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The question Can a maester's chain include multiple links of the same metal?:

A maester can be recognized by the chain he wears around his neck. The links of the chain can be made of every metal known to man. Each metal is related to a subject - silver for medicine, iron for warcraft, etc. Can a maester's chain include multiple links of the same metal?

was recently closed by two users as a duplicate of How long does it take to forge a Maester's chain?:

How many links are needed to forge a chain? Are more links prestigious than others? How long does it typically take to earn a full chain?

(quoteblocks above are the entire text of the respective questions, just so we aren't going by titles).

I was somewhat surprised that a question had been closed as a duplicate of a completely different but tangentially related question (both questions are about maesters' chains in the GoT/aSoIaF universe, but beyond that they're not asking the same thing at all). Checking the revision history of the accepted answer to the older question, I discovered that one of the close-voters had edited the answer to the new question into an answer to the older question, while the other one had left a comment justifying the closure on the basis that the older answer mentions the answer to the newer question.


Current policy on duplicate closure based on answers says:

  • Folks with specific, focused questions tend to not read massively broad FAQs even if they do find them.
  • Finding specific information among multiple answers to massively broad FAQs is troublesome.

[...] normally the presence of identical answers is a pretty good indication that the questions themselves are the same (unless the answer itself is something trivial like the name of a character). But this doesn't hold if a question has managed to attract a lot of different answers [...]

To avoid looking silly then, I would strongly recommend using answers as more of a litmus test than as a policy: if you're already pretty sure the questions are duplicates, testing the answers of one against the other can easily confirm your suspicions. But don't close completely irrelevant questions as duplicates of one another simply because there's an animated gif that happens to apply to both...

Is it good practice to edit the answer to question B into a tangential remark in an existing answer to question A, then close B as a dupe of A, when A and B are asking different things?


(Under normal circumstances, I'd just vote to reopen. But I don't have non-binding reopen votes here, and since the accepted answer to the newer question is mine, it would be conflict of interest for me to just hammer it open.)

  • I discovered that one of the close-voters had edited the answer to the new question into an answer to the older question, while the other one had left a comment justifying the closure on the basis that the older answer mentions the answer to the newer question. - This is utterly wrong. The older answer has had "your" answer in it since March 4th 2014. It was not edited to include "your" answer, it was edited to include the information included in the link that's been there for close to 4 years. – Edlothiad Feb 6 '18 at 7:20
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    I'm not going to add an answer unless you really want me to as Edlothiad seems to have summed up the reasoning perfectly. I'd just like to emphasise the fact that I did not edit your answer into Valorums. He already had the link in his answer with a summary in his own words, I just added the quote. As far as I know this is a good thing as links may die. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 6 '18 at 9:10
  • I'd also like to point out that you've looked into the revision history so you know exactly what I edited in. So when you comment on the answers below like you didn't know what was in the answer before you are intentionally misrepresenting yourself to make your own case stronger. I don't know about anyone else but that doesn't appear to be a very desirable trait for a high rep community member like yourself, never mind the fact that you are a moderator. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 6 '18 at 11:19
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    @TheLethalCarrot I'm not "intentionally misrepresenting" anything. You made "multiple links of the same metal" into a larger part of Valorum's answer. Yes, adding quotes to support a point is good, but here you made the answer look more related to the new question than it was before. What happens if Valorum decides to edit his answer to focus more directly on the question asked, removing the tangential sentence about multiple links of the same metal? He'd be quite within his rights to do so, but then suddenly the new question would be duped to an unrelated question with an unrelated answer. – Rand al'Thor Feb 6 '18 at 16:11
  • @Randal'Thor If he ever edits to remove that whole section, not just the quote, then I will reopen the question. As it stands at the moment he has not. here you made the answer look more related to the new question than it was before: No, I added in the content of the link that the answer already linked too. As for intentionally misrepresenting you stated below Ah, so originally the newer question was addressed in the older answer just without actually including the quote / precise info. but in the OP you said Checking the revision history of the accepted answer to the older question... – TheLethalCarrot Feb 6 '18 at 16:15
  • So I believe you already knew this but just left it out of the OP to strengthen your case for a reopen. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 6 '18 at 16:15
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    @TheLethalCarrot shrug Attack is not the best form of defence :-) Of course I checked the revision history; how else would I have known that you added the quote at all? – Rand al'Thor Feb 6 '18 at 16:35
  • @Randal'Thor Which is why it seemed like your comment below was misleading but I may have misinterpreted what you meant to say. Anyway I guess we'll have to agree to disagree as I don't think we'll both agree on the closure. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 6 '18 at 16:37
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Copying your answer into the old question does seem odd to me, but the following was in Valorum's original answer to the old question back in 2014.

