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I flagged a question as a dupe of another one. Why, when I could simply VTC? Obviously because I'm compelled to do so due to the stupid changes to "close as duplicate" (which predictably have lead to a sheer waste of time for everyone concerned, and more work for the mods due to extra flags).

For my efforts I end up with a declined flag that reduces my flag weight, and a 'helpful' comment pointing me to this question and telling me to VTC instead. Now I always think twice before flagging, and to be perfectly honest find it irritating when they are IMO incorrectly declined. I would not have minded in the least if the flag was disputed by a mod who disagreed with my assessment and felt the questions weren't really duplicates, or some other valid reason, but to decline and tell me to VTC when I obviously cannot is not something I especially appreciate.

So let's clear this up once and for all. How do we deal with questions that are duplicates of older ones with no upvoted/accepted answers? Obviously we can't VTC, and now it seems we're not supposed to flag them either, which was what I was advised to do earlier. Great. If the official policy now is to simply ignore them then please let us know and we'll do just that. It takes effort to locate dupes and flag, so frankly it will save us all time and energy that we can spend on doing better things.

  • For the record, we're talking about this question being flagged as a duplicate of this one. – slhck Apr 18 '13 at 13:54
  • @KronoS: That might work in this case as slhck commented below, but of course the general case is when we have dupes with no upvotes/accepted answers, and thus can't vote in either direction. Guess we just end up with multiple unanswered questions and leave it at that. (The clean freak in me would of course really prefer a workable solution for merging such questions to reduce clutter on the site, but seems discussions regarding this haven't gotten anywhere so far.) – Karan Apr 18 '13 at 14:10
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First things first: It was me who handled the flag. I sincerely apologize for giving you the wrong feedback and agree that it wasn't really helpful in that case. I just saw a >3k user flagging for a duplicate, and didn't see the need to handle it. That being said, there is absolutely no reason to worry about flag weight or one declined flag. Unless you happen to have 30–50% of your flags declined, it's not even worth being upset over. We're all humans. We all make mistakes. Alright?

The change to the duplicate mechanism also implied a change in the way duplicate questions are defined. The team now wants to make sure that people will actually find an answer to their question. It's now less about the question than about finding a solution.

Don't forget that visitors who click the link to a question that's closed as a duplicate will automatically be redirected to the dupe, and it is now made sure that they will get an answer there.

What this means for you is: You shouldn't close a question as a duplicate of another when the latter has no (upvoted) answers. Simple as that. At this point it's helpful to repeat that moderators are supposed to be exception handlers. Normal users can't vote to close as a duplicate? Well, then it shouldn't be closed as such, unless something is wrong.

The only exceptions to this rule – and I believe this is what @nhinkle had in mind when he helped you get around that bug – are, well, actual exceptions. Anything that doesn't usually occur. The VTC system has already been refined in that regard. For example, you can now choose one of the OP's questions as a duplicate as well. This way, the (very common problem of) question repetition can be adressed even by normal users.

The only real use case I now see for flagging with an unanswered duplicate is the following: a double migration where the same question now suddenly exists twice. Often these will be from an unassociated user account, so the rule in the paragraph above doesn't apply. Flag and we'll close it.

Bottom line: Vote to close what you can, and unless it's a real exception that calls for immediate attention, then leave it.

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    So essentially instead of one question without an answer, we end up with two or more without answers? How is that any better? Or if the newer version garners answers, how does that help older dupes that are unanswered? Do we copy-paste the answers there as well? There has to be a better way - the current process is far from satisfactory. – Karan Apr 18 '13 at 13:53
  • The question already had an upvoted answer when you flagged it. If there's really a question where the newer one gets an answer, then you can vote to close the older one as a duplicate—the age doesn't really matter, does it? I don't want to argue about the rules for closing duplicates though. You were asking how to flag these things, and I'm advising you to leave them. If you'd like to have these criteria changed, please start a discussion on Meta Stack Exchange. – slhck Apr 18 '13 at 13:56
  • FYI an oldie where we basically agreed that we could simply close old question as dupes of newers: How can we take care of our old duplicates? – slhck Apr 18 '13 at 13:57
  • Ok, done. I'll duly leave all such questions be even if I know for sure that they are dupes. Less time wasted for both me and you guys! Thanks a lot for the clarification, cheers. – Karan Apr 18 '13 at 14:01
  • Must admit it doesn't help matters when we're sent mixed signals like this. – Karan May 7 '13 at 14:11
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    @Karan Sorry about that -- apparently I'm a bit slow to adapt after closing duplicates for two years. Thanks for the reminder. – Daniel Beck May 7 '13 at 16:08
  • @DanielBeck: Yeah, these changes have certainly thrown many of us for a loop. We were all used to closing as dupe irrespective of answer status; you much longer than me of course. – Karan May 7 '13 at 16:13
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I'm going to answer this question:

How do we deal with questions that are duplicates of older ones with no upvoted/accepted answers?

If there are two posts that I realize are duplicates I always look for the one that has the best chance of answering the overall question at hand. The criteria that I look for is this:

  • Is the post formatted better so that it's easier to read?
  • Is the post worded in a way that is easier to read?
  • Does the post have high quality valid answers?

This last one is the most important. Stack Exchange is a site for answers, and that's really what needs to be the focus here. If two questions are duplicates, and one has answers to it while the other doesn't, the closed duplicate should be the one with NO answers.

The age of the question shouldn't matter in these cases.

  • Please see my comment above. – Karan Apr 18 '13 at 14:10

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