I asked a question: What's the proper way to deal with someone who Team Kills and harasses you constantly in Starcraft 2?

This yielded answers/comments such as:

  • Report it to Blizzard (The accepted answer, also with most votes)
  • Immediately quit the game, join another
  • Block them

A few weeks later, I asked a different question: Starcraft 2 Banlist?

This yielded answers such as:

  • No you cannot
  • Block them (linking to answer in previous question)

On the latter question (Starcraft Banlist?), it was marked as a duplicate of the former, with a vote to close. There was also a bit of a discussion in the comments under the question. A user felt that having duplicate answers is unnecessary, and that any question that creates duplicate answers should be closed.

I quote from the user:

A duplicate question is one that receives the same answer.

User also sited from meta.stackoverflow: When is a duplicate question not a duplicate?

I also quote from that link:

Rule of thumb: If you ask a question similar to another question and it is likely to get the exact same answer, you have yourself a duplicate question.

I see my questions as being different from one another. The first was on abuse/harassment/TKing. The second was specifically on a Banlist. They yielded duplicate answers (Block them), to which neither has been accepted.

My question is: Do duplicate answers mean the questions are also duplicate and therefore should be closed?

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It's ok, you can say tzenes. You don't have to say "A user." –  tzenes Sep 3 '10 at 0:35
    
@tzenes I'm not sure if everyone knows who you are. Besides, names aren't important, it's the ideas. And I'm new to this gaming.SE community. –  sunpech Sep 3 '10 at 0:41
    
Sorry I thought you were intentionally avoiding my name out of some sort of misplaced etiquette. –  tzenes Sep 3 '10 at 0:46
    
@tzenes I wasn't trying to be rude or snide. I felt our discussion should be brought to meta.gaming instead of in the comments section. Each SE site has it's own community and runs differently. I just feel there are tons of duplicate answers, to yet very different questions-- especially in gaming which can be quite subjective. –  sunpech Sep 3 '10 at 0:51
    
I don't think we're sufficiently different from other SE site that we can say: duplicate answers are ok. But at this point I'm just rehashing the same argument: There is no reason to duplicate that information, especially when close as duplicate links to the other question. –  tzenes Sep 3 '10 at 0:53
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Aren't the two questions OP posted different in essence? One was talking about a banlist and another on a response to Team Killing which makes having the same answer to two different questions irrelevant. –  Jonn Sep 3 '10 at 7:51
    
@John any answer about a banlist would be beneficial to a question on team killing. What purpose is there to have the same answer in two places? –  tzenes Sep 3 '10 at 22:14
    
This is silly, the cool part about the stackexchange engine is that it is searchable and indexed by Google. If someone is searching for a specific question that might be the same answer as another question they should be able to find the question they are looking for. We are creating a resource here, it's not just all about the internal users. –  ioSamurai Oct 20 '10 at 20:34
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@Shogun Closed questions are still searchable and indexed by Google. In fact, that's one of the great things about accumulating duplicates, is that it increases the visibility of answers to different search terms. But that's why we close and merge these - that way, people who search and find this place only have to look at one actual question to get their answer, instead of trying to figure out which phrasing of title has the answer they need. That's why we provide the duplicate link right at the top of the question when it is closed. –  Grace Note Oct 21 '10 at 19:59
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3 Answers

Having the same answer is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one, for a question to be a duplicate.

Say someone asks a question: "How do I counter strategy X?" and the answer is "Do B." Someone else might ask a question "How do I counter strategy Y?" to which the answer is also "Do B." These questions are not necessarily duplicates, just because they have the same answer.

Whether a question is a duplicate should be based on how similar the questions themselves are, not just what the answers will be. To avoid duplicating effort, just say something like "the same answers given by this other question will also solve your problem, because both situations require...etc"

Closing the question as a duplicate also has the effect of pointing people to the other list of answers, but does not allow for narrow solutions that only apply to one of the questions.

