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I'm all for closing redundant questions as dupes, and we do seem to have series of questions asking similar things, but observe question number one:

I am not interested in the movies, just the TV series. However, since the show has many seasons, I am not interested in watching the show start to finish

(emphasis mine)

And here comes the apparent "duplicate":

I want to watch every movie and TV-series there is about Star Trek [..]

(emphasis mine)

The OP of the second one even points out:

In This question the person only wanted to watch the TV series.

Given that six to seven films are set in the TOS era and cannot be fully understood or appreciated without having watched the series (which is reflected in the accepted answer to the first question, suggesting to skip TOS altogether and start with TNG) these questions do not seem like duplicates to me. Maybe some of the VTCers can explain this to me?

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    The rules of dupes are that dupes are based on existing answers, not questions. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 30 '13 at 20:55
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    @DVK: Fine with me: In both cases, the answers differ because they address the respectively different question. So, this (meta-)question remains valid, as far as I can tell. – bitmask Oct 30 '13 at 21:22
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    Given that six to seven films are set in the TOS era and cannot be fully understood or appreciated without having watched the series I disagree with this statement wholeheartedly. I have watched very little of TOS, but have seen all of the movies and understood/appreciated them completely. TOS was NOT really a very deep show. – Charles Boyung Nov 1 '13 at 15:18
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    @CharlesBoyung: See my reply on the original question. – bitmask Nov 1 '13 at 15:33
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    Another egregious example just popped up: this question was marked as a duplicate of this one. The mind boggles. – Martha Nov 5 '13 at 23:06
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    Gah, can't downvote comments. "The rules of dupes are that dupes are based on existing answers, not questions." This is the exact opposite of the truth. Answers cannot and do not make questions into duplicates. – Martha Jun 11 '15 at 20:17
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    See also this more recent answer from a SE Community Manager to a related question. – Rand al'Thor Dec 1 '16 at 12:54
10

If there is a policy that questions are duplicates if there is an existing answer to a different question that answers them, then I think this policy is incorrect. If there is an answer to a question which answers a different question, then I am inclined to mark that answer down. Clearly a question and answer site is at its most useful if people can find answers to their questions as they arise. Insisting that they then work their way through questions that don't answer* the question that they are interested in in order to find bits of the answer to the question they are actually interested in is inefficient and unhelpful.

*This was previously "relate to" rather than "answer" - edited for clarity, but noted to preserve the sense of the comments below.

  • We don't insist that people work their way through questions... the whole point of marking questions duplicate is to provide clear links. I'm not sure why you'd think the questions would be unrelated. If an answer applies to both questions, pretty clearly they are related. If you're downvoting answers because they're detailed enough to apply to other questions in addition to the question they're directly answering... I can't fathom why you wouldn't upvote questions that are detailed and thorough.... – Beofett Nov 17 '13 at 14:39
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    A question can be related without being a duplicate. In particularly if one asks "are there any films in which X happens?", the question is related to "are there any books in which X happens?" But an answer to the former which focuses on books is not a correct answer, because it is of no assistance to people seeking an answer to that question. One of the purposes of StackExchange is to avoid the usual Internet forum nonsense of having to wade through pages of wrong answers in the hope of finding the right one. – Christi Nov 17 '13 at 14:43
  • your argument would be stronger if you didn't rely on the (false) assumption that an answer discussing books can't also discuss films. And nowhere did I claim that being related was the same as being duplicate. – Beofett Nov 17 '13 at 15:16
  • I don't see any such assumption in the phrase "focusses on books", but YMMV. – Christi Nov 17 '13 at 15:17
  • Your comment was that an answer that "focuses on books is not a correct answer". If it covers films adequately, it is not a "wrong answer", no matter how much it may also address other topics. – Beofett Nov 17 '13 at 15:20
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    I think we're getting a little bogged down in nuances of expression which aren't particularly relevant to the issue in question here. My point is that an answer of the form "the following books contain X" is an answer to the second question, not the first, even though the questions are related. While I'm sure there are others who disagree, in my opinion the important factor in deciding whether a question is a duplicate should not be whether it's answered elsewhere, but whether it's asked elsewhere. One tangential answer on another question is not the same as a full debated answer. – Christi Nov 17 '13 at 15:28
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    If the question is "what order should I watch the films?", and another questionthat was "what order should I watch the TV shows?" has multiple answers that include both films and TV shows, what is the benefit of not providing a link saying "the information you are asking about is already right here"? The point of asking a question is not to gain reputation by having asked a question; its to get answers. If the answer is already here, on our site, then arguing against linking the questions seems to be missing the trees for the forest. – Beofett Nov 17 '13 at 19:40
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    And "I know you were only interested in movies, but here is a comprehensive list of recommended viewing orders for both movies and TV shows" is hardly "tangential" or somehow inferior to "a full debated answer." – Beofett Nov 17 '13 at 19:42
6

I think basing the decision of closing a question on the answers is plainly wrong. Here's a good summary on StackOverflow Meta of a similar problem.

