Summary: User A posts question X. At a later date, user B essentially duplicates question X as Y, answers question Y & then answers X as a link to Y.

In response to asking which should be marked dupe, I was told the question with the better answer(s) is more important than the order of asking. Rather than hash it further in the comments, I'm asking here for further discussion: is it legit to duplicate, self answer & redirect?

Edit: The specific questions under consideration are:

  • \$\begingroup\$ For the specific issue at hand, I deleted the "link only" answer from the older question and closed the question as a duplicate of the newer version that has a more complete answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 8 '17 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm still not totally clear on what to do & not do in these situations though. I've get a strong "don't dupe" message here & "don't assume malice" is a good baseline, but what (if any) flagging should I have used & where? Also, does this warrant a separate meta question or an edit to the original? \$\endgroup\$ – Pikalek Mar 8 '17 at 17:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Look at the two questions, flag the one with worse answers as a duplicate of the one with better. That's pretty much all you need to do. If you see somebody creating a duplicate just to self-answer repeatedly, flag one of those for moderator attention. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 8 '17 at 17:21

is it legit to duplicate, self answer & redirect?

No. If you see a question you can answer, you should answer that question. You should not post a duplicate of that question, self-answer that, and then attempt to link the original question as a duplicate. This serves no purpose but to clutter the site and is essentially just a reputation grab.

That said, it's very understandable that somebody might do this accidentally, because they don't know the original question or questions exist. It's difficult or impossible to prove this scenario occurred with malice, so it's better to assume good faith and handle the scenario accordingly.

In general, given a set of candidate duplicate questions, the question with the best answers should be the target of the duplicate links. This ensures that users searching for help who end up on a duplicate find the solid answers they need as quickly as possible.

then answers X as a link to Y.

This is a "link only" answer and should be flagged for deletion as such. Just because the link is still to SE, and still to the same SE site, doesn't mean it won't suffer the same fate as any other link-only answer (the link may die for any number of reasons, making the answer useless).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll confess I've done a duplicate & redirect once, but with a particular purpose. I saw we were getting quite a few questions pertaining to undesired rotation behaviour, They all had a common root cause, but each question tended to be very particular in its phrasing/platform/feature so they weren't exact duplicates. Instead I asked & answered a question about the root cause, to have something more generally-applicable to direct users to. Was that the wrong call? \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Mar 20 '17 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a good point, actually, I hadn't thought of that. We had established a desire a while ago to try making more good "canonical" questions that had both very clear questions as well as answers pertaining to subjects we get a lot of slightly-different questions about. It never got off the ground, really, but it was essentially a proposal to do in a specific scenario what I'm suggesting here is bad in the general case. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 20 '17 at 14:59

In favor of not allowing the duplication:

The in favor argument doesn't work very well for orphaned questions that have multiple valid answers - duplicating it all seems like a lot of unnecessary effort. It also seems like it might present a loop hole that could be used to game the reputation system.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see any good reason to duplicate a question. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mar 7 '17 at 18:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree; there's no reason to allow a duplicated question to exist if we know it's a duplicate. The one with the better answers should be the canonical version and the others should be closed accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 7 '17 at 18:10

In favor of allowing the duplication:

This might be a good way to deal with orphaned questions. For instance, someone asks a good question, gets a good answer, but never came back to accept it. If it were duped, the answer could be marked & the older question could redirect to the newer one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The duplicate 'target' does not have to have an accepted answer as seen here. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mar 7 '17 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, but that particular target has a reasonable number of votes though. I was thinking of orphans as being lower ranked. \$\endgroup\$ – Pikalek Mar 7 '17 at 18:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's also nothing wrong with "unanswered" questions in general (that is, those for which the OP did not accept an answer). \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 7 '17 at 18:11

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