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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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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:

  1. The beginning is more lenient; we may have made a mistake!
  2. 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.)
  3. 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?

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    FYI: To the author only, the notice reads as "if those answers do not fully address your question, please edit this question to explain how it is different or ask a new question". The part in italics is only shown to the author. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 8 '18 at 13:05
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    "Your question is good" That's not necessarily true. Most duplicates aren't good questions. Some are. Being a duplicate doesn't mean a question is necessarily bad, but they very often will be. – Servy May 8 '18 at 13:06
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    @Servy I commented on that in the text. If the question isn't good, shouldn't it be closed for other reasons than being a duplicate? Perhaps my experience from smaller sites is different from the majority. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 8 '18 at 13:08
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog I didn't know it's different to the author. That's good, but my point stands: We could communicate better about what duplicates mean. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 8 '18 at 13:10
  • Yes, it should be closed for a reason other than duplicate. Why? Because internally, duplicate questions are not considered bad, and this is present in several places, such as the fact that duplicates are exempt from the autodeletion criterion RemoveAbandonedClosed that deletes certain closed questions after 9 days. (@Servy) – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 8 '18 at 13:10
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Well by far the most common reason a duplicate wouldn't be a good question is because it's poorly researched, to which there isn't a close reason for. Additionally, it may have problems that make it not a good question, but still not unanswerable. Just because a question meets the minimum standards of being answerable doesn't mean it's good, that's just a starting place. Finally, questions are often easier to close as duplicates than for other reasons, thanks to the Mjolnir, so that often wins in a tie when multiple close reasons are merited. – Servy May 8 '18 at 13:12
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog Duplicate questions aren't necessarily bad. It's possible for a duplicate question to be a good question. That doesn't mean all duplicates are necessarily good questions. Duplicates aren't deleted automatically because the automated systems aren't sophisticated enough to know which ones are the good ones and which ones are the bad ones. But duplicating a bad question doesn't turn it into a good question just because it's been asked before, that's nonsensical. – Servy May 8 '18 at 13:14
  • @Servy But a bad question is a bad question, regardless of whether it's a duplicate. There's no harm simply for closing it as a bad question rather than as a duplicate. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog May 8 '18 at 13:18
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog But there is harm in you, and the proposed change to the close reason, falsely claiming that all duplicates are good questions. Saying that not all duplicates are bad is fine, it's certainly possible (though uncommon) to see a question that is both a good question and a duplicate. And as mentioned earlier, just because a question isn't a good question doesn't mean there's another close reason that applies. – Servy May 8 '18 at 13:22
  • @Servy I have edited my question. I acknowledge that not all duplicates are good. I don't know how to word the notice much better. Ideas are welcome. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 8 '18 at 13:27
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I agree the duplicate notice comes across as not very friendly, and totally agree with wording it more in line with how people actually talk when they're trying to be pleasant to each other.

Just to dissect your suggestion...

It seems that this question has been asked before

Arguably, that's not always the case... sometimes a particular question may not have been asked before (or may have been asked from a very different angle, or with very different wording) and yet still have a good answer on another question.

and already has an answer.

That is the point we want to stress. We want to make people feel like "Hey - I asked a question.... now I have an answer - everything's great!"

Being a duplicate doesn't make your question bad; we just want to keep all the answers in one place.

Saying this explicitly sounds a little bit patronising, to me - I'd hope we could imply this in the tone and wording, rather than have to say it outright.

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.

TBH if the answers genuinely don't address the question as worded, then it shouldn't actually have been dupe-closed. Perhaps we could word it more like... "If those answers are not helpful..." or "If those answers don't have the information you need..."

  • Thanks! It may be a little patronizing, but I find it less harmful than not bringing it up. Leaving things implicit is dangerous online; to get something across to most you have to make it explicit. I agree fully with the last part; I had taken the start "If those answers..." from the existing notice. Sometimes non-dupes are closed as dupes, and I find it important to say that the OP can argue why it's not a dupe. That elaboration often improves the question overall. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 8 '18 at 14:02
  • If the questions don't closely match, then they shouldn't be considered duplicates. Another question may contain an answer that answers the new question, but the linking of the questions as duplicates should be valid even if that answer were deleted. – curiousdannii May 8 '18 at 14:04
  • @JoonasIlmavirta all fair points! – topo morto May 8 '18 at 14:05
  • @curiousdannii " the linking of the questions as duplicates should be valid even if that answer were deleted" - I agree. I'm thinking of, for example, cases where a new question has been worded as a more specific version of a more general older question, or where the vocabulary used is very different but the concepts are identical. – topo morto May 8 '18 at 14:07
  • Though having said that, I don't necessarily support closing as duplicate when there isn't a good answer to an existing question, even if that existing question is duplicated by the new question! – topo morto May 8 '18 at 14:47
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Your idea is very solid, but some people don't simply ask questions for an answer -- they also want unicorn points and social interaction. In this case I think we should provide an alternative close-reason that sends them to a more appropriate Stack Exchange site.

For example, let's say you were asking a question about Vim and it's already on Stack Overflow,

This question has been asked before and already has an answer on this site in the network. You can find the answer at this link. If you would like to ask the question anyway, you can try your luck at the Vi and Vim Stack Exchange site and regardless of whether or not we have the question, they may not and so it'll be welcome there.

The real problem with the Close as Dupe option is not that it isn't nice enough, but that it misguides users into thinking that the network, as a whole, has a sane stance against duplicate content, and that's simply not so. So long as you ask a question on a site that doesn't have it, where it would otherwise be on topic -- that question is perfectly fine. We should have a better mechanism for assisting users in discovering that.

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    Most sites don't have much overlap with others. This is not useful and would require a major change to the UI to even implement as it would require choosing a specific site, not just an update to the text. xkcd.com/1425 – Catija May 8 '18 at 13:22
  • Nonense you know how many questions about PostgreSQL I'd have to close as a duplicate on Stack Overflow, but that Database Administrators has no version of? If I was guess, most technical questions are on topic at two or three sites. – Evan Carroll May 8 '18 at 13:24

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