So I have just read the newest blog entry and it seems to be addressing something I had brought up here before, namely a way to deal with the constant stream of duplicated questions. It's interesting, and the way I read it it is encouraging what I wanted: Assembling a set of FAQs for a specific subject, mostly by FAQifying existing questions.

However, after several months of doing exactly that, I can say that there are several obstacles in the way of doing it. Here's my list, initially ordered by what I consider increasing severity:

  1. Searching for dupes is so badly supported technically, I need to spell it out: It's a pain in the ass, and I'm not referring to a member of the Equidae family here.

  2. The existing system encourages answering duplicates, instead of taking the time to find out whether the question was already asked. Even if I know there must be dozens of questions this is a dupe to, if I sneak in an answer as the first, I might earn some rep on it before it gets closed.

  3. If an old question exists, but whoever asked it accepted an inferior answer, this answer will always be on the top, even if it got down-voted into smithereens and a much superior answer exists, that got up-voted often enough to earn the answerer a gold badge. For a site aiming to deliver answers to questions people paste into Google, this is really bad, since those people might not know the site well enough to know to scroll past the first answer.

  4. There's no good place to put together a list of FAQs so that they are easy to be found. For example, for SO's tag there's a built-in list of FAQs, but this is not a list of frequently asked questions, but a list of frequently linked-to questions, which is not the same at all. The most linked-to C++ question is The Definite C++ Book Guide and List, which is rarely ever asked about, but often hinted at. Stack Exchange itself solves the problem for its FAQ by having an FAQ index here on Meta, but I see next to no chance such a pseudo-question for, say, the tag would survive even 5 mins before getting closed according to SO's rules.

    So we set out to create a instead, where we can add/remove questions manually, with the tag's main page listing the most up-voted of these questions. While this is much more close to a real FAQ, it is like a red-haired stepchild of the tag: the latter offers no way (link) to discover the FAQ tag and its entries.

    That tag achieved to make it easier for the regulars to find duplicate in order to close them. This was a very good first step, but only the first one of a long way still to go.

  5. Once you start to generalize questions to FAQs, they often require an elaborated answer to be answered comprehensively, which is very hard to fit into one answer and still be readable. Posting several, related answers, however, has the problem that they might need to be read in a specific order, in order to make sense. The only way to solve this is to fix the order by links in the question, which is very clumsy to do.
    (Note: I don't think this is the most severe issue, but I needed to put this at the end nonetheless, since in comments and answers others have referred to the problems by their original number.)

All the things I listed here (feel free to add to the list, BTW) could be solved, and there have been ideas proposed to solve most of them. (For example, reputation awarded to questions that are closed as duplicates could be limited, while closing questions as duplicates could be awarded with reputation.) For others, solutions would have to be set up and tried. For example, a tag page's FAQ tab could list questions that are frequently referred to when closing duplicates, or there could be some magic around [faq] tags so that they can be discovered and searched.

The problem I see is that this isn't wanted, to the point very valuable community members leave SO because they consider futile any attempts to alleviate the situation.

  • 1
    I totally agree with 2 and 3! Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 17:52
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    #2 is extra-heinous if the answerer doesn't know, or isn't sure, or is just lazy, and cribs off an existing answer to the original question. I have no solid proof that this happens, but I'm sure I've seen suspiciously similar language in some cases in the past.
    – Pops
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 18:01
  • 1
    I think you glossed over the part of the blog post which emphasizes that the "exact" part of "exact duplicate" is intended to be important. The C++ FAQ is used to close as duplicate other questions which aren't in any way duplicates, but where the answer overlaps heavily.
    – jalf
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 12:48
  • 1
    @jalf: And where do you draw the border? Is "What's up with ++i + i++?" a duplicate of "What's the result of a++ + ++a?" And what about f(&i) + g(&i)? There's whole categories of questions that will never be asked in the same way, yet they are, essentially, the same. I'm fine with being criticized for being too liberal with the term "duplicate", but I don't think closing questions as dupes is bad in general, just because those questions aren't really literal copies. Now, deleting such dupes is another matter. IMO they often should be kept around, all linking to the set of answers.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 13:13
  • I think that besides the unuseful search system, here we find a semantic limitation for the tagging system: tags help answerers making visible the questions in their area of expertise, but don't help askers in surfing the site as a knowledge base (maybe like category folders for each tag). Of course you could say that this is "by design" as this is a Q&A driven knowledge base...
    – user150068
    Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 17:13
  • 3
    There is no tangible incentive to close as a duplicate. This means the only people looking for and voting for dupes are those who want to keep the community clean. We see users with 4k+ reputation answering duplicates regularly and not throwing their votes in, despite being active in the question after the first vote is cast. This is quite a big problem, IMO.
    – Andy E
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 21:06

