I've been on SO since the start and vaguely recall the idea was duplicates should actually be removed, but their titles still retained somehow - often a closed question is the top result on Google for a given search term which suggests those terms are valuable.

I do not think I ever saw an example of this, but I do see huge numbers of closed questions - often very highly up-voted.

So two parts to my question:

  1. Have I misunderstood the procedures that are supposed to be followed - if so what are they?
  2. Are procedures actually followed and if not, does this indicate they're unworkable?

Mainly this is a question seeking to understand how SE sites work. It is not intended as a complaint!


Duplicates may act as signposts to the underlying question so they are not always removed. If searching always turns up the duplicate and from there you get your answer then that's all to the good.

Duplicates that don't help with searching or understanding are not useful and can be deleted.

We measure usefulness via the question's score of course and the roomba treats duplicates the same as any other question.

If the duplicate is scored -1 or less and is 30 days old, and (as is usual with duplicates) has no answers itself then it will be deleted. Other roomba reasons may apply of course.

Merging is a manual process that moderators can do. You can request merging by flagging but it's basically if the duplicate has answers that are useful so we don't have to look in multiple places for the answers to a single base question.

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  • So does this mean it's ever the case google might return a link to a title of a question that is removed, but that link redirects to the 'correct' question? i..e if the same question is asked in multiple ways with different (good) titles, are those multiple titles retained somehow? – Mr. Boy May 12 at 13:15
  • 2
    If the question is removed, google won't index it. If not then users that are not logged in will see the original question and its answers rather than the duplicate. – Robert Longson May 12 at 13:50

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