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So yesterday I came across a question (we'll call it Question $1$) which I found interesting, and after having spent a little time thinking about it without result, I started searching MSE for some related results which would hopefully help. After some deeper digging, I found a question (nickname: Question $2$) dealing with the same exact problem.

It was obvious why Question $2$ was difficult to find - it was imbedded into an image and hence not searchable by text, it had a vague title, few tags and little context in general.

To help the OP and anyone else trying to solve the problem, I decided to post the link to in the comments of Question $1$, with the caveat that this is probably not what they hoped for as an answer. Indeed, the answer to Question $2$ was nowhere close to what I (and the poster of Question $1$) were attempting. Since Question $1$ was also asking for a check of their attempt, I was certain that there was not a chance of Question $1$ being a duplicate of Question $2$.

However, I almost immediately regretted my decision to post the link to Question $2$. Why, you ask? Well:

  1. Another user quickly caught on and posted a (now deleted) comment asking the OP does the link to Question $2$ answer their question.
  2. The OP said nothing.
  3. $12$ hours later, the question is closed as a duplicate and does not accept new answers.
  4. I'm fairly certain the OP will not find the answer to Question $2$ satisfactory. In any case, a part of Question $1$ regarding a specific attempt remains (and will remain) unanswered.
  5. The closure disincentivizes other people to look for alternative solutions to OP's question which will be more in line with OP's attempts. Even if such solutions are found, they cannot be posted as answers.
  6. To add to my regret, according to my explanation above, I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that Question $2$ would not have been found for some time (or maybe ever) had I not posted the link, and this would have maybe allowed someone to adequately answer Question $1$ in the meantime. So in essence I have scored the winning goal for the opposing team.

We don't have to venture into questioning the motivations of the users which closed the question - for the purposes of my question we can assume that they were simply enforcing a network-wide policy in good faith, but in doing so made a decision which perhaps isn't ideal.

My question is: posting the link to Question $2$ turned out to be, in my opinion, a net negative for the OP, myself and anyone else wanting to see Question $1$ answered adequately. Next time this happens, should I post the link? If so, why? Ideally, I would let the OP know about this other question but by doing so I don't want to expose their question to the possibility of some unwarranted impetuous closure.

Please, do not turn this into a discussion of whether the answer to Question $2$ answers Question $1$. The only certainty is that we cannot know until the OP can speak out (if they are not already intimidated by their question having been closed). In any case, it is irrelevant what we think about it, this decision should be with the OP alone.

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    $\begingroup$ I will only point out that the first two points in the current revision of the question contain slightly incorrect or incomplete information. 1. The comment "does this answer your question" is automatically posted by the software with the first vote to close as duplicate - and it is usually removed by the software when the question is closed. (For more details see the FAQ.) 2. Any user can comment on their own posts. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ I up voted, not necessarily because I agree with all the claims made, but because I think the issues raised worth discussing, if done maturely. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Thank you for the clarification, the fact that the OP could comment certainly changes things a lot. In the case of the "does this answer your question" comment, this only increases my disapproval of the first close vote as they did not wait for the OP to speak up before voting to close. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ In the way the site works, the vote to close as duplicate produces the auto-generated Comment "Does this answer your question...". The posting of that Comment under the voter's account allows for the auto-generated wording to be edited by voter. In some cases the way in which the new Question is understood to be answered by one or more older target duplicates is worth a bit of explication. So don't fault the voter for not waiting "for the OP to speak up". $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ To answer the title question. There are badges awarded to posting links that many users follow. The easiest to get is the Announcer, awarded when 25 users thought your link was useful to click. Often the linked to questions could make a duplicate target, but the interpretation of a duplicate most users have adopted is a bit too narrow for my taste. Bill Dubuque has 254 announcer badges, yours truly has 245. I don't think others come close. Congrats to Bill for reaching 250 before me! I was ahead at the 200 mark, but Bill has been working harder since. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Thank you, this certainly provides an incentive to post links in general. However, once a question is closed as a duplicate, I imagine most people will either follow the link on the top of the question body, or check out linked questions to the right - there will be significantly less traffic on your link which you posted in the comments. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ @mechanodroid Most of the Announcer badges I have received have come years after the link was posted. It takes time :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 5:06

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I think your action to post the link was fine. Thanks for taking the effort to go search for related questions, by the way! Martin Sleziak has pointed out in the comments a couple of misconceptions regarding how the site functions. I will address other points raised in your post.