7 Answers 7


Duplication is a Hard Problem, and not one that is going to go away by sheer force of will. We can all bloviate all we like about how bad the situation is but what's lacking is a comprehensive solution. So far all we have are scattered suggestions that attack tiny fragments of the problem and may have unintended negative side-effects.

I've noted in the past that the core team often has dissenting views, and there is no clearer evidence of this than on the issue of mass duplication:

  • Joel takes an optimistic and idealistic approach, believing that making the internet a better place is a venerable goal and that communities should have an intrinsic motivation to do it. It works for Wikipedia, right?

  • Jeff is more of a populist, stating essentially that given the right tools, the people will eventually do the right thing, at least most of the time, and user experience is king (no penalties for asking/answering duplicates).

  • Robert, whom you might be less familiar with unless you participate on other Stack Exchanges, is keener on crowd psychology and social proof. If you follow his blog posts you'll see that his message is that new members of a community are heavily influenced by the behaviour of the existing community, and that quality standards must be established early on and periodically reinforced in order to avoid an Eternal September situation. How duplicates are treated factors heavily into a community's quality standard in my opinion.

This is more than just an academic exercise or a criticism of the team. The point is that all of these viewpoints are correct - for a certain segment of the community.

Some people really do want to make the internet - or at least their community - a better place. But others are either chronic helpers or reputation hoarders and are unable to see the bigger picture.

Crowdsourcing is an effective tool - as long as the goal is strictly informational and personal motives are abstracted away.

And most people do aspire to live up to the community's standard, but there will always be a certain number of leeches and help vampires (which contribute heavily toward duplication).

It's easy to solve problems for the general case. It's the long-term accumulation of edge cases that erode communities. What we need to do, but have not even come close to doing, is gating off the edge cases without damaging the mainstream cases. It's abundantly clear that Jeff will never accept a solution that discourages participation, and it's hard to argue against his logic, considering that its precisely that participation that made Stack Overflow so attractive/useful in the first place.

As infuriating as it is for many of us to see other people piling on to obvious octuplicate questions for easy rep, levying penalties on them is not the answer. What's needed is a way to provide an incentive for minimizing answer sprawl that is stronger than the incentive to add to it, without lessening the incentive to answer in the first place.

It's usually at this point that everybody jumps headlong into a discussion of methods, without actually stopping to think about what the incentives are. There are several!

  • Getting the problem solved (asker);
  • Helping the asker get his problem solved (answerers);
  • Teaching the asker how to solve his own problems (answerers);
  • Earning reputation (answerers);
  • Keeping the site free of noise and clutter (moderators, closers);
  • Helping future readers to solve similar problems (closers, editors);
  • Improving the overall quality of content (editors).

Probably the most interesting thing about incentives is that the asker almost universally has only one incentive, and that is to solve his immediate problem. Sometimes people may post "learning" questions but those are generally not the people who post low-quality or duplicate questions.

So the first question we should be asking is: Could we help the asker get his problem solved faster and more easily by never posting the question at all?

It's been stated that the in-site search needs to be improved, and it does - but that only helps the people who are willing to search. Primarily we're concerned with the people who don't search - those proverbial help vampires. Can we provide an incentive for them?

If you're anything like me then you've succumbed to the rubber ducking phenomenon at least once or twice. Nothing is more likely to get somebody to abandon their half-written question than having their problem solved while they're writing it. Can we do that?

We have the "related questions" section that pops up under the title box. It's actually not too bad at finding duplicates. But it suffers from a fundamental problem: People have to click on those links and navigate to different pages. They have to interrupt their work flow to investigate possibilities that only might be useful. For non-power-users who don't know how to instantly fire open all those links in different tabs, that's a major disincentive. Easier and faster to just fire off the question, right?

