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Recently a question was deleted by the OP after it was pointed out in comments that it was a duplicate. I was in the process of composing an answer, but I was not able to post it when I finished since the post had been deleted by the time I tried to submit my answer. Apparently deletion does not (quickly) notify answerers, so they may waste valuable time composing answers that are not allowed to be posted. Further, deletion leaves one with no direct way to communicate with the OP, since one cannot post comments to deleted questions. Even if one posts the answer in the original duplicate thread there will be no notification to the OP since they have no presence there. As such, perhaps we should use the SE designed duplicate closing process, and not deletion, to avoid these problems. Thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure who is this suggestion addressed to. We (community, as opposed to individual questions' owners) do "use the SE designed duplicate closing process, and not deletion" already. $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Dec 10 '11 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Grigory But not always, as the cited example shows. A long-time member told the OP in a comment "I think you're still cool with deleting; nobody's answered yet, after all." The point is to raise awareness of these issues. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 10 '11 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ I see now (I can't view deleted posts) $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Dec 10 '11 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ Does it not work to post an answer to the original and add a comment with a ping to the duplicate OP? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Dec 10 '11 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry: I don't think pings that way. For example, if instead I had started this comment with "@John", no one named John would be notified, because no one named John has yet contributed in this thread. (And it is a good thing that it doesn't work this way in cases of multiple users with similar starting usernames.) $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Dec 10 '11 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry It is as Jonas said. That's one of the primary points of my post, viz. deleting the question removes the only direct way to contact the OP. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 10 '11 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ A related meta.SO thread (with an answer by Jeff). $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Dec 11 '11 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M. Thanks. But that thread does not address any of the issues that I raised. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 11 '11 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand why there is no option to merge to posts. It will not only help in pooling all answers together but also will gather questions phrased differently. $\endgroup$ – user17762 Dec 11 '11 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ @SivaramAmbikasaran: There is the option, but it is somewhat intrusive. See here for an example. All comments and the then accepted answer by Jesse were merged into the other thread. Some of the comments no longer make much sense despite Willie's cleaning. The closed thread is locked, etc. So I'm usually very reluctant of suggesting that option by flagging for mod attention. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Dec 11 '11 at 2:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Sivaram like t.b. says, merging is slightly annoying. It works best when (a) the two questions are pretty much identical (for example: different choices of notations will mean merged answers don't read well) (b) there are no "comment discussions" (which unfortunately happens way too much on our site, compared to other SE sites). And then there's the issue of removing "accepted answer" status. There are cases when merging questions are appropriate, but in general that tool wants to be handled gently. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Dec 11 '11 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie I'm not sure merging would solve the problem. Does a merged question have mutiple authors? If not, then dup author still wouldn't be able to receive comments. Otoh, if there's a way to have question have multiple authors, then a "cheap" merge of simply listing later dup authors in the original question would allow one to ping comments to the new author. But this would require SE software platform mods. Perhaps a workaround, if possible, would be for mods to post a comment to the original question authored by the dup OP, so that they can receive comments there. Do mods have such power? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 11 '11 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque A few points: (a) if the question so closely mirrors a previously asked and answered question so that it warrants merging, there probably isn't any reason why you need any more discussion with the OP. In other words, if it is a situation where you need to use comments to ask for clarification, then the question should most likely not be a candidate for merging. (b) To your last question "Do mods have such power?" the answer is No. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Dec 12 '11 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie I don't agree about (a). It is essential the a dup OP has their name somewhere so that the SE software will notify them of new activity (new answers and comments). Further, there are many possible reasons that one might wish to address comments to the OP of a dup question. E.g. to point them to other related (later) questions or answers, or to make whatever "meta" comments many folks do, etc. If the dup question is closed (vs. deleted) then it is possible to do all these things; if it is deleted then one loses all those options - shutting off the dup OP from all future activity. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 12 '11 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie Yes, the OP deleted it, but only after asking and receiving ancouragement from the community. In any case my point was primarily to raise awareness of the problems posed by such deletions, and to solicit input. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 13 '11 at 14:51

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