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In my opinion, the mods on this site are way overzealous about marking things duplicate.

Quite often the first time someone asks a question the question and answer can be suboptimal. Maybe the first question is harder to find, less clear, or burdened by heavy discussion.

Example 1 "Change file's timestamp":

Here's the question I found, which is marked as duplicate:
How can I change the timestamp on a file?

The wording is perfect is you want to change a file's timestamp. Also, this question has been viewed over 73k times. However, it's marked as a duplicate of these questions:
How to modify timestamp in a dll or exe?
Windows equivalent of the Linux command 'touch'?

Both of these questions might tell you how to modify a timestamp, but it's not at all obvious by the title. If someone doesn't already know that touch can modify a timestamp, then they would never know that's a good place to look.

The "modify timestamp in a dll" answer has only been viewed 7k times, and it's a year older than the "duplicate".

Example 2 "Unable to rsync"

Recently my question Unable to rsync to another volume with Git Bash was marked as a duplicate of Why cwRsync doesn't work on Windows?.

This example has three issues.

  1. First, the "original" question was never marked answered, but there's a somewhat highly voted answer so I don't know if it was just never marked or actually never answered.

  2. Second, I don't know if that program is the same. Sure, there's definitely some shared code between this rsync and the cwRsync, but I still don't know if they're the same. (Also many things can clearly cause the same error messages).

  3. Third, to prove that I researched the question I had to provide so much proof that now my question is polluted by all the things that didn't work. Someone who wants to answer or ask the same thing shouldn't have to relive my hours of research that I spent trying to answer this question, which I had originally edited down to a relatively short question.

Quite often on the StackExchange platform I find questions that I want answered but they're marked as duplicate or locked and the "original" (or old and outdated answers) don't answer my question. There's no good place to ask "hey, how does this other thing solve this problem?" or perhaps "hey, is that other thing solved?".

  • Your question isn't marked as a duplicate. The first example was flagged as a duplicate by two normal users, and only closed early, when a moderator agreed. This means the question was likely going to be closed by 5 normal users eventual (I would have voted to close it) – Ramhound Mar 22 '16 at 21:40
  • The original revision had the exact same syntax error, I don't see how, we are over zealous for closing a question when an existing question which asks about the same error already exists and has an answer. You do understand a close vote isn't personal right? – Ramhound Mar 22 '16 at 21:44
  • Votes on meta mean something different, I don't agree us normal users, are being over zealous. So I voted accordingly. – Ramhound Mar 22 '16 at 21:47
  • @Ramhound "not personal" is interesting. I want to ask good questions, but if my questions are downvoted and I can't understand why, I'm forced to conclude that I'm incapable of asking appropriate questions. Maybe I should do less research before asking questions since I have to do research after asking? I haven't figured out a perfect strategy, but sometimes I need to get answers so I keep asking anyway. – geneorama Mar 23 '16 at 15:01
  • Besides the first example is more important. The timestamp question illustrates the point better, I just have more familiarity with my own supplemental example. (The point there is that I wish there was a better way to discuss the process) – geneorama Mar 23 '16 at 15:03
  • Except the first example was handled the correct way, was closed by normal users not by a moderators, that is an important distinction. – Ramhound Mar 23 '16 at 15:18
  • If a question is going to attract the same answers, there isn't a reason to duplicate it. If you're looking for different answers, edit the question to clearly differentiate it, after which it can be voted to reopen. – fixer1234 Mar 24 '16 at 0:39
  • @fixer1234 There is no overlap of answers in any of the examples, which is my point. Two questions that attract different answers must be different questions. – geneorama Mar 24 '16 at 15:40
5

Duplicate questions aren't necessarily bad. As you pointed out, it's entirely possible that people who did some research in the first example wouldn't have found the dupe target. Duplicates can be valuable as signposts, pointing people to a single place to get answers. (Fragmentation is bad, because it's hard to find all the solutions if they're all on different-but-the-same questions.)

As for your second example, I personally wouldn't have voted to close it; it looked to me like the tools are different. (But some people disagreed, evidently.) I did participate in the reopening of it though. Thanks for editing your question with additional information - that definitely helps get incorrect duplicate closures reversed, and I hope you continue to do such things.

Final note: no moderators were involved in the closure of your question. People who hold gold badges in the tag can perform unilateral duplicate closures and reopenings, as happened here. For more information, see the Meta Stack Exchange post that created that ability.

  • I also agree the question was erroneously closed but I also understand the reason it was, the errors were identical, and it wasn't clear originally how they did differ. – Ramhound Mar 23 '16 at 12:02
  • @Ramhound I also agree that it wasn't clear that they differ, and again, I'm still not 100% sure that they are different – geneorama Mar 23 '16 at 14:48

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