When I ask a question which is different from existing ones, how am I supposed to know that the answer would turn out to be the same? You can't judge the question based on the answers because the answers don't exist when the question is asked.

Worse, I may not even be able to find the other question which contains an answer that would answer my question. The other question is worded differently, and I obviously can't look for the existing answer because I don't know what that answer would be.

Such a policy only creates problems.

  • See also this more recent answer from a SE Community Manager to a related question. – Rand al'Thor Dec 1 '16 at 12:53
  • @Randal'Thor Yeah, it sums up what I wanted to convey pretty well. – Malcolm Dec 1 '16 at 13:06
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    The short answer is that you're not supposed to know. Your job as the person asking is to do a quick search and look over the suggested links. It's down to those who're experts in the tag to have a greater knowledge of the questions and answer within that tag, and to spot duplicates. This is why those with the highest level of knowledge in a tag get a gold badge and the ability to close-as-dupe without seeking community approval. – Valorum Dec 1 '16 at 20:36
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    I also think that you'll have a much better time if you don't take your question being closed as a duplicate as a personal slight. It's not an attack when a question gets marked as a dupe, but alas far too many users come out swinging and end up losing any sympathy they might have gained by a more considered explanation of why they think their question isn't a duplicate – Valorum Dec 1 '16 at 20:39
  • @Valorum Right, so instead of letting the community leave their answers which may or may not be the same as an existing one we're letting someone with a gold badge make his purely subjective judgment regarding which answers might spring up. Doesn't seem like a great solution to me. By the way, I don't understand why you are trying to convince me that closing your question is not a personal attack. I never even asked any questions on Sci-Fi. You're right that many people do, and this is understandable because asking duplicates is a bad thing in general, even if it isn't in this particular case. – Malcolm Dec 1 '16 at 20:50
  • @Malcolm - If the community disagrees (as they sometimes do), it takes a mere 5 users (or one moderator) to reverse the decision. My experience is that a very high proportion of gold-tag-badge closed duplicates remain shut. The alternative is that we end up with a bunch of duplicated answers to semi-duplicated questions. – Valorum Dec 1 '16 at 21:07
  • @Valorum Yes, the community can sometimes reopen a wrongly closed question if it's brought to proper attention, but it's better to not create the problem in the first place. Of course, gold-tag-duplicates remain shut, because answer-based-duplicates are a very small portion of them regardless of how they are treated, and also because reopening a question is more difficult. As for whether we'll have duplicated answers, gold users don't know either, they can only guess if they close the questions before they get answers. And in my opinion, moderation actions shouldn't be based on guesses. – Malcolm Dec 1 '16 at 21:17
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    @Malcolm - One of the reasons we trust the community to spot dupes is because they're not always immediately obvious. "Why can Neo fly?" is a very different question from "What is the 'path of the One?'" yet will yield almost identical answers. – Valorum Dec 1 '16 at 21:22
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    @Valorum So you equate gold-badge users with the community, is that right? By the way, your example may or may not be valid depending on how the questions are phrased. The answers will have the same general idea at the core which is clear to everyone anyway, but may have many differences in additional details, thus making the existence of two different questions justified. This is exactly why I wouldn't want to close them outright, and especially I don't want a single person making these decisions for the community based purely on his subjective judgment. – Malcolm Dec 1 '16 at 21:46
  • @Malcolm - Believe it or not, gold badge holders are members of the community, merely members with additional rights due to their evidenced expertise. – Valorum Dec 1 '16 at 22:06
  • @Valorum Well, any website visitor is a member of the community. But for some reason newly registered people don't get many privileges, so just being a member doesn't mean anything. If a person has gotten many upvotes and wrote many answers, he will probably know about the area of expertise enough to enforce objective policies - that's what matters. But that still doesn't make his subjective judgment objective all of a sudden. It's best not to have to make subjective judgment calls at all or at least minimize them, and that's why it's better to not have policies based on guesses. – Malcolm Dec 1 '16 at 22:38
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    Also, what works on SO, a technical site, may not work on SFF. (In fact I don't think that many of the things that work there should be applied here necessarily). – Möoz Dec 2 '16 at 1:38
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    @Mooz This is a very general statement, and we are discussing a very concrete case. In regard to this particular case, I don't see any fundamental difference between the sites. – Malcolm Dec 2 '16 at 7:32
4

As DVK mentioned in a comment, one of the primary factors in determining if questions are duplicates is if the answer (or answers) to one address the other.

