Here we have an interesting situation: the question

was asked. While there doesn't seem to be an exact duplicate to the question, the solution to the question had already been given as part of a question statement of an earlier question.

Question for the Community: what are we to do in this case (and future cases like this)? Two options:

  1. Close the more recent question as a duplicate of the older, more general question.
  2. Leave the more recent question and post an answer based on the older one, with a link indicating further reading.

Opinions and other suggestions welcome.

  • 1
    Just in case, I'd like to make it sure that you know that the two questions are completely different? – Makoto Kato Jul 25 '12 at 16:14
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    @MakotoKato The description under the "exact duplicate" option for close votes reads: This question covers exactly the same content as earlier questions on this topic. – anon Jul 25 '12 at 16:19
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    @anon The contents of the two questions don't overlap much. What makes you think otherwise? – Makoto Kato Jul 25 '12 at 16:50
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    @MakotoKato As Willie points out, the solution to the [first] question had already been given as part of a question statement of [the second question]. You are competent enough you shouldn't need anyone to tell you this. – anon Jul 25 '12 at 16:54
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    @anon It is not given as an answer. It is rather a remark in a question. For example, if I write, in my comment, a solution of a question which is relevant to, but totally different from a title question, are you saying that no new thread about the question which I answered should be opened? You know that there are usually several or many good answers to a question. I don't think shutting them out is a good idea, – Makoto Kato Jul 25 '12 at 17:21
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    @MakotoKato That there may be several answers to a question is a good reason not to close, I agree - perhaps this timely reminder could even be posted as an answer to this meta question. I have not voted to close and don't plan to. My comments however were addressing your arguably misleading statements, "the two questions are completely different" and "the two questions don't overlap much." – anon Jul 25 '12 at 17:49
  • Am I the only one a little curious about the deleted answer to that question? – Alex Becker Jul 25 '12 at 20:24
  • @Alex, the deleted answer contained no mathematics. It was someone saying what a wonderful website this is, or something along those lines. You are not missing anything. – Gerry Myerson Jul 26 '12 at 6:40
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    @Alex: the deleted answer was from a spam bot. You can't see that because the account was nuked, but the only goal was to make an advertisement for a spurious blogging service (containing the address in the user name and there also was a link to it in the profile). This happens every once in a while. – t.b. Jul 26 '12 at 7:12
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    @GerryMyerson: Seeing as Alex is about 16k at the moment, I don't think he missed anything (10k is sufficient to see deleted posts). What caught my eye about the deleted answer was the mention of a blogging service, when MK has been directly advised many of his posts are more fitting for a blog. I guess it's a weird coincidence though. – anon Jul 26 '12 at 18:39
  • @Alex If you search for "Really blogging is spreading its wings" you'll find that the spambot has posted exactly the same remark all over the web. – Number Jul 26 '12 at 19:37

Here we have an unanswered question where one possible answer was sketched as background in a different question, posed by a different author a couple years ago. But the sketched answer - being a paragraph inside a different question - is not a first-class answer in the SE system. As such, it cannot be voted on, accepted. Nor can bounties be placed, etc. Nor does it allow for alternative answers to be posted. It is somewhat analogous to an answer given in a comment, only worse. Often we copy such answers-in-comments to a CW answer, with appropriate attribution. This seems to be the most reasonable course of action to handle answers-within-questions too.

Makoto asked a question. There is already an answer to the question elsewhere. Under the circumstances, I see nothing wrong with closing Makoto's question. It may be that the reasons given under "exact duplicate" don't exactly fit the facts in this situation, but we are accustomed to situations where none of the available options exactly describes a situation, and we do the best we can.

If Makoto is not satisfied with the answer at the earlier question, he could edit his question to include a link to the older question, and edit in his reasons for dissatisfaction with the other answer.

  • 3
    Just a general comment - sometimes closing a question as a duplicate of a more general one is not the best solution. I mean in the case when there might be much easier and accessible solution for the special case. But it is probably not the case here - otherwise such answer would already have been posted. – Martin Sleziak Jul 26 '12 at 7:04
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    @Martin: actually, a quick sketch of the answer in the particular case is only 4 or 5 lines long (see the second question I linked to, half way down the question statement). In other words, the second question was asking a general question and in doing so the OP sketched out the proof for the specific case (which was what Makoto asked) to justify why he thought the genera question should have an answer. – Willie Wong Jul 26 '12 at 9:45
  • @Martin: Just to clarify, in general I agree with your comment. The above comment is just to point out a subtle difference between your general comment and the case at hand. – Willie Wong Jul 26 '12 at 9:52
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    @GerryMyerson You know that there are several answers to a question. I don't think it's a good idea to shut them out except one. – Makoto Kato Jul 26 '12 at 11:08
  • @WillieWong Are you aware that the existing question is negative? So it's not a generalization of my question. – Makoto Kato Jul 26 '12 at 11:11
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    @Makoto: did you even read my question, you know, at the top of this very page? Failing that, you certainly did read anon's comment. Are you really that forgetful? – Willie Wong Jul 26 '12 at 11:59
  • @Makoto: by the way, why do you think I even asked this question? Had your question been actually a duplicate (or can be subsumed as a special case of a more general question whose answers directly applied), I would've just closed it as a duplicate! The whole point of having this thread is precisely that this situation has not been encountered before and existing rules cannot be directly applied. – Willie Wong Jul 26 '12 at 12:04
  • @Makoto, what do you think of my suggestion of how you could edit your question? – Gerry Myerson Jul 26 '12 at 12:25
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    @Gerry Do you similarly propose to close questions that are answered in comments? I'm having difficulty understanding this logic. – Number Jul 26 '12 at 16:04
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    @Bill, I take it you are asking about closing question A if it's answered in a comment on question B, $A\ne B$. I wouldn't mind closing A, but I have also proposed an alternative: edit into A a link to B, and some indication of the desire for further work. – Gerry Myerson Jul 26 '12 at 23:58

There seems to me no good reason to close a question if an answer to it is buried within an answer or comment to an old question.

I have observed the closing of questions as duplicates when they were not. In the meantime, hundreds of questions that are effectively duplicates of previous questions go unchallenged.

As the site gets older, there will be fewer and fewer really new questions. Pointing out that an answer or idea for an answer can be found elsewhere is useful. But why close? Let one hundred flowers bloom.

  • 3
    +1 This is close to my current viewpoint on such. Closing duplicates discourages possibly much better answers from newer members who were not around when the question was originally answered. The optimal solution for dupes is to merge the old question into the new one, but this is too much work for diamond mods alone, and the software does not support it well. – Number Jul 26 '12 at 19:26

The question has now been closed.

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