I've seen before where some questions get closed as duplicates of unanswered(or even closed) questions. Is this behavior that should be encouraged?

For instance, there has been a few times where I was going to ask a question and found a similar question beforehand. The similar question had no good answers for me, but I didn't create a new question because I knew it'd get closed as a duplicate. Even if my question was more specific, it was still related enough to be considered a duplicate(even though mine may be more easy to answer due to additional info.)

What do you think? Should asking unanswered questions be OK and not closed as duplicates? Or should we encourage bumping the unanswered question instead or something similar?

Also, some of these questions are so old as to be irrelevant to now. For instance, if a question from 2008 was posted as "What is the best way of dropping this and using jQuery?" back in 2008, a plugin may not have existed that now does. So the good answer of "Try the jQuery plugin Drop-jQuery-and-try-jQuery" will not have been posted. And even if it is bumped, then a person that knows about this plugin may not put it as an answer because the answer is so old as to not matter to the asker now.

  • Perhaps the "close as duplicate" code should check if the proposed dupe is closed and not allow it. – ChrisF May 10 '10 at 21:50
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    @ChrisF: Today I saw two questions with votes to close as dupes... of each other. (Groan) – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 21:57
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    Still, I don't think that blocking the closure is the answer here... if the older question was closed as Subjective/Argumentative, for example, then the dupe may be no better than the original – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 21:59
  • @Aarobot - You can try to double check (and I usually do, following links until I get to an unclosed question), but occasionally people make mistakes. In the case of 2 questions being closed as dupes of each other I bet that the votes were cast at about the same time. – ChrisF May 10 '10 at 22:00
  • @Aarobot - I take your point, I should have said that the proposed dupe should be disallowed if it's closed as a duplicate, sorry for the confusion. – ChrisF May 10 '10 at 22:08
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    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/40389/… – Alconja May 10 '10 at 22:55

I recall this being discussed before, although I don't recall exactly which question it was. I do remember the following suggestions, all of which I think were valid:

  • If there was nothing wrong with the original question and yours would be literally identical, or at least not substantively different, then leave it. It probably went unanswered for a reason.

  • If you think the original question might have been unanswered because it was poorly-written, tagged incorrectly, etc., then edit it, which will automatically bump it.

  • If the original was so far off-course or so poorly-written that editing it would change the content completely, then start a new question and flag the old one for a moderator to close as the duplicate. (It was actually one of the diamond mods who recommended this, I forget which one.)

  • If the question was highly time-sensitive and you think that the answers would have changed significantly, start a new question and link to the old one, explaining your rationale.

  • If your question is very similar to another, but you think there are subtle differences (for example, you are unable to use any of the answers that were given on the previous question due to technological or licensing constraints), then don't worry about it, just start a new question. It should only be closed if it's an exact duplicate. Again, you might want to pre-emptively point out the related question and explain why yours is different; that will also help people who are searching for your issue but find the other question first - now yours will appear as linked.

  • Very good suggestions. – The Unhandled Exception May 10 '10 at 22:05
  • for your 2nd point though sometimes poorly-written means missing information where to make it better you would have to assume things. – Earlz May 10 '10 at 22:24
  • @Earlz: If the original question was missing information that would have been crucial to getting a correct/reasonable/specific answer, then I would say it falls under #3 as opposed to #2. Perhaps, in that case, the original should even be closed as "not a real question." – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 22:27

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