other folks to vote to close the question. – Louis Feb 10 '15 at 0:10
  • 3
    Is this implemented network wide? – user259867 Mar 9 '15 at 21:09
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    Good job. Though a few nits: 1. Does the OP always get listed as a close-voter? Imho, he should. 2. Does community always get listed? Imho, it should only if the OP would not be able to cast the final dupe-vote, for any reason. 3. Is the banner dependent on the the last edit by the OP or at all? Not sure about that one, I think the former would be better and the latter easier... 4. Can the OP vote for closure even if it's already dupe-closed, making him listed? Not sure about that one, though it would be a useful indicator. – Deduplicator Mar 9 '15 at 21:26
  • 1
    @Deduplicator (about 1,2) It seems the idea is that OP is not voting to close, they are approving the decision to close (as the tooltip says), triggering a binding vote by Community. Also, it appears that the user "mgibsonbr" in the example is not the OP but someone who cast a duplicate vote. There had to be someone for the banner to even appear. – user259867 Mar 9 '15 at 21:38
  • 1
    IT IS NOW, @Woodface! – Shog9 Mar 10 '15 at 1:11
  • 1
    What Woodface said, @Deduplicator. – Shog9 Mar 10 '15 at 1:12
  • "If the author clicks the big blue button, the question is instantly closed" WOHOOO! – Braiam Mar 10 '15 at 1:32
  • If a gold-tag user closes a question as a dupe, and the person elects to edit the question, I presume that it flows into the reopen queue? – Makoto Mar 10 '15 at 4:08
  • Yes it will, @makoto – Shog9 Mar 10 '15 at 6:00
  • what happens if the asker was first to vote / flag as duplicate? Do they have to wait for next voter to use approval dialog? – gnat Mar 10 '15 at 6:33
  • Why not post a separate discussion on it? (And yes, [featured] tag doesn't work) – nicael Mar 10 '15 at 7:15
  • @nicael if your comment was to me, no need in separate discussion: I just tested dupe closing my own question and posted results in another answer here (FWIW the way it worked felt okay to me) – gnat Mar 10 '15 at 17:55
  • 1
    @Duncan Section 3 over here? "You discover that "duplicate" is totally different, obviously irrelevant..." – gnat Mar 24 '15 at 10:15
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    Now that I've been in the situation, it really bothers me when there is a false duplicate claim. No, my question is different, and no, I dont want to edit my question. – FooBar Jul 15 '15 at 16:40
  • 6
    I strongly feel that the OP should be listed as the closer, not Community♦. It's clearer what happened that way. – wim Oct 2 '15 at 1:01
42

I agree that if the notice is only visible to the OP, then it should say so. A newbie would assume that it's visible to everyone.

This is my suggestion for the notice that the OP would see.

Someone has raised the possibility that your question is a duplicate of a question that already exists. This notice is only visible to you, the author of this question, until the the community decides if it is as a duplicate or not.

Your question may already have an answer here:

(List of possible duplicate questions here)

Possible Actions

  • If you agree that your question is a duplicate, you can vote to mark your question as a duplicate (only visible if the OP has sufficient reputation)
  • If you disagree that your question is a duplicate, you can edit your question to distinguish it from other questions, and/or
  • Leave a comment on your question explaining why you believe that your question is not a duplicate.

Related information

The message makes it clear that it's only visible to the OP. The "already have an answer" message says "your", talking directly to the OP. It lists possible actions, so the OP doesn't feel helpless, and it lists links to related Help Center articles.

The text seems a bit long, but perhaps the "actions" and "related information" sections could start out collapsed, but be expandable.

Someone has raised the possibility that your question is a duplicate of a question that already exists. This notice is only visible to you, the author of this question, until the the community decides if it is as a duplicate or not.

Your question may already have an answer here:

(List of possible duplicate questions here)

> Possible Actions

> Related information

I think this would help to prevent a new poster from:

  • Getting irritated that the big box is there for everyone to see.
  • Flagging that it's not a duplicate when it has not been marked duplicate yet.
  • Feeling embarrassed and abandoning SO / whichever SE site for good.

Also, this feature request appears to be applicable network-wide, not just to SO.