A Nethack example:
A user asks the question: "How do I turn my worm tooth into a crysknife?"
A user asks the question: "How can I make my artifact weapon do more damage?"
Both questions have a simple answer: read a scroll of enchant weapon, but I think a reasonable person would agree that the questions themselves are not duplicates. The first question has a single correct answer, but other answers to the second question exist.

Another Nethack example:
A user asks the question: "What object does the most damage when fired from a sling?"
A user asks the question: "What single item can give me both the luck and stealth intrinsics?"
Both questions have a single correct answer, and it is the same for both questions. Once again, I think a reasonable person would agree that the questions themselves are not duplicates.

A non-gaming example:
I asked for an atomic UNIX operation on unix.se, and got the answer I was looking for - mkdir. It would be ridiculous if a question about how to create folders got closed as a duplicate of mine!

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This is a truthful point, and the presence of "similarity" in the original rule of thumb is something that was very poor of me to exclude in my answer. –  Grace Note Sep 4 '10 at 0:17
    
such a tool does exist and is against ToU. Additionally, such a tool would be useful when dealing with TK as there is no guarantee Blizzard will respond to Harassment. –  tzenes Sep 4 '10 at 4:57
    
@tzenes: Yeah, it's very likely that my total lack of knowledge about SC2 has caused me to say something stupid. I will try to come up with a better example. –  Larry Wang Sep 6 '10 at 19:28
    
@tzenes: I've edited my answer to provide better examples. There are different questions that have the same answer. There are even some that have the same set of answers, especially if the answer is unique. –  Larry Wang Sep 10 '10 at 17:57
    
in your examples, while parts of the answer will be the same, there are additional things you'll want to include in one place and not another. For example "mkdir must be atomic for the following reasons:" is not useful to an answer to the question "how do I make a new folder on ubuntu?" –  tzenes Sep 10 '10 at 18:26
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If the only answers to the new question are going to be identically applicable to an existing question, and the two questions are actually covering the same grounds or seeking the same goal, then yes it should be closed as a duplicate. And merged, if there are answers that can be moved. I completely agree with the quoted rule of thumb.

But if they are actually different questions, then no. There are times when two questions will literally have the exact same answer, but they are completely different questions - please see Kaestur's answer for two very good examples.

Duplicate answers addressing duplicate questions provide no real value. The content, for both the answer and the question, is already on the site, so the site gains nothing and there's already something for people to find. If the answer isn't yet on the site, adding more open questions fragments the system and also means that there may be a disparity between the contents of those questions - eventually leading that someone ends up stumbling upon the wrong such question and only gets half the answer. It is far better that all such similar questions point to a single question that houses the answers - then people only need to look at one place, which is much more likely to have the complete needs for everyone addressing the sub questions.

I don't know about your given example, so let me consider another example: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/5777/how-to-identify-buc-of-item-in-nethack that I closed as a duplicate of http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/5339/identifying-items-without-killing-myself. This was even brought up in chat, and here's my analysis (boiled to basics, so no familiarity with Nethack is even necessary to understand!)

Well, I'll break down the basics, then.
All items are unidentified on two levels - what they do, and their BUC status. Ideally, you want to know both.
Things that do positive things can be deadly if cursed. Things that do negative things can be very beneficial if blessed. So, in order to survive, you really need to know both
So, if you want to know "how to identify items without getting myself killed", then knowing "how to tell the B/U/C status of an item" is absolutely essential.
[This gives us a possibility of] two choices on the SE site.
1. Two questions, keep the BUC stuff only in the specific question. Now someone who wants answers to the general question needs to visit both questions and refer between them to get a solution.
2. One question, close specific as duplicate. Someone looking for BUC may stumble across either, but after one click now has the one-stop-shop for all the needs of BUC testing, and then some.

Doesn't case 2 sound a lot more appealing than case 1?

