We've had a lot of traffic for today. One of the encounters is with a squirrel who poses a series of riddles. As people got stuck on various riddles, they asked questions about the problem they had (a particular riddle) and got an answer about it.

Then, later, someone decided it would make sense to collect all this information in one place, so posted the question (and answered):

Some users have now closed the older, singular questions as dupes of the new, consolidated question. I am not sure if this action is correct.

I am not going to attempt to be all inclusive here, but some pros and cons of having the consolidated question that I've seen listed (and may or may not agree with) are:

Pros

  • It's easier to find all the answers to the squirrel's riddles if they're all in one place.
  • It is a single encounter in the game, so they all should have been put together in the first place.

Cons

  • Setting a precedent that it's okay to post a question composed of already-existing questions (with answers) and self-answering it could lead to rep whoring off the work of others.
  • Closing the original questions as dupes may be seen as a penalty by the original askers and answerers.
  • Sometimes people just want to see the one bit they're stuck on and not all the other riddles and solutions (though spoiler markup could help fix this).

There are almost certainly other pros and cons I'm missing.

What should be done? Should the consolidated question be closed (tough, since it also contains non-dupe information)? Should the original questions be closed? Should some sort of magical merge happen? Should they all simply be left open?

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Retroactive duplication is monstrous. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Oct 25 '13 at 2:09
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5 Answers 5

up vote 23 down vote accepted

I believe that closing the original questions was wrong. If the consolidated question had come first, fine. But it didn't. What essentially happened here is that users who had valid questions and answers had those closed, and likely no further rep earned for them, because someone wanted the data all in one place. This person will now earn the rep instead (which is an unhappy byproduct and not, I think, the user's goal).

We (particularly those of us with high rep) like to pretend that the gamification aspect of the site doesn't matter, but it does. It is a large part of what draws in and retains new users. It would alienate me as a new user to have my question or answer closed as dupe of something that came in after it, particularly if my answer had been copied. It doesn't feel like fair play.

We are a question and answer site. Someone has a problem, asks it, and we give answers. They should not have to ask about parts of the squirrel encounter they had no problems with, which some people in chat implied they should have done in the first place. They should need only ask about what they have a problem with, not what they already solved.

Let me repeat that: This is a Q&A site. This is not GameFAQs. This is not a wiki. Our job is not to collect and reorganize data. Our job is simply to answer the questions that we are asked. There is an entire reputation system built around this, and these kinds of actions undermine it.

Sure, the squirrel riddles aren't all collected in one spot. So what? Neither are all the chocolate bar questions, lollipop questions, or candies questions. Should I go create some blanket questions for those so the info is all in one place? We are not a wiki. We should not go out of our way to act like one.

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I agree that it sucks that the new answer was the one linked to, but sometimes that's unavoidable. –  MBraedley Oct 25 '13 at 2:05
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@Sterno regarding your edit, closing new users' questions as duplicates is explicitly considered a good thing. See here for info. The whole reason for the latest version of the dupe warning message is to tell new users "This is a duplicate, but that's not a bad thing! Come on over to this link, we already have answers just waiting for you!" Also, users do not own their answers; we are very much a wiki that way. –  Billy Mailman Oct 25 '13 at 2:09
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Users don't own their answers, but they get rep for them. And yes, dupes are okay. I fully agree! Work that sweet Google juice! That's entirely different than intentionally duping an asked and answered question and closing the original because you think you can do it better, though. –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 6:18
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+1 I voted to close some of the original questions because I didn't realize they were the originals. Keeping the questions separate also makes sense in terms of google-ability (increased traffic). And it's completely unfair that the asker of the new question gets all the rep (at the very least, he should have made it community wiki). I've now voted to reopen all the old questions, and close the new one. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 25 '13 at 19:34
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When looking at situations like these, you have to take a few factors into consideration.

  • Scope: Would the scope of a combined question still be reasonable?
  • Relatedness: How likely is a person looking at one question going to want the answers to another?