A more powerful system could stop these questions mid-stream. Refine the duplicate matches while the post is being written, and if any start to look "exact" enough (based on some yet-to-be-discussed scoring mechanism) then display that question and answer inline. If there's an issue of screen real estate then display a highly-visible indicator that a strong match was found and provide some AJAX-ified ability to display the content without ever leaving the current question.

How many times have you started asking a question verbally and had somebody cut you off in mid-sentence with "I know what you're going to say, and the answer is..."? I've had it done to me and done it myself plenty of times. This is the equivalent of that, except less intrusive.

Below is a conceptual example of what I'm talking about. I suppose the tooltip preview would be optional, but would be a major help here. For space reasons it would only show the top (accepted or highest voted) answer and might have to cut off the answer and/or question if it were too long.

Sample duplicate warning

That's one major incentive taken care of, but let's say it fails. We now need to take into account the answerer's desire to help as well as his desire to earn reputation - both very powerful incentives on their own - and try to instill an even greater desire to improve the community. To "make the internet a better place", as it were.

This is not going to be easy using any technical means. For one thing, it's not even possible to measure the success or failure of the latter objective, whereas the former objectives are easy (upvotes + accepted). I propose an alternative: Allow people to do both at the same time.

Closing the question as a duplicate does not contribute as much toward helping the asker solve his problem as actually answering the question. But could it? Quoting from Jeff:

Put yourself in their shoes. Instead of finding …

Duplicate Question

Duplicate Answer

They have to deal with finding:

Duplicate Question

[closed as duplicate of Question] click here to see answers

Now, what other site requires users to do some sort of weird scroll-down, click-here-first to see the answer nonsense on the search results before they will reveal the answer? Oh yes, our old hyphenated pals. Do we really want our site to work like theirs?

And of course the answer is no, we don't. But so far, I don't think anybody's pointed out that those aren't the only options! What about this instead?

Duplicate Question

Original Question

Original Answers

Duplicate Answers

I can almost already hear some snarky person saying "hah, that's just merging, we already have that! Just auto-merge them!" Except it's not:

  • The asker's question still exists in its original form and "owns" its own answers;
  • Merging might require additional cleanup, i.e. removal of duplicated answers;
  • If it turns out not to be as exact a duplicate as people thought, the action can be undone;
  • It helps moderators immensely in determining whether or not the question is actually a viable candidate for merging (if not, then is it really a dupe?)
  • It ranks duplicated answers at the bottom regardless of score, at least until an actual merge is done. So authors of duplicate answers get to keep their rep, but once a question has been closed as a dupe, they'll no longer be "featured" on top until a true merge and the original answer authors will get most of the credit. (I'm assuming that the "merged view" would support upvoting and editing of original answers as well).

So unless I've overlooked something huge, we've now wrapped up the answering incentive problem as well, without providing any disincentives whatsoever to askers or answerers. All that's left is an incentive to get people to edit the question into canonical form.

Using the above UI, we already have a head start - the ability to compare the duplicate and original side-by-side and quickly see which parts would need to be generalized. The ability to actually vote to merge the questions would, IMO, make for an excellent 20k privilege (or maybe even higher).

The idea would be that members with editing privileges would edit one of the questions (probably the original) until it completely encompasses the duplicate question, then vote to merge. The knee-jerk "oh my god, we can't let anybody but moderators do that!" reaction could probably be softened a lot by actually keeping a record of the merge and providing the ability to undo the merge if necessary (even if only a moderator can perform the undo).

What I particularly like about this is that not only does it make it easier to merge, it gives the people who contributed good answers a strong incentive to participate in the merging process. Why? Because once it's merged, then their great answers will get ranked normally instead of below all the originals, attract a bunch of upvotes and earn the authors more reputation.

And guess what other problem this solves? For heavily-duplicated questions, it solves the barrier to entry problem that several people have complained about. That's because after five or six merges, there will be so many edits to the question/answers that they'll naturally get bumped into Community Wiki mode, and (almost) anyone will be able to edit them then.

So - did I miss anything?

