Lately, I've been seeing some pretty liberal definitions of "exact duplicate" in some people closing SO questions. If I recall correctly, Jeff had intended to make it so that there were loose rules on closing duplicate questions. So I had always assumed that an exact duplicate was meant to be... well... an exact duplicate. So that if someone were to accidentally double-post a question, the second one would be closed.

Extremely similar topics should be posted in the thread itself. If I wanted to be berated for not utilizing search better, I'd go post on usenet. Now I realize that people who close threads don't mean to berate people. But it's difficult not to take offense at having a thread closed as a duplicate, and I feel that this may chase newbies away.

What is your interpretation of "exact duplicate?"

  • Lucky this is a community wiki or I would have closed it :-)
    – user14860
    Dec 9, 2008 at 3:49
  • I wouldn't have posted such a question without making it cw. :-) Dec 9, 2008 at 4:00
  • I edited the question so it wouldn't be closed as argumentative. It's a proper question, and deserves to be hashed out by the community. Dec 9, 2008 at 4:03
  • Thanks. That actually reads much better. Dec 9, 2008 at 4:16
  • And we are open again....
    – jjnguy
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:27
  • I was going to reopen it, but then again, it certainly isn't programming related... so I guess closing it is the Right Thing To Do.
    – SCdF
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:27
  • Whoops, closed wrong question, apologies. Must. Work. With. Less. Windows. Open...
    – user14860
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:28
  • It seems like people aren't necessarily having the easiest time deciding what should be closed and what is ok.
    – jjnguy
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:29
  • I don't usually close meta-questions if they're community since they're obviously not rep-seekers.
    – user14860
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:29
  • We should revisit this question, due to this: stackoverflow.com/questions/569860/… Feb 20, 2009 at 15:11

4 Answers 4


"Exact duplicate" to me means a question that will generate the same answer as another previous question.

When a question is closed as an exact duplicate, there should be a link to the older question. If it isn't really a duplicate, someone can reopen it.


The reason I close them as a dupe is if I find an earlier question to which nothing substantial is added by the new question. This evaluation, unfortunately, varies with how much sleep I had the night before :-).

As more and more (what I consider) rubbish, rep-seeking questions appear on SO, it devalues its usefulness in my opinion, so I tend to close for other reasons as well.

Questions like "Do you have a widescreen monitor?" (yes or no are the only possible answers, which one is right and how does this relate specifically to programming rather than, say, running Word?) and "How do you meet a partner when you're working 80-hour weeks?" - I mean, who really gives a XXXX? I thought SO was to be for programming questions, not some "Dear Abbey" column for the terminally lovestruck.

I'm getting to the point where I'd like to shut down every question that can't be answered with either an algorithm or code snippet, but my votes are, of course, limited (that's a good thing, I assure you).

By all means, if you disagree, vote me down. If enough of you get together, you can take away my power to close questions altogether (that's not a dare or a challenge by the way, I'd rather you leave me alone :-).

  • Your second point is most important: When I see a user with higher rep (anything about 1000), I give them a lot less leeway than a 'newbie'. They know their way around the site, and Reputation (especially with the power that comes with it), shouldn't be that easy to get. Dec 9, 2008 at 4:09
  • Actually, that's a good point, Gortok, I'll be gentler with the newbies in future (unless it's an obvious troll).
    – user14860
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:15
  • hmmm... rep doesn't mean very much. I've seen bad answers by 10k+ I've seen great answers by newbs. Given that there are a bunch of programmers here, don't you think someone can figure out the flaws in the rep system and easily create a 10k account?
    – mson
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:55
  • 1
    How, mson? There's a lot of good coders here but each one only has so much power. The swarm, on the other hand, can annihilate a 10k rep very quickly. If everyone upvoted your good newbies and downvoted your bad 10k'ers, they'd soon equalize.
    – user14860
    Dec 9, 2008 at 5:58
  • It's best not to explain how to do such things. Almost anything can be circumvented...
    – mson
    Dec 9, 2008 at 19:22
  • 2
    I thought the question was about exact duplicate not closing because they are off topic. I agree that discussion questions should be closed, but unless I'm confused, that's not what this is about.
    – CoffeeRain
    Feb 29, 2012 at 15:58

I closed the reference question because it has the same answers as the other two questions just like it.

  • Thanks for posting here. I do see where you're coming from on this. I'm torn because on one hand I'd hate to see SO turn into a series of rehashes of the same question. But I also think that sometimes we may need to loosen up a bit. I suppose it's just a difference of opinion. Dec 9, 2008 at 3:57
  • I don't close questions lightly. I will usually ask if another 3k+ agrees with me. I just felt that since there were already two questions of the same type, we didn't need another one.
    – jjnguy
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:03
  • I was close to closing the second question of the series, but instead I just posted an answer to my answer to the first question. Three of the same question is too much though.
    – jjnguy
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:04
  • I agree, it should have been closed. Dec 9, 2008 at 4:10
  • Good to hear, lets get our pitchforks and storm the swamp!!! :P
    – jjnguy
    Dec 9, 2008 at 4:16

If the questions are semantically the same even though they don't use exactly the same words then I would consider them to be duplicates, though perhaps not exact duplicates. I realize that I probably have a different opinion on this subject than Jeff since he reopened a question of his that I had closed for this reason.

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