Some questions becomes duplicates of other questions because of their content, other because their answers. How should be discussed/reviewed the cases when a question become duplicate of another because one new answer?


The process to mark a question as duplicate of another when the questions have same content, it's clear, I think.

The case that I think that it's not clear is when the questions should be marked as duplicate because one of its answers and specifically when a new answer is what makes the question a duplicate of another.

I think that voting to close a question because it's a duplicate of another question doesn't have "enough room" for discussing about closing a question as duplicate because a new answer that applies to both questions. How should we proceed?


Exhibit 1

The following questions are about using Google Drive as a website content host

While they are slightly different and this could require slightly different details in their answers, they refer to a feature that is deprecated but will continue to work until August 31'2016.

  • Should the last 2 of them be marked as duplicate of the first one, as the first is the more general
  • Should the same answer be posted three times with slight changes in order to mention the slight differences or specific cases?
  • Should a new question that mentions the use case variants should be posted, answered and them make the other questions duplicate of the first?

Exhibit 2

The following questions are about adding timestamps to Google Spreadsheets (now rebranded as Google Sheets).

All of the above questions include almost the same code. The following one has is slightly different but also include the same "fingerprint"

Note: I think that it's very likely that original post is the Henrique Abreu's answer, answered Jul 13 '12 at 4:13, to Automatic timestamp when a cell is filled out, asked Jul 12 '12 at 18:39.

The "fingerprint" is composed of the following code comments:

  • //checks that we're on the correct sheet
  • //checks the column

Exhibit 3

The first question was too specific. It's about Google+. The second is too broad, it's about several social networking / sharing web services but both of them could be answered with the same answer so the second was closed as duplicate of the first one.


1 Answer 1


Like so much else in life, "it depends". Much of this is subjective, which is why (except for Moderators) it usually takes five people to mark a question as duplicate.1

For me, if the answers to two different questions are essentially the same, then it's very likely that the questions are really duplicates.3 But still, you need to take them on a case-by-case basis. If the essence of the questions are the same, then that pretty much seals the deal for me.

In your Exhibit 1, I'd say an argument could be made that "Google Drive Image hotlinking" should be the master and the others marked as duplicates of it. The other questions are also essentially asking "how to I hotlink to an image in Google Drive?" The asker in each case already knows how hotlink to a different image given a URL, they just don't know if Google wants them to do something special or even if they can find the URL of their image. On the other hand, the circumstances of each are different enough that unique answers could be posted, even if those answers will share a lot of information in common.

In Exhibit 2, I think it's very clear that they're duplicates. They are all, essentially, "how can I automatically put a timestamp in multiple columns? I have this code which lets me do it in a single column; how can I change it?" The question "Add timestamp to two different columns in Google Spreadsheets" looks to be the best (and most generic) so I'd make that the master.

As for Exhibit 3, I would have closed that second question as "too broad". I don't completely disagree with its closure as a duplicate because the answer would be the same: Google Keep can't do that. But Google Keep can be copied to Google Docs and you can easily share a Google Doc on any social media you like. (Maybe that first question should be genericized. Too many times people get hung up on the wrong problem. In this case, how to share to Google+, when the real problem is how to share from Google Keep.)

Unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all" solution. Some cases are clear; many aren't. For the ones that aren't, the best thing to do is to come here to Meta and open a question about it.

Let me note that having duplicates isn't bad. Having multiple gateways to the same information is good because not everyone uses the same search terms. It can be trouble, though, when duplicates aren't identified. Then you have the same information scattered about making it harder to find. And, as we all know, sometimes that information changes. If one question gets an updated answer but another (potentially duplicate) question doesn't, we're doing a disservice to the people searching for information.

1 Except for the "golden dupe hammer" 2 and cases where the Asker agrees with the suggested duplicate.
2 A person with a gold tag badge in one of the tags on the question is considered expert enough to recognize duplicates in that tag, and so can mark duplicates with just their vote. See: this answer at Meta Stack Exchange
3 For actual answers. Answers that are akin to "that function does not exist" don't count in this regard.

  • Thanks a lot. By the way, I found some Q&A as candidates for an Exhibit 4, but following your suggestion to discuss them in a case by case basis, I I will post that as a new question.
    – Rubén Mod
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .