This is an answer to "why the duplicate questions are bad".
I have been using askubuntu for a long time, but only recently, I began to answer questions. The first question I answered was this one: https://askubuntu.com/questions/393107/ubuntu-13-04-question-java-and-flash/393112#393112
It is someone who clearly has very limited technical skills and who has problems with viewing his school website on Ubuntu. The only thing he knows is that "the website uses java and flash". He tried to install java and flash but the website is still giving errors.
He does not know if he installed java correctly, he does not know if the problem is client-side or server side (let alone know what those terms mean) and he does not know how to ask the appropriate question, he only knows that he has a problem that we can fix.
The question got flagged as a duplicate. This does not help the guy at all. This is why:
- Even though he talks about installing java, That is not the problem. He successfully installed java, he just doesn't know that he did. That means that "how to install java" is not a good answer to his question.
- The most top rated answer to the duplicated question was WAY to technical for him. (I edited it, now it's better).
- This is perceived as very anti-social to the questioner. Marking a question as duplicate without even giving guidelines about how to find the information in the other question is like saying "you are to dumb for is"
I assume that the "goal" of askubuntu is to help people, not to follow some strict rules about how to govern a question database. If following the rules does not help the guy, and the goal is to help the guy, then you can do two things:
- change the rules
- apply common sense to the rules
The current system of askubuntu is very helpful to people who have some technical background, who can parse the duplicated question to find what the info is they need. But people with less technical background get left behind, and that is sad. Everyone once started from the bottom and if we do not help the people who are at the bottom, the community will die.
Nothing is black and white
Ofcourse, marking duplicate question is not always bad. But My experience has been that questions are marked as a duplicate way to fast.
What could be done about this?
- If the question is a clear duplicate, tell the questioner where he can find the answer to his specific question. Instead of marking it as a duplicate of the "black screen question" and not saying anything else tell him in a comment "you have a dualboot system, this is something that can be fixed by running boot-repair. Answer #42 tells you how to do that"
- Dumb-down the answers for questions that get asked a lot by noobs. Someone without any linux experience doesn't care about going through the whole process to manually installing java. Just give him a ppa, warn him about the risks, an let him be happy. Ofcourse, it is always better if an answer like this is followed by a more thorough one.
- Read the whole question and comments before marking something as duplicate. Only mark something as a duplicate if you know what the problem is, not if it seems like that is the problem.