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Some questions crop up on ELU with dispiriting regularity. Two recent examples are the use of 'singular they/their', and whether an acceptable singular (and possibly gender-neutral) form of the pronoun 'themselves' exists.

These questions continue to be posted so often that I now find myself resenting even the time it takes to point out that they duplicate existing questions which have already been answered.

To discourage yet more of them from appearing on the site, I suggest that the moderators should analyse the frequency with which new questions duplicate existing ones (perhaps using close-vote statistics), and post links on the front page of the site to 6-10 of the equivalent questions that have already been asked and answered.

Perhaps the attention of querents could also explicitly be drawn to this set of questions on the screen that is displayed when they ask a question, inviting them to verify that their prospective new question does not duplicate any of those on the list.

Result:

  • a lot less distracting clutter on the main page
  • less time wasted by both askers and answerers in composing unproductive questions and responses
  • quick and easy access to the answers to the most popular questions
  • a greater proportion of novel and interesting questions among those that do get asked.

Are there any good reasons why this approach should not be implemented?

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    Well, there is a "frequent" tab that does this, and also there is a "questions that may already have the answer" that is displayed when a new question is created. Generally, new users just seem to ignore it. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 8 '15 at 2:01
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    @KitFox - True; but I don't think the heading 'frequent' is self-explanatory enough. It's also very easy to overlook. But perhaps the easiest way to achieve what I'm seeking is simply to increase the prominence of the 'frequent' tab, and to explain more clearly what it points to. Some experimentation with different approaches might be needed. – Erik Kowal Jan 8 '15 at 2:10
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    Change the "frequent" tab to most common questions or most asked, make it an alphabetical/category/tag list. – Mari-Lou A Jan 8 '15 at 4:43
  • Excellent, Erik, but I hope you've been on the exercise bike too. The Foxhunter is about to be released. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 8 '15 at 11:55
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    Related (possible dupe) Finding 'duplicates' for hardy perennials. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jan 9 '15 at 14:08

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