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It seems that many questions I considered duplicates aren't viewed as such by a decisive amount of users, therefore I'll need to adjust my response to these questions1 and I would like to ask for some guidelines on how to answer them.

Let's consider for example possible questions that could appear under the Harry Potter tag:

A) How many Horcruxes had Voldemort made?

B) Describe the Horcruxes made by wizards/witches in Europe in the XX century.

a fair amount of questions like these could be created, all of which probably could be regarded as different, standalone ones, while they still could be answered by the same, often already existing answer. It is not a problem, as it is often repeated here on meta:

answers don't make questions into duplicates.

Ideally, an answer to questions A) and B) would contain data such as the name of the Horcrux creator along with the description and names of all the known Horcruxes appearing in chronological order, supported by canon references. Now, we have an answer here by Slytherincess, which perfectly answers both questions with maybe some minor adjustments.

Another example would be the recent question Why does Turanga Leela and her family put their surname first? which probably would be adequately answered by gnovice's answer especially after their latest edit, with simply emphasizing the 'we don't know about the existence of any canon origins' part as a header.

So what would be the recommended action, when a user2 posts a question if a good answer on the subject already exists on SFF?

Should we direct OP to the answers of existing, similar questions and try to answer the new question only if OP states that the existing ones are unsatisfactory or perhaps we should attempt to answer the question right away, without an attempt to enlighten OP about our current resources which may provide an answer to their inquiry?

If we decide that an answer is required to OP's near-dupe question should we utilize our stack (which is full of quality answers many of which kept up to date), that is, base our answer on existing answer(s) that fit3 by perhaps asking the author of the original answer to repost their answer4 to the new question with slight modifications or maybe we should quote or reword the old answer with attribution / link 5 , adding only parts which are lacking in the old answer? Would that be recommended or perhaps we should 'reinvent the wheel' and ignore altogether the original answer and write a similar or maybe even identical answer based on independent research?

What would be the best approach?





1. Until now I've simply VTC'd them as dupes
2. especially if it's a new user, see Rand's answer
3. an analogy would be maybe not duplicating code
4. If they're still an active user, naturally
5. links would be also useful for maintenance, (i.e. adding newly released info on the subject to all the relevant near-dupe questions for consistency and clarity)

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    The issue here is that some users are hell-bent on allowing obvious dupes to co-exist. – Valorum Apr 7 '18 at 16:50
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    @Valorum I disagree. The issue is that some users on this site are hell-bent on only allowing a fact to appear once on this site. "The answer to this is hidden as an aside deep in the third- or fourth-highest-scoring answer on a question only tangentially related. DUPE!" – Kevin Apr 7 '18 at 19:09
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    @Kevin - What about when it's the number one voted and accepted answer? – Valorum Apr 7 '18 at 19:15
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    @Kevin - What about when someone posts a question that is essentially a dupe of an existing question, all accept for asking for a canonical reference? – Valorum Apr 7 '18 at 19:16
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    @Valorum (1) still irrelevant. Questions make dupes, not answers. In particular, if a fact can be removed from an answer and it would remain a reasonable answer to the question it's answering, it should not be used as justification for duping two otherwise non-dupes. – Kevin Apr 7 '18 at 19:18
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    @Valorum (2) IF that's the only difference, the questions are dupes based on the questions, not the answers. And in this particular situation, that's not really what the Turanga question that prompted this is asking for. – Kevin Apr 7 '18 at 19:20
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    @Kevin There's a difference to only wanting a fact to appear once and only wanting a question and it's corresponding answers to appear once. A slight change in the wording and I can ask the same question again but under this new dupe policy be totally fine with it. And actually this dupe policy is now making the way for dupe closing becoming obsolete (my opinion only of course). Welcome to the new SFF forum. – TheLethalCarrot Apr 9 '18 at 10:20
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    @TheLethalCarrot No one is suggesting allowing true duplicates, only that one question has to actually be a duplicate of the other. Do you think all the rest of SE is a forum overrun with duplicates? We just want to bring our dupe policy in line with the rest of the network. – Kevin Apr 9 '18 at 15:55
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    @Kevin Well I've never had a problem with the way dupe closures have gone about before until people have started reopening true duplicates recently. From my experience with the rest of the network the way I've handled duplicates also matches those. To me it appears as those reopening these questions are going against the rest of the network. – TheLethalCarrot Apr 9 '18 at 16:17
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    @TheLethalCarrot No one is reopening anything they see as duplicates out of line with standard network behavior. On some questions there is disagreement about whether the questions are actually duplicates, and that is not uncommon around the network either. The issue is when a question is clearly not a duplicate of another but a certain clique here wants to close it as a "dupe" because an answer on another question happens to mention a relevant fact. That is the behavior out of line with the rest of the network and that many of us are trying to stop. – Kevin Apr 9 '18 at 16:48
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    @Kevin just to clarify, does the Turanga question qualify as 'clearly not a duplicate of another?' That is, the 10 different people who VTC'd (and those who of the similar opinion) according to you belong to this clique you mention, or i got your meaning wrong? – user68762 Apr 9 '18 at 17:06
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    @Lt.Ortega I'd say that specific one is at least close to disputed if not there, though those arguing based on "well, an answer to this other question could mention what you're looking for" is even worse justification than the fact actually appearing in an answer, but that's more a mindset issue. There have been others, however, that are much more clear-cut. – Kevin Apr 9 '18 at 17:11
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    @Kevin 'an answer to this other question could mention what you're looking for' is even worse justification the author of the answer writes in a comment that the reason it's not mentioned because a canonical answer is not available (yet). Sounds reasonable, as in SFF it's the norm rather than an exception to support an answer with canon refs. but if you're skeptical of that happening and therefore in favor of having another question on the subject to ensure the addition of a canonical answer, shouldn't we open even more questions to increase our chances? – user68762 Apr 9 '18 at 18:18
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    Exactly, as I said, an answer could contain the info. None does. Arguing the new question should be closed because an answer to the old one probably would have included the information if it existed isn't even consistent with the current policy. Yes, I'm skeptical that the information would definitely be added to an answer that is complete without it. Even if it were, it's supplemental information above and beyond what that question is about. A complete and correct answer to the mailbox question is "because it's their family name," as seen in the second, highly upvoted, answer. … – Kevin Apr 9 '18 at 20:09
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    An additional citation if you want to put one in could be a link to the wiki page, as Gnovice's answer has, or episode names and timestamps where it's established that that's their family name. Note that nowhere in that is anything relevant to the new question. As for your reductio ad absurdum, no. No one is saying we should allow duplicates to remain open. We are arguing that the question is not a duplicate in the first place because it is asking for very different information. – Kevin Apr 9 '18 at 20:09
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TL;DR: if the questions are different, the answers can often be tailored differently to each one (and if the questions aren't truly different, they're dupes and don't both need to be answered).

