Another solution to this problem:


People are voting to close as exact duplicate without leaving comments. Such votes are invisible to everyone under 3k. A comment is the primary way others can see that there's a duplicate until the question is actually closed. Until people are notified, the question may get answers that really should go to the primary question.

Possible solution:

  • When voting to close as exact duplicate, the system automatically adds a question comment, Possible duplicate of -link-
  • It would search the comments for the number of the duplicate, and if found it wouldn't add the new comment (ie, someone has already pointed out the dupe) but if not then it would add the comment. This will also repress extra comments as others add their vote to close, unless they chose a different dupe primary.
  • The comment would be either under the community user, or the user that voted to close as duplicate

This would give us the same information we had when people manually marked questions with dupe info, and the same information we get when people comment on the question about the dupe. Automating it would make it a little faster and consistent.

  • 3
    See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1383/… – sth Mar 26 '10 at 18:58
  • Interesting idea. Would you further suggest that the auto-comments be removed if the associated vote-to-close expires (where close-votes are eventually removed after a certain period of time)? – Robert Cartaino Mar 26 '10 at 19:11
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    @Robert - no, it's posted as a "possible duplicate" and as a comment. If anything it would actually more strongly connect related questions, and others coming later to the question might get more out of looking through user-suggested duplicates than otherwise. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:17
  • @Pollyanna - That's what I first thought, too. But a vote aging off implies that the linked question was not a dupe. If the question was closed, the comments would lock in. What I see is that a long-lived question that received, say, one close-vote per week could potentially accumulate dozens-to-hundreds of "possible duplicate" comments over time. I'm just looking at the potential to accumulate a lot of cruft. Or worse, the most popular questions would become a link/spam magnet. i.e. "I'm going to 'close' the top 50 questions so they link to my posts." – Robert Cartaino Mar 26 '10 at 19:24
  • @Robert - I think it's necessary that in the same process it searches the comments for the question number, and only posts a new "dupe comment" if the question number doesn't currently appear in the comments. This would prevent multiple comments pointing to the same dupe. I've answered the spam problem in my comment to your post here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/44173/… – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:26
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    @Robert: you could just go through the top 50 questions and post comments with your links. You could do that now... You'd probably find your account suspended or deleted soon afterward, but you could do it. – Shog9 Mar 26 '10 at 19:33
  • possible duplicate of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1383/… - alright, it works! – random Mar 30 '10 at 10:07
  • possible duplicate of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1/… – Thomas Bonini Mar 30 '10 at 10:24
  • possible duplicate of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/22366/… – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 10:24
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    Sweet! It won't be long before this question is closed due to testing... – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 10:25
  • Also duplicate of 40316. I regret that I have but one close vote to give for my question. – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 10:27
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    The bounty is for whomever best describes the new feature and updates the relevant FAQs, related questions, etc so the feature is well documented such that new closers (people with 3k rep) aren't surprised when they find they are posting comments they didn't realize they were posting. Especially since there's liable to be a small backlash about people who think it's important that their close-as-dupe votes be kept anonymous to avoid revenge voting. – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 10:31
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    @Arjan: Already noticed and already filed a request! meta.stackexchange.com/questions/44528/… ! – Thomas Bonini Mar 30 '10 at 10:31

I've updated two pieces of the FAQ:

How to handle duplicate questions?

What happens when I vote to close as duplicate?

Or: Why did a comment with my name on it just appear?

Under the new system, a vote to close as duplicate will automatically post a comment with the duplicate link if no one else had voted for that particular duplicate. The user who cast the vote is the owner of the comment and can edit or delete it like any other comment.

Once the question is closed (even if it is not closed as a duplicate), these comments are deleted and the duplicate information is automatically edited into the question itself.


What is a "closed" question? How do they work?

Note: If anyone casts a vote for "Exact duplicate", an explanatory comment linking to the possible duplicate is automatically posted by the system in their name. This makes the process more transparent to users who cannot vote to close.

