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About two months ago, the user Jared Westover asked a story-identification question: Book with a magic school in the sky. The question drew one answer, which was not accepted.

Two days ago, Jared asked a new story-identification question: 2010s Y.A. fantasy book: Girl w/multiple magic abilities attends secret school in sky, has tech wiz friend, mother is a baddie, old guy is a phoenix. This is clearly the same story as in the first question, and the details he provides are almost identical.

I was all set to flag this as a duplicate, until I read the description for that flag:

This question has been asked before and already has an answer.

I believe "already has an answer" means "an answer was accepted", not just "somebody wrote an answer". So technically the second question is not a "duplicate" by that standard. But it still feels like it's cluttering up the site.

Should we allow this kind of thing? And if not, how do we flag it?

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    You could use a custom flag to ask a moderator to look into it for you, noting that the newer question has additional details that need editing into the older question. – Valorum Sep 6 at 23:14
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    new question shouldn't be asked. Edit with more details to get a bump / better answers + offer a bounty – NKCampbell Sep 7 at 17:11
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    I'm not sure why you interpret "answer" to mean "accepted answer". Surely, if "accepted answer" was the intended meaning, those exact words would have been used? – David Richerby Sep 16 at 13:28
  • @DavidRicherby First, because "an answer" is singular; if it was not referring to accepted answers, I would expect it to say "at least one answer" instead. Second, because un-accepted answers may be complete trash, and it makes no sense to say "we already answered this, look over here" and then point people to a pile of trash. But I could be mistaken. – MJ713 Sep 25 at 0:07
  • @MJ713 Stating that an answer exists in no way precludes the possibility of other answers also existing. And, sure, it doesn't make sense to point people to a pile of trash, but the simple fact that an answer hasn't been accepted in no way suggests that it's trash. In many cases, new askers don't know what accepting is, and disappear from the site as soon as they read an answer to their question. – David Richerby Sep 25 at 1:02
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Thanks for raising this. As Kevin said, the usual policy on story-ID duplication (both must be answered and have confirmation that the answer is correct) doesn't apply for this type of scenario. I don't think we ever discussed this on meta before, but it's common sense.

If the same question (modulo some details, e.g. if they added a bit more description the 2nd time round in an ID question) is re-posted by the same user, then we do the following:

  • Close one version as duplicate. (This would usually be the newer post, but potentially not always.)
  • Edit any extra info from the closed duplicate into the other question.
  • If there's any content worth preserving on the now-closed duplicate (e.g. a new answer), merge the two questions together to get everything in one place. (This requires a mod, so do raise a flag in such cases.)
  • Drop a comment informing the OP that they're not supposed to double-post the same question.
  • Delete the duplicate question.

This has the overall effect of returning the site to the state it would have been in if the OP had done the proper thing and simply edited their original question with whatever new details they had.

  • It was discussed very briefly here and I think it’s been discussed before but can’t find it now. In practice this is what we do anyway. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 7 at 7:58
  • What's the point in VTCing if you're going to delete anyway? – marcellothearcane Sep 13 at 21:06
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    @marcellothearcane (1) It makes clear why the question was deleted, by adding a signpost to the duplicate, for anyone with >10k rep who chances across it (e.g. following a link from chat). (2) Deletion of a non-closed question can only be done by mods. While you're waiting for a mod to show up, can at least close the question quickly to prevent it getting answers (answers can go on the original not the repost). – Rand al'Thor Sep 14 at 16:59
  • @Rand thanks, that's interesting! – marcellothearcane Sep 14 at 17:10
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For Stack Exchange in general: We didn't put "already has an answer" into the flag description. That's a network-wide requirement: Dupe targets must have an upvoted or accepted answer, "with the exception of questions from the same author." So they've already considered this specific case, and decided to allow closing as a dupe, even if there's no upvoted or accepted answer. In this case, there is an upvoted answer, so it would be legal either way.

For SFF in particular: Our policy on story ID dupes is a bit more restrictive than most other tags. In general, we require some confirmation that the answers to the two questions are the same. However, in cases like this, where it's literally the same author, and the questions look extremely similar, I'm having a hard time believing that's what our policy should be. People should not be allowed to ask the same question twice. So I voted to close the new question as a duplicate of the old question. Perhaps I should have done it the other way around, since the new question has more information than the old one (and, as discussed above, dupes by the same author need not have answers)? Regardless, one should be duped against the other.

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No, the same question should not be posted twice, that is the policy on every Stack Exchange site and its no different here. If you didn't receive a good answer you can consider posting a bounty, even if you don't place one an answer might come later, perhaps even years later, but eventually. In addition, if you find someone's question that doesn't have a good answer you could place a bounty there too.

  • As for how to deal with the duplicate others have already answered, but I am explaining another side of the issue, what you can do instead of re-posting. – DJ Spicy Deluxe Sep 9 at 23:36

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