The conclusion is, if they are actually different questions that get the same answer, then they aren't duplicates. But if they are quite similar, then noticing that they will attract the same answers is generally the sign that it is a duplicate. For this Nethack example, it's not merely that the general ID question covers BUC detection techniques - it is because BUC detection techniques is a fundamental aspect of general ID (and not merely a general step in the process, or something that has the same solution).

For a theoretical question, if I ask a question like "How do I kill this heavily armored arthropod with a crippling weakpoint?" and the answer involves "Shoot the pillar behind it and it will topple onto its back", then a separate question of "How do I shoot the pillar to defeat the heavily armored arthropod with a crippling weakpoint?" is really going to just be a duplication of effort - the answer to this second question really should be in the first one.

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@GraceNote, what about the seemingly legitimate answer of "kill yourself" for the first question in your example. that answer and the following discussion cannot be given to the second question. –  lesmana Sep 3 '10 at 9:38
    
@lesmana That's not a legitimate answer, actually, as death is permanent and destroys your save. –  Grace Note Sep 3 '10 at 10:38
    
I do see the point now. But does this apply to all duplicate answers? I would say that it should apply to answers that are very relevant, but also well-written and correct. Upon further investigation into the linked answer, it was not well documented what to do, nor does it seem to even be correct-- yet it received votes when the overall answer was low quality. –  sunpech Sep 3 '10 at 11:30
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@sunpech It applies to any scenario where the expected answer yield of the new question is contained within the expected answer yield of the existing question and both questions cover the same ground. If the existing question's answers are insufficient, then getting them improved is better than creating a new question. If the existing question doesn't have answers yet, then it is better to keep all the answers in one place than to scatter them between two openings. This is also the primary reason why you can host bounties on other people's questions. [edit: changed a hyphen to an "and"] –  Grace Note Sep 3 '10 at 11:51
    
Isn't part of the issue that we (as in all SO sites) actually like questions that generate duplicate answers, since that increases the ability to find the answer when searching, but closing a question is seen as a negative by the question asker? Obviously not something a SE site can solve, but could be part of why people don't like their questions getting closed as duplicates. –  Jason Berkan Sep 3 '10 at 16:48
    
@Jason It's exactly as you say it - that's not something we can solve. People associate closing with a very negative stigma, but closing is a helpful process. If anything, closing as a duplicate is the kindest of all close reasons because it actually attempts to provide an answer for the question author. It's also the one that is least likely to get deleted since it provides better value in searches by sticking around. –  Grace Note Sep 3 '10 at 16:50
    
I can understand pointing at an answer that is correct and encompasses the question asked. But if the answer is only an attempt at answering it and is pretty incorrect, then I would say that it should not be linked to. It's a disservice to the poster and SE if something incorrect is associated with what is asked. Yes, we can always ask to improve the answer, but if that doesn't happen, I don't believe the answers should be linked, as the answer is still wrong. –  sunpech Sep 3 '10 at 20:14
    
@sunpech having bad answers is a bad thing. I'm not sure the solution is adding more questions though. –  tzenes Sep 3 '10 at 21:04
    
@Grace: See my answer for an example of non-duplicate questions where the only correct answer to the new question is identically applicable to an existing question. –  Larry Wang Sep 10 '10 at 18:05
    
@Kaestur See my comment (and upvote) to your answer from a few days ago for where I point out that it was poor of me to neglect the part of how the questions need to be similar first. –  Grace Note Sep 10 '10 at 18:06
    
@Grace: I know, I was just happy that I finally came up with a good example :) –  Larry Wang Sep 10 '10 at 18:08
    
@Kaestur I liked your example a lot, because it exactly illustrates it well. I have now updated my answer to no longer neglect this important fact. –  Grace Note Sep 10 '10 at 18:16
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Over and over, I see similar questions closed as exact duplicate. I don't quite agree.

Exhibit 1.

