If a user (particularly those who are new to the site) asked a question which was very similar to a question previously asked, would it be better to first ask the user to check if the solution posted in the similar question helped before it gets immediately marked as a duplicate?

On a couple of occassions, I marked a question as duplicate only for it to be reopened because the solutions did not help the OP.

I think this is more targeted to moderators and high-rep users as they can immediately mark such questions.


Why are some questions marked as duplicate?

The fundamental goal of closing duplicate questions is to help people find the right answer by getting all of those answers in one place.

I prefer marking as Duplicate early, and then reopening if it doesn't meet the askers requirement. I think most of what we mark as duplicate is accurate, and even many where the asker disagrees it comes down to how they're read/understood the answer in the earlier question and how to apply it to their situation.

How should duplicate questions be handled?

Questions may be duplicates if they have the same (potential) answers. This includes not only word-for-word duplicates, but also the same idea expressed in different words.

It is easy enough to open again if further comment/explanation/clarification shows that it is not a duplicate. As a community I believe we are fairly quick to reopen when necessary.

If we delay while waiting for confirmation then we end up with answers from others, and Q&A duplication.

I would like to think that moderators and other reviewers actually do take the time to review the questions before they make a decision, rather than just closing without thought. The reopening process can be as quick as the closing process. An edit to a question goes into the review queue - the question itself doesn't need to be generating that steady flow of traffic to get the votes.

Sometimes people get it wrong, or the original asker is getting a different result as seen in the duplicated question, and the only way to know that is for additional information to be added to clarify. This is where a user genuinely believes the question is duplicated, and I see no problem with marking that as a duplicate. If you are unsure you can always request clarification first.

If you see something that you think is not a duplicate, hit the Reopen or Flag to put it in a queue, and add a comment.

Also in How should duplicate questions be handled?

Someone says the question is a duplicate, but I disagree!

Questions may be similar without being exact duplicates:

From the blog:

There could be hundreds of different, related, perfectly valid questions on the same topic. There is no One True Question.


It's rarely this straightforward, however -- usually there are two similar but not-quite-the-same questions, both of which have value for different reasons.

If you think a question is related, but not a duplicate, it's a good idea to edit the question to add a note explaining the difference. You can use wording like

Unlike What color is the sky on Titan?, I'm asking about a planet rotating around a brown dwarf.

If you're the author, edit your question to explain how it differs. If you see the question in the close review queue, you can vote to leave open. If the question is closed and you have the privilege to vote to close, you can vote to reopen it.

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    It's very frustrating to have an answer closed by a moderator that clearly didn't take the time to review the questions, or lacks the subject-matter expertise needed to determine if something is a duplicate. This practice is likely to repel both new users and experts from the site. The reopening process is not quick, because it requires five votes to do so, and many questions will never see enough traffic to get the needed votes. – dbaston May 19 '17 at 16:31
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    I'd like to think so too, but that hasn't been my experience. Are you not saying in this answer that you prefer to err on the side of closing, and then rely on users to add comments to point out where you've done so mistakenly? – dbaston May 19 '17 at 17:43
  • @dbaston I have consolidated all my comment replies into my answer – Midavalo May 19 '17 at 19:15
  • I agree - if the asker of the likely duplicate does not indicate that they are aware of it, then the best thing is to ensure that they have reviewed it before inviting new answers to the same question. Consolidating duplicates is one of the great strengths of SE's focused Q&A. – PolyGeo May 19 '17 at 21:41
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    @dbaston Expressing your frustration with actions by moderators (or any other users) in comments is not as constructive as asking or answering a Meta GIS SE question about a specific action that you disagree with. Part of being elected as a moderator is that we accept that our actions can be questioned at any time. When any shortcomings you perceive are only alluded to it makes responding to your concerns far harder. – PolyGeo May 19 '17 at 22:43
  • Thanks for your answer although I have to agree with @dbaston to some extent. Personally, I prefer asking the OP if the post I linked to has helped (my comment usually goes like: "Perhaps this post might help: (link)". However, I can understand that moderators might not have a lot of spare time to wait for the OP to respond as there would be plenty of posts that need to be reviewed. But I'll happily accept an answer from a moderator :) – Joseph May 22 '17 at 9:12

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