Or, to put it another way: is it a problem that people keep asking question that have multiple, obvious duplicates?
I do not intend to address the problem of hard to search for questions, nor of finely distinguished, subtly different problems; just simple questions with a few typical phrasings and fairly clear answers.
Taking an example from SO today:
- C++ Compiler For Windows (no particular criticism for this poster, I just took the first one I came to)
At this point, Stack Overflow has been operating for more than 11 months and has been open to the public for most of that time. There are more than 200,000 questions and 1.1 million entities in the database.
A moment's thought might have suggested that the question could already have been asked, and searching for
c++ compiler for windows (link) returns half-usable questions on the first page including C,C++ compiler for Vista. Presumable these came up when the OP went to ask, too.
I find this kind of thing a little annoying. It is noise, and in small amounts easily ignored. But there seems to be a lot of it.
The system already tries to preempt the worst of this by offering duplicates when composing a question, but (as noted in Should you gain rep for asking a duplicate question?) the incentive from the rep system is to post anyway.
Note also that, by design, the existence of an answer on Wikipedia or some other site that Google knows of, shouldn't necessarily prevent a question-and-answer here.
So, does this "problem" need addressing? Is it a strength of the system? Irrelevant? If it is a problem, what can actually be done? Remove the rep incentive by canceling gains for posts closed as duplicates? Something else?
Suggestions so far:
- Improve the search — Use Google if necessary.
- Make a habit of showing the posters of duplicates how easily they could have found the existing instance. That is leaving a comment on the lines of "Searching for "[windows] c++ compiler" turned up several results which might be useful to you." so that the user can be better prepared in the future.
- Make the suggestions on the "Ask a question" page more interactive (pop-up previews or similar)
Collect authoritative answers to the most frequent questions by subject matter.
Adjust the rep system:
- Should you gain rep for asking a duplicate question?
- Award no rep for questions at all. (I know there was meta question for this, but I'm not finding it...)
I am personally reluctant to go with adjustments to the rep system as the first remedy — that shouldn't be the first tool we reach for, even if it is the most powerful.
- How long should I search for an answer before I ask on stackoverflow (and friends)
- Why does stack overflow suggest so many irrelevant questions on the “Ask a Question” screen?
- Please charge rep for questions after threshold
- Noob questions, simple answers and big rep points
- Reputation for Closed Questions.
and rather obliquely
Hey! I found an existing instance (or close to it) for this question. ::sigh::
Edit: Diddled the title because TheTXI answered the question as written, and showed me that I wrote it wrong. Thanks.