From the TV series, we can see that the chains seem to contain approximately 20 links and from a quote from GRRM we can see that a Maester can be awarded multiple links of the same metal if they are especially proficient in a particular area of knowledge.

So maybe they just added your answer to help highlight and reinforce the original phrasing in Valorum's answer.

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    Ah, so originally the newer question was addressed in the older answer just without actually including the quote / precise info. Either way, though, it's tangential to the main question being asked there, of how many links are in the chain and how long it takes to forge it. Valorum or someone else could edit this information out of his answer, and it'd still be a perfectly valid answer to the question it's posted on. (This is actually a good argument against closing unrelated questions as dupes based on answers at all.) – Rand al'Thor Feb 5 '18 at 19:27
  • 1. Valorum didn't "add" Rand al'Thor's answer, for all we know, Rand could've found the link there. While Valorum could edit the information out of his answer, it contributes to a significant part of the answer, and it already exists on the site, there's no need to copy it twice. – Edlothiad Feb 6 '18 at 7:17
  • I'd also argue to say the answer is significant, as if there's a minimum requirement of links to chain length, having multiple links of the same metal is directly relevant to the number of links as it doesn't mean that (assuming the requirement is 10) 10 different subjects have to be learnt, but 10 links in total. – Edlothiad Feb 6 '18 at 7:22
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    The important part of Valorum's answer that you miss out in your quote is that quote is actually a link to the So Spake Martin quote that I added into his answer. Even if I the newer question hadn't been asked I still would have edited in the quote. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 6 '18 at 9:52
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There are still people on this site who think that answers somehow magically make questions into duplicates, even though that totally misses the whole point of the Stack Exchange model.

"We're not gonna answer your question, because on this other question which happens to be about the same show but is otherwise unrelated, one of the three answers happens to mention in an aside a factoid that, if you squint and tilt your head just right, could possibly sorta-kinda answer your question. But good luck finding the relevant sentence fragment in all that text. Oh, and mwa ha ha ha ha."

This is no different than the old forum model of tech support on the internet: before Stack Overflow, it used to be, you'd find a thread where one of the replies clearly had the same problem as you, and then you'd have to read through three pages of posts from people of dubious expertise (and even more dubious English writing ability) to see if someone maybe mentioned a factoid that could help you. This is the model that Stack Overflow, and Stack Exchange after it, repudiated.

If two questions are duplicates, then EVERY good answer to one will answer the other. EVERY SINGLE GOOD ANSWER. Otherwise, the questions are not duplicates.

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    This is not how the community wants the site to work as shown multiple times over various meta posts. We also don't deem passing comments to be sufficient for marking duplicates in general and questions duplicated based off one throwaway line buried in an answer are miss-duped. That is certainly not the case here. We also have a policy where the specific is duped to the general, which is the case here. – Edlothiad Feb 13 '18 at 8:14
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    @Edlothiad: this is not how SOME [derogatory adjective deleted] MEMBERS of the community want the site to work, despite the fact that it goes against Stack Exchange policy. The rest of us fight against it, but there's only so much we can do. – Martha Feb 13 '18 at 19:19
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    You’re right, this is not how some want it to work. This is how most of the community wants it done. A Community Manager has even said that using answers as a litmus test is a good idea. Each site has a meta to create its own policy. SE sets the ground rules and the guidelines and every site can grow how it wants, this is how we chose to grow. It’s how we stop ourselves from collecting the noise that infects Quora. If a question asker feels their question has not been answered they can edit to clarify that and we can re-open it. If there only issue is “I won’t gain as much rep”... – Edlothiad Feb 13 '18 at 19:57
  • [continued] well we’ll show them the door. – Edlothiad Feb 13 '18 at 19:57
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    @Edlothiad: Quora is a total red herring. Literally every other Stack Exchange site requires questions to be actually, you know, duplicates in order to be closed as duplicates, and yet they seem to function fine. – Martha Feb 13 '18 at 20:09
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    Every other Stack Exchange site is a total red herring. We’re given the ability to make our own policies and adapt the guidelines how we chose to. This works excellently for us and only few users have disagreed. Unfortunately not everyone will agree on everything. This discussion is moot. – Edlothiad Feb 13 '18 at 20:13
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    @Valorum: Given the current (and recent-past) balance of votes on this answer and Edlothiad's answer, I think it is quite presumptuous of you to assert that Martha is so outrageously wrong. This looks like a situation where the community is divided, from where I sit. – Kevin Feb 14 '18 at 0:20
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    @Kevin - Except that each time we've had a vote on this issue (something that we have to endure repeatedly because of the vocal minority that Martha represents), the side of "questions-only dupes" has been soundly beaten each time. – Valorum Feb 14 '18 at 6:22
  • @Kevin using my answer here is in a very different limelight to the answer above. My sole intention is to present why I voted to close the way I did. The votes are whether or not people agree or disagree with my reasoning. Not whether or not they think answers should be used to mark duplicates. They may be for the latter, but feel I've stretched the bounds. – Edlothiad Feb 14 '18 at 9:08
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    @Edlothiad You seem to keep misinterpreting that answer from the Community Manager, which says that answers should only be checked "if you're already pretty sure the questions are duplicates", and NOT using them as a "policy" for closing dupes. – Rand al'Thor Feb 14 '18 at 12:45
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    @Randal'Thor you keep bringing up the same thing, which I've not said when referencing Shog's answer. I stated her, rather CLEARLY that "using answers as a litmus test is a good idea", almost a DIRECT quote from the CM. I was pretty sure the questions are duplicates, look at the answers, hey-ho they are. – Edlothiad Feb 14 '18 at 12:47
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    @Edlothiad Like I said in a comment on your answer, I appreciate that there you compared the questions (in line with the policy) rather than basing everything on "this answer solves the new question". But in your comments, both on the supposed dupe itself and here on meta, you seem to be saying that policy is to dupe-close based on answers. – Rand al'Thor Feb 14 '18 at 12:53
  • Seems like the questions aren't logical duplicates, but are being classified as such for convenience or whatever reason. – can-ned_food Apr 17 '18 at 2:09
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First things first. The quote had existed in Valorum's answer since March 4th 2014, just in link form, so nothing was stolen from your answer the other day.

