If I were in danger of being banned from asking questions, I'd be advised:

... Also, edit your previous questions to improve formatting and clarity.

It happened to me, very recently. At the time, I only had three questions here on Meta SE. To quote Shog:

That's one positively-received question, followed by two duplicates - the last downvoted and deleted.

How do I improve a question marked as a duplicate?

  1. Rewrite it to something else? Maybe that's gaming the system but at least its a way out.

  2. Rewrite it so that it is better than its predecessor? At least then it can maybe serve as a useful landing spot for a search engine result where the search terms matched it rather than the original.

  3. Get into the time machine, go back to just before posting the duplicate, do a better job of searching for alternate wordings of the question, then not post it? The only problem being, the Stack Exchange's search engine is, how to put it, far from perfect. Oh yes, and the time machine thing.

  4. Forget about it improving "duplicates" -- focus on improving deleted questions instead? How do I manage that?

Please, rethink the way you handle question banning warnings.

1 Answer 1


The second one.

Just because a question is a duplicate doesn't mean it has to be phrased poorly. I'm saying this without looking at all into your asking history, so I don't mean to call you out as phrasing anything poorly, but that's often what a question ban indicates.

It's a well-known, and indeed oft-experienced, phenomenon when someone spends hours of their time researching a particular issue, but the solution never makes it in front of them. That's, ideally, what duplicates mean. That's why we generally don't delete them, and let them stir on as sign-posts to the original post.

If you're looking to improve a question which has been marked as a duplicate, the solution is the same as if you're looking to improve just about any other post: show your research, phrase it clearly, include examples, format it nicely, and you'll probably get some upvotes. They won't come nearly as quickly as they might on a question that isn't marked as a duplicate, but that's an inevitable tax that the implementation justifiably takes.

It's unlikely to happen, but it's possible that your post will be reopened and the predecessor will be marked as a duplicate of it. I say this, again, not to say it'll happen, but more to illustrate that a "duplicate" closure is not a death sentence. As long as you've done your research, and you show it in a well-communicated post, you'll be on the right track.

In response to your comment, looking just at this question, it sounds a little sarcastic. Particularly with the last line, it just sounds a bit accusatory. I don't personally think this question is deserving of this many downvotes, and in fact, there you go, have an upvote.

But for cases like this, it's often best to ask two questions, or just have two sections: first, establish what the best practices are. Once you do that, or if you can prove you don't have to, then it's a good time to question the system.

In other words, don't blame the system until you understand why the system works the way it does. At the scale of Stack Exchange, there are often considerations that come into play that aren't immediately obvious.

Beyond that, generally speaking, any time you tag something with , you want to make sure you have a well-defined grasp of what exactly you're looking for. Having s first to establish what the best route may be is often helpful to build consensus under less scrutiny, then you can move forward with something you know you have support for, and something that will generally be of higher quality.

As for your second question, about when we do delete duplicates, that's pretty rare in my experience. It only really happens if the duplicate is a very low quality post, or if it's an exact duplicate, generally verbatim.

  • Any idea why my questions on here are getting so many down-votes? I'm sincerely getting the impression i'm just not welcome here. I can easily just ignore Meta SE completely and ask all my meta questions on any other meta...
    – Martin F
    Mar 22, 2015 at 3:44
  • "That's why we generally don't delete them..." Do you mind if i ask: why are any honest duplicate questions deleted, and without warning? I could ask as a separate question, but i'm now afraid to ask anything for fear of being booed off the stage. FYI see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/228842/…, or maybe you cannot!
    – Martin F
    Mar 22, 2015 at 3:53
  • @MartinF I've edited my post. I can't see the post you linked to (I'm 6,000 rep away from that privilege), but if you wanted to screenshot it I could take a look for you and give my input. I don't know how helpful my input is, but I can give it my best shot. Mar 22, 2015 at 4:01
  • For the effort you've put in, i wish i could upvote a 2nd time :-) Thanks for the note on tags. However, i've come to notice that, whatever the site, non-experts will never ever know just the right tags to use and it is always up to the experts to edit the tags properly. (In my case, i do that over at GIS SE.)
    – Martin F
    Mar 22, 2015 at 4:22
  • @MartinF True, tags can be difficult to master. For what it's worth, here on MSE and most other metas, you could have a happy contributing career without ever mixing two of the "master" tags. Use feature-request if you're looking for a specific feature and already have most of the details hammered out, bug when you know things should work one way but don't, support for specific help using the platform ("how do I reset my password?" for example), and discussion for pretty well anything else, including crowdsourcing the design of feature requests from elementary stages. Mar 22, 2015 at 4:47
  • 1
    @MartinF I find Meta SE to be firm but fair. Whenever posting here I try to think carefully about what I write and make sure that I stay around to quickly edit anything that is getting misunderstood. One post of mine went to -6 in no time and then took months to get back to 0. In your case I would suggest a terminology change from slapped with this "advice" to advised but that will not have done as much damage as the word that was replaced by grievous in your other question.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 22, 2015 at 7:50
  • 1
    @MartinF I think the trigger may be pulled a fraction too soon on warning about "poorly received" sequences of posts but I think leaving it longer will mean that a new user here makes perhaps three rather than two poor posts before realising that to be problematic - and there are a lot of poor posts here already. I think you may have been bycatch in a net not intended for a much respected contributor on another SE site like yourself.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 22, 2015 at 7:56
  • I think duplicates are sometimes deleted (they auto redirect) if it has no up votes and no answers.
    – Tim
    Mar 22, 2015 at 10:30
  • @PolyGeo - Thanks for your words. The irony is, a few months ago i was wondering which was the better place to ask generic meta questions: at the "home" meta site or the meta meta site My thinking was it's more logical to ask here (MSE) even though i think the advice given (at M GIS) was something like keep it there (at M GIS). The only reason i came here was that i took the bait: it's still there, and its called "Featured on Meta: Let’s improve our site navigation". I think it should only be seen by moderators.
    – Martin F
    Mar 22, 2015 at 20:21

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