One of the greatest things about the users providing answers on this site is that their experience frequently leads them to answer questions with insights about what the original poster "intended to" or "should have" asked. I can't even count the number of times this has proved helpful to me in improving my understanding of how a specific package or TeX in general works.

Of course every rule has an exception and occasionally I would love to be able to prompt the community to answer the question that was asked (even if it already solved the original posters question (who also may no longer be active on the site)) so that I don't have to create a duplicate question that is tap dancing around the wording to create a new distinct question. How should I go about doing this?

Here are some of the thoughts I have had:

I don't think that leaving a comment to the authors of the answer are necessarily going to be productive because:

  • The expertise behind the answer may not have lent itself to answer the broader question, hence the version that was provided.
  • The author may no longer be active
  • Comments don't re-add old questions to the to the front page to receive some attention from contributors.
  • Far (less likely (particularly on this branch of stack overflow) and I don't want to offend anyone) but some folks are reputation oriented and if they can't get an accepted answer are less likely to add their own spin on a question with an accepted answer and an OP who has left the site and can't change their mind about the best answer that has been provided.

I would leave a bounty with a comment on the original question, but

  • The lead time and upvotes that the accepted solution may already have may discourage anyone who is motivated by the bounty
  • I am currently trying to build my rep because I want to be able to contribute to the moderation of this site
  • For the same reason I want to help moderate the site (and may be evident with some of my other meta questions) I may be a little compulsive about organization and closing duplicates, or porting between sites so that they are organized in the right place for users to be able to find and make use of them... So I am pretty strongly opposed to knowingly creating a duplicate even for my own benefit because that doesn't help keep the site usable (long term). It's getting hard enough to find answers from google because of all these duplicates with only subtle difference in the wordings. And I wish I could be part of a moderation effort to help alleviate this problem.

Edits could be made to the question to reflect the answer that was accepted, allowing for the creation for a duplicate of the "original" but current version of that question

  • This just strikes me as inappropriate, Just because it worked, doesn't mean the OP doesn't deserve the credit for trying to answer a broad question.
  • It will cost an obsessive compulsive like myself extra time
  • the real solution is seems to be the need of a way to reopen a question to "The question as is wasn't answered, and still has interest even if it's not the OP's interest"

I hope the above is sufficiently detailed to be clear and not a duplicate of either (the answers I didn't find entirely useful to each of these questions is in my lists above):

And I apologize for the obvious inconsistency here in asking this question which is clearly not a new issue!

  • What is the question here?
    – Werner Mod
    Jun 20, 2016 at 1:11
  • @Werner, very sorry it's not explicit, but it's my second paragraph if you insert a "How to ask": the community to answer the question that was asked (even if it already solved the original posters question (who also may no longer be active on the site)) so that I don't have to create a duplicate question that is tap dancing around the wording to create a new distinct question.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 20, 2016 at 1:16
  • 2
    @EngBIRD So basically, there is an old question asked by A, that lead to answer 1. However, this answer is not really an answer to the question, but rather to the actual problem that A was facing (since one in the community did understood implicitly the underlying issue, or provide a workaround to avoid the problem, etc.). BUT you (B) really want the answer to question 1 as it is asked. And you fear that if you ask it again, your question will be closed as duplicate... Do I understand your issue well?
    – ebosi
    Jun 20, 2016 at 7:03
  • @ebo In essence yes. Thank you for helping me say this more concisely. I think providing an answer to "the actual problem that A was facing" isn't quite what I was trying to say because Amay have shared the same desire I have for a modular and customized solution, but was actually faced with a simple enough implementation that they could settle for the "hack".
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 20, 2016 at 14:13

3 Answers 3


As you mention, it is an exception so just ask it again. Mention the question and say why you need the new question while the original is there. Strip off a new MWE. Then point to the part where it doesn't suit your needs. Add a concrete question and you are done.

We are not librarians. If there is sufficient difference we shouldn't close anything.

Please if there is any chance, avoid moderation unless absolutely necessary. We are suffering from over moderation already with the duplicate closings and so on. The site has been proved itself already. Long term is not a proper or necessary argument. We cannot fix the google problem. Everybody has a different way of asking questions and it can't be forced.

