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I notice more and more people answering question that should be marked as duplicates. In some cases, the question later marked as a duplicate (and still retain the answers given which is fine).

Should we refrain from answering them? The whole point of marking something as a duplicated is because this question has already been answered. If we add answers to this question, the answer that is accepted could be fundamentally different (because OP agrees with this answer more than one on the duplicate), this could be really confusing to people who come in after the fact and read the two accepted answers that may be conflicting.

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  • Are you referring to answers posted before a question is marked as a duplicate, or answers created on marked duplicates? – user44108 Aug 16 '17 at 12:17
  • I am asking if people should be answering (before it is marked) when the question is clearly a duplicate EI, someone has already flagged it and answerer doesn't bother to look at the linked comment. – SaggingRufus Aug 16 '17 at 12:18
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    It's only clearly a duplicate in your opinion. It might well be correct, but the OP has a chance before the closing vote to clarify why their question isn't a duplicate of another. We have peer voting so that we don't act on one person's unilateral view. – user44108 Aug 16 '17 at 12:20
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    How should duplicate questions be handled? says "yes" (assuming the answerer both knows and agrees that it's a duplicate), although it doesn't go into much detail as to why not. – Bernhard Barker Aug 16 '17 at 12:22
  • @SaggingRufus - "clearly a duplicate" is always in the eye of the beholder, and always subject to reconsideration and reopening. If enough folks decide quickly enough and vote accordingly, then the question will get closed before anyone can answer. – Joe Strazzere Aug 19 '17 at 17:06
  • I am so tempted to ask this question myself (to make a duplicate), but I will not troll SE. :D – Old_Lamplighter Aug 24 '17 at 17:52
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Here's what I'd like to see (i.e. this is personal opinion, not mod fiat):

If you agree that it's a duplicate, and there is already an answer there that covers what you were going to say, don't answer the new question. Vote (or flag) to close as a duplicate. As with any other closure, leave a comment if you think you can help the OP (e.g. by suggesting ways to de-dupe it).

If you agree that it's a duplicate, and there isn't already an answer there that covers what you were going to say, and what you were going to say is appropriate there too -- add your answer to the original question, vote/flag to close as a duplicate, and leave a comment on the new question pointing to the answers there. This way you help the OP and everybody who finds the original question, and you help to keep all the answers in one place.

If you disagree that it's a duplicate, treat it the way you would any other question.

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Should we refrain from answering duplicates?

Of course. As the main meta thread on this topic clearly states (emphasis mine):

Should I answer it?

No, not if you think it's a duplicate. If you don't think the answers on the target question are good enough, write an answer there.

If you don't think the question is a duplicate, then by all means do answer it.

Of course the main problem here is that the people who take the time to answer usually, though not always, don't consider that a question is or might be a duplicate. While I usually check the site for existing questions on common topics, I've answered plenty of questions that turned out to be duplicates. And that's ultimately not that big of a deal, it's just how a community moderated system works.

That being said, the simple answer is that yes: you should never answer a question you consider to be a duplicate. Flag or vote to close as a duplicate instead and consider submitting an answer to the original question instead, provided that you don't end up saying exactly the same thing as previous answers there.

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I think the problem is that on a stack like TWP whether a question is a duplicate or not is much more subjective than the more technical SE sites like Stack Overflow.

Take this question:

I have accepted a job offer, but now I want to decline as a startup of mine has become successful. How should I do this?

It has been suggested that it could be considered a duplicate of:

How to decline an already accepted offer, professionally and politely, if I want to accept counteroffer from current employer?

The "only" real difference here is that the new question involves a startup rather than a counteroffer. Personally I would say that makes it not a duplicate and the startup element meant I answered the question differently from how I would have answered the counteroffer question. That said I can see how someone might consider it a duplicate, after all they have far more in common than they have differences and while I wouldn't have marked it a duplicate myself in a way I'm glad others did because that way between my answer (and other potential answers obviously) and the ones on the linked question I think both the OP and other visitors stand a better chance of getting the information they need.

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  • There are some subtle differences which one can argue makes 2 questions different in 99% of cases on this site - we're going to have a hard time ever closing anything as a duplicate if questions need to be identical as opposed to "close enough". In an ideal world, the suggested duplicate would've been a more general question or the answers would've been more general. Should we focus more on making reference-worthy answers (for duplicate questions)? – Bernhard Barker Aug 16 '17 at 12:38
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    Which is exactly why I think it's a difficult area to have a blanket rule on - I'm not suggesting questions need to be identical before being considered dupe. My personal rule of thumb is to ask myself whether I would have given the same answer to both questions, if yes then I'd flag it as duplicate. Even if everyone else operated the same way though they might not have given the different answers I would have so could mark it as duplicate where I wouldn't. – motosubatsu Aug 16 '17 at 12:44
  • The rule is do you think its a duplicate. If you do then do not answer it. If you dont then answering is fine. I dont see how that is that difficult to have as a blanket rule. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 24 '17 at 15:57
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I notice more and more people answering question that should be marked as duplicates. In some cases, the question later marked as a duplicate (and still retain the answers given which is fine).