Secondly, let's take a look at the final paragraph in the supposed "Policy" for duplicate questions and apply it to the two answers at hand here and then some older "policies" from actual users on this site on the same topic.

To avoid looking silly then, I would strongly recommend using answers as more of a litmus test than as a policy: if you're already pretty sure the questions are duplicates, testing the answers of one against the other can easily confirm your suspicions.

So don't use answers first, see if the questions are duplicates (or in this case reasonably similar) to justify looking at the answers.

Getting past all the precursory information in the dupe we're left with Can a maester's chain include multiple links of the same metal?. How does this relate to How many links are needed to forge a chain? Are more links prestigious than others? How long does it typically take to earn a full chain? one might ask, well.

  • The ability for a chain to include multiple links of the same metal is relevant to both the first and third questions. The ability to acquire multiple links directly affects how many subjects one is required to master to achieve a "full chain". Given that multiple links are available, one does not have to master x subjects if x links are required for the chain.
  • The time taken to achieve a full chain in canon varies, however, if receiving multiple links of the same metal (for the same study) is easier than earning a link of a new metal, it would shorten the time required for the acolyte to earn their "chain"

But don't close completely irrelevant questions as duplicates of one another simply because there's an animated gif that happens to apply to both...

Now from the above bulletpoints we can see that this was not simply a matter of "an animated gif that applies to both" but a possibly significant point in the answer that affects 2/3s of the points raised by the original asker. Although it was originally just a link, taking the information from the link and putting it into the answer has not changed the answer in any way, it is therefore not vandalism. The information was not stolen from another answer without attribution and is therefore not plagiarism.

Further from this older discussion on the matter, a high-rep, long-term active user suggests the benefits of duplicates, as well as the how the community tends to act and reasons for it.

We've already posted the information being searched for. Answering it again and again in multiple places makes the whole thing confusing as we start finding contradicting answers and information across the site (look at questions about "The Rule of Two" for an example of this). Users looking for the information get confused when there are more than one "right" answers or sources of information.


If one wants to get into the details of the thought processes between myself and TheLethalCarrot in deciding its duplicacy, they can see it in our A Song of Ice and Fire chatroom starting from here.


It is also worth noting that in the re-open review queue (I'll guess spurred by this question) there was a unanimous decision to leave the post closed as a duplicate. The decision was carried out by 3 very experienced reviewers, one of which is also very active in the tags in question.