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    Yikes, that's a long post, but +1 for the mockup - the big exclamation point and red/pink background alert the user that something is actually wrong in a way the current system does not. I think it makes them much more likely to actually pay attention to the suggestion. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:21
  • @Joel: Complex problems don't always have simple answers!
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:23
  • I agree on the problems, especially to focus on preventing the duplicate from being asked in the first place (I'm on Jeff's side for not wanting to discourage participation). The second solution, for "pseudo-merging"... that's something I'd like to see how it works in practice.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:27
  • My one complaint - your answer to the "scroll down/click through" problem is just more scrolling. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:28
  • I suppose I also didn't directly address every single point in the original question, so I might as well do it here: (1) Part 1 here solves part of that problem, the other really is just a consequence of the in-site search. (2) is directly solved by parts 2 and 3 here, (3) is solved by part 3 (choose the other question as the merge target), (4) I actually don't agree is a problem, and (5) is addressed by letting the community progressively work out how much generality is appropriate and practical.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:29
  • @Joel: I disagree. If it's really an exact duplicate, then the top answer for the original question should answer the duplicated question, should it not? If there are several answers to the original (such that scrolling would actually be an issue) and none of them adequately answer the duplicate question, then the question should be immediately reopened. If you're still not convinced, I think we could easily work around this by providing a jump link at the top of the answers using a named anchor - "Go to first duplicate answer" or something like that.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:30
  • I think that the mockup includes additional voting arrows that it shouldn't. That's just a minor issue, but something to bear in mind. One less graphical element is one less graphical element (and 30 or 40 add up)
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:37
  • @drach: Ick, I actually meant to remove those, that's just sloppiness on my part. I'll try to update that later. Presumably an actual implementation could also use much smaller fonts and less whitespace, but that's hard to do when working with an imaging program.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:39
  • @Aarobot - Plus one for taking time out of your day to write a story :-). No awesome response, I couldn't agree more. And the mockup you drew is totally do-able so no excuses. It gives it a nice UI look and it grab's the user's attention. HEY RED ALERT something is going on. Just the mockup alone by itself got me to look directly above the question...hey there is help well let me see....
    – JonH
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:53
  • @aarobot I really really honestly truly wouldn't worry about that on the mockup, until such time as it was necessary.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:57
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    That's a very good answer (despite it being very long), and I find myself agreeing with a lot of it.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 19:49
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    I don't see any mention that showing original answers on top of duplicate answers (as in the last few paragraphs) offers an incentive to answer on the original question: now your answer will be shown "on top" and on many more questions than just one. It also seems like a good idea to still accept answers for a short (1-2 hours? a day?) period after closing: in the case of duplicates, the OP can clarify and either a more specific answer greatly helps them, or an answer can be posted as the question is reopened.
    – Fred Nurk
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 21:58
  • How long did that take!?
    – abel
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 22:22
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    @abel: I admit it wasn't my quickest answer, I think it took about an hour including the mock-up, maybe a little longer. I planned to do a mock-up for the merged view and merging feature as well, but ran out of time. :-)
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 23:25
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    @Aarobot -- oh, I have toyed with a different take on the idea, I just didn't feel it was good enough to be posted.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 16:22

Searching for dupes is badly supported technically

This is the one thing where technology can be used to drastically reduce the amount of duplicates. If the "similar questions" popup searched as comprehensively as google does (or even simply better than it does now) then we'd eliminate a ton of questions right off the bat.

Search is hard, but this is one area that can be done so much better than it currently is.

  • 1
    But we can still go shopping.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 22:53
  • It seems unlikely that people don't Google before asking a question on SO. Like 90% of people arrive from Google codinghorror.com/blog/2011/01/…
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 23:29
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    @Andomar - Those are fist time users, though. Once a programmer finds and starts going straight here for their info, they may, in fact, not google for it, especially since one gets answers on here so quickly.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 23:43
  • This addresses the easiest-to-agree-on point, does, however, leave 4 other points unanswered, all of which I consider more severe than this one.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 13:18
  • @Pollyanna: That is an interesting observation, and can probably be checked with the stats.
    – Jan Fabry
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 13:41
  • @sbi - Yes, but I'd counter that each of your points deserve its own topic/question, and in fact if you approached them one at a time you'd find that they are duplicates. There are already topics that hit most of your points. I'm not sure that there is a single solution that will resolve all points at once, so I'm not sure there's a good reason to bundle them together and talk about the "whole" - except the fact that in the past talking about the parts hasn't yielded anything significant.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 14:10

Point 2 is particularly bad in some areas. For example, the [objective-c] and [iphone] tags are basically filled with questions which are all specific cases of the general question "how do I do reference counting?". It's much easier to just answer the new questions with boilerplate answers than to dig through finding appropriate duplicates, promoting one question to be the general exemplar, and creating a general answer. Perhaps there needs to be incentive for identifying duplicates, or a way for an answer to accrue additional rep if it's a good answer to more than one question.

