I was under the impression that "marked as duplicate--this question already has an answer" meant that OP's question had not only elicited an answer or answers, but elicited one that satisfied the OP and had been officially selected. But apparently that is not the case, so what constitutes an answered question?
Could you be more specific? Is there a question you have in mind? Sometimes OPs forget or do not accept an answer, but that doesn't mean their questions have not been answered.– Mari-Lou AJan 28, 2015 at 6:59
@Mari-Lou A - "marked as duplicate--this question already has an answer". What does this mean? OP's question received a response in the answer box, more than 1 answer in the answer box, 3, 4? an answer was selected by OP? What constitutes an "answer" in a question flagged as duplicate? Thanks for responding, I have "binged" several high-rep users without reply.– user98990Jan 28, 2015 at 8:28
Users with at least 3000 rep can vote to close questions. One of the options to do so is
This question has been asked before and already has an answer.
However, a duplicate is not necessarily an exact copy. An exact copy is merged, not closed as a duplicate.
A question nominated as a duplicate has at least one answer which provides an answer to the closed question. It may not be the accepted answer there, but one of the answers will either answer the question, or show the way to answering it.
The nominated question may be a generic question like Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article? — that one will show the asker how to determine which article they should use, in order to answer a question about articles. That generic question can't answer every specific question which is linked to it as a duplicate, but does provide an answer which can be applied to the closed question.
In addition, the closed question becomes a pointer to the canonical answer, which (if the system is used correctly!) will quickly refer people with similar questions to their answer.
The asker of the closed question can comment on closure suggestions during the time votes are being amassed, because there is an automatic comment advising them of a potential duplicate, and can still do this after it's been closed. They are at liberty to comment (or, preferably, amend their question) in order to show that the nominated duplicate is not appropriate.
You are right that what the current closure system does not do is to link directly to the best answer within the "target" question.
BTW, I have no “beef” here, and the stress of my question is on “what constitutes an answer. You say, “A ... duplicate has at least one answer which provides an answer to the closed question. It may not be the accepted answer there, but one of the answers will either answer the question, or show the way to answering it.” If a question designated as “answered” is not selected by OP, who (and how) is that determination established? For example, this question has been checked as answered, but I still have don’t really have the understanding I seek.– user98990Jan 28, 2015 at 16:12
1@LittleEva The acceptance tick is done by the original asker: that's the answer which helped him. The determination of whether the question is a duplicate is by five users of 3000+ rep, or one moderator, or one user who has a gold badge in the relevant tag.– Andrew Leach ModJan 28, 2015 at 16:32
I'm sorry, I thought this Q ha been ticked. So, a question is marked as duplicate/answered (a completed cycle) when "five users of 3000+ rep, or one moderator, or one user who has a [relevant] gold badge" make a determination 1) that a similar question has previously been submitted, and 2) an effective answer to that question has been submitted, correct? In the case of "five users of 3000+ rep", by consensus or majority?– user98990Jan 28, 2015 at 16:54
1Yes. The rules for counting close votes are complicated, but five votes are needed to close (mods and gold-badges count as five). If more than one different duplicate has been nominated, they are both listed; if a majority of votes are for another closure reason, the duplicate is not shown at all.– Andrew Leach ModJan 28, 2015 at 17:00
On a few occasions (not many) I've noticed that some answers seem to be "popular" and garner the most up-votes but (IMO) are NOT the best/most accurate answer to the OP's question, and sometimes those "popular" answers get selected by the OP over (what I perceive to be) better (I don't mean mine) answers - do Moderators vet ALL answers for quality? And if so, what happens if Moderators feel a selected answer was merely "popular" but less than optimal?– user98990Jan 28, 2015 at 17:39
1@LittleEva, The question is marked as duplicate of another question; the dupe link leads to that question and all of its answers, not just the accepted or most upvoted one. Thus querents can judge for themselves which answer is best, most helpful, or most applicable to their circumstances.– Dan BronJan 28, 2015 at 21:24
Thank you @DanBron, that's a useful tip.– user98990Jan 28, 2015 at 21:56