Firstly, it is good to have duplicates around. Now that the two posts have been linked by duplicate closure, the old, obscure question that you found will get more exposure: people who search for keywords that show them the recent question will also be able to find the old question easily. This is how good duplicates are meant to be useful.

Secondly, if the aim of this site is to be a repository of high-quality Q&A, then posting a link to related question allows the OP to edit their post to highlight where their question differs from the existing one, thereby improving their post. For instance, OP can read the solution in the linked question, understand it, and see how it differs from their own attempt.

If they are satisfied, then the system has done its job! If not, then they can edit their post to say more, such as, "This answer in a related post uses such-and-such techniques. I am trying a different approach along these lines: …. But, I am stuck at this point. How can I take it further from here?" Such details will help the OP receive targeted answers, which do not duplicate existing content. And this can happen if related questions are found and linked.

Thirdly, linking to the old question brings more eyes on it, and opportunities for improving that, too! Already, the image has been transcribed, and better tags have been added. Again, site quality has improved.

Fourthly, I don't think the recent question is one where the OP is asking for a check of their attempt. The OP presents an approach on which they are stuck, whereas a question should have a nearly complete solution that the OP is unsure about in some identifiable places.

Fifthly, I'm not sure that the closure of the recent question disincentivizes people from posting answers. The linked question has plenty of room to receive new answers with other perspectives, even ones that would be applicable under the closed question.

Lastly, instead of viewing your actions as scoring a goal for the opposing side, I would encourage you to see that we're all on the same team, though our objectives are collectively more than "create a repository of high quality Q&A". Within the system designed by SE, there is and (should be) room for providing help to those who come asking for it, precisely at the points where they need it — that is, as opposed to closing everything as a duplicate of a sufficiently generalized post.

But notice that this is a bogeyman: it does not really happen in practice. Closure may be too quick in some cases, and may even be incorrect at times, but there is ample opportunity to edit, clarify and put up the post for reopening (which does happen!). At other times, closure is far too slow, and duplicates proliferate beyond all reason. Anecdotally, I've also seen too many cases where an OP asks about a specific approach, but answerers ignore that and post their own solution to the problem, and that too without checking if they are duplicating existing content.

All this is to say, an imperfect system is not the same thing as a broken system. Most of our collective goals can be achieved, if there is sufficient involvement at an individual level. This includes not only searching and linking related questions, as you did, but also includes edits and responsiveness to comments from the side of the OP. Perhaps the OP in this case was intimidated by the closure, it's not quite possible to say. But, don't let that prevent you from posting useful links to related questions when you find them.

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    $\begingroup$ Well and carefully presented! $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your effort, your arguments are convincing. I guess I ultimately lack faith in other members of this community to practice due diligence when closing questions, which is certainly a failure on my part. In this particular case OP's silence speaks volumes and in that case I concede that the closure seems warranted. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ A minor remark regarding your fifth point: it is a known phenomenon that questions with answers attract on average less attention than questions without answers. People having seen the answer on Q$2$ (a strange and complicated one at that) can certainly be discouraged from working on the problem. Also, I intended to post a counterexample to OP's approach as an answer to Q$1$, but this certainly isn't an acceptable answer to Q$2$ as there is no mention of this approach on Q$2$. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with your minor remark(s). I was thinking of answers that completed the initial approach of the OP, but did not take into account that a valid answer to that question could have been a counterexample. Such an answer would not be applicable under the older question. And, you're probably right that questions with answers attract less attention. I wrote the fifth point with the following scenario in mind, that a user has an answer ready to post but the question is closed as a duplicate before it could be submitted. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ You refer several times to "the OP", sometimes meaning the poster of "Question 1", and sometimes meaning just a person who has asked a question. It is usually clear from context which you mean, but, when you wrote "I've also seen too many cases where the OP asks about a specific approach …", it can seem at first glance that you were referring to this specific OP even though you almost certainly meant a generic OP. I accordingly changed "the" to "an". I hope this somewhat awkward construction was all right to avoid the appearance of speaking of a particular person. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @LSpice Thank you for the improvements :) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 21:12

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