Should we refrain from answering them?

The site's gamification strongly incents people to provide an answer to everything, and to be the first to answer.

Folks cannot know ahead of time if a question will eventually be marked a duplicate, or if (after editing) it will remain a duplicate. Here in meta we often see members begging for questions to be reopened - and most of the time they are.

So clearly the proper game play is to answer quickly without regard to possible closing as a duplicate (or any other reasons).

If you don't feel like answering any question that you believe is a duplicate, you should avoid answering. Instead, you probably should vote for the question to be closed as a duplicate. But you shouldn't be surprised that others decide to provide an answer - that's exactly what the site is encouraging them to do. Does anyone disagree that the site setup encourages exactly that?

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  • dupehammer stats at Stack Overflow (when most prolific answerers dupe-close questions in "their" tags) suggest that there is a limit to this gamification, "In the past 90 days, 28579 questions were closed as duplicates by gold tag-badge holders..." I can't tell what works there, maybe they get tired of answering the same question after 10... 20... 100 etc times over and over again – gnat Aug 19 '17 at 20:08
  • @gnat - I don't know what any of that means, nor what it has to do with gamification. I suppose if you have enough hyper-vigilant gold tag-badge holders who swiftly mark a question as a duplicate, it might prevent others from answering. Maybe it's an effect that occurs only at scale. But as far as I can tell the gamification incentives still hold. I guess I'd advise: if you get tired of answering the same question repeatedly - just stop answering. – Joe Strazzere Aug 19 '17 at 20:56
  • Joe, gold tag badge is awarded for minimum 200 answers in a tag (with average score +5). If holders of this badge are hyper-vigilant in something it is answering, not closing. And their vigilance is rewarded by rep as you can see from badge requirements. And, you see, stats demonstrate that these folks dupe close despite their vigilance to answer and despite rep rewards (and no, if they wanted to gamify for rep they would answer and keep questions open because this increases chances to get more rep) – gnat Aug 19 '17 at 21:07
  • ...maybe there is some sort of intrinsic motivation at work there: when they know that question has been already thoroughly answered elsewhere the fast and sure way to help asker is to redirect them to duplicate (yes this doesn't bring rep but this helps people) – gnat Aug 19 '17 at 21:15
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    @gnat - Ah, I see what you mean now. I was thinking more that the gamification rewards the non-gold-tag-badge folks for answering quickly, and in particular first. But I think this tag permits holders to close questions (for any reason) with just their single vote, right? – Joe Strazzere Aug 19 '17 at 21:56
  • no, gold badge holders have this "magic hammer" vote only for duplicates. For other close reasons their votes aren't anything special, just one of five – gnat Aug 20 '17 at 6:25
  • ...and even for duplicates they have this magic only in "their" tags (where they are proven experts). For duplicates in other tags their votes count as just one of five – gnat Aug 20 '17 at 6:37
  • @gnat - I see. So if you hold this golden hammer over a question within your tag domain and think it is a duplicate - don't answer. Instead, just close it. For everyone else (no gold badge holders in this domain), gamification applies. – Joe Strazzere Aug 20 '17 at 9:57
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    I am not sure that it's OK to interpret it this way. If you think of it, gold tag badges are awarded to users who are most enthusiastic about gamification (ie about answering and gaining rep). Seeing stats showing how these folks so clearly prefer dupe closing over answering makes one wonder how it feels like for those who are even less focused on gamification – gnat Aug 21 '17 at 6:08
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    @gnat actually those focused on gamification are more likely to know about already asked and answered questions, and probably already have a high rep answer. So pointing them to that question is likely to gain more rep for them. I suspect if you did some close as dupe votes on the high rep users on TWP there would be a higher percentage of votes to questions where they have highly voted answers than other questions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 24 '17 at 18:28
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings yeah I was also pondering about this but it seems unlikely. I sometimes dupe-vote like that to questions having my answers on top and rep gain isn't even close to that of answering. For dupehammers it should be even worse because when I vote it hangs for a while and other readers check my comment and link and some of them may vote. But when there is hammer vote it closes immediately so that only asker is interested in visiting and many askers don't even have enough rep for upvote – gnat Aug 24 '17 at 21:13

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