I recently asked the question Was Narcissa Malfoy a Death Eater?. To my surprise, it was marked as a duplicate of What Happened to the Malfoys after the Second Wizarding War?, despite them seeming to me like very different questions. As far as I can tell, the reason was because the second question's accepted answer had, by its own admission, "a tenuously related fact" that happened to be the answer to the first question.

This seems to go against the message of the duplicate, which says "This question has been asked before and already has an answer", since the question itself has not been asked before. This conflicts with one comment for the question, which stated that "We close questions as dupes based on previous questions or answers."

Besides, the policy on duplicates states that sometimes duplicates aren't closed: "We love (some) dupes. There are many ways to ask the same question, and a user might not be able to find the answer if they're asking it a different way." I think that even if this were a duplicate, this question would fall under that category.

Should this particular question have been closed because an unrelated question (from my point of view) contains the answer?

  • See the wording on the duplicate banner as well: "This question already has an answer here:"
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 12:43
  • @Izkata It seems strange that the short duplicate banner would say one thing (question has an answer), but the long duplicate message would say another (question has been asked and has an answer). Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 17:31
  • 2
    I've always felt that it would be better if the duplicate message said something like An answer that fits the content of your question is located (insert URL) here. I think this is a more effective buffer and might help sidestep the ongoing arguments regarding the "This question has already been asked" portion of the duplicate message, because I can see why people become upset when a "duplicate"'s wording doesn't exactly match the other question's. My example above is very rough, but hopefully the general idea is clear. It's really just an idea. Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 5:36
  • Related: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/4708/…
    – Möoz
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 20:30

4 Answers 4


Here's what we (mods) are gonna do:

  1. We edit DVK's answer to remove the bit about her not being a Death Eater, and replace it with a link to this new question. Narcissa being a Death Eater is pretty tangential to the question as posed and the answer already fully addresses the question, even if you completely remove the Narcissa bit at the end.
  2. We reopen the closed question.

This preserves the relevant information, and makes it clearer and easier to access/find in the future.

  • 2
    Thank you, this was a good path to take. I think it would help to adjust the duplicate policies here - they should be much easier to come to a consensus with. Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 4:02

Apparently some people think it's OK to close question A as a "duplicate" because it is "answered" by a side remark in an answer to a different question B. There are several problems with this.

  1. A side remark is likely to be a low quality answer, skimpy and poorly sourced. In any case, it is immune to the "quality control" system (such as it is) based on voting, because people vote on answers, not on side remarks.

  2. If the embedded "answer" is wrong or otherwise suboptimal, there is nowhere to post a better answer to question A. You can't even downvote it, because the vote will be interpreted as a vote on the answer to question B.

  • 2
    And what of the "side remark" when it is 100% exactly the same as what the new accepted answer is? Both DVK and Thunderforge quoted the same exact answer from the same interview.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 5:21
  • The "side remark" is part of the answer. If you don't like it, leave a comment, downvote, or whatever. It's hardly immune to the quality control.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 5:22
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    @phantom42 Comments are ephemeral. You can't downvote part of an answer. Nobody knows why you voted up or down, but it will be seen as an evaluation of the answer as a whole, especially as it pertains to the question that was asked. The preferred "whatever" would be to post one's own superior answer, which is precisely what is prevented by closing the so-called duplicate.
    – user14111
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 6:40

That definitely looks like an invalid dupe to me. Sure that question has an answer, but only in a paragraph which is off-topic for its own question! (At best it's an aside. It would be an acceptable comment on the question, but it doesn't really belong in an answer.) As DVK himself said:

A tenuously related fact from the same chat - Narcissa wasn't actually a Death Eater

It would be entirely appropriate to edit out that part of DVK's answer, in which case your question would be unanswered by it.


As I mentioned in chat, this situation is a victim of poor wording of the "Duplicate" message.

As discussed here, dupes are defined by questions OR answers. It doesn't matter what question DVK was answering - just that the answer he wrote covers the information that the new question is asking for.

I honestly think that the only reason anyone is even really questioning this is DVK's use of the word "tenuously", which I don't think is really even necessary there. It's very much related, as her level of allegiance would likely play into any fate or repercussions after the war.

  • 1
    When the policy results in situations that don't make much sense then the policy should be reconsidered. The Meta post is talking about questions with very similar subject matter. Now I don't think those questions are appropriately closed either - the scopes are clearly different. (Perhaps a third question which would be a proper superset of both should be created and they both closed as duplicates of it). But the two questions here deal with substantially different subject matters. They were not just different ways of asking the same thing. Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 4:00
  • Then open a new, broader meta question about revisiting the dupe policy. The current policy is questions or answers, regardless of the specific question asked. My answer is based on that.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 5:19

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