When a question is marked as a duplicate, the notice is terse:
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.
If the duplicate question has no answers with upvotes, the notice is different:
This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question.
This is factually correct, but I don't think it communicates two important points:
- It's still a good question and you're still a good person. A duplicate isn't evil; you can't be expected to know all earlier questions. (Even if the question is bad, being duplicate is not what makes it bad.)
- The decision is reversible. If you think it's not a duplicate, you can make your question more specific. Elaborate on the problem you're trying to solve and explain why the linked post doesn't help enough.
It is easy for a new user to feel wronged and take it personally. Being closed as a duplicate is not really a negative thing — finding earlier questions about the same exact topic is not that easy and the new question makes the old one easier to find. The duplicate notice could be made more welcoming and positive. Old users know what it means anyway, it's a matter of communicating well with newcomers.
I moderate a smaller site and it's possible to explain duplicates in a comment whenever a new user asks something that's been covered before. It's a little tedious, and on larger sites outright impossible. We can't expect users to type up a nice comment explaining the situation when they vote to close as duplicate. That should be communicated automatically.
I'm not sure what would be a better phrasing. Perhaps something along these lines (changes in italics):
It seems that this question has been asked before and already has an answer. Being a duplicate doesn't make your question bad; we just want to keep all the answers in one place. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question or edit your question to elaborate on what you want to know and why the linked question doesn't solve your problem. The duplicate notice can be removed.
My wording is certainly not perfect, but I hope it gives an idea of what I'm aiming at. I made three main changes:
- The beginning is more lenient; we may have made a mistake!
- It explains what duplication is about. (If the question isn't good, it should be closed for other reasons than being a duplicate. Or if most duplicates are bad, at least we could say that being a duplicate doesn't make the question bad.)
- It guides the users to elaborate. Elaboration often improves the question quality overall, and differentiating from the proposed duplicate is a bonus.
I don't think a longer notice is too much noise. The main content is in the linked question anyway; the notice is mainly for the OP. Perhaps it could be shown only to the owner of the question if it's too long for everyone's eyes?
Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog comments below that the message is different to the author. The extended message is better, but it could still explain what duplicates mean. This is a key point that has been left unsaid.
This question arose from my answer to another suggestion concerning duplicates.
What do you think? What kind of wording would be efficient?