This is a phenomenon I've seen just a couple times; most recently:

The user has a question that has been asked before, has done their research and read the previous question and answers, but doesn't understand them well enough to solve their problem.

  • On one hand, it seems redundant to keep the newer post, since it's asking the very same question (down to using the same example case). Keeping it divides answers & attention to the problem between two different pages, making it harder for someone searching to find the info in one place.

  • On the other hand, just closing the new question as a duplicate doesn't serve the needs of the user who asked it, or future users who might be similarly unclear on how to use the advice from the original question.

Is this a case where we should add/edit answers to the original question and direct the asker there, or keep both questions open, or modify the new question to ask specifically about what the original doesn't cover... or is there some other best practice?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In the general case:

On one hand, it seems redundant to keep the newer post, since it's asking the very same question (down to using the same example case). Keeping it divides answers & attention to the problem between two different pages, making it harder for someone searching to find the info in one place.

Correct, we should close it as a duplicate. It's hard to search here for a lot of the topics that come up in game development, which makes finding duplicates tricky sometimes. As a result we have a lot more un-tracked duplicate questions floating about than I'd like, but hey, that's life.

On the other hand, just closing the new question as a duplicate doesn't serve the needs of the user who asked it, or future users who might be similarly unclear on how to use the advice from the original question.

I agree; in cases where the asker is obviously aware of the duplicate and simply does not understand one of the existing answers, we should edit the question to reflect that very specifically, including the title if possible, to make it very clear. If it's not clear which answer the asker is referring to or precisely what they don't understand, we should close the question and ask for clarification.

Unfortunately in the specific case you raised in your post, the question had already attracted answers of a more general nature that don't deal specifically with explaining the existing answers from the duplicate. In such a case I'd rather simply leave the question closed and encourage the asker to re-ask, rather than make an edit that is so drastic it would invalidate the answers already posted (potentially causing those answers to receive somewhat unfair down votes in the future).

At the end of the day, the user is asking us to explain the answer to a question that has already been asked. In cases such as the example you have provided, they directly repeat the original question.

I would be closing these questions immediately, especially when the duplication is so clear and obvious. That does not mean we can not help the user.

You could advise them to post a bounty on the original question to draw out an answer they could better understand. Heck, if you want to help them out, you could do this, yourself. This is the intended way to encourage newer answers; not by ignoring the duplication standards we try to keep.


What if the user can not afford the bounty?

It only costs 50 reputation to place a bounty, and you only need 75 reputation to earn the privilege, in the first place. While you are free to place the bounty, yourself, the cost seems fairly reasonable for a new user wishing to seek explicit help.

What if the user does not want to post a bounty?

If the user does not wish to post a bounty, they are not too invested in receiving an answer. Simple as that. If you think other users might still benefit from an updated answer, consider posting the bounty, yourself.

I have read the original answers, and none of them cover the topic very well.

If you have the understanding and knowledge to provide a better quality answer, you should post it on the original question. We want all the relevant answers in the same place. If the new question is closed, it will still redirect to the old question. In cases such as these, had the original featured the rsought after explanation, the user surely would not have posted in the first place.

But the user really isn't understanding

Remember that we are a Q&A site; not a HowTo guide. There is going to be a certain level where users simply do not understand the context, and at that point, you have to accept that we can't help everyone. Maybe it's worth exploring why the user does not understand.

Talk to them, in chat, and discuss their confusion. This might come down to obvious falts in the original answers, providing you with feedback to create a better answer. This might also come down to jumping to far ahead, where you might be better off advising the user to learn less advanced concepts, first.

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