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I've been using TeX.SE for some time now, both for questions and answers.

Although I do flag a new question as duplicate if I know that question has been posted before, I often find myself tempted, in a crave for reputation, to quickly answer a question (if I can) without checking beforehand whether it is a duplicate.

Perhaps I need professional help; TeX.SE can be so addictive! However, I suspect I am not the only one to feel and act that way.

As someone about to answer a question, should one always check whether the question is a duplicate?

Do you feel, as I do, that the reputation system can prove counter-productive regarding flagging questions as duplicates (when they deserve it)?

EDIT: I unearthed, in SE podcast #15 (starting at 11'20''), a discussion between Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood that is relevant to the topic.

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    If you want to become really addicted, join us in the chatroom! We talk about cities, food, linguistics, palindromes, ducks, llamas, Pringles, Lego, comic strips, hats, editor wars, holidays, Bach, Iron Maiden, snow, cricket, procrastination, fencing, German Autobahn, football, Stefan's dog, cakes, Comic Sans, longtable, poems, bots, Unicode, Monty Python, comfy chairs, zebras, \𝔞𝔩𝔩𝔬𝔴𝔟𝔯𝔢𝔞𝔨, Journal of Dental Torture, chickens, fonts, pineapples, umlauts, and even TeX sometimes. :) – Paulo Cereda Mar 23 '13 at 20:30
  • Thanks for the invitation, Paulo. I'll drop by with my own outlandish topic :) – jubobs Mar 23 '13 at 22:00
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    @PauloCereda: What happened to DUCKS in the list? ;-) – user11232 Mar 24 '13 at 2:02
  • @HarishKumar: It's in the list, of course. :) – Paulo Cereda Mar 24 '13 at 2:25
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    @PauloCereda: Juboobs: Do not listen to Paulo. Don't go to the chat room. TeX.SE is addictive enough by itself. I repeat avoid the chat room. It is way to easy to just hang out there and chat since everyone is so friendly, and then you don't get time to do any real work. I had to join a TeX.SE Anonymous group (well its just me for now) and am following a 12 step program to wean my self from the chat room, and TeX.Se. :-) But I am only human and fall back off the wagon and end up there. Maybe you should join my group and then we can help each other from procrastinating too much. – Peter Grill Mar 26 '13 at 23:05
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    Oppss, just realized I am procrastinating right now... Ok, back to work... – Peter Grill Mar 26 '13 at 23:06
  • @PeterGrill I've stayed away from the chat so far. Touching wood! Maybe after I submit my thesis... – jubobs Mar 27 '13 at 12:31
  • @PeterGrill Does your 12 step program involve frequently visiting the Productivity.SX sister site? ;) – Henry DeYoung Mar 27 '13 at 21:20
  • @HenryDeYoung: Great, another thing for me to look at!! but it does not appear to be listed below, so perhaps I am safe for now. – Peter Grill Mar 27 '13 at 21:44
  • @PeterGrill I think it's not listed below because it's still in beta? – Henry DeYoung Mar 27 '13 at 22:19
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In general, reputation doesn't mean much on TeX-SX. So we don't have any problems that many other SE sites have. The main reason is that our wizards are also here which is fantastic and we know how good they are so reputation doesn't reflect other than participation in the site for the fun of it. A typical example, I have 40K, Frank Mittelbach has 24K. That's nonsense :)

Often someone answers a question and misses a duplicate but then someone else finds it in the database and the question gets closed. This doesn't mean that the answerer necessarily does it for reputation. Frequently the active users of the site remember reading such question before and look for the particular duplicate. If you don't know what you are looking for it's not that easy to find the duplicates.

But it's tough to find a balance because after a while you tend to answer in the comments. That leads also to other complaints :)

Why do people answer in comments?

So if you feel addicted and looking for closure at each and every question, my suggestion would be to see the questions as newspaper crosswords. Try it out as a challenge and do it as much as you can, then pass on to the next one. Then you wouldn't be bothered with what happened to the tick mark or who got the max votes etc.

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    +1 Very good thoughts bang on target – texenthusiast Mar 25 '13 at 1:38
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    And sometimes it is actually difficult to find the other question. – Peter Grill Mar 26 '13 at 23:06
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It's great that you consider checking for a duplicate first.

Yes, before answering you should firstly check if it's a duplicate. Flag or comment on it, this would be very helpful. And yes, the reputation system honors answering duplicates, sadly. However, I would say, the real reputation among TeX.SE users would not raise if they see somebody answering obvious duplicates. But it will do if fellow users notice that you take care of the site quality.

You could consider reputation as just a number. While being active on the site, it will raise by itself.

Another way of feeding the addiction would be trying to earn badges by flagging, reviewing, editing, and more.

  • I sometimes know a question is a duplicate but answer anyway because either (1) answering is quicker than searching and I'm pressed for time or (2) I tried searching and searching and searching and I still can't find the damn duplicate, so I give up my search in frustration. This happens even if I answered the duplicate question. Sometimes even if I asked the duplicate. (This is rarer as I have fewer questions so it is easier to find a particular one.) This may or may not be bad, but knowingly answering a duplicate is sometimes the only efficient way to help somebody. It can be closed later. – cfr Sep 28 '15 at 22:46
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You may get a few upvotes, but closed questions will attract fewer voters than other questions, so the reputation at stake is unlikely to be much, and answering other questions is likely to give better rewards for your time. So checking for duplicates before answering is reputation-maximising behaviour.

If you can give good answers to doomed questions, that is quite possibly good for the site, and, unlike asking exact duplicate questions, does no harm. It will help the qner, and it will help people who arrive at the site through searches. Furthermore, if the closed question gets merged with the other question, it will become a regular answer of the merged question.

If you discover that your answer is a duplicate of another answer, you can edit in that fact to your answer.

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