The squirrel questions are very reasonably scoped and highly related. Yes, a person may only want the answer to one, but they are much more likely to want the questions to two or more. Let's look at some use cases:

  • User only needs help with one riddle
  • User needs help with riddles 2 and 4
  • User needs help with all riddles

A combined question helps each of these users exactly the same as individual questions would with the added bonus of saving those with multiple problems from having to look for each individual question.

The "which came first" aspect is part of the gamification aspect of SE and should not override higher quality content. I'll touch more on this in a minute, right now let's address your cons:

Setting a precedent that it's okay to post a question composed of already-existing questions (with answers) and self-answering it could lead to rep whoring off the work of others.

This is the biggest problem here, but can easily be solved: Make the combined question community wiki. Yes, this is a pain, but if users are actually gaining rep off of someone else's work, it's the solution. You should also consider the precedent that encouraging smaller separate questions sets in regards to rep-whoring. You can gain rep a lot faster via 5 questions than you can via 1.

Closing the original questions as dupes may be seen as a penalty by the original askers and answerers.

This is an unavoidable consequence of all closures. Closing is not a punishment. We don't let this stop of from closing in any other case and neither should we here.

Sometimes people just want to see the one bit they're stuck on and not all the other riddles and solutions (though spoiler markup could help fix this).

Well, you said it before I could. This just so happens to be a perfect use of spoiler markup. Plain and simple.

Now, back to why consolidated questions can be higher quality:

Example 1: Game has a boss with 5 stages

Would it be better to ask:

  • How do I beat form 1?
  • How do I beat form 2?
  • How do I beat form 3?
  • How do I beat form 4?
  • How do I beat form 5?

or

How do I beat the boss?

The single question is obviously better. Why? Because everyone that has a problem with 1 form is going to encounter the other forms immediately after. Each of these problems will be faced in quick succession. Not only that, but strategies for later forms could be dependent on strategies from previous forms. It is of better service to the users to have them all in one place rather than forcing them to navigate to each question.

If a single question were to come after each individual question, I'd VTC the individual ones in a heartbeat CPU cycle.

Example 2: Game has a boss that is fought 5 times over the course of a game.

In this case, it would be better to have separate questions. Why? The scope is too broad. A single question here would be asking about multiple points in the game potentially with hours in between them. Characters might have chances to greatly diverge in this time and one answer that adequately covered all the potential situations would be unwieldy.

If a single question were to come up in this example, I'd VTC it as Too Broad.


At the end of the day, we are about helping people. Assuming all the answers are correct, individual questions are just as helpful as a single consolidated question, but a single question can help in a much easier way. A single question meets all the needs of individual questions and has added bonuses that individual questions cannot provided: Ease of navigation.

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There is also the tiny bonus of being easier to dupe future questions so a single question rather than having to search for the appropriate individual question. –  user9983 Oct 25 '13 at 13:26
    
My goto example for the past day. Slightly different situation, given that the oldest one was set as the original, but still a case of consolidating under a slightly larger scoped question. –  MBraedley Oct 25 '13 at 14:01
    
@MBraedley That is actually a situation where I'd say keep 'em separate. It meets the scope criteria, but not the relatedness. That said, I also think those were terrible questions to begin with. It's pretty obvious where to go to start each of the DLCs. –  user9983 Oct 25 '13 at 14:13
    
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A better and wider duplicate question is still a duplicate question and should be closed as one even if it collects information into one place in a useful manner. Showing a green light for collecting old already-answered questions together into a new question is not a good idea and it would alienate new users (and even some of the regulars) from the site.

Remember that one question can be flagged as a duplicate of many questions (1 per close-vote if I'm not mistaken) and all of those questions will be linked in the little duplication box. It's also a lot less work to close one question than it is to go around closing a bunch of them.

Arguing that making a collective question is the right thing to do to make the information more easily available is the wrong thing to do, because that's exactly what the 'Related' and 'Linked' sections are at the side of a question. If a closely related question (such as another squirrel puzzle) is not in Related, post it as a comment and it will be under Linked! It should be enough for questions to be linked through tags and the sidebar and I know a lot of people use the sidebar for just that.

