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We already have a very nifty little tool called Pro-Forma Comments. This is a life saver. Can we have a similar one for Duplicate Questions - the ones that are asked too frequently?

When we find a question and know that it is a duplicate of one of the question previously asked and well answered, we just click on the duplicate link besides auto:

duplicate link

and get a list of questions with proper links to them. This would have inherent advantages:

  • It would save a lot of time for us and make us more productive.
  • It would help us mark a lot of questions as duplicates (one obviously doesn't know all the questions that are well answered).
  • Would be a proxy for Canonical Questions.
  • Would help us avoid Chains of Duplicates.
  • Invite greater participation from users.
  • Help us improve the overall statistics of AskUbuntu w.r.t Answered Questions.
  • And a lot more advantages which we all know about :)

I have collected only some of the frequently asked duplicates - these are here.

  • When you flag and specify a duplicate, does a Possible duplicate comment only get podsted in your name? (It does when people vote to close as a duplicate; I'm not sure it does from flags.) If not, would that fix this problem? If that doesn't happen but you think it should, we should look into why it works the way it currently does. – Eliah Kagan Jan 27 '13 at 6:55
  • @EliahKagan: I have been flagging duplicate questions as other - see the image; and posting a comment separately. So, this increased the workflow on my part... I haven't yet flagged a question as it doesn't belong here, or its a duplicate option, so I am not sure if it would automatically insert the comment below the question. I would let you know once I flag it properly :) – Aditya Jan 27 '13 at 7:08
  • @EliahKagan: When I flag a question properly, Possible Duplicate comment doesn't get posted automatically. I have to manually insert it. – Aditya Jan 29 '13 at 20:30
  • If it were automatically inserted, would that solve the underlying issue here? – Eliah Kagan Jan 30 '13 at 0:35
  • @EliahKagan: Definitely to a certain extent :)) – Aditya Jan 30 '13 at 3:17
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That probably won't scale, we'd spend time just maintaining a list of questions. How I do it is let the system do the work.

When someone posts their question the site does a duplicate check on it as they type their question and offers possible duplicates (which people then ignore, heh). But even if they ignore it the site still has a sidebar with related questions:

enter image description here

I almost always find the FAQed question in that list, that way I don't need to remember/care about which is the most FAQed question because AU keeps track of all that stuff.

Still, we have a list of canonical questions here too if you want to compare/edit/contribute:

  • 1
    Thanks for that Tip. I almost never saw it in the last 40 days. But this still requires a lot of effort on our part. However, if we have a list at the click of a button we would obviously derive the advantages which I mentioned above - chain of duplicates, greater participation, productivity, better statistics, proxy, etc. Besides, I don't think - we would constantly need to maintain this list - this would be for Frequently Asked Duplicates; not for all the questions which have great answers. Review once in a month should be sufficient in my opinion. – Aditya Jan 25 '13 at 23:02
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Pro-forma comments are a userscript; anyone (who knows how) can implement another user script that does what you propose. Just as pro-forma comments are not actually part of the official Stack Exchange interface, a userscript could add this functionality.

But this feature should not be implemented. At least not as described.

Questions aren't marked as duplicates by commenting. They are marked as duplicates by flagging or voting to close as a duplicate. Comments are secondary; they don't lead to closure, except insofar as someone may see the comment, decide they agree, and flag or vote.

Flagging or voting to close as a duplicate is not about what duplicates are available. It's about the question itself. Questions shouldn't be stretched to be duplicates of others. If you have to look through a general master list to know what question something is a duplicate of, you probably don't know it's a duplicate at all.

If you suspect a question is a duplicate and you go to flag or close it as one, you get a short list of similar-looking suggestions (this is separate from the very useful, usually longer list Jorge Castro has described). These suggestions indicate how many questions have been closed as duplicates of them:


"This question is a duplicate of which other question?" dialog

This appears when voting to close or (for users with less than 2000 reputation) when flagging as a duplicate. When it doesn't appear--as sometimes happens--this means the system was not able to identify any questions that looked like good candidates for duping.

