After having joined the site and been visiting regularly for a while, I have discovered many, many cases of duplicate questions (i.e. questions having the same answer, per apparent consensus definition for this tag).
I've finally collected enough points to start voting-to-close these old questions, but it appears that at least some users feel that I'm sometimes doing this the "wrong way."
I don't want to cause undue stress on moderators or queue reviewers, nor do I want to abuse the newly-granted ability to VTC. I am aware (I think) of most of the consensus decisions on how duplicates should be handled, and I am in agreement that obviously superior pages should have precedence, even if they are newer. However, in several cases, I have identified a group of 3 or more questions with the same answer, and in such cases, I lean heavily towards the oldest formally accepted (i.e. green check-mark) answer as the target to which other questions should point.
My reasoning is:
- "Earliest formally-accepted answer" is an objective feature that will lead to one and only one question. Formally-accepted is better because someone very new to the site can tell at a glance the OP got a satisfactory answer (and therefore it is worth it to keep reading).
- "Obviously superior" is a subjective call; if it's not at least 5x better in my opinion, I'd rather stick with the implicit guidance of the duplicate banner's "this question has been asked before" statement.
- Sometimes answer quality and question quality point in different directions, further complicating a subjective evaluation.
- "Credit where credit is due" seems applicable; newer duplicate answers very often don't point back to the original successful answer (though the recent trend seems to be to do this).
- Anyone coming to the site in response to one of the question pages (presumably the one that most closely matched their particular search terms) will be directed to a common "central page" for the group, from which all can be visited via the "Linked" pages section at right (and will thereby itself have aggregated many applicable search terms from the other questions' titles). As it stands, in certain cases, duplicate banners point to pages that are themselves closed as duplicates.
Are there points of consensus (of which I'm not aware) that govern situations like these? Does anyone have a better methodology to suggest? Would it be appropriate to make a feature request to have duplicate banners say the question has been answered "more comprehensively" instead of earlier?
EDIT: Given the significant number of upvotes and the lack of competing answers, it seems Adamant's answer represents consensus. However, I haven't accepted it because of the open questions related to situations where the "best" answer for a group changes (see my comments on it below).
Adamant notes that "[d]uplicates of duplicates [are] definitely an issue" (italics mine), but in actual practice it seems this may be ignored in favor of "better answer" reasoning. (As an example from earlier today, see Main character can "manipulate" his own time , which had a VTC overridden and was set as the duplicate target for Story about main character with regeneration powers despite the fact that the latter already had four other questions pointing to it as a duplicate.)
While I don't disagree with the assessment of the Feb 26 2013 question being the "best" answer of the duplicate group, is it really the recommended procedure that every one of the others be reopened in order to reclose them with a new target? Or is it really the case that there is not a functional consensus that duplicates of duplicates are a significant issue to be managed?
Please note that in this particular example case, the target chosen was an older question which had most likely been missed because of the title Treason being used, instead of A Planet Called Treason like others in the group. (By my own reasoning, being older is a strong preferential factor.) That wouldn't necessarily always be the case, so I don't consider it relevant to the general case discussion I'm trying to evoke.