  • 'thing is, you can establish a regular stream of up-votes on a reasonably good answer that just happens to get linked to a lot... So in theory, you can already "accrue additional rep" for answers that apply to more than one question.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 18:28
  • @Shog9 only by constructing the graph of dupes, which is not as easy as whipping out a quick answer to new questions.
    – user23743
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 18:32
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    merging makes this a hell of a lot smoother... But yeah, it's a good deal more work simply because you need four other users and a moderator to finish the job. So... In theory, it works. In practice, it doesn't.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 18:34
  • Have a look at the c++-faq tag idea then. After a while, you can close many dupes by just searching a list of (currently 50) FAQ questions.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 19:16
  • 1
    One of the problems I see a lot with answering the same questions again and again is that the answers really vary in comprehensiveness and correctness, and this isn't necessarily reflected in the vote counts they get. Having one answer to a question (or group of related questions) that everyone can concentrate on tends to produce much better answers.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 19:19

I was thinking that there are 2 different intentions at work on Stack Exchange:

  • to create 'canonical' or 'generalised' best answers similar to Wikipedia,
  • to provide quick answers to specific questions of users.

My thought was that there should be the option (with enough rep) to create a canonical question (and answer), which all the specific 'duplicates' can be linked to. This canonical question / answer could then be edited by the community in a similar manner to a wikipedia article. Future 'specific' questions can still be asked and answered but also linked back to the canonical question and any extra insight from the specific question can be refactored into the canonical version.

For example I recently answered a question about Unix time and how to convert it to DataTime in Ruby. I could have created a 'canonical' question about what Unix time is, what the Epoch is, how to generally use it etc. but specific questions such as how to use it in language x, with constraint y, or in situation z, could be asked, answered and linked to the general question.

  • +1 if you mean "linked to" and not "closed as a duplicate of". Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 20:34
  • I do indeed mean linked to :)
    – Kris C
    Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 21:10

In what I felt to be the spirit of this question, I opened What is a NullReferenceException in .NET? on Stack Overflow. It was suggested I raise this issue on meta.

  • John, have a look at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/68647/…, which really defines what we're doing in the c++ tag.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 20:09
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    Predictably, everybody is submitting their own pointlessly-duplicated answers in an attempt to score easy rep, in spite of the 72-point disclaimers. sigh
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 20:24
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    Maybe we need some kind of "canonical question" flag similar to the community wiki flag that allows people to edit answers, but not submit new ones. I guess that's technically the same as a closed question, but being closed sends the wrong message...
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 20:25
  • 1
    @Aarobot: I don't actually mind the answers I've received on this one. They are simple answers to this simple question. What I don't want is to cloud the issue with answers to "here's my huge block of code and I got a NullReferenceException in it somewhere, please HELP!". Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 22:23

At the moment duplicate closes are implemented by redirecting people to dead questions. This feels rude, both as a questioner and as a close-voter.

Here's one possible fix:

