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I'll keep this very short: I believe there is a tendency here to label every similarity between questions as "duplication". This seems to harm the intention of this site and is overall unjustified. Questions that are "similar" can still vary in a very substantive way.

Recent example: Publishing: quality vs. quantity was tagged as duplicate. But it seems to me as different than the alleged original. (See my comment there).

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  • Actually, it is not completely different, but slightly different. – Dilworth Aug 15 '16 at 19:05
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When a question is marked as a duplicate, it doesn't necessarily mean that the exact question asked is the same. (The text of the duplicate notice is misleading in this respect.) Rather, it means that members of the community believe that some or all of the answers to the marked duplicate directly address this question, and there is nothing useful to say other than what's already in the answers to the other question (or could be added as an answer to the other question).

Or, to quote another meta post here,

I think it is important to consider closing as duplicate as "these are very similar questions, to the extend that the answers will be pretty much the same", and not "these are absolutely identical questions".

So, a question being different from "duplicate" isn't necessarily a good reason not to close it as a duplicate, if the answers will be the same.

What to do if you disagree that "the answers will be pretty much the same"? Easy: edit the post to highlight the difference, and explain why you believe that this difference could potentially lead to different answers. Then cast a reopen vote, if you have the privilege. (Even if you don't, your edits will push the question into a reopen queue where others can cast votes.)

For example, if the post was previously "Publishing: quality vs. quantity", in the body of the post, note what the marked duplicate says and why you believe the considerations are different when not asked in the context of a single project. Then it will go through the reopen queue where, if community members actually think the answers will be different, they will vote to reopen.

The benefits of this approach are:

  • if the answers to the marked duplicate do answer the OP's question, they get (multiple, very good) answers very quickly.
  • if the answers to the marked duplicate don't answer the OP's question, then by focusing the question on the different aspect, the OP gets advice targeted to the differences in their situation, rather than just having the answers to the other question repeated (which would of course be pointless).
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  • Thanks for the explanations of the formal protocols. I still believe that it is wise to ask members of the "community" here not to jump into haphazard decisions of duplication and similarity before understanding carefully the difference between questions. Indeed, it is the burden of the people asking to close as duplicate to prove that questions are similar; and it's not the burden of the user who asked the question to prove it is different, when indeed the they are different. – Dilworth Aug 15 '16 at 23:18
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    @Dilworth As I said, nobody has to prove whether or not the questions are different, as what matters is whether or not the answers are different. – ff524 Aug 15 '16 at 23:38
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    this is clearly not a reasonable justification. Since you don't know whether future answers will be different or not. If you close the question as duplicate the OP will lose his/her chance of getting an answer for his/her different question. – Dilworth Aug 16 '16 at 12:55
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    I also don't find the protocol for re-editing clear enough: how should the user clarify it is different? If he mentions it in the body of the question, then it looks odd, as this is not part of the question. Should he write it in comments? – Dilworth Aug 16 '16 at 14:31
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    @Dilworth In the body of the post. you can see examples here, here, here and here – ff524 Aug 16 '16 at 14:58
  • I see. Thanks for the clarification. But I think it would be better to INFORM the OP about this, instead of simply closing as duplicate the questions. – Dilworth Aug 16 '16 at 18:38
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    @Dilworth Feel free to leave a comment on the post informing the OP of anything you think is necessary. – ff524 Aug 16 '16 at 18:46
  • I was talking about the general procedure: instead of closing, it should say something like: "This might be a duplicate of ___. Please explain the difference in your post", or something like this. – Dilworth Aug 17 '16 at 0:16
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    @Dilworth It already does. To the person who asked the question, that box looks like this and has the text "If those answers do not fully address your question, please edit this question to explain how it is different" and the link on the word "edit" opens the editor for the post. Other users (not the OP) see a different message without the edit link. – ff524 Aug 17 '16 at 0:34
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First, let's see if your premise, that is that there is a trend towards closing more questions as duplicates, is backed by the site closing stats (status on 17/Aug/16):

Period    | # closed as dup. | % of all closed | % of total asked 
last 90d  | 159              | 22.36 %         | 8.82
last 30d  | 53               | 23.14 %         | 9.41
last 14d  | 22               | 23.16 %         | 8.39
last 7d   | 12               | 26.09 %         | 8.45
last 2d   | 5                | 29.41 %         | 9.43

It seems indeed, that the last week has seen an increased percentage of closed question for which the reason was duplicate, but the percentage of duplicates per question asked is relatively stable. I'm not sure that there is such a trend.

I spend time and effort identifying duplicates, and I'm "guilty" of identifying the one you mention. Whenever I feel I'm reading the same question again, or that the question is so common that I feel we must have had this question before (for example: What to do if I'm afraid that my idea will get stolen during review process?) I search the existing questions and re-read them. I then indicate that I believe the question to be a duplicate.

This does not mean that the question is automatically closed as other users or a community moderator have to agree. If you see a question that you feel should be kept open, use your reopen vote privilege.

This seems to harm the intention of this site and is overall unjustified

I disagree, identifying duplicates is beneficial to the community as it ensures all answers are archived at the same place. It prevents the scattering of information in many posts, ultimately leading to users missing useful content. This is in my opinion more crucial than missing a subtle nuance between two questions.

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  • Yes, sure, identifying duplicates is important. But here we're talking about different questions, that only share some similarity, but that does not warrant a closure. So for archive purposes it is great to have a link to similar questions. This is the "right" way to handle similarities, not by closing, in my opinion. – Dilworth Aug 17 '16 at 13:21
  • @Dilworth yes, I also indicate related questions that are not duplicates in with a comment quite often. – Cape Code Aug 17 '16 at 15:09

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