Judging by the score, it seems a sizable number of users appear to disagree with the request. The downvotes don't bother me, they don't, but I would like to be sure that everyone is on the same page and some users are not downvoting this as a knee jerk reaction.


Duplicate on-topic questions whose titles differ substantially from the original should be preserved even if no answer is posted. Why? Because it will stop future duplicates. How? 1. It will appear in the similar questions window. For example,

enter image description here

Note that the first result is quite helpful, if nothing else its title tells me that my question has been asked before. It is not the official response, but I'll be motivated to read that post.

  1. Downvoting an unanswered duplicate post whose title is significantly unique, means condemning it to deletion.

On MSE there are hundreds of duplicate questions with scores lower than -20 and yet they will never be deleted by the system because they have one or more upvoted answers. See the screenshot above for an example.

In fact, here is the first similar question that the system provided in the box:
why don't add a comment when downvoting?. It has a score of -8 but as it has an upvoted answer, the question will not be deleted. Did it stop me from posting a very similar = identical question? Yes, it did!. Of course we are all aware that AI is not infallible, and some users will stubbornly ignore the list of similar questions but not everyone. Some users will find their answer and either not post a dupe or come up with ways to argue why the official response does not answer their query, which in turn will make the question more useful and helpful.


Back in September 2014, the following was posted: Turn off the roomba for child meta sites. The accepted and only answer posted, explained why this was not such a great request

There are a seemingly-endless number of bad ideas; we don't really need to archive them.

Of course... If someone writes up a really good explanation for why an idea is bad, that can be worth keeping around.

So if you see a meta question you don't want lost, write a good answer to it.
@shog9 ( Dec 5 '14)

I would argue there is one exception that should be made. Unanswered questions that are duplicates.

It's my understanding that these posts can be deleted even when the correct answer supplied is closing it as a duplicate of an older, usually highly upvoted, question.

(Note that abandoned questions that are duplicate targets are still subject to automatic deletion by the Community user if any of the criteria apply.) Source

There's an advantage in protecting dupes from deletion when their titles are significantly different from the older question. Take for example the recently closed question

  1. "Could someone help me understand why I can't post on Stack Overflow?"

The title above is vastly different from the original older post, which is the site's official response. Yesterday, if you typed the key words why "can't I post" using the site's search box, you would not have found the original question.

  1. "What can I do when getting “We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account”?"

Nonetheless, it's easy to see why veteran users would downvote the former; the request has been asked many times before, the OP doesn't seem to have done any research, and the original probably shows up in the sidebar. However, downvoting a duplicate into oblivion is detrimental to the health of the entire network for two main reasons.

First, it leaves a nasty impression of the community. It suggests that its most valuable members hold a painfully low opinion of the querent ("..., reposts of the same question by the same user? Sure, why not. Punish the wicked, I say." as one user said). It informs the OP that experienced users view them as time wasters and/or slackers, if not worse. Secondly, but equally as important, protecting a dupe from deletion will stop future duplicates.

In Defense of Dupes

  • only off-topic or unintelligible questions should be deleted; duplicates are quite useful to keep around. @mmyers (Dec 8 '09)

  • Leave duplicate questions that are significantly different in wording. @Shog9♦ (Dec 8 '09)

  • "There’s often benefit to having multiple subtle variants of a question around, as people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds people can find the answer they’re looking for." [...] "Having one “perfect” form of a question that contains every possible answer to every slight variation of that question is a myth at best and actively harmful at worst." @JeffAtwood (November 16, 2010)

  • Duplicate questions are not necessarily bad; different descriptions of the same problem help future visitors to find the answers they're looking for.
    Try to remember that beginners are still learning terminology, and even the simplest of answers might be eluding them simply because they did not know what to search for. There could also be language barriers at play. Tim Post♦ (Aug 14 '18)

  • Downvoting to oblivion duplicate Qs does nothing to help dispel the urban myth [Stack Overflow's poor reputation] @Mari-Lou A (July 26 '19) source

When should a duplicate be deleted?

There is a duplicate post with a score of -80. Objectively, it is a hugely unpopular Feature Request, it has been soundly rejected by the community. It survives by virtue of it receiving five answers. Let's compare its title with the older canonical title.

  • Anti-Badges for trolling/ridiculous behavior [duplicate] (-80)
  • temporal Anti-badges with negative side effects to discourage bad behaviour (-16)

The only significant term that the duplicate question has over the original is "trolling" other than that it is a perfect duplicate.

  • I propose that heavily downvoted questions or requests with almost IDENTICAL titles to that of older posts should continue to be closed as duplicates and then deleted. If there are any answers posted, these can be migrated to the older question.


Comments below have alerted me that some users believe this request is extended to every site on the network. It could well do, but initially I was thinking of child meta sites and in particular, MSE (Meta), hence that first link. Apologies for any possible confusion created.


Do not delete good duplicates!
Do people downvote duplicates?
How should duplicate questions be handled?
Should we downvote duplicates?
Should I downvote a duplicate question?
Why are heavily downvoted questions not deleted? (my explanation: because the answers posted were upvoted.)
Duplicate question etiquette: to delete or not to delete?
Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication
Why do users downvote duplicates, but not origins?
People MUST be rewarded for finding duplicates An interesting post, well worth the read, that currently has a score of 202.

  • I know what the title says, which is why I'm confused. Why are you suggesting that the criteria for duplicate questions should be any different than the criteria for any other question? Why is it better to keep a duplicate than something else that would be deleted? Jul 26, 2019 at 13:28
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    Quite possibly, the excerpt which I quoted from does not make clear that duplicate questions can be deleted by the roomba (i.e the system). I explained why a duplicate question, especially one whose title is vastly different from the original, should not be deleted. It stops new/future duplicates. Jul 26, 2019 at 13:30
  • If you're saying that duplicate questions don't follow the same automated criteria for deletion as other questions, then that's not clear—and it's not something I'd ever understood to be the case. In my mind, they should be treated identically to every other type of question. Jul 26, 2019 at 13:33
  • The criteria for deletion is the same. It says as much in the quoted excerpt. I'm sorry if that wording confuses you, but that is its message or at least that is how I interpreted it. Unanswered questions that are downvoted are liable for automatic deletion, even if they were posted in good faith and and their titles significantly different from the original. Jul 26, 2019 at 13:37
  • Please read my comments and the question carefully. It's all there. I am not suggesting that low off-topic questions should be exempt from deletion but questions that are closed as dupes, if the wording is siginificantly different from the original, should NOT be deleted. I also posted a link showing how the key words in a dupe did and could not lead an OP to find the answer. Jul 26, 2019 at 13:45
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    The gist of this feature request, then, is not really so much about preserving the question itself as allowing for a mechanism for synonymous question titles. (If I really parse what's being asked.) I can agree with that in principle (Allow for question title synonyms.), but it doesn't seem to me as if keeping whole questions around only to accomplish that would be the best way of implementing it. Jul 26, 2019 at 13:46
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    There are a few thousand NullPointerException dupes, with many being posted every day. Many of these add absolutely no value to SO, and them not being deleted may be seen as an incentive to post more. There's many dupes that are just plain out trash - there's no other way to describe it. That being said, those few rare dupes that actually serve as a good pointer to a dupe should of course stay. Emphasis on rare though. Also, this isn't a feature request. This is a call to action (or, well, call to not take action, I guess). Jul 26, 2019 at 15:40
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    Just to clarify - this isn't specific to SO, but using SO as an example is perfect due to the volume of trash it generates. The point is, low-quality duplicates will always exist, and those should be deleted regardless of what site it's on. But in the event there's a dupe that's actually good, which, again, is rare, those are actually useful duplicates. There's a reason the system lets you close a question as a duplicate of a question that's closed as a duplicate. Jul 26, 2019 at 16:25
  • When should I vote to delete a question?. It says i depends on context and what duplicate questions are asking about. Do you count that is supporting your request or opposing?
    – Nog Shine
    Jul 27, 2019 at 11:03
  • @NogShine the problem arises when the on-topic duplicate question has no answers posted but is still downvoted, sometimes into oblivion, it doesn't matter if one or more users cast a vote in favour of deletion, the "roomba" will do it for them anyway. If the Q is an exact duplicate it makes no sense to protect it but it does if the title is original. The answer in the linked post does not really mention this not-rare case scenario. Hence I am asking users to think twice before casting their DVs on a dupe. Jul 27, 2019 at 11:09
  • @NogShine by your comment, it seems you have understood the crux of the post, which is all I really care about. So thank you, at least I am reassured that my post is not ambivalent or ambiguous. Jul 27, 2019 at 11:14
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    So... just a quick note about the 2nd case (re: question ban), those users are already pointed out to the respective help center by the system (for question-bans and answer-bans), so most of us are confused (and possibly give up), why they still ask "why can't I post" when they've been told the reason and the solution... Jul 27, 2019 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


Duplicate questions tend to get down votes, for lacking research. Nothing is going to change that.

As for deleting duplicates, you seem to be on a rant without a much evidence that that duplicates are being deleted or that there is any ongoing push to delete them.

Should duplicates be deleted?

In general, no: most duplicates stay around. Having multiple copies of the same question with different wording is useful as search fodder, because people looking for an answer may use different wording too.

Duplicates that are word-for-word copies or that are so poorly written that they are not useful may be deleted by users with sufficient privilege Source

The only duplicates that get auto deleted are

duplicate questions without answers that are downvoted DO get deleted after 30 days. Source

Most of these that I have personally seen, are blatantly poorly researched and fall into the group of "word-for-word copies or that are so poorly written that they are not useful"

  • 6
    I’d also add that we don’t need that 4.512.387th dupe of “make commenting on downvotes mandatory”. Duplicates are signposts and help mitigate the Chinese menu problem, but at some point, more duplicates are not useful.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 26, 2019 at 17:52
  • I'd argue that by far most duplicates actually qualify as "word-for-word copies or ... so poorly written that they are not useful" Jul 26, 2019 at 17:55
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    @DanBron: "at some point, more duplicates are not useful." Unless people are voting based on having reached "some point", that point is kind of irrelevant. The point being made is that people do in fact downvote useful duplicates as well as those past the "some point" distinction, so auto-deleting them is not helpful, as it causes more duplicates to be asked. Jul 26, 2019 at 18:39
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    I'm ranting?? Where? I also provided a real life example of a closed question whose title is very different from the original. Do we lump it with all the others? Jul 26, 2019 at 18:53
  • @Mari-LouA - Just because the title is different does not mean a question cannot be a duplicate. If the actual question that is asked within the body, has already been asked and answered, it really should be closed as a duplicate (or the author of the second question should explain the reason it shouldn't be).
    – Ramhound
    Jul 26, 2019 at 19:01
  • @NicolBolas Secretly, and don’t tell anyone this: people are going to ask duplicate questions anyway. If they did any research at all, they would have found one of those 4,512,387th earlier questions. They ask dupes because they haven’t done research.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 26, 2019 at 19:02
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    @Ramhound: Her point with the title being different is not that they're not duplicates, but that the different title means that searches are better able to get to the right information, since either the original or the duplicate can be found. Therefore, deleting it harms the site. Jul 26, 2019 at 19:04
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    @Ramhound where did I say that the question was wrongly closed as a duplicate? The reason for closure was perfectly correct, I'm trying to explain that it shouldn't be deleted by the roomba because its title will/should stop future duplicates. Please see Nicol Bolas comments, who may or may not agree with my idea, but has clearly understood my position. Jul 26, 2019 at 19:06
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    @DanBron: "people are going to ask duplicate questions anyway" I don't really see how that changes anything. Unless your point is that dupe voting doesn't matter except in its capacity to close and remove questions. In which case we simply have fundamentally different ideas of how the site is supposed to work. Jul 26, 2019 at 19:06
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    @Ramhound When you type the title of a new question, the system automatically proposes several other questions, and asks the user/OP if their question has been answered elsewhere. Before posting I looked at several suggested posts and saw that none were identical to mine. Related--yes--but not identical. Jul 26, 2019 at 19:09
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    @NicolBolas Meaning that deleting the Qs is a good thing, not a bad thing. I do agree that the dupe closing mechanism is necessary but not sufficient. Part of that “necessary” is cleaning up the library, part of that is having a sufficient body of dupes to allow people who do do reasonable research to have a good chance of finding answers. But it’s not enough, and we are all anxiously waiting for improved tooling or transparency on roadmap from TPTB.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 26, 2019 at 19:29
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    @DanBron: "Meaning that deleting the Qs is a good thing, not a bad thing." Why? If the different titles for duplicates cast a wider searching net, then having different titles improves the chances of someone actually seeing the duplicate content. If the duplicate question represents a good marker that improves searching, why should it be deleted? Unless you're saying that voting patterns are good at telling the difference between good markers and bad ones. In which case [citation needed]. Jul 26, 2019 at 20:23

I agree with much of what you say, just not with the request. I'd be surprised if the regulars here (read "people that have the power and will to do the clean ups on meta.SE") disagree with the principles:

  • Poorly researched and easily searchable duplicates are expected to get a negative reception, downvotes, close votes, and ultimately, deletion, if someone with the power comes by them.
  • Duplicates that offer new insight into the problem, or grant us with new, useful search terms, should stay.
  • Duplicates that are genuinely hard to search are given the benefit of the doubt, downvoted less oftenly and less heavily.

I personally have seen these shaping behavior towards duplicates on this site, more or less consistently. The biggest problem here (and the reason for a mixed response to this question) is duplicates vary so widely in quality that, for every clear-cut proposal that doesn't narrow it further, someone who's been around often enough is going to come up with or imagine counterexamples. I don't think a request to delete and downvote more duplicates would be received any more positively. Your request would apply to a subset of questions that don't really have anything in common, even, and especially, on meta.SE, besides their duplicate status.

Of course, someone or a bunch of folks could be having a bad day, and misjudge a duplicate that could violate even their own principles of dealing with them, and the same could happen to any post on any topic on main sites. I could not read further into your request, that whether there are quite a number of recent duplicates a number of folks would find unfairly dealt with, but I saw the need to point out that duplicates can be good indeed, no matter how rare that occurrence is, and that the regular meta folks acknowledge that fact.

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