I just voted to close this question as a duplicate of this other one. However, I am unsure if this was exactly the right action to take, given that, though the latter question has an upvoted answer, that answer is really just an extended comment, in that it does not resolve the question and rather points to a possibly useful identity. To be sure, the latter question has not truly been answered.

However, any answer to the latter would certainly be applicable to the former, and even the already existing answer might be of some use - which is why I decided closing would be an appropriate action. Closing doesn't seem like the ideal way to handle such a question, though, since it seems like the purpose of closing as duplicate would be that the asker of the new question could go to the older one and find the answer, and not need to look and further, or check back again later or anything.

Is there possibly a better way to handle this than closing (e.g. is "merging" questions possible)? Would flagging for moderator attention be the right action in this case?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ In general I wouldn't worry too much about the existence of answers. I would simply compare the two questions alone. In this case it does look like the newer question is a duplicate of the older question. So I would say that voting to close as duplicate is fine. $\endgroup$
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ Very useful question: I was planning to ask the same! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, both are dupes of this one: math.stackexchange.com/questions/1045477/… which answers it fully. I have added my vote to close as dupe to second one in your post. $\endgroup$
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


The system already checks that the target question has an answer that is either accepted or has positive score. (Thus, the target is deemed "answered" by the SE definition.) Absent such an answer, one cannot use the question as a duplicate target.

Even when the given answer is partial, voting to close as a duplicate is appropriate when any answer to question A can also be posted under question B. So, those wishing to expand upon the existing answer(s) can do so under the question that remains open. This achieves the goal of collecting information in one place instead of scattering it across duplicate questions.

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    $\begingroup$ In such cases, one could argue that it is the newer question that should remain open, since it will get much better exposure than the old one. This has the highly beneficial effect that as the site gains expertise it has a better chance of answers being improved due to that gain in expertise. But, alas, it is not easy to do that now because merging old questions into new ones is too much work given existing merge tools. Another possibility is to replace the new question by the old one in the list of questions. This esp. helps very old questions, when MSE had little expertise in some areas. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 21:47

Under the circumstances you describe (where I am assuming that the quality of both A and B as questions are equal, and that B does not have an adequate answer), I would argue that it may be better to close the older question as a duplicate of the newer one rather than the other way around.

This still achieves the aim of grouping together similar questions, but I think that doing it this way around has several advantages:

  1. It is more likely to lead to the OP actually getting an answer. Since old questions that have some kind of answer are unlikely to be revisited, closing the newer question as a duplicate could just end up silencing the question.

    There have been numerous occasions where I have seen a question closed as a duplicate in this way, only for the OP of the newer question to then have to push for people to answer the original question.
  2. Closing the newer question as a duplicate sends the wrong message to the OP. Having a question closed indicates that on some level, there was something inappropriate with the question. However, in this case, I think the OP acted correctly: in seeing that there were no available (complete) answers to a question, they asked the question.

  3. Once the question is closed, the OP will justifiably be in a quandary: their question has been closed, and yet they still have nowhere to go for an answer. It takes an assertive user to push this point. A less assertive user may just go home empty handed.

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