Closing duplicates also helps the following things:
We don't abandon or "archive" wrong information, we strive to always have that page be the relevant awesome answer for that particular question. In October Ubuntu had to change how we shipped Java.
It took us about 2 hours to update all the Java questions here, because it's centralized into a few questions instead of 15 variations of "How to install Java?". We were able to remove almost all reference to the wrong information referring the partner repository nearly instantly.
This is way more powerful and useful to users than blogs, forums, and mailing lists. We can make wrong information just go away and not pollute the internet. Search around other places for posts recommending the (now wrong) partner archive for Java, we can minimize problems like this.
Check out this question:
And then check out the "Linked" on the right side. Those are all duplicates that were linked to this question. We're nerds, so we know the problem is gnome-settings-daemon crashing. Look at all the useful user-centric terms they used to describe the problem that now are nice landing pages that redirect here. "gray and boxy", "sometimes ugly when I log in", "looking like Windows 98". Each one of those is a sign post to this master question.
One thing that is not obvious to people is when a user is asking a question the site is automagically filling out the sidebar with questions it thinks are relevant. The more links and duplicates a question has the more information is available. The more links a question has also makes it show up in the autogenerate FAQ for the tag and the site, etc. and drives traffic to the one canonical answer and question.
I originally posted this on the G+ page but it's relevant here:
One of the common responses to having a question closed as a duplicate is "But the original question is unanswered!"
This seems callous, you're asking for help, and you see that the other person didn't get help, so we seemingly just shove you both into the same sinking boat.
It's not immediately obvious, but what we're doing is consolidating people with the same problem into one place. Imagine if everyone had the same problem and posted another question, we'd have 15 unanswered questions! Now we're worse off than before, now people who might know the answer are lost in clutter.
What we do instead is rally every one around the same question. This way it's in one place, it makes it easier to share, to tweet, and more importantly, to find when people are searching.
- Do you have any information you could add to the question?
- Does the question itself need improvements?
- Does the question have links to logs?
Is there more information missing? By having everyone improving one question instead of a bunch of half finished ones, it increases your chances of getting a question answered!
I don't vote to delete it as it helps people find things unless it's a worthless bug report or something too localized that would just clutter the site.