What should I do when an off-topic question is asked that is also a duplicate of another closed off-topic question?

  1. Close the new question with the off topic reason?
  2. Mark the new question as a duplicate of the other closed off topic question?

Posts generally need to be close voted as off topic before being voted on to delete (not talking about spam or abusive / offensive).
Duplicate posts are generally not able to be voted on for deletion.

  • 1
    My point: Link to the duplicate target in comments to help the OP (yeah the question is off-topic, but I think OP's still want get the answer), and vote to close the question as off-topic. Jan 7, 2016 at 12:31
  • 1
    If an old question with good answers exists, and has not been deleted, then there is already a reason why it exists on the site; closing the new question as a duplicate kills two birds with one stone -- the duplicate gets linked to a good answer and redirected to high-quality content. I also like this because it allows gold badge users to "disarm" off-topic questions quickly.
    – tripleee
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:32
  • @tripleee ah, or is it just that the reviewers haven't gotten around to deleting original offtopic post.. or does a dup mean if the target dup is deleted so are all the children?
    – user310756
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:35

3 Answers 3


It highly depends on the context, which that includes the question and your own privileges.

Let me first re-iterate the goal of closing:

Questions that need additional work or that are not a good fit for this site may be put on hold by experienced community members. While questions are on hold, they cannot be answered, but can be edited to make them eligible for reopening.

So closing is, for me, a way to start the work with the OP to get their post into shape, and that is guidance that I promote in a chat room I visit to help in moderation efforts.

To start this work towards re-opening we need to establish how future visitors will benefit from this question if it turns out to have more value then only being a duplicate.

Let's assume for the sake of this answer that the duplicate will not be gone soon (a zillion views, mega up voted, a post history of delete/undeletes)

If the new question is a blatant duplicate but uses different/more up-to-date or maybe even historical wording, close the new question as a duplicate.

If you have a gold badge for one of the tags on the question, close vote as a duplicate. This will prevent FGITW answers.

If the new question isn't adding anything new in the perspective of that duplicate, close vote for a correct reason.

In all these case don't forget to use your other moderation options you have at your disposal like editing, (down) voting, delete voting.

The benefit of having new off-topic questions that are closed against the duplicate is improving the search-ability of these questions. If more variants turn-up in the Google search, the more likely the future visitor will find the duplicate and not ask a new question.

By having those new questions only closed as off-topic you have a higher probability that new duplicate questions will keep turning up, because the duplicate is not found by the Google-ers.

  • Thanks for such a comprehensive answer. My main concern is where the target duplicate itself is closed as off topic for the site. While some off topic questions have high views and votes, majority are sitting waiting either improvement or deletion. If you have time can you address this aspect of the question more clearly? thanks.
    – user310756
    Jan 9, 2016 at 2:07

I suggest to close it as duplicate. Nobody is helped when it is closed as being off-topic. Not the OP, nor future users.

Off-topic questions (sometimes simply because the rules changed over time), are not rubbish, so 'off-topic' questions are not bad questions by definition.

If there is already a good question with a good answer, that one can be close because it is off-topic. The other should be closed as duplicate of that one, so future users can benefit.

If users think they are both useless after some time, we can always delete them. Having a duplicate is better than too, since it will make it easier to spot the other question and consider deletion of that one too.

  • off topic posts, by definition are not suitable for the site. There may be some that are kept as the site's scope has changed but I am talking about off topic posts generally and most are not high quality
    – user310756
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:04
  • But was use is it to close them as off-topic? You can always delete them, right? Jan 7, 2016 at 14:16
  • they need to be closed before being deleted. Which is one of my big reasons behind this post. posts closed as dupes are not deleted
    – user310756
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:17
  • Edited the Q to reflect this concern Patrick
    – user310756
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:28
  • They can be deleted, just like normal questions. Jan 7, 2016 at 14:57
  • 2
    They are not auto deleted. That's the only difference. (Rooomba) Jan 7, 2016 at 15:01
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    @BhargavRao 30-days roomba auto-deletes duplicates if they have negative score and no answers (per my observations, this script runs weekly not daily)
    – gnat
    Jan 9, 2016 at 11:32

I believe closing a question as a duplicate of an off topic question in most cases is like creating a pointer to rubbish.

This piece of rubbish is a duplicate of that piece of rubbish. Why would we want to help people find that piece of rubbish, by creating a duplicate?

I believe it needs to be called off topic and closed.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

  • 7
    Off-topic does not have to mean that it is 'a piece of rubbish'. For example there are (at least on stack overflow) many very interesting questions with great answers. Some of which are off-topic now due to a chance in policy, but do not really qualify as rubbish
    – Tim
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:42
  • @TimCastelijns I clarified with in most cases, as there are a load of off topic question on the site (well most get deleted)
    – user310756
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:44
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    That's not good enough. If you're closing "rubbish", then use all the other reasons: broad, unclear, an opinion-based. Don't meddle and fuss about simple things.
    – Zizouz212
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:52

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