We should not be taking the possibility to get into the community away from new users, and making collective questions is doing just that. It's already hard enough to gain the first reputation to get going within the community. Let's not make it harder.

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I like to think of this situation as a variant of the Fastest Gun in the West problem. We get a lot of borderline trivial questions that are all closely related together. They gain the right answers anyway, maybe a vote here and there, but the information would probably be better off grouped together.

In this case, someone made a question and answer that encompasses all the trivial questions, and the others were closed as duplicates. So what are we left with? A genuinely good question and answer that expertly covers the topic at hand. The low quality, trivial questions closed as duplicates. This is the system working as intended

Arqade is a question and answer site for passionate videogamers on all platforms. [snip] With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about videogames and videogame consoles.
- The about page, (emphasis my own)

The only issue I think you're having is the source of the information. It smells like rep-stealing off of the Trivial question askers & answerers. The reason you think this is the OP says in the comments that he pieced it together from the other questions and answers on this site. But why is this a problem?

If he had instead pieced it together from a few forum posts as well as personal experience, and was oblivious to the existence of the trivial questions, Would you still feel that the trivial questions shouldn't be closed as dupes of the (obviously) better question?

As Billy Mailman states in his answer:

The point of Stack Exchange sites is to become repositories of all the useful information that can be gathered on a given topic.

Your main 'Con' point:

Setting a precedent that it's okay to post a question composed of already-existing questions (with answers) and self-answering it could lead to rep whoring off the work of others.

There is no precedent. This situation will come up so little that it isn't a way to 'game' the system. If it's too much info, the question will be closed as 'too broad'. If it's too little, then why were the questions separated in the first place?

In conclusion, The point of this site is not the rep, it's not about 'who was first' or the 'Fastest Gun', it's about providing high-quality, expert answers to problems. The rep is simply a bonus. The trivial questions should remain dupes of the expert-question.


Related Side Note: Something I'm always confused about is people getting really upset about duplicate questions (and subsequently downvoting them), mostly because they see them as a) 'no research' (you couldn't find this?!?) or b) 'not useful' (We already answer this!!). Which is (most of the time) not true on either count:

a) Everyone's brain works differently, what might be an obvious search query to us might not be so obvious to them, or their English may be poor and they cannot put their question into the words we would naturally use.
b) Duplicate questions are useful to the site. They help people that may come across the same problem find the answer quicker - giving more than one way of phrasing a question means there's more than one way they can find the answer they need. This is why we don't delete duplicates.

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I strongly disagree that the questions which discuss only a single riddle are low quality and trivial. If they were, I don't see how slapping 6 of them together suddenly makes them high quality and expert. –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 5:18
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Q: "I'm stuck on the third question" A: "Type the number of candies you currently have". How is that not trivial? And by grouping them it becomes a lot more useful, because all the information is in one place. High quality simply means that all the info is correct. –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:20
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You seem to be saying that just about every riddle question is going to be trivial, given that it's "Q: What's the answer to X? A: Y". If that's so, then again, I don't see how slapping 6 or 7 of them together turns them from trivial to expert. If your argument is that the question was poorly worded, then yes, it was poorly worded. That doesn't make it trivial. –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 5:25
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@Sterno - Riddles by definition are trivial once you know the answer - that's the beauty of a riddle. I see riddle questions similar to puzzle questions, i.e. "How do I solve this?" Which are perfectly on topic here, I'm not disputing that. If it were a once-off puzzle or riddle as part of a quest or something, then sure, keep it separate. However in this case it's about a series of riddles which can logically be grouped together. –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:32
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I'm still not seeing how the act of grouping them together magically changes them from trivial to expert, which is the entire basis of your meta answer. Nicely worded, formatted and grouped, yes. "Expert" though? Why? What's the difference? –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 5:33
    
If we didn't have an overarching question, the only thing that'll happen is we'll start getting non-answers from new users e.g. "That's great, that solved question 3, but what about question 4?". Remember we're not here to answer just the OPs question, but any future user who might be having the same problem. If I'm looking for the answer for question 5, but find question 3, that doesn't help me. If however, that question points to the overarching question where I can solve my problem, then that's great –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:34
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To answer the question in your meta post, though, if the singular questions had come later, then yes, I think they should be closed as dupes. My problem stems entirely from the earlier questions being closed as a dupe of a later one, and even moreso the fact that the later one was creating artificially for that purpose. –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 5:36
    