  • note that now these comments are only deleted in the case where the question was in fact closed as a dupe – Jeff Atwood Apr 20 '10 at 6:28
  • How were you awarded 550 reputation? – user215114 Nov 19 '13 at 20:35
  • @gparyani: This was back when the system added 50 rep to any bounty, so you only had to put up 50 to offer 100 points. That was scrapped when the potential for abuse became clear. – mmyers Nov 21 '13 at 15:57

I'd suggest it's under the community user. No need to show who's voting unless it's already closed and all 5 users reached an agreement.

FWIW, I always leave a comment with the duplicate if I vote and it's not already there (ie: I manually do your algorithm)

  • @Down - I think you're right about using the community user, but not due to secrecy. I think people might complain about the system leaving comments under their name. I also do the comment manually, but if the system did it for me, things would be a bit easier and faster. I wish everyone did. I've occasionally seen the close votes, check out the dupe, then add the comment myself even after a few people voted to close as dupe without commenting. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:00
  • Is there a potential abuse here? User votes-to-close as a way to create an anonymous comment which is actually a spammy link to another question? – Robert Cartaino Mar 26 '10 at 19:17
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    @Robert - Sure - this is a feature that could also be gamed. But keep in mind that it could only be gamed by someone with at least 3k, and users can flag for moderator attention. If someone is doing this, they can probably be handled by hand. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:24
  • Good point, I concede. – Robert Cartaino Mar 26 '10 at 19:37
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    well, I think closing (or reopening) should be a public vote process, and those who wish a question closed should be willing to put their names on that vote – Jeff Atwood Mar 30 '10 at 10:35
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    Someone asked in a (now deleted) comment if the auto-comments would allow for @user reply notifications (which would not work with @community). Like it's implemented now, it indeed does work, and I like that. – Arjan Mar 30 '10 at 10:52
  • And they must already accept that their name will be displayed, if they truly want it closed or reopened. If it's a huge issue, allow users to delete the auto-generated comment (should be rare in practice, right?), but keep their name on it for @replies. @Arjan: I deleted and edited into my other comment. :) – Gnome Mar 30 '10 at 10:53
  • @jeff, they do. It's displayed once it reaches the 5 threshold, I only feel it shouldn't be shown before it does. It's not a very strong position though – juan Mar 30 '10 at 12:38

Implemented, but in a very naive way.

I forsee code cleanup in my future tomorrow..

  • once closed, the question should auto-remove any comments of the type "possible duplicate of.."
  • when multiple people vote for the same dupe, should not insert duplicate comments (oh, the irony)
  • I did not consider ordering by time (should these be inserted with some fake time, or given fake upvotes so they sort to top?)

... would be to add an up-vote to the existing comment when a second user chooses the same link (again, keeping with common practice). Community would probably be simpler though.

Oh, that's a good idea!

