This question regarding C character pointers is asked in slightly different forms every single day on SO under the [c] and/or [c++] tags.

I normally vote to close as a dupe, but am beginning to lose the will to live as far as this particular topic is concerned.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with these endlessly repeated question?

  • Neil, do you have a big list? Whatever else comes of this discussion, lets have a bit of selective voting, closing, and inter-linking of a bunch of these... Then we should probably think about doing "How do I write a language?" and "How do I parse NestedStructureFoo with regular expressions?" too. Any other candidates? Jan 15, 2010 at 16:34
  • Sounds like more evidence of the futility of keeping duplicates around. Having dozens of linked copies already on the site is supposed to make the answer easier to find, but it doesn't seem to be doing so in many cases. It also assumes that people at least try searching first. Jan 15, 2010 at 16:46

4 Answers 4


Pick one of the duplicate questions and edit it so that:

  1. It is a comprehensive question covering all aspects of the problem
  2. It is named and tagged in a way that makes it easy to find
  • 2
    This would not affect the incoming stream of duplicates in any way. The concept of a "comprehensive question" is AFAIK purely theoretical, I've never seen any
    – Andomar
    Jan 15, 2010 at 16:10

Well, you can now refer them to the per-tag FAQ -- which is cleverly constructed of highly linked questions in that particular tag.


The more a question is linked. the higher it will rank in the tag FAQ.

So for XML, for example, it's:



From the FAQ:

No question is too trivial or too "newbie".

Your comments are quite opposed to that, and in fact you are quite demeaning to it. Yes, I agree that people should use the search method before posting, or at least "read" what suggestions are made when they write a title.

But the fact is, you will always get these kinds of questions. Since the SOFU sites can all too easily point it at a duplicate, and because the community is active, the duplicate questions are not a problem, and they will be closed quickly.

If you have had enough of it, just ignore it and move on to another question; there will be someone else to do it for you. But in general, although everything is done to avoid it, you can't prevent it from happening at all.

Keep also in mind that while this is "endlessly repeated" for you, it's not for someone who just joined the site.

  • 3
    +1 "this is "endlessly repeated" for you, not for someone who just came on the site." Exactly.
    – Andomar
    Jan 15, 2010 at 13:35
  • 1
    When there are already dozens (literally dozens) of surviving versions of this questions using every reasonable set of keywords and many that are unreasonable, the OP could have gotten the answer faster by searching than by asking. Really. They are not causing trouble by asking something simple (and judging by some of the incorrect answer we see offered up, it isn't that simple) but by wasting our time and their own. Jan 15, 2010 at 14:36
  • They can waste their time, it's not our business what they do with it. But it's about our time, the issue, nobody forces us to answer or anything. Flagging or voting to close for duplicate, if the duplicate is so obvious, takes a shorter time than answering it once again. And if nobody even does that, then they will finally search. The problem is about people who are losing their answering time on duplicated questions, rather.
    – Gnoupi
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:56
  • 3
    -1 duplicates must be an exception to this rule. Having hundreds and hundreds of instances of the same question (and thousands of answers) is a threat to the value of SO as a knowledge base.
    – Pekka
    Jan 15, 2010 at 15:16
  • @dmckee: If users ask duplicate questions, it's not because their goal is to waste your time. It's because they get more value that way
    – Andomar
    Jan 15, 2010 at 16:08
  • @Andomar: It might be. Sometimes. But those users are aware of what they are doing and generally explain why they are asking again. In the instance that Neil is talking about the posters are almost always first time visitor, and have simple been lazy. Mind you, we probably need a concerted effort to to down vote the cruft in the many duplicates, and develop a small number of really good answer to this question. There is far to much misinformation and ignorant guessing out there right now. Jan 15, 2010 at 16:31

I think it's okay if they get asked and answered endlessly. The answers will get better and better because the knowledge of the community improves. Each new question might just be the thing that pops up when people search for this particular issue.

Closing a question is like saying, we solved this yesterday, and we don't want to improve. But yesterday's answer wasn't good enough, or people would have found it while searching for the answer.

I even think I answered one of these yesterday and couldn't find a duplicate. That's saying something if it gets asked every day.

  • Yesterday's answer can be vastly superior and still not be found by the OP of today's question; either they don't search or the automated suggestion feature (which is hard to get right) failed them. Anyone sufficiently interested/annoyed can keep a bookmark of the best duplicate they've seen, and closing plus linking to that is about the best option, IMHO.
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 13:21
  • 8
    The answers don't get better and better, rather the reverse, because the most knowledgeable people have given up on the questions. And if you can't find 100s dof dupes of this question, I suggest you need to improve your SO search fu.
    – nb69307
    Jan 15, 2010 at 13:22
  • @Roger Pate: Searching for * or [] is like, pretty hard
    – Andomar
    Jan 15, 2010 at 13:25
  • 3
    This whole argument counters the objective of the site to have one question with the best possible answer instead of the same question in 10 different places. I have to go with Neil. User don't bother to read or even look to see if it is a duplicate, they post anyway. Jan 15, 2010 at 13:26
  • Andomar: add "or didn't know how to search" to my comment.
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 13:27
  • @Diago: Users are always right. An objective of a site is just meta ooze, it doesn't really matter
    – Andomar
    Jan 15, 2010 at 13:28
  • 1
    @Diago: Users don't bother to do that, that's a fact. And this is why there is a community guiding them. I'm not saying we should all waste our time on repeated questions. But in a way, the problem is not even about duplicate questions, it's about duplicate answers. If a user comes and doesn't make the effort to search or read suggestions, then indeed he should not be rewarded for that. Other users of SO should flag the question, comment about a duplicate. The bigger problem is more that people rush to answer, before checking about duplicate, thus feeding such behavior.
    – Gnoupi
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:03
  • 1
    Negating rep for questions marked duplicate within X time of posting could help prevent users answering obvious duplicates instead of finding a duplicate (but not rep gained after duplicate status is marked on the question?). Would suggest a rep bonus for finding duplicates, but really that seems self-defeating: the only interested users would game it to death.
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:08
  • You're looking at it from a regular's point of view. It'd be more useful to look from a new user's point of view. Why do they post the duplicate? Can the searching or question process be improved? For questions revolving around symbols like * and [], it might be next to impossible.
    – Andomar
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:17
  • Us mere mortals can't directly improve that (currently? who knows), even if it wasn't a really hard problem (suggesting duplicates before they post) in general, and I don't see "please make search better" as a warmly received [feature-request]. Do you believe new users are feeling outcast when their question is closed? Maybe some more descriptive text on their closed question would help: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/35721/…
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:40
  • Ideally, I'd like to rarely search for questions, and instead just click "ask question", type in some text, and get everything that covers that.
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:42
  • @Roger This is what is happening already, as soon as title is typed, when switching to content, it is giving duplicates. Not much more to be improved on that side.
    – Gnoupi
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:57
  • Except that feature doesn't work well for me, and presumably doesn't work well for anyone that gets through to post these FAQs. Maybe I'm just not asking the right questions. I mean it doesn't work well in selecting useful questions, the UI controls appear to work as designed.
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:59

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