Question A: How to identify BUC of item in Nethack?, closed as exact duplicate of

Question B: How to identify items without getting killed

Here's the rationale for closure:

The only options available for pre-usage BUC detection are:

  • altar dropping (covered by Kaestur's answer),
  • pet walking (covered by Durathor's answer),
  • scroll of identify (covered by WillfulWizard), and
  • being a priest.

So the grounds of this question are mostly covered by the one we selected (and it serves us better to add the priest info to the other question anyway, since that advice addresses that question).

I don't see the value in opening a second question to duplicate the content of existing answers.

As for the BUC terminology, let's remember that we have a very good ability to keep around a duplicate in order to improve people's hits. So that way, anyone who catches this question via looking for "BUC" is very swiftly directed to look at the question which has the information they need.

Grace Note in this comment, all formatting added by me.

So let's recap. Question A and Question B partially overlap -- not all cursed items won't get you killed and not all identification techniques reveal the BUC status.

Since, however, question B was asked before question A was, those who want an answer to question A should hunt for bits and pieces of relevant information in at least three separate answers to question B.

I don't quite think that's right.


Exhibit 2.

Question A: Is there a banlist or way to block certain players from being in the games you play?, closed as exact duplicate of

Question B: What's the proper way to deal with someone who Team Kills and harasses you constantly in Starcraft 2?

Here's the rationale for closure:

I think that an answer that gave how to block would be useful to the question I linked as well as this one.

I don't really see the purpose in producing that information in two places, or having each question link to the others.

It seems to me, the situation is simple enough: you did not get an answer about blocking to the first question. The solution is not to open a new question, but request additional answers.

To help facilitate this I would recommend offering a bounty on the original question to anyone who can supply a blocking method. If you lack the rep I am willing to supply.

tzenes in this comment, all formatting added by me.

While I agree that this answer may benefit by being expanded upon, I don't see how a bounty to encourage the best duplicate answer about blocking can help question B.

The best course of action should have that answer linking to question A, which hopefully goes into more details about blocking. After all, question B is little more than a list of actions you can take about bad apples in order of, um, properness, is it not?


Generally speaking, I do not think that overlapping is a good reason to close questions as exact duplicates.

The word "exact" isn't there because it felt good.

As TheTxi said in an answer upvoted ten times on MSO, starred four times on chat and accepted for its question:

If you ask a question similar to another question and it is likely to get the exact same answer, you have yourself a duplicate question.

The only real "value" I see in a Q&A site is giving answers to questions, not looking for reasons to shout back at the asker because they didn't fill in the papers properly.

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Regarding "those who want an answer to question A should hunt for bits and pieces of relevant information in at least three separate answers to question B", don't forget that the SO model would encourage you to collate that information into a better answer for question A so that later question searchers could benefit. –  Jason Berkan Sep 3 '10 at 16:51
    
I can see from a maintenance point-of-view why closing as duplicates is useful. It keeps the site compact from having tons of duplicates. But what seems to happen is that specific questions looking for specific answers are all swept under the same umbrella of an answer, when the wording of that answer may not completely answer the question. It may only seem like it, but certain keywords and other meanings are left out. –  sunpech Sep 3 '10 at 20:35
    
@Sunpech I think you have the unique case of the answers to your first question were bad. In reality a good answer should have included everything you wanted to know and none of the answers you got did. I can understand wanting to ask again as a result, but I think the correct protocol is to find a way to get better answers to the original instead of asking a similar question in hopes you got the answer you deserved. –  tzenes Sep 3 '10 at 21:03
    
Get 5 people to reopen the Nethack question and I'll concede on it. I find the Nethack example to be far closer to the duplicate level than other cases (perhaps like the SC2 one here), and the recent blog post hasn't changed my mind. I can see people who can see it being on the safer side of the border, however, so I'm not going to suggest it for closing again should it get reopened. Good luck ♪ –  Grace Note Nov 16 '10 at 13:47
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