in trying to deal with unanswered questions about amsart, i came across two that are, for all practical purposes, identical. both are unanswered, and the reasons for the lack of an answer are given in a comment to one of them.

the questions involved are these:

the example shown in the first makes it a better illustration of the ptoblem, so i tried to close the other one. however, the "close" script returned the comment

This question does not have an upvoted or accepted answer

and refused to accept it. an alternative was suggested, but it is not appropriate, as it uses a different document class that relies on a different formatting mechanism. i left a comment identifying the duplicate but would really like to close the "less clear" question. i don't want to cite another reason, since none of the others are appropriate. (the "off-topic with reason" could be used, but is far from ideal.)

is there any alternative?

  • 4
    Not a solution for this strange design of the site, but in similar situations I usually leave a comment to both questions pointing to each other. In case one questions might get an answer in the future I hope someone will notice the comment and close the other question as duplicate. Nov 11 '17 at 17:20
  • In case of the two questions you link to: maybe flag them for mod attention and have them merged? Nov 11 '17 at 17:24
  • @samcarter -- i've added such a comment to the first question. since i'm the likely person to post an answer, i hope i will notice the comment. i don't think that if the questions are merged, the person who posted the "removed" one will get pinged, so i hesitate to ask for merging. (but i'll ask about that in the chat.) Nov 11 '17 at 19:29
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    Since neither question has an answer, it's not unreasonable that one can't be closed as a duplicate of the other. So the best solution would be to post an answer to the one that is the best posed question and then do the closure.
    – Alan Munn
    Nov 11 '17 at 20:28
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    @AlanMunn I don't follow your reasoning. Why is it OK to have two copies of an unanswered question? Sure, the best solution would be to post an answer but, until that happens, doesn't it still make sense to only have one copy of the question? Nov 13 '17 at 17:47
  • @DavidRicherby -- i've made this question moot by providing a(n unsatisfying) solution to the unanswered question that i thought showed a better example, and closed the other. (there was already an upvoted "sledgehammer" answer, but the one i added, while still unsatisfying, is (i think) somewhat less so. Nov 13 '17 at 18:02
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    @DavidRicherby From the point of view of a user accessing the site, I don't think so. The existence of the duplicate provides no useful information to them, and would be pretty frustrating: click here to find a similar unanswered question. So the idea that duplicates have to have answers seems entirely reasonable. As it is, sometimes duplicates are frustrating since their answers are not always that great. This is especially the case of some of the very earliest answers on the site. We've gotten a lot better over time. :)
    – Alan Munn
    Nov 13 '17 at 18:03
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    @AlanMunn The duplicate message at the moment essentially says, "This question already exists on the site -- please see the answers there." I agree that would be annoying if there were no answers there. But this could be solved by changing the message to "This question already exists on the site but has not yet been answered -- if you know the answer, please post it there." That still means the answers will be posted under the better version of the question, while avoiding the problem of people having to follow a link to find out that there's no answer. Nov 13 '17 at 18:12
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    @DavidRicherby The text actually says "This question already has an answer here:" which presupposes an answer. But changing the message wouldn't change the user experience, really, since people would still think that the duplicate link was to be followed, because that's how most duplicates would work. Anyway, this is not something we could change on the site, it's a network level change which I doubt would ever be implemented.
    – Alan Munn
    Nov 13 '17 at 18:15

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