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When I first discovered Stack Exchange, it was in the form of Stack Overflow. It seemed like a great place...until I became a member. Apparently, my policy of "Upvote unto others as you would have them upvote unto you" is not common. Before long, I had deleted 10 questions, and my answers were an odd, faded gray. But then, a new problem came: the duplicate. Already, it seemed to me that the higher reputation users sat upon thrones of gold, dumping vats of acid upon lower reputation members while keeping themselves nice and happy.

What I think high reputation users don't realize is that every user on Stack Exchange came here for a reason. Whether that reason is to have fun on PPCG, or to get help on Stack Overflow, we all just want to be part of the fun/work/riddles. Also, even though a question may be a duplicate, it is not necessarily bad. The question might see things from another perspective, or have several unique parts. The only purpose the duplicate flag serves is to alienate new users. Of course, the obvious exception is a question that has been asked 5 times. But some question that happens to be a near duplicate of some obscure other question is not truly a pointless duplicate.

The point of all this is to just remember that every user is a person,too. Every question is a form of wonder, and wonder is an incredible thing. The fact that we as a species have the capability of asking, and learning, is extraordinary. So why would we want to mark harmless duplicates in such a rude way, as if we are robots built to thin out every remotely similar question and insult it? It is wrong.

How can we fix this? This is not a duplicate of How should duplicate questions be handled?, as that question is about how to handle duplicates.

marked as duplicate by Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog, Patrick Hofman discussion Apr 18 '18 at 4:33

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    You think we should write out the same answers again and again and again and again and again instead till the letters wear off our keyboards. Why do you think it is so rude to mark a question a duplicate, the OP gets an answer, that's presumably why they asked the question so they win, no? – Robert Longson Apr 18 '18 at 4:16
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    Please see Dr Strangedupe, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication Duplicate questions are not necessarily bad. – Modus Tollens Apr 18 '18 at 4:23
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    Regarding your edit, please read the bottom section of the answer to the duplicate target. Here on Meta Stack Exchange, we close questions as duplicates of questions tagged faq if the answer to the question is contained in a specific section of that FAQ, or if the question goes against one of the principles outlined in the FAQ, even though the questions aren't the same. (This policy is specific to Meta only.) – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Apr 18 '18 at 15:10
  • One sixth of the viewers downvoted this question! – Redwolf Programs Apr 24 '18 at 13:32
  • Yay famous...18 downvotes on one question! – Redwolf Programs Apr 24 '18 at 13:32
  • @RedwolfPrograms - 1/6 of the viewers believe strongly enough, to indicate they do not agree with your points, before you complain about downvotes understand what they mean on a meta website. – Ramhound Apr 24 '18 at 17:16
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Also, even though a question may be a duplicate, it is not necessarily bad.

Absolutely true. No reasonable close voter will argue with this. In fact, most experienced users will agree with you about a particular question not being bad even at the same moment as they are casting a duplicate vote on that. Indeed, they might even upvote the question that they voted to close.

The question might see things from another perspective, or have several unique parts.

If it has truly unique parts, it's not a duplicate, and whoever first marked it as such probably just made an innocent mistake. Calmly explain the differences (preferably by editing the question in such a way that the natural flow smoothly mentions the unusual parts), and chances are pretty good that the question will be kept open or reopened, if it's really not a dupe.

The only purpose the duplicate flag serves is to alienate new users.

It serves a number of important uses:

  • Keeping answerers from burning out by constantly retyping essentially the same answers
  • Making it easier for editors and voters to ensure the highest quality of answers by concentrating the actual answer material in the fewest posts practical
  • Giving askers quick access to the answer they're looking for
  • Giving searchers a good way to find the answer they need even if they looked for it in a slightly odd way

But some question that happens to be a near duplicate of some obscure other question is not truly a pointless duplicate.

Okay. If you looked and looked, couldn't find what you were looking for, and then someone else with more experience looked and found what you needed for you… what's wrong with that?

That's actually not a rhetorical question. I really do want to know because I don't really understand the psychology behind "my question was marked as dupe, I have never been so insulted in my life." It's a fairly common emotional reaction, and it would be nice to figure out why it occurs so we can dampen it down, because that really isn't the intent of duplicates at all. I imagine it would not be particularly easy for you to analyze at the moment, but any insights you can offer would be appreciated, now or later.


