A question posted just now was titled Best Book for Java Programming. Of course, it was almost immediately closed as a duplicate question. I popped over to the Ask a Question page and typed in the same title, and not only did the "subjective and likely to be closed" message come up, but quite a number of suggested Java programming book related questions.

It seems that the OP completely missed all that useful information. What can Stack Overflow do, if anything, to improve this experience for everybody? It would be better for the OP if they could get the answer to their question more quickly, and better for the site if participants didn't have to spend effort finding duplicates and closing these kinds of questions.

What if the "Ask a Question" page were split into two parts, one where the user types in their title and gets suggestions, then after confirming that "none of the above links help me" then a next page that contains a question body field. Or perhaps better, with some jQuery the body field could be hidden until the user confirms that none of the suggested links solve their problem.

  • That wouldn't work. Often I choose the first title that comes to my mind but after writing the question I change it to something better. Commented Nov 24, 2009 at 13:55

6 Answers 6


An idea of awesomeness, IMO. I'm a bit scared of adding more speedbumps to the question-asking process, but saving everyone else's time is an idea worth considering. However, people don't read things that get in the way of their desired goal (which is usually "ask question", not "find answer"), so I suspect that people might just blindly click "none of these match" without investigating the links provided.

This would seem to be a nice topic for a real-world usability test. Present this alternate UI half the time, and track things like dupe-close rate for both sorts of questions, to see if it reduces that rate at all. To try and identify instances of "question attempt abandoned because it was too hard to ask" as distinct from "question attempt abandoned because questioner found their answer", track whether or not any of the presented links were actually clicked (and count it as an "answer found" if so).


The fact that you can ask a question by entering four fields on a single page is the single greatest thing about Stack Overflow. Duplicates are a pretty small problem.

Making questions more complex seems like a bad tradeoff to me.


Given that you saw the information it's safe to assume that the poster of the original question did too.

Therefore, the OP either didn't see it or chose to ignore it.

If it was the former then the question should be how to make the information more prominent or noticeable.

If it was the latter then there's nothing that can be done. Some people will continue to ignore it no matter how prominent and noticeable it is.

As others have pointed out SO was designed to have a very low entry barrier to encourage people to come and ask questions.


I like the idea where you have to confirm that the questions in the suggestion box do not match yours. But I think it's not going to matter for many other cases, since people want their question answered, since they personally think that it's different, and there's very little you can do to stop that.


I feel your pain, but I don't think your suggestion is good.

I'm pretty sure it will decrease the number of questions, but not because the asker found his answer before posting as you expect. I think, more people will give up with a "WTF? I just want to ask a question!" feeling.

Asking questions wouldn't be straight forward anymore. Instead of being easy, it would be more a "pain in the a.." approach.


Terrible idea. I've used forums and technical support portals that force you to view a page of automatically generated (unhelpful) search results before you can actually post your question. I don't think you can appreciate how irritating it is until you've experienced it.

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