Main meta already has a pretty thorough canonical post about this from a CM: Is it acceptable to add a duplicate answer to several questions? In this case, I think the third section is most important, since you're assuming the questions aren't (likely to be closed as) duplicates, and spamming/astroturfing is a whole different ballpark which may require mod intervention.

Copying and pasting the same answer to multiple questions can cause different reactions depending on what answer you're pasting. The acceptableness of this behavior ranges from "highly frowned upon" to "completely unacceptable". (Note that it never reaches the "acceptable" end of that spectrum.) If you catch yourself or someone else doing this, please evaluate the answer and see if there is a more correct thing to do.

Are the questions duplicates of each other?

Duplicate answers most often indicate that the questions are asking the same thing. If the questions could be considered duplicates of each other, only post the answer to the best one, which you think would make the better candidate for the other one to point to. Flag or vote to close the other one so that it can be directed to the better question which has your answer. [...]

Are they promotional in any way?

Duplicate answers across questions that promote external links or resources are considered astro-turfing and will likely result in the immediate deletion of all the answers involved. Most often, these answers get posted to questions which are only remotely related to the link or product they're trying to promote, and they often consist of little more than a vague explanation of what the link contains or what the tool does. Depending on the degree of astro-turfing and status of the account, a wide range of punishments could get issued, from a simple warning to account destruction.

Could the answers be more specific to each question?

If you've gotten past the other two questions, your answer may just be too vague. Answers that solve over-generalized problems are not as useful to questions — they should be tailored to address the specific needs that each question has outlined. If linking something, explain the relevant parts to the OP, or explain how the code or tool you've linked is relevant and useful to them. Don't just throw out answers thinking "this is relevant" — explain how it is relevant. It's not always so obvious.

Are the questions asking about the wrong thing?

Sometimes, superficially different questions may indeed be symptoms of the same underlying problem. For example, the questions may describe different errors observed in different situations, all of which have the same root cause. Or the questions may all be suffering from the X/Y problem, with the same underlying problem but different poorly attempted solutions. Such questions are not obvious duplicates, and marking them as such without explaining why they're really about the same root issue may only leave the asker puzzled, yet they all have essentially the same fundamental answer.

If you've written a clear, detailed and comprehensive answer to one such question, explaining what the underlying problem is and how to solve it, it may be tempting to copy-paste the same answer with minimal changes to other questions that it applies to. Indeed, if you edit your answer enough to make it specifically fit each question, this may not be completely unacceptable.

That said, it's usually better to find (or ask!) a question about the actual underlying problem, and post your comprehensive answer there. You can then either vote to close the other questions as duplicates (with an explanatory comment, if it's not obvious why they share the same cause and solution) or just answer each of them with a short description of how that particular symptom arises from the shared root cause, with a link to the question about the cause for more information.

For an SFF-specific example of what's discussed in the last section, see Should we rewrite the 'lightsaber colour' question? In this case, many questions about specific lightsabre colours were closed as duplicates of one which was asking about a different specific colour but which had a detailed canonical answer. This caused some confusion due to the questions being different, but eventually we solved the problem by editing the original question to ask about the general case, which made it a much clearer dupe target for all the rest.

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