"Trust me then, there's a duplicate out there somewhere, at least I'm effing looking for one"

[...] commented a recent Stack Overflow user on a question I asked and then answered (as a tandem ask-then-answer question).

Clearly the priority for this person was to find a duplicate and close the question rather than allow the answer I'd posted to stand or allow others to answer or make suggestions.

Why did the comment begin with

"Trust me then [...]"

Because the first "duplicate question" that the user had proposed had elicited the following (quite accurate) response from another user:

"That has nothing to do with what is being asked here"

Then - surprise, surprise - it turned out that the subsequently nominated "duplicate question", (which was accepted), turned out, on not-particularly-detailed reading not to be a duplicate at all.

It certainly involved some of the same concepts (javascript events, hovers and mouseovers) but it was a different question looking explicitly for a different answer.

The accepted answer of the "duplicate" would not have answered the question I posted, nor would it have really made sense in the context of the question I posted.

I know people will do their own thing and Stack Overflow is a platform for everyone to use as they see fit but these sort of false positive "duplicates" are frustrating.

It strikes me that some Stack Overflow members would rather hunt for duplicates than either:

  1. Try to answer the question; or
  2. Move on and find a question they can answer

Even if hunting for duplicates is a greater priority for a given user, perhaps they should at least make the effort on their chosen quest to find an answer which actually is a duplicate of the question they're trying to close? (This is the most frustrating aspect of all. It's one thing to see one's question closed; it's quite another to see it closed on a false premise.)

Question: What can we all do to help make answering questions (and reading questions properly) a higher priority than trying to find duplicates (and sometimes false positive duplicates)?


The tandem question-answer I posted:

The proposed and accepted duplicate:

  • 9
    Should this be on meta.stackoverflow.com instead, SO-specific? – ChrisW Nov 2 '19 at 23:07
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    Oh. Probably, yes. I'm happy to move it across, if Meta Stack Exchange is really not the right place for this question. – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:09
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    Maybe I'm missing something, but does this question contain more than just a petty rant and a duplicate of "This question may already have an answer here" - but it does not - or - What can I do when I think my question's not a duplicate?? – Tom Nov 2 '19 at 23:23
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    Very droll, @Tom. – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:26
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    What else did it contain before your edit? You complained about someone closing your question and you argued your question isn't a duplicate. For the latter there is already a process defined (see my link) and it should also be displayed in the "marked as duplicate" information box. – Tom Nov 2 '19 at 23:35
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    I think the user is telling you "this happens a lot, someone has asked it, I will go find it, if you want a more precise match, fine, I'll find that, and grumble grumble you should have gone and looked for it, you should have known there are dozens of variants on this question already." I understand they haven't told you very politely, and that when you're new to something you don't know what problems happen all the time. But understand, if that user finds you the perfect dupe, the one whose answers solve your problem, that's a gift. Try not to be angry that they are looking for it. – Kate Gregory Nov 2 '19 at 23:59
  • I'm not angry at all, just a little exasperated. I know that there isn't a question or an answer like the pair I posted anywhere on SO, because I spent a ton of time looking for them and I found nothing. So then I put a lot of effort into writing out a comprehensive Q&A pair with working examples. [1/2] – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 0:04
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    And then, within a couple of minutes someone came along swearing and tried to throw multiple dupe nominations at the question in an effort to get the question shut down. And the dupe they managed it with was a false positive (ie. a question which wasn't asking the same thing and which had an accepted answer and other answers... none of which answered the question). [2/2] – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 0:04
  • So, in short, there aren't dozens of variants on this question already. In fact the question appears to be entirely absent from the network. Which is why I went to the time and trouble to write out a comprehensive tandem Q&A. I'd already solved my own problem. I was trying to help other SO members who might in the future run across the same problem. – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 0:10
  • The root of the problem here is that if you didn't read the question properly you might assume that it was similar to other questions like: Is there a javascript equivalent of CSS :hover? But it's not asking that at all. It has nothing to do with CSS. It's about getting JS to simulate human actions which fire event listeners when it lacks native methods (like .click()) to do so. But anyone who read the question would know that. They might possibly appreciate the approach I posted as a solution, too. – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 0:22
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    "It strikes me that some Stack Overflow would rather hunt for duplicates" Trust me then, there's a duplicate out there somewhere, at least I'm effing looking for one... Like: wait wat... did you just invent a nonexistent hover event? Oh you want to fire a "native" event. Well that has been asked and answered before. Trust me... without effing looking I know it is... – PeeHaa Nov 3 '19 at 0:34
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    Hey, I've had some really roller coaster questions. Close, reopen, close, reopen -- I think on Academia I might have had one that had the rinse and repeat go-round three times. What I've learned: Be patient. People are fallible. Words are easy to misunderstand. Each time your question gets closed, edit it to try to make your intention clearer, and do refer clearly back to the proposed duplicate to show how yours is different. If there's one thing SE will teach people, it's to be patient and unflappable.... – aparente001 Nov 3 '19 at 7:47
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    N.B. This question has been flagged as off-topic, on the basis that "This question's topic is only applicable to one specific site in the Stack Exchange Network" I believe the example in the question is only applicable to one specific site (Stack Overflow) but I believe the scenario in the question (users determinedly and defiantly looking to close questions as duplicates when they haven't read the question properly and when they can't find a duplicate, flagging anyway) is pertinent to any site in the Stack Exchange Network. – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 9:32
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    And if not... why is it apparently so hard to find a dupe? Is there something wrong with both Google Search and SO Search? Is it possible that we might take the position that there isn't a dupe until someone actually finds one? [2/2] – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 9:39
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    I'm not convinced this question merits 9 downvotes. Let's review: I asked & answered a question absent from the SE network. Someone aggressively tried to close the question (and eventually succeeded). They did so with a false positive, meaning that if there's any real dupe out there, it still hasn't been found by anyone. I report the situation here & receive 9 downvotes. Are the 9 downvoters of the opinion that aggressively trying to close a question with a false positive is entirely acceptable and any question in MSE suggesting this might be detrimental to the SE network should be downvoted? – Rounin Nov 3 '19 at 22:47