The question listed first, with the most questions closed as duplicates, is not necessarily the best one. For example, this meta question is not a duplicate of the question where pro-forma userscript comments are shared.

But the same problem would happen if there were a short list of common dupe masters. That one would appear, and people would comment saying this was a duplicate of it.

The necessary thoughtfulness for selecting an appropriate duplicate would make a single short master list, giving the same selections for every possible duplicate, not appropriate in most circumstances.

Many duplicates are duplicates of the questions you listed. Most are not.

Comments are only useful once you know what to dupe the question to.

A master list on meta makes sense; a userscript for commenting doesn't. There is a small set of common reasons why answers tend to be NAA (not an answer). They all relate to people not understanding how this site is different from a forum.

In a sense, almost all NAA answers are NAA for the same reason.

In contrast, there are as many possible dupe targets as there are open questions on the site (plus some closed questions; sometimes a question is a duplicate of something that's closed as off-topic or not constructive).

Of course, there are other uses for pro-forma comments; for example, there are a few common ways answers can use improvement, even if they're real answers. These ways also all have to do with how Stack Exchange sites differ from forums.

  • Having comments readily available at our disposal would obviously help in raising a Flag/VTC - similar to how we comment when someone has just posted a link as an answer. We should use the proposed feature for questions like unmet dependency, 404 error using a ppa, upgrading from unsupported release, installing ubuntu on preinstalled win8 system; and such. Do you still disagree? Or what are the alternatives that you would suggest? Would you still compare questions like Nothing shows up in the terminal when I type my password? :) – Aditya Jan 25 '13 at 23:21
  • BTW, the feature is proposed for generic questions - obviously not for ones for which we need to ask the OP to give outputs of some terminal commands. – Aditya Jan 25 '13 at 23:26
  • @Aditya Yes, I still disagree. I've expanded my answer to explain how this situation is fundamentally different from pro-forma comments as applied to NAA answers. As for what alternatives I would suggest--I would suggest the alternatives I talked about in my answer, plus the two excellent alternatives Jorge Castro talked about in his answer. – Eliah Kagan Jan 25 '13 at 23:29
  • As a user with not enough reputation - I don't see that list of Duplicates (as in your image). Probably I will when I would be eligible to cast Vote To Close. – Aditya Jan 25 '13 at 23:37
  • @Aditya This is not probably not related to reputation. Sometimes the system doesn't find anything it thinks you're likely to want to indicate as the master when closing as a duplicate. Then the list is empty. (I've edited to clarify, as my post was not clear on this.) – Eliah Kagan Jan 26 '13 at 0:18
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    Ah thanks... all this while I have always flagged a duplicate as Other for Moderator Attention... My bad that I didn't notice this stuff... Thanks.. from now onwards would flag a duplicate properly.... But I still feel the need for such (proposed) tool ;) – Aditya Jan 26 '13 at 13:13
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    I see the problem, he doesn't have 3k reputation, so he has to do all the voting to close and stuff by hand since he doesn't have access to any of the closing tools. – Jorge Castro Jan 26 '13 at 16:29
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    @JorgeCastro No, the same question closing interface we have, low rep users have. I have < 200 rep on Stack Overflow. Flag, click It doesn't belong here, or it is a duplicate, and then it's the same exact interface we use for close-voting, just "inform moderator flags" instead of "votes." Same menus, same close suggestions. (You can try this on any of the several SE sites where you have <3k rep.) It is true, though, that the close review queue, and the 10k information on closing/closed questions, and the 10k flag queue that gets some close flags (cast as described above) require high rep. – Eliah Kagan Jan 26 '13 at 17:00
  • @JorgeCastro: I wasn't flagging properly.. In order to flag a question as Duplicate, I was always flagging it as Other for Mod Attention option. Instead, I should be flagging using the option it doesn't belong here, or its a duplicate... This always increased the workflow for me... However, I still feel something like canned comments for Dupes would help us... No problem if the community feels it wouldn't be a good add-on; I would try to find a workaround for it... I have started making a text document to create a master of dupes. – Aditya Jan 27 '13 at 6:51

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