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    "the supposed "Policy" [...] and then some older "policies" from actual users on this site" - regardless of who posted the first-linked answer, it has votes of +29/-0 from users on this site. Although I don't find your bullet points convincing, I do appreciate that you've tried to base your argument on question content rather than "the old answer also answers the new question" like your original comment did. The Leave Closed review is unfortunate; I may have to conclude that "the mob has spoken" and leave this closed, but I guess we'll see what more commentary this meta inspires. – Rand al'Thor Feb 6 '18 at 16:28
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    The first point is the fact that the term "Policy" is meaningless, people just find a meta with lots of upvotes and claim it's policy. I disagree with the system, but hey, it's how it is. – Edlothiad Feb 6 '18 at 16:32
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    Re vandalism/plagiarism: I never insinuated anything like that. Not sure why you and TLC are getting so worked up about this really (he's even making counter-accusations that I was being disingenuous or something when posting this meta). You may have predicted "Rand would rage", but I'm not raging :-) – Rand al'Thor Feb 6 '18 at 16:33
  • @Randal'Thor I was covering the bases. In case anyone was curious as to whether vandalism or plagiarism applied here, it did not. Nothing with you insinuating it. Secondly, I'm not getting "worked up" in the same way you're not "raging". My comment that you quote, was a colloquial way of stating you'd disagree with our decision, and take it to meta, and I was right. – Edlothiad Feb 6 '18 at 21:13
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Answers should not determine whether a question is closed. Questions must stand alone. I would like to highlight a specific comment which was made on this question:

@Randal'Thor If [Valorum] ever edits [his answer to the dupe target] to remove that whole section, not just the quote, then I will [vote to] reopen the question. [...]

That's not how this works. We don't dupe against answers, we dupe against questions. Duplication means "Any good answer to question A will also be a good answer to question B." Since that is clearly not the case here, I have voted to reopen and encourage others to do the same.

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    We most certainly do dupe against answer, it's a very long-standing, standard policy on this site (one that's even been suggested by a CM), I have down-voted this answer for that reason. The OP in this question is not stating it's a dupe because the questions aren't dupes, but due to the policy of duping based on answers was streched in this case. – Edlothiad Feb 7 '18 at 7:19
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    @Edlothiad s/suggested/overruled? From the current policy: "I would strongly recommend using answers as more of a litmus test than as a policy: if you're already pretty sure the questions are duplicates, testing the answers of one against the other can easily confirm your suspicions." In other words, we dupe primarily based on questions. See also my elaboration on this. – Rand al'Thor Feb 7 '18 at 11:04
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    @Randal'Thor I don't see how that possibly overrules, supposedly, "former" policies. Our "current" policy says we should indeed use answers, given relevant similarity of the questions. Also any good answer to question A does answer question B, as proven by Valorum's answer. – Edlothiad Feb 7 '18 at 11:35
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    @Edlothiad: That is not what the policy you link in your answer actually says. You cherrypicked the part that agrees with your answer and ignored the rest. – Kevin Feb 7 '18 at 15:58
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    @Edlothiad - Valorum's answer has 17 upvotes (no downvotes). There's an answer by Justin Ethier that has 7 upvotes (no downvotes), which doesn't mention anything about duplicate links (heh). While a strong argument could be made the Valorum's answer is objectively much better than Justin's, his answer has gotten enough votes that I'd feel I'd have to treat it as a "good" answer. Wouldn't this then indicate that the questions are not duplicates? – RDFozz Feb 8 '18 at 20:42
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    This is the correct answer, but the Powers That Be on this site are totally and completely and INSANELY WRONG about duplicates. – Martha Feb 13 '18 at 5:28
  • @Martha: Don't tell me, I can't do anything about it! – Kevin Feb 13 '18 at 6:09
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    @Martha, the community decides the policy, clearly they want the litmus test with answers, and not whatever else is being suggested, they've clearly expressed dislike for noise, and that's how we get rid of noise. If you like lots of questions with the same answer, Quora is a good site to try. – Edlothiad Feb 13 '18 at 8:17
  • @Martha - You seem to have mistaken the community from the site's moderators. If memory serves at least one of their number are opposed to the policy but they accept it because it's their job to enforce the policies that the community decide upon. – Valorum Feb 13 '18 at 20:37
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    @Edlothiad At the last vote, the community was strongly in favour of an answer which said dupe-closes should be based on questions NOT answers, and answers should only be used as a test "if you're already pretty sure the questions are duplicates". Unfortunately, the people casting the close votes seem to keep either forgetting or misinterpreting this post. – Rand al'Thor Feb 14 '18 at 12:48
  • I don't see how that is a policy on how we close questions, the question is asking if the "policy" on main meta overrules our policy, and the answer outlines the policy on main meta, not our policy. But you still seem to insist that is the policy. You also keep saying "If you're already pretty sure the questions are duplicates". The author goes on to say "* But don't close completely irrelevant questions as duplicates*", which you tend to ignore. You've repeatedly cherry-picked this meta and it's quote to suit your desires. This "policy" should really have been back-duped to the original one – Edlothiad Feb 14 '18 at 12:53
  • [continued] as is done with so many new questions. But it wasn't, for some strange reason. – Edlothiad Feb 14 '18 at 12:53

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