I think you're misreading my answer, and focusing too much on the mention of the word 'expert'. Read the quote from the about page. Note how I highlighted 'detailed answers'. The only reason I highlighted 'Expert' is because we on Arqade are supposed to be the experts. We're the ones with all the answers –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:36
    
@Sterno - I think the very fact Stack Exchange allows marking old questions as dupes of new shows how we should stand on this topic. It's not about the time it was posted, it's about the detailed answer from experts like you and me. It's about people finding the information they need, when they need it –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:38
    
I think we both know where the other stands. We simply disagree on the relative importance of things. –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 5:40
    
@Sterno - You put 'stopping (alleged) rep-whoring' as higher in importance than improving the ease of use and searchability of the site? –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:43
    
No. Did I say that somewhere in my answer? Maybe you don't know where I stand. I'll take a stab at revising my answer in the morning. –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 5:52
    
let us continue this discussion in chat –  Robotnik Oct 25 '13 at 5:55
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Creating a single, unified question like this is the right thing to do. It would have been better if it had come along before all the others cropped up, but now that it exists, we should close the others as duplicates, and keep them as such. They still help guide people here if they search Google for a specific question, but we really don't need each one collecting its own set of answers.

Remember, people: We are not just a question and answer site. We are not here just to help the people asking the questions. That is a secondary concern. We are here to help as many people as we possibly can, by getting the best possible answers to the questions we have. In fact, helping future visitors is so important to Stack Exchange, there used to be an entire network-wide close reason just for when a question didn't have lasting value. Literally everyone who encounters one of these Squirrel questions is going to encounter the rest, and may very well have troubles with them. We should do our best to help those people out as much as possible; the big link at the top of each question pointing to the general version is perfect for this.

The point of Stack Exchange sites is to become repositories of all the useful information that can be gathered on a given topic. By putting this information together, we not only make it easier to find, but we also make it easier to collaborate on. We have wiki-like features for a reason. By pooling information into a single answer, we make it more likely that any future changes to the game will all be incorporated in, whereas keeping the questions separate means that we might get two of them changed after an update, but never notice the other three.

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What makes the squirrel riddles such a special case that we feel its worth doing this for it but not for other things? If I start running around the site posting consolidated questions for all sorts of existing content, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Is that something we are all encouraged to do when we see the opportunity? –  Sterno Oct 25 '13 at 1:43
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@Sterno It works particularly well in this case because it's very new (none of the other questions have existed for even a single day), and also it's a single encounter in the game. If the existing questions were months old, I'd say not to do it. In this case, they'll all be showing the same "asked 2 days ago" pretty soon, so I really don't feel that the timing should matter much. –  Billy Mailman Oct 25 '13 at 1:56
    
In this case, we have many questions that are of the form problem x1, problem x2... problem xn, all of which are sub-problems of X. Here, the scope of X might be larger than normal, but it definitely isn't unimaginably large, which makes it a a good candidate for consolidation. If the scope of X were too big, then yes, individual questions would be warranted. –  MBraedley Oct 25 '13 at 2:03
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We have a related questions sidebar for a reason, and the custom of posting a comment saying "Related: [url]" to link related questions together in the sidebar is a) better b) less destructive c) less disruptive d) way less work. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 25 '13 at 4:00
    
Your bold statement, "We are not just a question and answer site" bothers me. It is true, but it is also true that we are primarily a question and answer site. Keeping us closer to Q&A than to Wikimedia is a good thing. –  ken.ganong Oct 25 '13 at 18:30
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"We are here to help as many people as we possibly can." So when I get stuck on a riddle should I search for the specific riddle or for an overarching theme? If I get stuck on level 3 of portal, should I have to go look for how to beat the whole game? I don't see how consolidating helps more people. –  Batophobia Oct 25 '13 at 22:11
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