It has been widely discussed and seems to be generally agreed that where two questions have an accepted answer that is the same, one should be closed as duplicate of the other.

What seems more contentious is closing questions where only one has an accepted answer and where the other appears to be a duplicate.

What should we do in those circumstances?

  • 9
    For the record, I've changed my opinion over the past year. I used to be very much in favour of only closing where there's an acceptance of both. Over time I've come to accept that where dupes are super-obvious, closing them is worthwhile.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 18:43
  • 1
    previous related discussion here.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 2:06
  • 2
    The mob have spoken. For the record, I'm still going to accept a "yes, this is it!!!" comment from the OP as an acceptance.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 8:01
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    Given the non-permanent nature of comments, you'd better hope nobody deletes that "yes, this is it!!!"
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 13:15
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    @phantom42 - No system is perfect. ..
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 13:57
  • In the absence of a formal acceptance, would it be kosher for the answerer to copy such a "yes, this is it!!!" comment and append it to his answer?
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 11:30
  • @user14111 - acceptable but largely redundant
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 11:35
  • Except when the comment is going to be deleted.
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 11:41
  • @user14111 - Theoretically, the fact that is been closed as a dupe should be sufficient guide that it was closed correctly (on the principle that if it's closed incorrectly, it can be flagged for moderator attention and insta-reopened.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:33
  • Sorry if I'm drifting from the topic, but I was thinking of questions which are not necessarily dupes, but have answers which have only been "accepted" in comments. Of course there's nothing to stop the question from being duplicated at some later date, perhaps after all the comments have been "cleaned up". Maybe not a problem for moderators, since I understand you people can see deleted comments.
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:11

4 Answers 4


questions should only be closed as duplicates where both answers are accepted, regardless of the similarity between them. (If the OP posts a "yes this is it" comment, that's as good as an acceptance.)

Simple, easy to administer.

  • 6
    Yes, but for this purpose, if the asker "accepts" an answer by posting a "That's it, thanks" comment, this should count the same as a formal acceptance, right?
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 22:49
  • Maybe this should be another question, but, what is the approved method for us answerers to deal with story-id questions that appear to be duplicates? Should we post a comment pointing to the old question, or should we post an answer?
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 22:55
  • 8
    @user14111 - As far as I'm concerned, if the OP posts a "yes this is it" comment, that's as good as an acceptance.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 23:04
  • I agree and have always taken a yes comment as an accept (some people don't understand the accept button). @user14111 - I'd do both, if you can tailor the answer to the new question and not just a copy+paste of the old answer, though I wouldn't flag or DV if you did
    – The Fallen
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 4:30
  • 1
    @user14111 i don't think we have an established procedure, but i'd go with posting a new answer, preferably tailored to the new question versus copy/pasting the old one. this allows the new user to accept it so we have definite confirmation.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 15:38
  • @phantom42 Instead of cop0ying & pasting the old answer, how about just linking to it? Does the deprecation of link-only answers still apply when the link is to another stack exchange page?
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 2:34
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    @user14111 personally i don't like answers that i have to click through for the necessary info, so not my preferred choice, but i get the argument for it.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 2:47
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    Sounds silly to me. Why should story identification questions be treated specially?
    – user56
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 21:34
  • @gilles - The mob have spoken.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 15:14
  • 1
    Just found out this answer while searching for this exact topic on the site. While I totally can see the reasoning behind the closure, I don't exactly see the benefit... Since both the question must already have been answered in the first place (and "accepted" too) isn't this just giving out a free "closed question" history record (that may count towards a ban or other restriction) to a later asker that maybe didn't even know or remember some of the details found in the original question?
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 6:58
  • As a reference, I am talking about this. While one question alone closed as dupe won't trigger the ban, I would hate it to be the "last one" that gets a new, still without a good post record user banned.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 7:00
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    @SPArchaeologist - A user would need to have a very extensive history of asking bad questions before the ban was triggered
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 7:07
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    @user14111 Also, if OP says it's the right answer without accepting it, then OP either doesn't know how the system works, or is a douche for not accepting the answer. If the former is the case, then the community should tell OP that he/she can and should accept the answer.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 9:18
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    @user14111 True, they don't know how SE works. No reason to hold that against them.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 19:07
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    @CreationEdge - Seems pointless, but knock yourself out.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 8:13

If only one question has a known correct answer, then we should leave the other open.

My response to the suggestion that we close ‘obvious’ story ID dupes has always boiled down to “Okay, but why?”. We have a slightly tidier site, but that seems to be about it. By contrast, there are several reasons not to do it:

  • If we’re wrong, we’ve just annoyed the OP.

    And what have we gained by doing so? The site is slightly tidier, but they don’t have the answer. So we have a frustrated user (who I think is likely to just leave, and not correct us), and bad information on the site.

  • Even if we’re correct, we’re essentially accepting an answer for the OP.

    By asserting that the answer is “obvious” and closing as dupe, we’ve cut the OP out of the process.

    There have been many proposals for a mechanism that allows us to accept an answer on somebody else’s behalf, and they’ve always met strong opposition. I don’t see why story identification questions should get special treatment.

    At best, we should try to guess what the story is – but only the OP can confirm. We shouldn’t take that control out of their hands.

There are other ways I think we cause harm if we close questions as incorrect dupes, but I don’t have time to write those up at the moment. Suffice to say, I disagree with the idea of closing dupes without OP confirmation.

  • 2
    What if it's really really obvious?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 20:48
  • What I find interesting here is the assertion that dupe-closing is of little to no benefit for the site. I think part of me might even agree with that.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 21:21
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    @lxrec I believe that dupe-closing is of some benefit, although perhaps less-so here than on other sites. I think there’s minimal benefit to closing an unconfirmed story ID question as dupe.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 21:28
  • @Ixrec - I just think it makes the place tidier :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 22:28
  • 3
    @Richard - In this case, more than most other cases, obviousness is in the eye of the OP.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 23:08

I'll post my answer in the form of a question: I have to question what makes a story ID question a duplicate? Is it the answer? I ask because the name of a book could be the answer to several different questions. Just because the answer is the same doesn't mean the questions were. It's a slippery slope.

  • 1
    This question and this other one are a good example of two completely different story-id questions which seem to be (although only one of them has an accepted answer) about the same story.
    – user14111
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 8:59
  • This and that both lead to Hyperion. But have zero overlapping points.
    – Jontia
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 9:33
  • +1. A duplicate should either serve no purpose (and be deleted), or serve as a signpost / rephrasing of the better original, where all the answers should be put in one place. In the case of story-id, this doesn't really follow: it's not necessarily simply a rephrasing, and each question may have different sets of answers. Judging it by the accepted answer alone leaves a lot to be desired. Such questions would presumably usually touch on similar plot points, and could thus be duplicates, but then they should be judged based on that instead.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 15:25

The second question should be closed as a duplicate.

With the following caveats;

  • It should only be closed if it's judged by the community, or by a gold tag badge holder in that category to be clearly a duplicate of the other (e.g. where the similarity is distinct and obvious).

  • A moderator should be immediately flagged to re-open the question if the OP indicates (in comments or in chat) that it's not a duplicate.


Short story about people who lived only a few days
Closed as a dupe of:
Looking for story where time is accelerated and characters have to get back to ship?

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