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I had a question today. As usual, I searched and found my question already on SO - with a really great answer.

I noticed in the comments it was marked "Possible Duplicate: ...", so I checked out the older question, and it was truly a duplicate. Not to be mean, but it was poorer quality with less valuable answers, although it was an older duplicate.

Now I have another question "What if the duplicate is better than the original?" Again, as usual, I searched and found my question already on meta.SE - and this time, a word-for-word exact duplicate of my question. And here's the kicker - it was marked as a duplicate.

screenshot of search

So then I click on it, and then of course I immediately click on the duplicate, and wouldn't you believe that was a dupe too! So then I clicked on the next one, and, this one is also a duplicate... Just before I click on the next one I think to myself "This has got to be a joke!"

I know how linked lists work in memory, and they could go on forever if you don't implement a counter or something until your heap overflows. So this finally leads me to my question:

Is there a limit to the number of duplicate questions in a single chain?

Which I could not find on meta.SE, oddly, but perhaps someone with better search-fu can flag me. I understand now after reading some of the answers that a mod can merge the questions, so is there some sort of garbage collection that rounds these things up into a tidy pile? Or a shortcut on all duplicates to the root question from which ye shall find no known duplicate?


FYI the final answer to my conundrum was:

If the new question is a better question or has better answers, then vote to close the old one as a duplicate of the new one.

You can flag and ask a moderator to merge after closure if they're exactly the same.

  • AFAIK, there is no limit, as long as they don't result in a dupe loop. – angussidney Jun 14 '16 at 6:42
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    @angussidney actually, dupe loop was possible for long years and was fully fixed only three years ago. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 14 '16 at 6:46
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No, there is no limit. Except maybe the amount of questions in the database.

I do agree it look weird, to say the least, but I don't think it should be changed.

Why? Because each item in the duplicate chain got a value on its own. The question itself is phrased in a different way, using different key words, and many times getting different answers, mostly useful.

Ideally, all of those can be merged into one question with one canonical answer containing all the other answers, but it requires too much time and efforts in my opinion and not worth it.

Having it spread like this helps finding it faster, as you just proved yourself. If we delete the dupes instead of closing, we lose that ability to find. If we leave them open, we lose a possibly valuable context posted in the other dupes.

So, why not limiting the chain length, forcing close voters to pick only the top item in the chain? Now that is a subtle matter indeed. When there is more than one possibility while closing as duplicate (be it separate questions, or a chain) it's better to pick the one closest to what you're closing.

  • Side question: Is it possible to close an old question as duplicate of a new well-received question? – NVZ Jun 14 '16 at 9:14
  • @NVZ yes indeed, did it myself many times. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 14 '16 at 9:38

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