It seems like people have become extremely aggressive in closing duplicate questions lately (often within a minute or two), and it seems like there's a downside to this...

Is the loss of potential new answers and new points of view worth the benefit of not cluttering the space with duplicate questions?

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    The loss of duplicate answers is totally worth it... – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 18:23
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    Alright, clearly there's a consensus among the fairly high-rep folks here. But downvoting me twice for even bringing up the subject seems really unfair. It was an honest question. – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:28
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    Welcome to Meta, where we regularly downvote things we don't agree with. – TheTXI Jul 23 '09 at 18:29
  • @TheTXI, Okay, good to know. – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:31
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    I do, that's why all my friends are either on the internet or have hooves. – TheTXI Jul 23 '09 at 18:37
  • Nope, just wasn't expecting the culture shock between SO and Meta. I'm good now. – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:37
  • @TheTXI: Or, as in the case of Steve the Centaur, both. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 23 '09 at 18:38
  • @Gabriel: I haven't noticed a difference at all between SO and MSO in that regard. People still complain about downvoting just as much and I keep mocking them for being so worried about something that means so little. – GEOCHET Jul 23 '09 at 18:39
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    @jjnguy: The disdain i feel for that suggestion cannot adequately be expressed via voting. I'm not even sure i can properly communicate it via a comment... Right now, i'm printing it out, so that i may wipe my feet on it, burn it, and then spit on the ashes... – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 18:42
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    @Gabriel, Rich B doesn't understand human interaction (and as he points out he loves to mock people). You can take comfort in the fact that now you can delete this message and get the Peer Pressure badge. – Lance Roberts Jul 23 '09 at 18:47
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    Downvoting is also peoples way of say No to any suggestion. – Troggy Jul 23 '09 at 18:51
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    I'm Jon Skeet in these parts of town. – TheTXI Jul 23 '09 at 18:56
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    I am also Spartacus – TheTXI Jul 23 '09 at 18:57
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    meta is the place that the "Jon Skeet Facts" should be placed. – Troggy Jul 23 '09 at 19:08

It's not a loss of new answers, it's an aggregation of all answers in one place. If you want to answer the new one, follow the dupe link and answer on the old one -- provided someone else hasn't beat you to it already.

  • The dupe link is helpful, but because closed questions disappear from the front pages pretty quickly other people who might have had input don't end up seeing it at all. – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:24
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    I just edited an answer on a question asked two months ago, adding links and additional information, and correcting an incorrect/misleading statement. If you really care, you'll find it... Google works, if nothing else. – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 18:25
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    @Gabriel: Yes, but if people follow the dupe link to the original question, that question will have an uptick in activity, which could result on people seeing it. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 23 '09 at 18:28
  • @Pesto, that's a fair point. Thanks for a helpful answer. – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:30

If they're genuinely duplicates (we just had a regex question on SO which was an absolutely exact duplicate) then no - far from it:

  • The answers don't get split between to questions
  • The questioner gets to see the existing answers
  • No-one wastes time coming up with the same answer as is already posted in another question

Basically it's more efficient to close duplicate questions - and precisely to get them closed before they get wasted duplicate answers.

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    ++The only thing that troubles me about the current dup-closing system is how long it takes sometimes to close common questions. – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 18:26

Why would it be a loss of potential new answers? They are more than free to continue answering on the original.

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    Agree 100%. Not sure why so many people cannot figure this out on their own. – GEOCHET Jul 23 '09 at 18:17
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    Many people don't go hunting for old questions to add their input to. They only think of answering when they see the question in front of them, and closed questions tend to get knocked off the front pages relatively quickly. – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:23
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    That's why we link to the old question when we close the new one as a duplicate. – Shog9 Jul 23 '09 at 18:24
  • I've recently encountered some duplicate questions that were asked in (to me) a much clearer, concise fashion than the original question. For example, the newer (closed) question had a shorter concise code sample that addressed the specific question while the older (open) question was much more a "I don't know what I'm doing someone please point towards north" feel. There is no chance I'll contribute to the old muddy question but would consider contributing to the newer, concise question. @TheTXI: A lost answer. – Keith Hoffman Jan 10 '12 at 21:25

People need to learn how to search. And not just typing in one word and giving up. Think about keywords and try different combos to limit the search. Take a few minutes and research at least a little. It is a common problem at many websites (forums, userboards, etc) and this site. There is a lot of information on this website and the internet in general. There is a lot of data available and your question/concern might have already been addressed. Duplicate questions just add clutter and even more search results to sort through. This applies to search with google and any websites search function.

Here is an easy start. The advanced button on google.... http://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en

Look at that site and think like those advanced options questions.

  • +1 (and more if I could): People clearly don't search well enough. When I notice a question I think may be a duplicate, it usually takes me less than 2 minutes to find one (or more) pre-existing questions. – gnostradamus Jul 23 '09 at 18:36
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    No, people need to search with Google. SO's search is awful. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 23 '09 at 18:37
  • Agreed about searching. It's off-topic for this question, but I'd love it if the search function worked a little more like the related question filter when asking a question... – Gabriel Hurley Jul 23 '09 at 18:41
  • I thought I wrote this more generic to apply to google and so, but ill clarify that. – Troggy Jul 23 '09 at 18:44

I think duplicate questions serve the purpose of drawing attention to the older original questions. It's important to close the duplicates quickly so answers don't get split and so the link to the original appears at the top of the duplicate.


I completely agree with the OP. Questions often get marked as duplicates just because they look kind of the same to a transient visitor.

In many cases the "duplicate" post asks a different question about the same topic, but it gets shut down so the question never gets answered.

For example, recently I asked why Debian was backpatching openssl and how I could tell if the patch fixed a certain problem; the question was marked as a duplicate of another which asked how to upgrade openssl, which I already knew and was completely tangential to my question. Luckily, someone had already posted an answer for me before the duplicate wrecking crew arrived, but many other posters are not so lucky.

Many people essentially lose their question and never get answered just because their questions bears some resemblance to some other question, even if the answers to that question in no way answer the "duplicate" question. This is a significant source of frustration for a lot of posters.

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