  • 2
    I will ensure the best ducks of my personal army will protect your well being, sir. Jun 21, 2016 at 15:21
  • I think my point is, during my searches, I found the original question, so it's likely in future others will to. With ever repeat that is only minutely different, it makes it that much harder for future users to find an answer. Alternative answers on the same screen are infinitely easier to navigate than numerous browsing tabs. I know that by asking a new question I will get an answer but that's not a sustainable model, and this is a truly great resource that I hope people will be able to use, even after expertise is no longer actively being provided.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:59
  • @EngBIRD Questions are linked on the right hand side if they are mentioned and that is the most robust connection between the two, not google, not site search not anything else. Active intervention of what is worthy proved to be poisonous and inefficient. Let time take its course. Information gets older way quicker than our house-keeping (might not be the case for SO but it is for us). Future is a moving argument. I wouldn't have answered many questions in hindsight but I did and they somehow got more attention than the ones I thought of as more valuable.
    – percusse
    Jun 22, 2016 at 21:20
  • I think you raise an excellent point, those links on the right for both related, and linked questions, are of reasonable accuracy and applicability in many scenarios. I can't name a single instance where I found what I was looking for with the internal search bar, but I have definitely benefited from the links (particularly those when writing a question). Keeping with content in your last comment, your reference to SO is exactly the problem I was hoping to eventually be a positive moderator against, in proactively keeping this community as searchable and useful as it is these days.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 23, 2016 at 3:39

One option not mentioned, is the use of chat. I'm confident that some poking and prodding might get frequent visitors to review a question and answer it in the way it was asked (if that is at all possible). Negotiations over compensation for such an answer (through a post-answer bounty, say) is also a possibility...

  • I think chat may be a great idea, particularly in getting an extra perspective about what's impractical and therefor not attempted behind the original question, and hence what perspective my new question could take would be productive. I've personally never had the confidence to go in and try and interject my own concerns into ongoing conversations in the chat room. In particular I think I'm still pretty junior on this site for requesting attention on a particular question.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 23, 2016 at 3:48
  • @EngBIRD: The folks in chat are friendly... and there is no downvoting there. :)
    – Werner Mod
    Jun 23, 2016 at 3:59

If you ask a new question referencing an old then I would expect that it is very unlikely to be closed as a duplicate of that question (or at least not with extensive comments asking for clarification).

Your aims do seem contradictory though, your main issue seems to be a fear of asking a question that would be closed as duplicate, and yet your stated aim is to be able to get more rep to be able to close more duplicates (and so presumably make that fear more real?).

  • Thanks for your answer, however, I partially disagree with your second paragraph. I don't have a fear of having a question closed as a duplicate, if it's a duplicate, I want that pointed out so I can either 1) Fix it making a future useable question; or 2) Delete it to help with the imminent clutter problem. In my question history, I have a closed question or two which I am hoping to eventually have the time to go back to, to bring them back on topic, but I delete my duplicates, because I feel that's what people should be doing when a duplicate is flagged.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:30
  • @EngBIRD I was referring to "so that I don't have to create a duplicate question that is tap dancing around the wording to create a new distinct question." Jun 22, 2016 at 19:34
  • My actual problem, is I know it will be a duplicate - at least in the way the original question is phrased (it's just the answer thats a work around, not a true solution of the request). I spent over a year on the Tex SO site specifically before I even bothered to register because i was able to find everything I needed. These days, my problems may be more complex, but I am having increasing difficulty finding answers from search engines, in no small part because of mismatches in key words and chains of duplicates that are less and less possible to sift through.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:35
  • @EngBIRD not sure what the issue is, if you have a question and something doesn't come up in a couple of searches, just ask a new question. I haven't tried asking a question but it's same with answering, if I think it's a duplicate I'll spend a minute looking for a dup to mark it as such but if nothing shows up I'll just answer it, no point in worrying too much if there is a hidden duplicate somewhere. sometimes other people come along later and find a duplicate and it gets closed. that's Ok, no harm done. Jun 22, 2016 at 19:40
  • I think its well understood that a search engine doesn't know what you want, and can only return matches to your search. So when you resign yourself to asking a question that someone recognizes, they may point it out. I personally think that this, the communities thoroughness and memory, is one of the best things about this site. So when your put on the right track it would be considerate to keep the repository as clean as possible because future users deserve to be able to make use of the same exceptional tool that I am. Maybe the problem is closed questions aren't invisible questions.
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:47
  • 2
    @EngBIRD closed questions being visible with a link to their duplicate (if that was the reason) is a feature not a problem, I disagree with your suggestion that users should delete them. having the multiple questions makes it easier for people to pick up different phrases via search that all in the end lead to the same answers. Jun 22, 2016 at 19:54
  • 1
    @EngBIRD Do you know the phrase All roads lead to rome? Same here, a duplicate question is just a new road to get to rome, i.e. the answer.
    – Johannes_B
    Jun 23, 2016 at 17:45
  • Thanks for your point, your 100% right, this is a feature, not a problem. Nothing's perfect, but indeed that doesn't mean it's not a feature that will help more people than those it intermittently impedes. I started to extrapolate from the difficulties I was starting to have finding biblatex customization's and with problems I am aware of with the SO site I started to foresee a sustainability issue and wanted to do my part to help. @Johannes_B, I like your analogy, thanks!
    – EngBIRD
    Jun 23, 2016 at 21:14

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