I have seen many times a new question being marked as a "Duplicate". When going to the page with the "duplicated" question, (which often has little to do with the duplicate question), I sometimes see answers with lots of votes, (and of course lots of votes equates to the best answer).

The problem arises when the answer is many years old, is obsolete, no longer valid and could cause a user much frustration attempting to apply it to a recent version of Ubuntu.

Such answers include: Unetbootin, usb-creator, Winusb, syslinux persistent partitions, etc. Often times the given answer has nothing to do with the old question.

The best solution would seem to be to remove the obsolete answers, or at least the votes for these obsolete answers. It would not be fair to remove these votes from a person's score as the answers have served their purpose and the person would likely not return to Ask.

Is there a way to mark an answer as obsolete? to at least give users a warning? It does not help technology to keep pointing to old solutions, (if that was the case we would all be driving Model T's).

  • I am not suggesting taking away anyone's points, just cleaning up the site a bit, making the current valid questions and answers more visible. making the progress of technology more efficient. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 7:30
  • “which often has little to do with the duplicate question” [citation needed] Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 16:30
  • askubuntu.com/questions/520163/… vs askubuntu.com/questions/16988/… for example Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 7:17
  • You said "often" and then posted a single example out of thousand of duplicates. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 10:59
  • You asked for a citation, I gave a citation, I am not going to post thousands of citations. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 2:19
  • Dang, there does not seem to be a search for duplicates button. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 6:50
  • Here is another citation: askubuntu.com/questions/352815/… vs askubuntu.com/questions/156026/… looks like the same squad of Duplicate Post police. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 5:03
  • Those last 2 examples are duplicates because either the respective questions or answers apply in both cases (or are the same altogether). I thought you were trying to prove that these "have nothing to do with the old question". Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 16:00
  • You are wrong, The original question has nothing to do with comparison between ubuntu running on flash drive vs laptop hard disk, it concerns the differences between running Ubuntu on a persistent flash drive vs a Full install to flash drive. Ubuntu running on a lappy hard drive should.smoke either pendrive option. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 16:50
  • Items 2,3 and 4 from the duplicate question are not answered in the "Duplicated" question. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 17:08
  • @ Andrea Lazzarotto Here is another one or two: askubuntu.com/questions/555648/… vs askubuntu.com/questions/77714/… but that page is listed as duplicate to askubuntu.com/questions/16988/… the Duplicate Post Police don't seem to realize making a Persistent CD is different than making a Persistent USB. Why are they sending the op to a duplicate post that can't be updated? Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 5:08
  • Yes that one seems kinda odd. I will cast a reopen vote. Nevertheless, the fact that some errors out of thousands of questions can happen does not mean people with review privileges should be bashed with snarky nicknames like "duplicate post police" or whatever. Humans sometimes make mistakes. Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 17:03
  • @ Andrea Lazzarotto My opinion is that mislabeling a post as duplicate can do damage not just to a members reputation, but to Linux technology in general. A reviewer that makes a bad call should receive downmarks, just like anyone else. There is a name for those that criticize but can't take criticism themselves. Do unto others... Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 2:14
  • Reviewing is volunteering, reviewers are not paid to do it and errors can happen once in a while. Those who abuse the system (but that's not the case here) are already managed by mods. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 12:38

3 Answers 3


There are two distinct issues here, both solved by more considerate voting.

  • Duplicates should only ever be relevant to their close-targets. Seriously. If you see things often being flagged as duplicate where they're not relevant, you should be flagging those closed questions.

    If it's not immediately obvious why something is duplicate (very common when the question is open-ended and the OP doesn't really know what's going on), somebody involved in the closure of something should take a couple of seconds to explain why it's duplicate.

  • People voting to close should also be weighing up the relevancy of an old question to the new question's release. Most command line questions are going to be relevant for the next few decades (or until systemd replaces bash) but a 12.04 Upstart Q&A probably isn't going to help somebody on 16.10.

    Remember that we still support 12.04. Practically every old answer on the site is still relevant in some way to a supported release.

So again, these are both issues that are best solved by the people voting. If you don't have the technical know-how to weigh up if something is a duplicate, you really shouldn't be voting on it. Skip to the next one.