In this case, this answer and this answer to the original question both explicitly mention the movies in addition to the series.

Thus, the original question fully covers the duplicate question, even though the original question didn't ask for information on the movies.

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    Just because this often happens doesn't mean it's a good idea. :/ – Martha Nov 5 '13 at 23:08
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    @Martha I'm not sure I understand your comment. This doesn't happen often, and leaving such similar questions unlinked doesn't seem like a superior option. I don't understand why people feel marking questions as duplicate is such a negative thing. Why scatter answers, instead of consolidating them into one place? – Beofett Nov 6 '13 at 1:43
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    If an answer to a different question has information that answers a new question, then either that answer isn't a very good one (it's going off on irrelevant tangents), or we're asking posters the equivalent of "go look it up in Wikipedia": yeah, the information is buried in there somewhere, but it's not exactly making the internet a better place to ask them to dig for it. – Martha Nov 6 '13 at 2:57
  • Neither of those claims are even remotely true. Just look at the answers linked in this discussion. Adding info on the movies isn't "an irrelevant tangent". Like I said above: hyperbole etc.,... – Beofett Nov 6 '13 at 11:43
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    @Martha - if a question is asked for which an answer already exists then close as duplicate isn't a slap-down, it's a valid way of answering the question. The Doctor Who example you linked - "is the doctor getting younger" is validly answered by "how old was each incarnation" - the answer to the latter provides the answer to the former. There's no value to the community in leaving the former open - then we'd have the same info (or worse - conflicting info) in two different places on this site. I'm not sure how anyone could argue that might be a good thing. – user8719 Nov 7 '13 at 23:50
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    The reason "scattering answers" as you call it is actually a GOOD thing (and forcing consolidation on all answers is a BAD thing) is the raison d'etre of Stack Exchange: the ability for questioners to get an answer to their question without having to wade through paragraphs and paragraphs of information that doesn't answer their question. If you don't ever want to repeat the same information twice, then you should be writing a Wiki, not answering questions on SE. – Martha Jun 11 '15 at 20:27
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    @user8719: on the contrary. Forcing the asker of "is the Doctor getting younger" to read through all the evidence/arguments about how old the Doctor was in each incarnation, and then having to do math to boot, is very much a bad thing. Having the same information in two different places on this site IS a good thing, if it prevents people from experiencing the frustration of wading through irrelevant info to find the one tidbit they were interested in. This is why StackExchange was invented, folks. – Martha Jun 11 '15 at 20:33
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    @Martha Why do I feel like we've had this discussion before? You feel that posting a new question, and waiting for answers to arrive, and then starting the community process of vetting content all over, is somehow vastly preferable than typing in a few search criteria, finding related topics, and finding information that already answers the question. I, and many others, disagree. – Beofett Jun 11 '15 at 20:39
  • Your argument assumes several things, including: new, correct answers will arrive within less time than it would take to search; few, if any, people asking questions would be interested in reading anything tangential to their question; and, finally, that the majority of people who have hashed this concept out on various metas time and time again are all objectively wrong, and simply don't understand the point of this site... including the creators and managers. – Beofett Jun 11 '15 at 20:40
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    But yeah, I can't imagine many people on the sci-fi site have any interest in reading through tangential information on their subjects of interest. It's not like we have gotten into the practice of putting "tv tropes" warnings, because so many people seem to enjoy that sort of thing. I'm sure it's 99% unwelcome :P – Beofett Jun 11 '15 at 20:44
  • @Martha Source for that statement? – Beofett Jun 11 '15 at 20:44
  • I added a link, although that's just a high-rep user's statement... I'll try to find a better source. – Martha Jun 11 '15 at 20:49
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    This isn't a case of the answers "making" the questions duplicate. This is a case of the questions overlapping so significantly that one is a direct subset of the other. The questions make these duplicates, and this is merely demonstrated by the fact that the answer to one completely answers the other. – Beofett Jun 11 '15 at 20:59

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