Here's at least the second instance in which I have flagged a question as a duplicate, and the canned comment text "Does this answer your question?" elicits from the author of the duplicate question a response along the lines of "uhh, no," but it's clear they didn't bother to study the answer. I find the choice of language here to be less than optimal for the following reasons:

  1. To the person asking the duplicate question, this response gives the impression that the person flagging the question as duplicate is uncertain that the question already has an answer. Because the person flagging as duplicate is far more likely to be more knowledgeable about the nature of the question and answer than the person asking it, this approach tends not to elicit a careful reading of the answer that was already provided.
  2. Because question closure either requires agreement from several users, or a flag from a single gold tag badge user on the tagged subject, it is unlikely that such flagging would be abused or incorrectly applied to the point where the question is closed.
  3. The essential meaning of the response is inconsistent with the flag. When I flag as a duplicate, I am communicating not just to the original poster that I believe the question already has an answer elsewhere, but also to other community members that this is a possible duplicate worth confirming. I'm not trying to enter into a discussion or debate with the original poster about it. That's like me writing an answer to their question and then asking them if it's correct. If I wasn't sure it was right, I wouldn't have bothered to respond.

I don't know why the previous language was unacceptable and it got changed to this weaker tone, which I find unnecessarily patronizing and a bit fake. If I was unsure about whether the question already had an answer, I wouldn't flag as duplicate (see reason 2 above). I'd directly post a comment with a link suggesting the author take a look.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with this sentiment: "I'm not trying to enter into a discussion or debate with the original poster about it." There have been many instances (unfortunately, I can't remember them), where the flaggers were indeed mistaken (i.e., the question wasn't a duplicate, but was flagged as such), and then some other users, including gold-tag users, followed the vote without properly checking. If you flag a question as a duplicate, you should be prepared to have an argument with the asker or other user whether your flag is appropriate. Remember: mistakes can and do happen. $\endgroup$ – Batominovski Apr 30 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ Here is one example I found: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2857537/…. Look at the edit history. There are more, but as I said, I can't remember. I found that old link simply because I answered the question. $\endgroup$ – Batominovski Apr 30 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ I will often write a comment [Duplicate](<cite the URL of the duplicated post>), because of precisely your concerns, @heropup. Not always, but the weaker version used now is insufficient in too many cases. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 30 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ If your objection is to the language of such auto-comments, note that these are editable Comments by you, the apparent author. So a number of options are available, from changing the wording to suit yourself or simply deleting it altogether if you think that best (to avoid entering into a discussion). As a generic mechanism the terseness of the Comment is an advantage. In some cases I add further information, if the connection from the current Question and the proposed dup target bears exposition. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Apr 30 at 18:10

In principle, I have no issue with the new language, i.e. "Does this answer your question? [link]" The premise is that the asker is the best qualified person to determine whether or not their question is answered elsewhere. Moreover, the question "Does this answer your question?" invites the user to explain how their question is not answered in the earlier thread. This opens the door to conversation, which should improve clarity. Thus, in principle, I have no objection to the new language (and maybe even prefer it slightly).

However, there is a real issue on math.se: many (a majority of?) those that ask questions here are not well qualified to determine if their question has been answered. They are mathematically immature, expect answers to be handed to them, and don't take the time to think about how the answer to a more general or slightly different question might answer their question, too.

For example, the questions "What are the roots of $x^2 - 5x + 7$?" and "What are the roots of $ax^2 + bx + c$?" are really the same question, and the former should be closed as a duplicate of the latter. Unfortunately, students often fail to see how mathematics is governed by abstract principles, rather than ad hoc procedures, and so they don't see how the abstract question answers their particular problem. As such, the new close dialog has the potential to cause friction.

Unfortunately, language is network-wide, and there are parts of the SE network where the new language really is preferable, I think. For example, looking at the top ten sites, I would imagine that EL&L, Arqade, Ask Different, and Seasoned Advice are all largely communities of (relative) equals. This contrasts greatly with math.se, where there is a clear delineation between expert answers and novice askers, with a huge gap between. On these other sites, it seems much more likely that a friendly "Does this answer your question?" is going to elicit positive response, whereas a cold and distant "Possible duplicate: [link]" is going to be neutral, at best. There are a lot of lacunae in this paragraph, but I hope that the general idea is clear.

In short, I think that the new language is an improvement in most contexts, but that it is less than ideal on math.se.

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    $\begingroup$ MSE is actually, network-wide, more widely known as Meta Stack Exchange, though many here have long (incorrectly) referred to math.se as MSE. But we are math.se or [math.se], aka Mathematics. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 30 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I've been in the habit of calling it MSE, but I see I should stop doing so. I'm in the UK, so may I call it Maths.SE? $\endgroup$ – Calum Gilhooley Apr 30 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Calum I did so also, until about two years ago. And to answer your question, absolutely you may refer to this site as maths.se or Maths.se. That will be clear to all. The main reason I commented with [math.se] is that typing that exact string in a comment yields a link to Mathematics. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 30 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @CalumGilhooley The company is fortunately not too US-centric, [maths.se] works too (See: Mathematics), as does maths.stackexchange.com in the address bar. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer May 1 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy: it never occurred to me that MSE could refer to meta! In a way addiction to good things are also dangerous. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh May 2 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ParamanandSingh It was only fairly recently that the subdomain meta.stackexchange.com has existed. Before then, there wasn't anything that "Meta Stack Exchange" could refer to. $\endgroup$ – Rosie F May 4 at 6:26

Indeed in the case when a post is objectively a duplicate or an exact duplicate (a user simply copy and paste to repeat a post), such weak tone seems rather unnecessary. Sometimes a flag might be more appropriate.

But there are (not rare) cases that posts are identified mistakenly as duplicates while they are really not. In such a case, "Does this answer your questions?" sounds much more gentle than "Possible duplicate of [...]", doesn't it? It also makes the mistaken voter less embarrassed if the asker explains "No, thank you, I think my question is really about ..." in a comment. It may also have the side effect that later voters would be more careful when they see "Does this answer your questions?" to see if the post is really a duplicate.

The weaker tone does not harm much to the first scenario and makes the site much more welcoming in the second situation.

See also these two answers:



To highlight one of the answers:

We measure an 11.8% drop in unfriendliness in the comment conversation with the new duplicate text versus the old text

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    $\begingroup$ oops, you forgot to link the actual meta question, and all the answers critical of the change, T. S. Intentional? $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 30 at 14:42

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