35

Sometimes I have a question that I know I have seen on here before. I try searching for it as the first step. If I can't find it that way, I click "Ask a Question" and type in the title, because that seems more successful for finding the question than the search box is.

However, sometimes I don't see the question I'm looking for in the "Questions that may already have your answer" list.

I know I've seen the question; it's just a matter of hunting it down.

However, it just recently occurred to me that perhaps such hunting is counter-productive. The whole reason we can "close as duplicates" is to make finding the best answers easier. If I spend 15 minutes digging through my browser history and complex search results to find the question again, isn't it an indicator that there is a missing search term/phrasing for the question? Won't it just make more work for the next person who thinks of that wording of the question?

So if there is a question I have that I've seen here before, and I write a good, concise wording of it, and the answer doesn't show up...is it bad to ask the question so that it can eventually be dupe-closed? Thus the next person to search the phrasing I came up with would get a link to the answer.

(On a related note, is it possible/desirable to dupe-close your own question rather than delete it?)


Summary: Is it considered a "good thing" by the community to write a new form of a question when:

  1. You know it already exists someplace on here,
  2. You can't find it even with moderate effort, and
  3. Your wording of the question is relatively simple?
  • 7
    Have you considered editing the question (once you finally find it) to make it more discoverable? – derobert Mar 19 '16 at 10:09
  • 12
    Note: I usually find questions better using Google than using the site search. Use site:unix.stackexchange.com in addition to the search keywords. Except for search that involves symbols (google strips them) it usually works. – RealSkeptic Mar 20 '16 at 15:48
  • If you're creating a duplicate, it's worth spelling out why any dupe-candidates don't meet your needs. – Sobrique Mar 21 '16 at 10:57
  • 2
    Of course, if you really really can't find the old/existing question, you should definitely post a new question.  After all, the old question might have been deleted.  (This is assuming that the question is on-topic, well scoped, objective, and that you can ask it clearly.) – Scott Mar 27 '16 at 1:53
  • 1
    @RealSkeptic I find that adding quotes (e.g. "c++" site:unix.stackexchange.com) usually helps. – Wayne Werner Mar 29 '16 at 16:24
  • @WayneWerner It only works for a very small number of terms, "C++" being one of them because it's a common combination. But "!=" and so on won't work. – RealSkeptic Mar 29 '16 at 17:21
  • 1
    sometimes when I know I've seen the question already, it's actually on a different site in the SE network .. shame there's no native cross-site search (and, possibly, closing-as-duplicate) for SE – warren Mar 31 '16 at 17:13
  • @RealSkeptic, symbolhound.com – Wildcard Sep 28 '18 at 22:20
29

If the existing question is poorly formulated, edit it! Improvements are always welcome.

If you think that the existing formulation is fine, you can still edit the question to add search fodder, e.g. with a paragraph “In other words, I'm asking how to <different formulation>”.

If you really think that the question would be best served under multiple titles, then go ahead and type your question. Check whether the “Questions that may already have your answer” box has the existing questions as one of the first few hits. If it does, then a duplicate isn't warranted after all. If the similar question search doesn't find the existing question, then go ahead and ask. Post a comment clearly stating that you intend for this to be a duplicate, with a link to the existing question. Once at least one person has flagged or voted to close as a duplicate, you can finish the duplicate vote in one click.

Anonymous visitors are automatically redirected to the duplicate if the question that they land on has no answers and is closed as a duplicate.

  • 4
    That would be hard to do if you can't find it... – Lawful Lazy Mar 29 '16 at 4:12
  • Here's an example of a question that 100% needed its new title just to be dupe-closed to the unfindable existing title. – Wildcard Apr 3 '16 at 6:41
  • 1
    @Wildcard The existing title was because that question was intended as a duplicate for the ever-recurring “I'm using which and it doesn't do what I wanted” — which has the same answers as “how do I check whether a command is available”. A lot of people think they know the answer to that second question, use which, and then run into trouble. – Gilles Apr 3 '16 at 11:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .