Former co-founder Jeff Atwood seemed to think parallel paths to a solution were a good thing. He wrote,
some duplication is desirable. 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. And isn’t that, really, the whole point of this exercise?
~ Jeff Atwood - 2010 Strangedupe: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication
Is this logic still sound? Should SE consider rewarding subtle variants of a question? Or at least stop stigmatizing them by calling them duplicates to invite downvotes?
So I feel a parallel question label is the ideal solution - it links your problem to an answer instead of to a question for the OP to rummage around through looking for a pseudo-related answer. First, parallel is the accurate term to describe two things arriving at the same place. Like driving Interstate 10 West and Highway 66 West both will take you to Los Angeles, but certainly they are not "duplicate paths." The same is true about questions.
(The example below is ridiculously simple out of respect for your reading time. A complete and detailed example is found here)
Here are 5 paralel questions which lead to the answer, "1967 Chevrolet Camaro":
What is the first Chevrolet muscle car?
What was the pace car in the 1967 Daytona 500?
Did the Camaro ever have window vents?
What was the black car in Better Off Dead?
What was the Chevy II Nova frame based on?
The band-aid approach used now is to simply link the "duplicate" question to the original and shut down answering for the "duplicate."
The real-world problem for users
To the point, assume I am an expert because I found a note from Gene Roddenberry detailing how the zero-point extraction system works in the Star Trek fictional universe. I want to share this treasure with the fans, and I also believe it's worth some reputation.
I can't post and answer my own question "How does a ZPE work"- it would be a duplicate. Phoenix already asked this.
I can't answer Phoenix's led as a dupe. No answers allowed.
A can't answer the parallel question "How are self-replicating mines supposed to work" because my answer doesn't talk about the whole mine, it talks about this magical system used in many things. My ZPE answer would be off-topic and low quality for a question about mines. I would get down-voted. Also, Phoenix will never know their question was answered because answers to the parallel question doesn't alert them.
My trove of valuable information is in an information graveyard created by poorly-connected meta data with an epitaph reading What is a zero point extraction system? [duplicate]
Factually these two questions are parallel, not duplicates. The mines use a zero-point extraction system, which in a good response would explain what that means, but we don't advocate for that. The cycle is here: Q1:How does a mine work? A:It uses a ZPE. Q2: How does a ZPE work? A:[Duplicate - see Q1] Information death.
I feel users like Phoenix who arrive at a common solution by different paths should not be deprived of all reputation. The site benefits from their work in broadening the search effectiveness, yet the answer to their question can never be posted.
Hasty Rough draft of a feature - preventing dupe stigma
Parallel questions can both link to "duplicate answers" as a possible solution as voted by users (A user votes that the question's answer already exists and adds a link to the answer, not the question, just like dupe questions do now), as well as add reputation to the parallel poster when the parallel answer is up/down voted. Phoenix can "accept" a parallel answer voted by another user, conveying reputation.
Yes, this does mean one single answer can appear under and be voted on for two distinct questions, depending on how sitable it is to each. Answers do not have rote up/down vote counts instead an u/d count per parallel question is recorded.
Eventually the answer quality encompases a larger scope of questions and is arrived at by many more search terms.