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This question about an isomorphism between a localization and a quotient of a polynomial ring was properly closed as a duplicate. However, the question identified as the duplicate is this, which was itself closed as a duplicate of this third question.

I flagged the first question to see if it is possible to “switch” the target of the “already has answers here” link. But I’m wondering if it is possible to have the system do this automatically? I believe that the system already prevents a “closed loop” of duplicate closures, so presumably it can trace back until it hits a question that is not closed for being a duplicate.


As per Martin’s suggestion in the comments, I’ve gone ahead and edited the duplicate pointer to switch the target (I was not aware of that functionality). Still, seems like this is a reasonable feature-request.

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    $\begingroup$ This is only tangential to the issue raise here in a feature request, but I wanted to point out that you have a gold tag badge in abstract-algebra. Therefore you should be able to edit the list of duplicate questions in this specific case. (Needless to say, such tool should be used carefully.) Meta Stack Exchange: Gold tag-badge holders and moderators can now edit duplicate links. $\endgroup$ Nov 23 '20 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak: I was not aware of such a thing... thanks for the heads up. I would not have raised the flag had I realized that. $\endgroup$ Nov 23 '20 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes an earlier "duplicate" may have a problem statement that is closer to the new Question than the one to be found at the root of a duplicate chain (or tree!). In those cases the phenomenon you note may be beneficial for Readers who have not fully digested the problem statement, but this would require the intermediate duplicate to have a good Answer. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Nov 23 '20 at 22:33
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I can see some objections to this proposal (about automatically changing the duplicate target, if the chosen question is already closed a duplicate).

Choosing the direction of duplicate is often a matter of discussion and not everybody agrees which direction should be chosen (or even whether a question should be closed as duplicate). And even if the questions are closed as duplicates that does not mean that those questions (or even their answers) are exactly the same. So by choosing one of several possible duplicate targets I have a possibility to show which of several related posts available on the site is, in my opinion, most useful for the OP. (In fact, I consider the possibility to have multiple duplicate targets for the same question to be a rather useful feature - even though it can be used mainly by moderators and the users with dupehammer.)

There are also some possible technical difficulties (and situations where it is unclear how the proposed change would actually work): For example, let us say that Question A is closed as a duplicate of Question B. At the same time, Question B is already closed as a duplicate of Question C. The proposal in this feature request says that Question A should be closed as a duplicate of Question C instead. But we should keep in mind that status of closed as a duplicate can change at any time - the question can be reopened, the duplicate target or the direction can be changed. What exactly should happen, for example, if Question B gets reopened. Should the software somehow change the duplicate target back to Question B. (To do this, we need somehow to remember which question is the "first" duplicate in the chain of duplicates that leads eventually to Question C.)

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