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I've been taking some flak recently for posting duplicate/similar answers to questions that are similar, rather than noting that a duplicate answer may exist, and vtc.

I've reviewed some of the 642 posts here regarding this subject, and I'm not sure that I found anything other than complex opinions. So my real question is... Is there a written formal policy on how to handle duplicate questions/answers on Ask Ubuntu?

I have my own opinion on this subject, but I'll start by asking readers to review the comments in unable to detect wireless after installing ubuntu 16.10: Broadcom bcm43212.

One might condense one answer that I've been given as... "we don't want to clog up Ask Ubuntu with similar answers... so mark it as a dup question and reference a dup answer".

One problem that I see with marking as a dup, and providing a link, is that many times the link doesn't answer the specifics of the current question. Case in point, the BCM43212. The dup link refered to makes no mention of the BCM43212, and even if you went off of the device ID (which wasn't identified in the OP), you'd get a call out to an obsolete driver quoted in 2011. Wrong answer.

I'll try and keep this short...

I see 6 possible answers to any given question...

  1. no answer at all
  2. a brand new answer to a brand new question
  3. a similar question marked as having a dup answer, link provided
  4. a similar question having the same/similar answer
  5. a similar question marked as dup, link provided, and having a same/similar answer
  6. wrong answer

I'm not sure that considering items 2-5 should be considered as different. The question got answered.

Comments?

  • 1
    I read it twice :), but I am not sure what type of answer you expect or would like to have? – Jacob Vlijm Feb 22 '17 at 16:15
  • @JacobVlijm 1) is there a documented policy/procedure for handling dups, and 2) should I be getting all the flak that I'm getting? I'm in the top ten posters this month... and I don't deserve the flak. – heynnema Feb 22 '17 at 16:18
  • See: stackoverflow.blog/2011/01/…: section Don't answer questions that have already been answered elsewhere. – Jacob Vlijm Feb 22 '17 at 16:31
  • @JacobVlijm quote "Combined with Google, that gives us the magical power of a library of reference manuals you never have to read! It's like, you got to the library, and there's a wizard there at the door, and you ask your question, and, instead of being told to read a book, you just got (are you sitting down?) the actual answer!". And instead of being told to read a book could read instead of being told to follow a (dup) link ... you get the actual answer!. – heynnema Feb 22 '17 at 16:45
  • @JacobVlijm What's also interesting is that nobody has answered my question with "here's the link to the user/moderators policy handbook on how things work around here". – heynnema Feb 23 '17 at 14:45
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    See (a.o) this meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10841/…. Like many things, practiced and accepted policy is decided by the community. The arguments on this one are extremely clear imo. – Jacob Vlijm Feb 23 '17 at 14:54
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    The mistake you seem to make is that you think of AU as a helpdesk. We like to help people, but not at cost of the quality of the site as a whole. Would you update all 20 versions of practically the same answer if it needs to, or if you have new insights? – Jacob Vlijm Feb 23 '17 at 14:59
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If your answer is addressing the specifics of the current question and is sufficiently different, then yes, it may well be better to post it. Sometimes, you can post your answer addressing the specifics and vote to close as a dupe. Or, which I often do, vote to close and leave a comment along the lines of "Use the solution of the duplicate, just change foo to bar".

However, the flak you've been getting is because you've been posting the exact same answer to multiple questions. That raises an automatic moderator flag since, obviously, it is duplication of content. There have been 22 (twenty two!) separate flags raised on your answers for that! These aren't cases where you "answer the specifics of the current question", these are 100%, word for word identical copies of another one of your answers.

9 times out of 10, when a post is flagged in such a way, the question it is answering is indeed a duplicate and should have been marked as such. Yes, sometimes the questions aren't close enough even though they have the same answer, but that is very rare. Which is why the system casts this flag to begin with.

So, if you feel that the duplicate doesn't answer the question well enough, then post a different answer that does address whatever detail you feel is missing. However, arguing that it shouldn't be a dupe because the specifics of the question are different, and then posting word-perfect identical answers doesn't make much sense.

  • Thanks for your answer. Let me give a further example. Three possible questions... 1) I need to perform a manual fsck, 2) I can't boot, 3) I get errors during startup. All three might get the exact same answer from me, but if I post as a dup, provide a link to questions 1/2/3, and vtc, the OP might follow that link, only to find that their symptom/problem/question is different, so how do their answers apply to their own situation. However, if I paste in one of my canned answers... 1) the question got answered, 2) I didn't have to do any further dup searches, 3) I get rep points. – heynnema Feb 23 '17 at 14:23
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    @heynnema one of the primary objectives of this site is to keep the noise/content ratio down. Posting the same answer instead of closing as a dupe is very much against that objective. If your answer adds something new, post it on the dupe. If it doesn't, don't post it at all. Even better, put a tiny bit of effort into your answer and modify it to fit the specific question asked. Just like you say in your question here. But no, don't just dump the same answer again so you can get some rep. – terdon Feb 23 '17 at 14:39
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There are probably hundreds of questions regarding installation of the Broadcom drivers for BCM43212 worded one way or another.

Instead of posting hundreds of identical answers it is better to post one answer and close all other questions as duplicates.

I agree that Installing Broadcom Wireless Drivers is a very good Q&A but it became too big and confusing for newbies. and it does not cover the broadcom-sta-dkms solution that is better in some cases.

But your answer does not cover the Secure Boot issue, etc.

I suggest that new or old unanswered, not already closed as dupes questions are closed as dupes of the one with your answer. You can do it, if you like. I will support it with my votes.

But be prepared to add there some useful information regarding the Secure Boot issue and offline installation. That will make it a perfect answer with lots of upvotes.

It is much much better than to have a hundred answers with accepts and 1-2 upvotes each.

As an example I can give one of my similar answers https://askubuntu.com/a/632348/167850

At first I wrote a simple guide, than added some details based on problems people address, and I am trying to keep it up do date. I could post a single answer for each of similar questions like you ;-) but it not a good way of doing things here.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. My answer did cover the secure boot issue... in so far as I told the reader to disable secure boot. Also, I do try to customize my "similar" answers if it adds value. Your up votes for enhanced similar answers is great, but I don't think I should get down votes (or the flak) for similar answers in general. The question got answered, either via a dup vtc, or a real answer, similar or not. – heynnema Feb 22 '17 at 17:14
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    So make one really good answer and mark other questions as dupes. If things change, it will be very hard to update all similar answers. – Pilot6 Feb 22 '17 at 17:15

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