  • 51
    Too wordy. People don't read. – Mark Ransom Feb 3 '15 at 22:41
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    @MarkRansom Many people may not read it, but some will. Those that complained that their question was closed read the existing notice. They were irritated that it was there, for what they assumed was for the whole world to see. They would likely read an updated notice. – rgettman Feb 3 '15 at 23:02
  • 6
    My take: "Your question is still open and answerable by the community. However, someone has raised the possibility that it may be a duplicate of an existing question. Please check the following to see if they already contain the answers you seek. If not, consider editing your post to further clarify why your question is different. This notice is only a suggestion, and is only viewable by you. Your question is still open--it has not been closed or marked as a duplicate at this time." – aliteralmind Feb 4 '15 at 14:36
  • 1
    If this shows up for every possible duplicate and for every user, I think the collapseable options would be a must. After all, this notice is most useful for the first few duplicate questions, so for subsequent dupes, this would take up a lot of unnecessary space on the screen. But I do otherwise like how comprehensive this message is for the new user. – ryanyuyu Feb 4 '15 at 20:39
  • @MarkRansom It takes a few minutes to fix, and if it address 20% of the issues raised by the OP here, why not reduce the moderators workload? – Calvin Smith Feb 4 '15 at 21:09
  • 1
    @CalvinSmith my point was that the message has to be dead simple or it won't have the desired effect. The one proposed in this answer didn't seem to consider that viewpoint. Jeff Atwood understood this principle well. – Mark Ransom Feb 4 '15 at 21:17
  • @ryanyuyu There would be only one notice, even in the case of multiple possible duplicates. The notice would list all possible dupes. – rgettman Feb 4 '15 at 21:17
  • @rgettman I meant future separate questions that also got separately dupe-flagged. – ryanyuyu Feb 4 '15 at 21:20
  • @MarkRansom I can't see how you can be more "dead simple" than what the current message is, and that doesn't seem to work either... – Calvin Smith Feb 4 '15 at 21:38
  • I'm with @ryanyuyu. I would even say that it should be collapsed by default. That, or move this text into a help page, and just link the user there and only have a brief message on the notice. Even the "shortened" version takes too much space for a notice at the top of the question. – jpmc26 Feb 6 '15 at 7:36
  • @jpmc26 Yes, as I already stated, it should "start out collapsed, but be expandable". – rgettman Feb 6 '15 at 17:15
38

Wowzers, I'm actually a regular, experienced user and always thought this box meant the question was actually closed. Yes please, this really needs updating.

Both suggestions you mentioned in the question are fine, emphasis on the may or might is important. Otherwise, a short clarification:

Your question is not closed yet, but it is likely to be already answered on this site. Please check the following links for potential answers:

  • 8
    The one you see probably is the one from when questions are closed. The one animuson is talking about appears (for the OP only) earlier. – T.J. Crowder Feb 4 '15 at 14:33
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure I've seen like four subtly different dupe boxes, including on one of mine on meta. But the distinction was largely lost on me, and since at least three of those meant almost exactly the same thing… yeah, this is not clear at all. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 4 '15 at 20:38
  • @T.J.Crowder to be honest, I don't even remember the one I probably see. You know, Windows and the internet and all these user agreements just train you to skip and accept any dialogue box on your computer and quickly grasp the fundamental. I always saw the list of links, I just assumed the rest of the box implied that it was closed. – FooBar Feb 5 '15 at 13:09
26

Very good idea! But let's make the word really direct, clear, and brief; here's my attempt:

These questions may already have your answer:
[list]

Please check, and if they don't, [edit your question] to clarify.

In the meantime, your question is still open and people can answer it. (Only you see this message.)

(And of course, the singular version. I couldn't find a direct, clear way of phrasing that didn't require "these" and "they".)

  • 2
    Yeah, the "only you see this message" bit is key for me - good call! – Darren Sweeney Feb 4 '15 at 14:51
  • How is it relevant (to OP) that only OP sees that message? – FooBar Feb 4 '15 at 23:23
  • 3
    There have been a handful of gripes by question askers here on Meta to the effect that the big banner at the top makes readers unwilling to answer, @FooBar. – Josh Caswell Feb 5 '15 at 2:20
12

Hi username! This question may already have an answer here:

[list]

In my experience, adding someone's name to a message is a good hint that it's tailored to them, that it's only visible to them. Being this concise is also key since, as mentioned in the other answers, people don't read.

4

The message implies that the question is closed, because it's being shown in the body of the question. Even if it doesn't look closed, there's no visual indication that it's only visible to the question asker and not everyone else. Changing the message won't help, because people don't read.

To fix this perception, take the message out of the body of the question and make it obvious that it's temporary. A pop-up message would do the job nicely. People still won't read it, but there will be fewer misunderstandings.

2

I think a better approach would be to change the styling rather than just changing the text. Having it slide in or expand after the page is opened (like a tool tip or warning) would have the desired effect, and, in my view, would be less confusing.

  • 2
    This is a good idea. Making it look like a post-it note or giving it a "hide" button might also help. – Josh Caswell Feb 5 '15 at 23:47
1

Repeating what I said in a comment on regettman's answer, here's what I think the blurb should be, before the actionable sections:

"Someone has raised the possibility that your question may be a duplicate of an existing one. Please check the following to see if they already contain the answers you seek. If not, consider editing your post to clarify why yours is different. This notice is only a suggestion, and is only viewable by you. Your question is still open--it has not been closed or marked as a duplicate at this time."

This actually is a sentence shorter than in my comment (and slightly edited). The first sentence wasn't necessary.

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