All that said, there are some times when experienced users mark as dupe questions that really aren't. Usually this is a good-faith mistake; sometimes it's weariness and cynicism from endless floods of lame questions (especially on SO, and to a lesser extent the other largeish sites, including Meta SE here). It's very rarely any desire to hoard rep (and if it is, you can bet that user is looking at a nice long suspension for misusing their close votes) — in fact, in most cases the users voting to close have no rep at stake either way. On SO, in particular, the rep incentives actually go exactly the other way: a dirty trickster with a limited grasp of ethics and a desire to get as much rep as possible as fast as possible certainly would not vote to close questions as duplicate. They would just copy-paste the answer over and change a few things. Rinse, repeat, rep-cap every day if they spend enough time.

  • Most of the time, people just skip [duplicate] questions – Redwolf Programs Apr 18 '18 at 13:39
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    @RedwolfPrograms: I'm not quite sure what you mean by "skip". Do you mean that questions, once marked duplicate, are basically abandoned for voting, answering, commenting, editing, reopening? Or do you mean that most questions that are duplicates are winked at and questions are only marked dupe if someone takes a special interest? Or do you mean something else? – Nathan Tuggy Apr 18 '18 at 17:57
  • When most people see the [duplicate] tag, they just skip by that question on the search results/questions page. – Redwolf Programs Apr 18 '18 at 18:24
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    @RedwolfPrograms That would be their loss... Assuming they searched for an answer, chances of finding one by following the dupe target would be high. – Modus Tollens Apr 18 '18 at 18:39
  • @RedwolfPrograms - In what context? When they are looking for an answer to their own questions, that might be the reason their own questions, are not well received if they are doing that. If you perform research on a subject, and because an existing question is marked as a duplicate, you reading any answers to that question it's your loss. There are often times a duplicate of a question, contains a unique answer, because it happened to be submitted before it was closed (but that does not change the fact the question is a duplicate). – Ramhound Apr 18 '18 at 22:35
  • "Also, even though a question may be a duplicate, it is not necessarily bad." IMHO it is ALWAYS bad for the one posting the dupe, because the closure actually puts him closer to an automated question ban (or at least in a position where he could think he is). Which makes closing older posts as dupes of newer ones (a practice very common on some sites, when someone argues that the new question is more clear of the old one - or more generic) especially "irritating" for the "closure target". – SPArchaeologist Apr 19 '18 at 8:42
  • @SPArchaeologist: Hmm. I wouldn't have pictured someone with the level of SE knowledge to know that much about the q-ban algorithm being the typical dupe complainer, but no doubt at least a few of them are. – Nathan Tuggy Apr 19 '18 at 8:58
  • See this question. Now, suppose that the "question closed as a dupe" was indeed incorrectly marked as a dupe from some user too eager to test his closure power. And also suppose that the closure of that question was the trigger that made the OP win that nice, not scary at all, "Yer are close to walk the plank, matey" message. Given the right conditions, they don't need to be aware. The system itself will do the job to inform them and give them some free paranoia. – SPArchaeologist Apr 19 '18 at 12:02
  • @Ramhound Picture this...on Stack Overflow, you look up a question you had about AJAX. Would you be more likely to read "AJAX problem [duplicate]" or "Can anyone identify the source of this AJAX ReferenceError?" – Redwolf Programs Apr 24 '18 at 13:36
  • @RedwolfPrograms - Both of those titles are absurdly horrible. They are both likely horrible questions, I wouldn't click on either title, instead going for an existing question with regard to the same problem with a better more descriptive title. – Ramhound Apr 24 '18 at 15:31
  • @Ramhound true, but still, if forced to pick one you would likely pick the second – Redwolf Programs Apr 24 '18 at 15:55
  • @RedwolfPrograms - Don't tell me what I would likely pick. I wouldn't pick either. Your example is absurd. – Ramhound Apr 24 '18 at 17:14
  • @Ramhound no response – Redwolf Programs Apr 24 '18 at 17:17
  • @RedwolfPrograms: I might prefer to click on questions like stackoverflow.com/questions/3146798/… – Nathan Tuggy Apr 24 '18 at 19:20

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