Here's a typical example: Hide FIles in Ubuntu 12.04 posted about five hours ago. Here's essentially the same question, IMO, posted on August 12, 2010.

Maybe it's unawareness. Maybe it's the "lumpers versus splitters" situation in which some feel that an existing question and answer cover the newest duplicate whereas others feel the difference, if any, is significant to warrant a separate question and answers and comments.

I get the impression that the splitters dominate. Is my impression correct?

2 Answers 2


We can close questions as duplicates. So if a question is a duplicate, vote to close (or, if you have less than 3k reputation, flag to close and consider commenting).

Often, answers are valuable, but are just in the wrong place, and should be in the more established question instead. In these situations, a moderator can merge them. After the question is closed, it can be flagged to request this. (This should not be done indiscriminately, but only when one or more answers on the duplicate adds something not present in the answers on the master question.)

If someone deliberately answers questions they think are duplicates, that is usually bad, and it is best to explain why we close questions as duplicates.

Otherwise, the solution to people answering duplicate questions redundantly is for us to close them faster.

Here's my concern: No one should feel that they have a special duty to search for duplicates before answering a question. Most questions are not duplicates. If a question doesn't get enough views for someone to notice it might be a duplicate and look into the matter, that's a problem of its own. We shouldn't adopt any policy (formal or informal) that makes it substantively harder to ask or answer a question, since questions and answers are what the site is about.

  • 1
    As a relatively new user I want to emphasize your last paragraph - thx!
    – guntbert
    Feb 5, 2013 at 17:55

They are — sort of. When you write the question title a search is performed that pops up. The same is true on Launchpad. Before you can post a bug you're asked to check that it's not a duplicate of another bug and it presents close matches based on titles.

It doesn't work all the time on either system.

Fact is we currently have no way to know how often it does work. It could be done but it's not a metric I know exists. When it doesn't work it could be:

  • Belligerent user: "splitters" as you call them
  • Doddery users: it is quite a subtle search process
  • Inept search: it depends on the title and can be thrown pretty easily

Or a combination. I do think there should be perhaps a more Launchpad style barrier- to-entry (you have to click through to say that you've checked the questions) but this is very against the spirit of Stack Exchange. Perhaps in time they'll address this.

  • This meta question is asking if we should tell answerers to check for duplicates before answering. Your answer seems to be entirely about the issue of whether or not askers should check for duplicates before asking. (For example, you say "They are — sort of" and this is in reference to a part of the process of posting questions, not answers.) Certainly there is value in what you're saying here ...but does it really address the question that was asked here? Am I missing something? Feb 5, 2013 at 12:00
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    @EliahKagan, you are right in that my question is concerned about answering duplicates. While it's understandable to see newcomers and relatively new users answer duplicate questions, I've seen some very senior posters do so as well.
    – user25656
    Feb 5, 2013 at 12:03

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