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MY question is how difficult is it to merge questions? Over my time here I've requested merging on a number of questions. I recently ran across this question which I flagged as duplicate after writing an answer to the earlier post here. I did it this way in an attempt to avoid creating unnecessary work for the moderators.

Is this approach preferable to answering the newer question and requesting a merge as I expect?

I've looked through the questions regarding merging here but I didn't find anything that touched on this exactly. If I've missed something, please point me in the right direction.

  • Merging questions is not the same as marking them as duplicates. – Dan Apr 20 '15 at 15:52
  • @Dan Yes, I know. The question I have is articulated in the first sentence. – Elder Geek Apr 20 '15 at 15:55
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It is manual but it isn't hard.

There are non-obvious reasons we don't merge everything:

  • It's practically permanent. If a mistake is made, we need somebody from SE to unwind the mess we've made. We don't like annoying SE.

  • Merging everything into one isn't always a good strategy:

    • Close-duplicates offer the site better search target.
    • Merging often results in many duplicate answers. De-crudding a merge target takes much more effort than the initial merge.
  • People can lose reputation (if we merge and cull duplicate answers) and although they're only fake internet points, people still get miffed when they lose a load of rep.

I'm not saying there aren't valid reasons to merge, just that often the decision is made using multiple factors, including our fear of Shog and current laziness level.

And closing something as duplicate should often be considered as good as answering it. If it isn't, you probably shouldn't be voting to close it.

  • Thank you. I'm going to simply assume that I made the right call in this case. The De-crudding point is a good one that I hadn't given much thought to. The practically permanent point as well. IMHO. -) – Elder Geek Apr 20 '15 at 16:15
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I can't answer how much work it requires, as I don't know (Oli already answered that), but I want to explain why I think merging is rarely the solution.

Consider you have Question A which is already answered. Then another user asks Question B which appears similar to Question A.

If the answers in Question A are valid answers for B, it is most likely a duplicate, and I would flag it as such. The question would enter the close votes queue, and the community would take care of it, no need for moderators to take actions.

If Question A is not answered, I would do what you have already done. Answer Question A and mark B as duplicate of A.

If I think a new answer is needed to answer the problem of B, which is not available in A, then I would answer it in B and leave it. The fact that the answers in A do not answer B means that both questions have different problems, thus they are not duplicates.

The only time I think questions need merging, is when 2 similar questions are already answered, but in a different way. For example, one answered it in a GUI manner, the other using the command line.

  • Some times there's no usable answer in A and B. I agree with your assessment on merging. I try to suggest it only when there appear to be useful answers that take a different approach in both questions. – Elder Geek Apr 20 '15 at 16:28

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