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Sometimes questions get closed as duplicates of questions that are already closed. Is this something we should be doing?

The purpose (as I understand it) of duplicate closure is to make sure that a discussion of a certain topic has one place to live on the site and is not divided or duplicated in multiple places.

However, closing a question as a duplicate of another question is simply shutting down the question entirely and does not allow any options to actually engage in the question without one or the other being reopened. This seems to not match the purpose of duplicate closure to me. Obviously if the question has close-worthy issues then they should be closed accordingly, but closing a question as a duplicate of a question that was closed for issues the new one doesn't have does not seem right.

Should we ever duplicate a question to another closed question?

Please answer for cases where the new question has a closable issue and one where it doesn't (duplication aside).

See this question for an example of this happening (I ask about this question specifically in How should we sort out this question that was closed as a duplicate of another closed question?).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this the case where the original question has a problem, such as being opinion based or unclear, and then a similar question gets asked? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 17 '18 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Grosscol the case that is most interesting here is what to do with a question with no issues beyond being marked as a duplicate of an older question that had an issue resulting in its closure. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 17 '18 at 20:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Grosscol however an answer should address both cases where the new question has a closable issue and one where it doesn't (duplication aside). \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 17 '18 at 20:25
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No to either case

This may just be a personal opinion, but I concur with your assessment that closing a question as a duplicate and linking back to another question shuts down the discussion without providing a means of practical recourse for the querent.

Question With Closure Reasons

For a question that has reasons for closure should be closed for those stated reasons. This gives the querent guidance on how to improve their question.

Good Question (but maybe duplicate?)

For a question that's fine on it's own, I don't think we should be marking it a duplicate if the linked question is closed. Presumably, the linked question was closed for a good reason and presumably those reasons are not applicable to the question at hand. If those two things are true, then the questions aren't actually duplicates and it was inappropriate to link them anyways.

Querent Boons and Responsibilities

The general issue with closure for duplicate is that it presumes the linked question solves the querent's problem. Many times that's true, sometimes not so much in which case some editing can help it become it's own question.

However, there's a key element to questions on SE that should be noted: querents more or less own their questions. They put in the work to make a good question and that question essentially becomes their responsibility henceforth. Meaning, they get to decide what answer solved their problem and they decide on the phrasing of their question and are absolutely justified in rolling back edits that conflict with their intent. It's not an insignificant thing. If we close a question as a duplicate and link to a closed question, we shut down the means to discuss this any further as the person whom has control of that question may or may not choose to pursue the issue sufficiently to get their question re-opened. And that effectively kills the question/answer portion of the site.

When one first starts on SE, it can be hard to ask a good question, the unspoken reward for that effort is that the querent owns that question. Duplicate links back to that question aren't bad when they're indicative that another person wondered the same thing. The duplicate link draws attention to both the new question and old one and perhaps earns the original querent a few more upvotes as thanks for helping more people by asking a good question in the first place. Linking back to a closed question breaks this sort of karmic cycle as it rewards attention to someone who presumably hasn't done sufficient work to construct an answerable question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As a counterpoint to "Question With Closure Reasons", closing the question as a duplicate may be a better experience for anonymous users: if the dupe-closed question has no answers, they are automatically redirected to the other question. \$\endgroup\$ – Laurel Oct 18 '18 at 20:16
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Closing a question as a duplicate of another closed question is fine when appropriate. The system enables it for a reason.

Like most aspects of moderation and curation, it's a matter of subjective case-by-case judgement. It's not something we should try to say nobody should ever do.

Consider: we can only close as dupes of questions that already have answers. Also, if this newer question is a dupe, that means it's probably the same question and will have the same problems and will get closed one way or another. What's more helpful: say “sorry, we can't answer this”, or say “sorry, we can't answer this, but here's that one time we did have some answers, so check that one out”? Closing as a dupe fulfills the second role. So does closing for the same reason as the other question, and linking to it in a comment though—use your judgement about which would work best case by case.

The querent can still work with us to get the question reopened either way, and the dupe closure prompts them to consider editing this question to show how it's different.

Please answer for cases where the new question has a closable issue and one where it doesn't (duplication aside).

If the new question doesn't have a closeable issue, then it's surely not going to be an actual duplicate of a question that was also closed. Or that means something was wrong with the closure of the older question. Or that means we've had two questions about the same topic, but the old wasn't viable and the new one is.

If that kind of situation comes up, raise it on meta please. The second case would warrant re-evaluation, the third would probably mean we should close the older, closed question as duplicate of this newer question. Diamond moderators can do that easily.

If the new question does have a closeable question, close either as a dupe or for that specific reason: use your judgement as to what's most appropriate for this specific scenario.

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tl;dr do not close as duplicate when older post was closed for a reason.

If Duplicate Question Has Same Problems as Original

Then close for the same reason that the duplicate was closed for instead of marking as duplicate.

E.g. Original question closed as opinion based and new question has same problem.

Closing for the same reason as the duplicate does seem better in that it offers the new poster a fresh stab at solving the issue for which the older post was close.

If Duplicate Does NOT Have Same Problem as Original Question

Then do not mark as duplicate.

E.g. Original question was closed for being opinion-based, and new question is not opinion-based.

In this case, the questions are not duplicates. The new one is a sufficiently cleaned-up restatement of the first as to not have problems. Therefore, it's not sufficiently similar to be a duplicate.

I would expect a duplicate question to have the same problems as the original. If this is not the case, it's a substantially better question.

If Duplicate Question is Same as an Older Post That Did Not Have Problems.

Then mark as duplicate. Marking as duplicate is useful and directs the reader or poster to the discussion and answers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So in the case of a question with no other flaws other than potentially being a duplicate of an older (closed) question what would your recommendation be? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 17 '18 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't that is the case for the duplicate tag then? No problems with the question, except that it has been asked before? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 17 '18 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ that is the entirety of what I am asking. Do we duplicate questions to closed questions? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 17 '18 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose updated the content of my answer to specifically address both cases. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 17 '18 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ So Grosscol, you're saying "if closing as duplicate and pointing back to closed Q is useful to point out duplicated problems, then do it" and "if closing as duplicate ignores improvements made compared to original phrasing (improvements sufficient for the duplicate not to be closed for the same reasons as the original), then don't", correct? \$\endgroup\$ – CapnZapp Oct 18 '18 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Follow-up question: in the referenced example, the resolution was to keep the closed-as-duplicate as closed, but instead clean-up (and reopen) the original Q. I mean: is that an acceptable alternative approach? \$\endgroup\$ – CapnZapp Oct 18 '18 at 9:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally, isn't it easier to undo the closed-as-duplicate closing action and instead add a link from the original: "question re-asked in an improved way here: link". This would encourage users to respond to closed threads by reposting improvements. Getting your improvement efforts shut down and instead seeing how your work only makes the admin polish the original question - as in my case - does not have this effect... \$\endgroup\$ – CapnZapp Oct 18 '18 at 9:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user37067 I think I muddled the answer when I reformatted. I've edited again to clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 18 '18 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I agree with everything except your last section. Duplicates are marked based on the question only being the same. If the answers on another even slightly different question happen to answer it we do not close as duplicate. Only if the question is identical. Also what happens if the closed question also had an answer? That section would imply that a closed question with an answer should also be duped to (which seems to contradict the rest of your answer). \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 18 '18 at 19:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose You and your desire for disjoint conditions and clarity in writing. I've clarified the last section such that it does not overlap with the previous two. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 18 '18 at 19:58

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