It strikes me that some Stack Overflow would rather hunt for duplicates than either:

  1. Try to answer the question; or
  2. Move on and find a question they can answer

Yes, this is quite understandable, we want to make things easier to find.

The purpose of SO is to build an archive of quality Q&A which can be used as reference points for people to come back to. The issue with having multiple questions which essentially ask the same thing is that the knowledge is fragmented across the various questions thereby making it harder to find and that goes against the principle reason for the site.

Even if hunting for duplicates is a greater priority for a given user, perhaps they should at least make the effort on their chosen quest to find an answer which actually is a duplicate of the question they're trying to close?

Of course, this is key. If a user happens to make a mistake then kindly inform them factually why a question isn't a duplicate of the one they suggested. Questions can be reopened once closed precisely for this reason.

If all else fails, you can always take it to Meta Stack Overflow and make a case for it to be reopened.

  • 1
    Re: "if a user does happen to make a mistake then kindly inform them factually why they are wrong and that this isn't a duplicate" - yes I did this. I wrote: "The question above is not a duplicate of the question referenced in the duplicate notice. The latter question is concerned with CSS pseudo-class :hover - this question is concerned with computationally simulating human user interaction." – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:12
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    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica If that didn't change anything then follow the advice from the final line. – Script47 Nov 2 '19 at 23:13
  • @RouninsaysJesuisMonica I'd focus on the merits of your question and purely the facts. MSO doesn't like it when folk come in guns blazing without any evidence. – Script47 Nov 2 '19 at 23:16
  • Sure, thank you. Believe me, I don't like it either. I'm beyond tired of how some SO members are so much more eager to prioritise duplicate flags above answers - and then reference false positives. I come here to learn and to help people. My rule of thumb is that if I can't help with a question I move on to a question I can help with. I don't go around trying to look for ways I can close questions. I also (often) find myself upvoting questions with negative scores which might not be perfect, but don't nearly deserve the negative pile-on they have received. – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:20
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    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica Hmm. IMHO, everyone, both askers & answerers should put more effort into searching for possible dupes. But of course they need to be good dupe targets, and you have every right to protest if a question is closed using a poor dupe target. – PM 2Ring Nov 2 '19 at 23:24
  • Naturally, before asking the question, I searched for the question across Stack Overflow. I did not find it anywhere else on SO. The person who nominated at least two duplicates didn't find it either. But that didn't stop them "effing" looking for one. – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:32
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    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica fundamentally I believe you've misunderstood the site. Looking for duplicates is not a bad thing, in fact, as my answer explains, for the stated purpose of SO, it's a good thing. It just depends on how it's executed and it just so happens that for you it might not have been executed well. – Script47 Nov 2 '19 at 23:35
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    @RouninsaysJesuisMonica FWIW, your question & answer look fine to me, although my JS is very rusty these days. Also, I think people should be encouraged to write good canonical Q&A pairs for useful topics, even if 1 or 2 existing questions vaguely cover the topic. That way, the new Q&A can be a useful dupe target, and the old questions may even be closed using the new one as the target. – PM 2Ring Nov 2 '19 at 23:38
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    The problem with dupes isn't the dupe questions, it's the dupe answers. It's not just the issue of fragmenting the knowledge, it also reduces the effectiveness of the voting process. All the answers should be in a single pool so they all compete with each other for votes. Having multiple pools makes it a lot harder for future readers to know which answers are the best. Some more of my thoughts on dupes: meta.stackoverflow.com/a/322110/4014959 – PM 2Ring Nov 2 '19 at 23:41
  • Thank you @PM2Ring. I did put a lot of effort into the Q&A. It's a bit dismaying to see someone so keen to shut the whole thing down only minutes after I posted it and - unable to find anything better - eventually settling on a false positive as their means to do so. – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:42
  • That's the single best explanation of dupes I have ever read. Thank you. – Rounin Nov 2 '19 at 23:43

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