  • 14
    Look at that bounty hunter. – random Mar 30 '10 at 10:30
  • Any chance the title can be shown too? (It would make the comment longer though.) Like Possible duplicate of "Notifying OP of duplicate questions" at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/22366/… (Yes, with an uppercase P. -- meta.stackexchange.com/questions/44528/…) – Arjan Mar 30 '10 at 10:34
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    Keep the timestamp the same as when the vote is cast so everything makes sense if the duplicates are discussed. Most of the time they'll neither be discussed nor will the timestamp matter, anyway. Are these comments Community owned, or can we @reply to them? – Gnome Mar 30 '10 at 10:43
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    @arjan hmm, maybe I should add support for the [title](link) syntax in comments to make that cleaner.. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/37758/inline-links-in-comments – Jeff Atwood Mar 30 '10 at 10:46
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    @random - Well, if you can't beat Jon on SO, Meta is the next best thing, right? ;-D – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 11:00
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    @Jeff - Don't auto-remove dupe comments, especially if you avoid inserting multiple comments for the same dupe. Leave the one comment there (upvoted as others also choose it) and if the question is opened again later, the comment will still be useful. If the question remains closed, there's no harm in having the comment still in place. – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 12:08
  • @Pollyanna, the close history would still be shown in the revision history. Do you still think leaving the comment is useful, just in case a question is re-opened? – Arjan Mar 30 '10 at 12:34
  • @Arjan - the revision history is not visible without clicking a link, and unless you go inspect the revision history of every question you visit then there's no way to tell that the question has already been closed and reopened, or that several people think it's a duplicate. The already accepted practice is to leave a comment that it's a dupe, and not delete the comment - the system is just automating it a bit. It's not any more redundant than people are already doing. – Pollyanna Mar 30 '10 at 12:45
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    @polly I don't see the point of the "possible duplicate of.." comments remaining once the question reaches the close threshold -- at that time, the information is edited into the body of the post itself! – Jeff Atwood Mar 30 '10 at 12:52
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    @Jeff: Except if the post isn't closed as a duplicate: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/46799/… – Greg Hewgill Apr 15 '10 at 23:22
  • Just for the archives, nice: the "possible duplicate" links now use inline-links. – Arjan May 8 '10 at 10:17

I like this idea, as it embodies what has become common practice.

Would be even better if these comments were forced to the top of the list so as to be visible even when multiple comments already exist...

An alternative to posting as Community would be to add an up-vote to the existing comment when a second user chooses the same link (again, keeping with common practice). Community would probably be simpler though.

  • May be not on the top, but definitely visible as if it were the most upvoted comment of the thread (without really showing fake votes). – perbert Mar 26 '10 at 19:02
  • I think making it bold should be sufficient, especially since the community user has a diamond, so it would also stand out due to that. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:06
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    @Pollyanna: I think that he was referring to the case of +5 comments existing pushing the Community comment to be hidden. – perbert Mar 26 '10 at 19:07
  • @voyager - Well, if the question already has a lot of comments, then I don't know that pushing the dupe link up the comment stack will really have any significant effect. I like the idea about each close vote for that dupe upvoting the related comment (whether it was give by community or not) thus it'll travel up the stack as more people agree with it. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:09
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    @voyager: exactly. The scenario I had in mind was the long, drawn-out argument over whether the question was appropriate or not, followed by links to duplicates rendering the discussion pointless. – Shog9 Mar 26 '10 at 19:11
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    Oh! The implementation of shoving it to the top of the list of comments isn't so hard after all (if they sort by comment date/time - they may sort by comment number, though) - when the comment is added, rather than putting the date/time of the vote, put the date/time of the question, or just a second earlier than the oldest comment. This'll depend on how they sort comments, but if sorted by date then shoving it to the top is relatively easy. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:36

I think the best solution lies somewhere between this suggestion (adding comments) and the earlier suggestion to add the links to the question itself. I've never liked how questions closed as duplicates are edited to contain the dupe links in the question -- we've occasionally seen the OP editing these links out, which just hides information.

It should not be possible to remove these links. They should even be visible if a question has been re-opened. I think the only real answer is to use a new <div> section directly above or below the question, which is automatically populated as the close-as-dupe votes come in, and contains the final links after the question is closed.

  • The only problem I see with that approach is that you can't manually add more dupe links once the question has been closed, and you can't see on the question's revision what links were used before to close in case of reopening. – perbert Mar 26 '10 at 19:17
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    Hmm. I agree, but I don't want this feature request to be difficult to implement. Searching the comments for a question number when a vote is cast, and either upvoting the comment or posting a new comment seems to be a reasonably easy thing to add. Changing the page layout with a new div and so forth, however, might put this into the 'status-deferred' category. – Pollyanna Mar 26 '10 at 19:21
  • @voy, @Pol: both good points! – Ether Mar 26 '10 at 19:25

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