Just another beautiful day and I was thinking about what closing as duplicate means.

Certainly the rule of thumb/motivation is that if a question is answered once, don't answer twice.

And then there is this situation, where some hard-working beginner worked out an MWE, and immediately be marked as a duplicate of something asked 5 years ago, and the MWE therein included unnecessary, obsolete packages.

The only thing the beginner did wrong is being born late by 5 years.

Maybe we think twice and treat the most minimal, most up-to-date working example as the original copy, answer that, and mark the others as duplicates.

  • 3
    In any ideal world closing as a duplicate would be no big deal: People wouldn't feel a stigma attached to it. It would simply be a normal process. So there would be no feeling that anybody did anything wrong. If answers to the duplicates are outdated, they would be update or new, better answers would rise to the top via voting. Unfortunately, our world is far from ideal. ...
    – moewe
    Aug 29, 2021 at 9:56
  • ... The problem I see with always making the most up-to-date Q&A the duplicate target is that we would essentially have to move the target all the time. This means that we make it hard to have alternative approaches heard (because they would have to be repeated over and over again) and it would be much harder for the community to vote on the different approaches.
    – moewe
    Aug 29, 2021 at 9:58
  • I don't think there is any moving part. If some old post survived as a non-duplicate then let it be. All I want to see is new post not marked as duplicate of something more obscure. I don't check the numbers, but probably 90% of traffic come through google search. The point is to prepare at least one (Q, A) pair that is up-to-date and minimal. Instead of redirecting people to 5 years old posts.
    – Symbol 1
    Aug 29, 2021 at 17:14
  • Here's another suggestion. Here in meta, there's a question "Often referenced questions". (I'm intentionally not giving a link; it should be near the top.) The "answers" to this question list a lot of good questions that have been recognized by people who know what they're talking about as decent duplicates. Look through them, please, and if you spot any that are past their "sell by" date, remove them (leaving a comment, please). Aug 30, 2021 at 20:47
  • That sounds something productive and I can contribute to. Thanks
    – Symbol 1
    Aug 30, 2021 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


I'm posting this as an answer -- even though this question itself is a duplicate -- because I've answered an equivalent question before in a comment and I can't find it.

If the question is clearly well thought out and contains a usable MWE, I may vote to close it as a duplicate, but also post a straightforward "complimentary" answer to get the OP going. This is my recommended practice.

It's quite true that answers given for the question marked as a duplicate are often a bit "obscure" to a newbie, or even require rather a lot of untangling by someone with more experience, while not being amenable to updating, as that could make them inapplicable to the question they originally answered. Perhaps a new answer could be added to that question, giving information that is more easily tied to the question marked as duplicate; however, such an answer is likely to be marked as not relevant to the question it's associated with, and closed. It's evident that the format of this forum is lacking in some respects.

Here's the situation here in meta: If a query is entered for the word "duplicate", the response is over 400 entries, where the reason for some being recognized is actually closure as duplicate. If the search is for the tag "[duplicates]", the count is only 66. So at least some of the questions found by the word search and are legitimately about duplicate questions are not tagged as such; this is confirmed by reviewing the questions themselves. I'm tempted, when time permits and I'm looking for something to do, to go back through these questions and add a [duplicates] tag where appropriate.

  • It's not just a bit obscure. Look at this q/255086. The top two answers reproduce the exact formula. What's the point of that? 24k views and counting, and everyone passing by needs to spend >10 seconds to judge if all these scary &<>\\;() are relavent.
    – Symbol 1
    Aug 30, 2021 at 5:05
  • @Symbol1 -- Has that question been cited as a duplicate? I've tried to find such a reference but failed. If clearly confusing "duplicate" examples can be identified, we can try to do something about it. Aug 30, 2021 at 14:20
  • It's not cited as the origin copy. But it's because I see that question and don't want to risk to ask a new one.
    – Symbol 1
    Aug 30, 2021 at 16:03
  • 1
    @Symbol1 -- Go ahead and ask a new one, explicitly citing the question with the confusing answers. After clearly presenting your problem (with compilable example), explain the problem you have with it and why you don't see how it might be applicable to your problem. Aug 30, 2021 at 16:42
  • Note that there's a problem with this approach -- users not logged in will be directly redirected to the old "bad" question. It may be better to close the old question as duplicate of the new one, or merge the questions.
    – user202729
    Sep 7, 2021 at 3:05
  • @user202729 -- Fair enough. Closing an old, bad, question in favor of a new one has (I think) been done; at least that makes sense. Merging is messy, complicated, and probably confuses or negates the intent (even if indecipherable) of the first question, so I'd never do it. Sep 7, 2021 at 4:17

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