  • Change a close vote into a "duplicate suggestion" which is listed among the answers
  • Duplicate suggestions can be voted on and accepted
  • If the poster accepts the "duplicate suggestion", the question is closed as a duplicate, and the poster gets reputation for accepting an answer. Comments on the question are still allowed.
  • If the poster does not accept the "duplicate suggestion", nothing happens
  • 3
    I believe this would leave thousands of duplicates around because many questions are asked by users who only register to ask this one question and never come back, or simply aren't interested in improving the site. (How many users don't bother to accept an answer? Or accept it, comment that it was very helpful, but don't even bother to up-vote it?) This janitor work is something the regulars are good in, so it should be them who decide.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 13:17
  • 4
    Those questions are only dead because people refuse to edit them instead of asking/answering exact duplicates or practical duplicates. Your "fix" only places absolute power in the hands of those least qualified to wield it and gives them every incentive to wield it irrationally.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 15:18
  • 2
    @sbi - that could be corrected by allowing mods to force-accept a duplicate suggestion after some period of time. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:19
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    @Joel: So instead of a community closing questions as dupes, we then would have moderators force this onto unwilling users. What, again, was the advantage of that?
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 19:17
  • @sbi - We're talking users of abandoned questions here, and placing a limit of how soon mods are able to do this. Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 19:22
  • @Joel: No, I'm not talking about abandoned questions only, I'm also talking about the majority of users which have no interest in improving this site. One-shot users are just one part of them.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 19:35
  • @Aarobot: For an example where the questioner agrees with the close vote, see: stackoverflow.com/questions/4677367/…
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 14:58
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    @Andomar: Certainly there are cases where the OP agrees, I didn't intend to imply otherwise. However, there are abundantly more cases where the OP wishes to keep his question open for less-than-rational reasons. Placing this entirely within the purview of question authors would be an unmitigated disaster; since they already asked the duplicate question, it's more than likely that they either don't care about duplication or don't agree that their precious unique snowflake of a question could possibly have been asked before.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 3:10
  • @Aarobot: Most of the questions that are asked every day are duplicates. Most high reputation people are very good at answering duplicate questions quickly. Just a tiny percentage of duplicates gets marked for closing. I wonder why people get so serious about that tiny percentage.
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 11:46
  • @Andomar: A rather odd argument. You are wondering why people are so worried about such a small thing... when it is precisely the smallness of that thing that they are worried about? I'm not quite sure how to respond. It is a bit like saying that we should not worry about shelter for the homeless because most people have homes.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 17:24
  • @Aarobot: I meant to say, you're arguing against duplicates in a question about duplicates that is itself a duplicate.
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 22:45
  • So you're essentially arguing ad hominem tu quoque? Even if that carried any weight, I don't see this question as a duplicate; it's referring to a very recent blog post that takes a specific position on duplication which I don't think has been put into words on meta before. Maybe in fragments here and there, but tying it all together is actually what's important.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 22:55
  • @Aarobot: From your or my point of view, this is a question we don't see as a duplicate and we are interesting in discussing. For other people, this question is one they've discussed often before, so they see it as a duplicate. That's precisely why duplicate closes are offensive: strangers break into a Q&A in progress and forcefully shut it down.t
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 23:36
  • Nice try, but duplicate closes actually identify the dupe. You're just making broad sweeping statements and, as I said, trying to form an ad hominem to quoque argument which is a logical fallacy anyway. You are quite obviously anti-moderation, but I'm fairly certain that if the site ran according to your principles it would go down fast as another hopeless eternal September; moderation is necessary, as evidenced by the thousands of forums and communities that have lost their core membership over time following millions of un-heeded complaints of spam, noise, and mass duplication.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 0:12
  • @Aarobot: Not all ad-hominem arguments are fallacious. Arguing against someone for decrying duplicates in a duplicate is both to the man and on the point.
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 0:32

It's basically the tag that needs to be standardized, so we can find duplicates easier. We have already some reference questions which solve the problem. Mind you, not enough to make people search for duplicates there first.

I can't put my finger on it, but I don't like [faq] as tag. Looks too generic, while [c++-faq] seems too mixed up.

OT: Some of the reference questions in [php] for example are tagged with [reference], which is too ambigious because there also is the language feature called variable references. But there is also [reference-question] which is easy to bookmark in connection with a language tag. Yet, there's only one till now.

In regards to #2 The existing system encourages answering duplicates - I do not agree this is necessarily a bad thing. Newcomers need to aquire reputation somehow too. But if you really wanted to fight the repuation gain, it would be as simple as turning all answers into community wiki when a question is closed as duplicate. Okay, if you really wanted to penalize answering duplicates, a moderator would have to delete the posts. - So the question becomes, do we really want to flag and delete to discourage answering duplicates? Seems too harsh since most answerers just have a form of helper syndrome.

  • Rep gained/lost from votes that are cast before a post is made CW continues to count after CWification.
    – Pops
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 18:59
  • I don't want to fight rep gain from answering dupes instead of closing them. I don't begrudge anyone their rep they earn. But I see no other way to make sure dupes are closed other than discouraging answering them and encouraging closing them.
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 19:12
  • @sbi: Not insinuating this intention. I was just exploring the obvious option. But there's probably no best way to discourage answers on dupes. And rewarding the duplicate librarians was already shot down. So, that part of the issue might be too difficult to solve.
    – mario
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 19:18
  • Well, having a third place for every SE site originally was shot down, too. :)
    – sbi
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 19:22

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