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This morning I had my question closed and, upon browsing through the answers to the proposed duplicate, I did find half of an answer to my question.

This leads me to wonder about some things:

  1. Is it frowned upon within the ELU community to ask a question that is similar to a previous one?
  2. Is there anything wrong with asking a question that has been asked before in the hope of better quality answers or answers from different viewpoints?
  3. Should I, as an enthusiastic user, feel dejected or guilty?
  4. Are there any negative effects from having a question closed as a duplicate? Does it affect your respect in the community?
  5. Why are questions allowed to be marked as a duplicate immediately? Should there not be a grace period in which there's a chance for new, more informative answers than those of the "duplicate"?

Please note that my points are nothing more than small concerns; I do not object to the closure of my question.

The main reason I am asking this is because as a frequent user of the site, I feel that I should be as familiar with it as possible.

I thoroughly enjoy answering and editing questions asked on ELU and I have even gotten many helpful answers myself.

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    The short answer is no, you shouldn't feel ashamed or worried. You don't want to make a habit of asking questions which get closed (or downvoted), of course, but one instance is not an issue, especially now, since you're more aware of the need to run a search for duplicate questions first (though that's usually easier said than done). See the answer to another user who had a similar concern recently. – Dan Bron Apr 29 '15 at 11:56
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    I would say "no"; not if you spent a minute or so looking for a duplicate question first. There are lots of questions for which the duplicate is really hard to find, and we don't expect you to put inordinate amount of time into doing this. – Peter Shor May 1 '15 at 1:59
  • Adding a new duplicate has a positive effect: It makes the question easier to find when the next one is searching for existing answers before asking. – Volker Siegel Jun 18 '15 at 20:45
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Answering your questions in no particular order...

In general, duplicate questions are not desirable because you end up with answers to the same actual question spread out across multiple question posts. When the next person comes along with that same question, it's much harder to find the answers. That's why duplicate questions are closed before they can accumulate more answers.

If you are unsatisfied with existing answers to a question, there are several ways to draw attention to an old question, but asking the exact question again would only result in the new one being closed as a duplicate.

If your question has some subtle but important difference from the existing one, it's OK to post a new question. But it would be advisable to call out the older one in your question to preemptively stave off people closing yours as a duplicate. "This may seem like a duplicate of (this other question) but it's not, because..."

It is natural to feel dejected when you receive negative feedback, but it's just a part of life on the site. It is very easy to ask a duplicate question accidentally. As long as you did your diligence in searching for an answer and reviewing the list of 'potentially similar questions' on the ask screen, you shouldn't feel bad.

As Mitch already answered, closed questions don't really count against you unless it's a repetitive problem.

  • Note that moderators can merge questions if they are duplicates and both have good answers. – mmyers May 3 '15 at 7:02
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There are operations in effect that, if you garner enough net negatively voted items and/or closes, you may be temporarily banned. (I don't know the details, but from seeing things, it's something like 5 or more questions answers within a short amount of time with no positive ones). However, I'm fairly certain that a duplicate closure does not come in to this calculation. So a duplicate question is not a mark against you.

On the other hand, for general hygiene of the site, duplicate questions are not desirable. Also, asking a question that turns out to be a duplicate might show a lack of preparation by the OP: on one hand, people have a tendency to ask SO without looking elsewhere or without trying to see if already answered here, but on the other, the SO search is not the best and Google will find duplicates better. Also, like a spelling dictionary, how are you supposed to look it up if you don't know how to spell it already?

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    "asking a question that turns out to be a duplicate shows a lack of preparation or homework" - no, not necessarily. Very often, people have done their prep or homework, but didn't find an existing dupe because they used different (synonymous) terms. So, having that dupe exist is a good thing: it's a signpost helping people who use terms A to find relevant content containing terms B – user568458 May 1 '15 at 11:57
  • @user568458 good point. answer modified. – Mitch May 1 '15 at 12:03
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    "On the other hand, for general hygiene of the site, duplicate questions are not desirable" Why do you say this? They make it a little easier to search for existing questions, or more likely for the question to come up in the list when you ask a new question (for those who refuse to search.) – curiousdannii May 1 '15 at 12:25
  • @curiousdannii I see your point, but I'd prefer to only have to look at one question than many, and so only one item to come up on my search. But does that mean you're suggesting we get rid of the close reason of duplicate? That would change a lot of things here. – Mitch May 1 '15 at 14:20
  • @Mitch Duplicates are most useful when they use different words and so wouldn't all appear in your searches. And ideally you'd only need to look at two questions, though sometimes there is a chain of duplicates. I definitely don't want to get rid of the duplicate close reason, and I'm not sure how what I wrote would suggest that. We need more questions closed as duplicates, not less. – curiousdannii May 1 '15 at 14:23
  • @curiousdannii a first simple pass on this issue is 'duplicates bad' and saying 'keep duplicates' is, thinking simply, the opposite. But the nuance you're adding is that we should keep repeat questions, just mark (and close) them as duplicate. But note that questions that are closed are by design expected to be deleted eventually (so that they don't clutter up the site) even duplicates. – Mitch May 1 '15 at 14:28
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    @Mitch I never said duplicates were bad! And deletion is a separate issue from closing, and it's not the case that closed questions are designed to eventually be deleted. Questions with high quality answers or highly voted questions which get closed as a site's scope changes will never be deleted. Similarly duplicate questions won't be deleted. Cluttering sites is not a real issue, and if it were, there would be much better ways to shrink the database. – curiousdannii May 1 '15 at 14:38
  • @curiousdannii: it does seem inconvenient for the answers to duplicate questions to be spread out across multiple posts though. Is there no way to keep the search benefits of having duplicates, while consolidating the answers in one place? – sumelic May 11 '15 at 4:27
  • @sumelic Yes. Close duplicate questions ASAP. You can also suggest to answerers that they copy their answers across. Questions can also be merged, but then you only have one question left. – curiousdannii May 11 '15 at 4:43

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