  • Thanks Oli did you say there is a way to flag bad duplicate calls? They are another of my pet peeves. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 6:30
  • 1
    Just flag it for moderator attention, leave a message and we'll give it some attention.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:47

First of all, removing "obsolete" answers isn't a good idea. You'd be surprised that there are many regular users as well as actually legitimate enterprise level organizations that use older versions of Ubuntu, nevermind older versions of Linux kernel in general. Those answers can be useful for them. If all "obsolete" answers are removed, you'll see whole lot of users coming here asking about their outdated OS issues, and we've nothing to provide except close-vote. So unless StackOverflow decides that obsolete answers will cost them too much in hamsters , those answers probably should remain on the site.

There are however several ways that you can address the issue:

  • leave a comment; chances are the answer author is still around and active user on the site, so there's a good chance they'll update the post.
  • Edit the post to add newer information. Be careful here though - adding lengthy procedures and/or scrips will go against that user's original intention and could be considered as a destructive edit
  • Post your own answer with bold text stating that your answer is for specific Ubuntu version or range of Ubuntu versions since particular one. This is a very very common approach , and I'd personally recommend it.
  • Ask a new question ! Duplicate questions that require newer information/updated solutions are perfectly acceptable on the site. Just put in bold text to let people not to close your question as duplicate since older answers don't work. (admittedly there's a problem with hot-headed users who like to close all the things, but if you leave several hundred comments, flag for moderator to come over and yell at the "kids", or simply put everything in bold and italics, then you can save the question ).

See for example this answer: https://askubuntu.com/a/19324/295286 It keeps all the original content, while also provides updated information for systems 15.04 and above. It takes effort to write something this consistent and detailed with every new release. Now multiply that effort times a thousand, because there's thousands of great answers like this. Sure, they might be dated, but again - easily solvable with posts being updated or by posting your own answer to address the void

  • Still not sure why Ask is supporting Pre 12.04 Ubuntu versions when Ubuntu itself is not. It would be better if any answers specific to obsolete versions were placed in an Archive. How many people/organizations are actually using such versions, I dusted off my daughters old computer with 10.04 on it and it would not update or nothing. Don't think I could even update Firefox. As it is looking for some solutions is like trying to find a needle in a haystack Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 6:47
  • @C.S.Cameron AskUbuntu is not supporting pre 12.04 version. I've already mentioned in my answer that we do close questions that ask about End of Life releases. The legacy answers are all there this, and it's still far better than looking for needles in haystacks :) or looking for solutions at some shady sites. What I'd like to understand is what are the benefits of doing what you suggest - placing old answers into archive ? Have you considered that it'll add more complexity to the site , add cost for StackOverflow developers, more things for moderators and community to manage ? Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 7:02
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    @C.S.Cameron more importantly, are you volunteering to go over the several thousand answers on the site, test them and report back on whether they are obsolete or not? Are you willing to do that every six months when a new release comes out?
    – terdon
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 9:42
  • @Serg I would certainly be willing to help flag answers and questions that I believe are obsolete, removing bad information is at least as helpful as providing good information. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 5:46
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    @C.S.Cameron like I said , this information is still used, and it's not necessarily bad information, so removing it is not right way to approach it. Trust me, the best approach is to post a new answer on the same question and put text in bod "For Ubuntu 16.04" or whatever version you're providing answer. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 5:48

We need to bring in a few practical issues involved in what you suggest:

  • To decide if an answer not only is obsolete, but also gives no useful information whatsoever to solve the problem, is at least quite subjective, probably undoable. I remember occasions where answers were strictly taken obsolete, but gave me nevertheless useful information to look in the right direction.
  • Apart from that, also because of that, making decisions on what answers are obsolete or not, would be a very time consuming task. Who would you like to do that? How would you suggest to create consensus on that?

Already mentioned, but nothing keeps you from adding an answer, starting with for 16.04:.

Removing possibly obsolete answers would make things unnecessarily complicated, make us lose valuable content, is a burden to the review- capacity and would make no sense to the voting system.

  • If answers voted obsolete were moved to Archives, they would still be available, (for research etc), but not clogging up the site for a person looking for a current solution. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 5:43
  • Almost exactly the same goes for marking questions as duplicate, but that does not seem so unnecessarily complicated, as it helps maintain the status quo. I have seen some really bad calls in marking duplicates, almost like the reviewer read neither. A bad duplicate call also can make us loose valuable content. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 6:18

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