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Q&A Let's improve how we handle duplicates

posted 1mo ago by Fie‭  ·  edited 1mo ago by Fie‭

Answer
#2: Post edited by user avatar Fie‭ · 2021-09-18T02:44:11Z (about 1 month ago)
That's much more sensible.
  • As a momentary foreword, I would like to express my appreciation to you and all of the members of the community which have worked to make this site possible. I wish it the best in its growth and development, and hope to help as a part of it. Now, here's my proposal on this topic:
  • ## Duplicate proposals should be *separated* from closure-as-duplicate voting.
  • I think you've made a very good point about question closure (and the accompanying feeling of judgement—or, as I would put it, *dismissal*, perhaps even *exclusion)*, and I think this insight should be applied to duplicates a step further than you suggest.
  • Again, as you mention, a question being marked as a duplicate (of an *answered* question, at least) should be a *good* experience for the question author if all goes well, who should then gladly close the question as a duplicate. However, I think there's a fundamental problem with a single proposal-closure duplicate system: **the tendency of users viewing a question marked as a duplicate is to judge whether the question as asked is a duplicate for themselves.** There's the added issue of the voting process starting *immediately*, not necessarily giving the author time to review the question before it's closed—and once that happens, it can easily become a fight against the perception that a question is closed for good reason.
  • In either case, there is an important step which is being missed in a system which treats the *question*, not the *author:* the primary purpose of this site is to **answer the questions of its users**, whether directly posed or through the provision of existing answered questions, and in the case of a disputed duplicate proposal, *the author feels that the linked question does not answer the question the author is trying to ask*. This mismatch is key to resolving good-faith duplicate disputes, and should be the *primary* focus of a user viewing a question with a duplicate suggestion that has not yet been closed.
  • This might seem like a benign issue, in which I'm putting too little faith on the users judging the question duplicity, but there's a deeper principle here: we should be *maximising* the ease of use for individuals acting in good faith (i.e. trying their best to follow its rules and principles), but an author who feels that a question has been wrongfully closed as a duplicate is quickly put in an uphill battle, being required to *convince* and get the attention of enough people to reach a position where the question that the author is *trying* to ask can be asked instead. This can be exhausting, and worse, can *drive users away from trying to ask their questions*, and I think there should be some safeguard against this kind of situation.
  • My proposal for the procedure of duplicate resolution, in full, then, is this:
  • 1. A user marks the question as a possible duplicate, linking to the question(s) it is believed to be a duplicate of.[^1] An explanation of *why* the question is thought to be a duplicate should be provided such that the author has immediately actionable information.
  • 2. The author has **72 hours** to respond to the proposal, either by accepting the proposal (closing the question as a duplicate), or by disputing the duplicate.[^2] Any activity on the question by the author reduces the window to 1 hour, since its purpose is to give the author time to edit the question or otherwise address the proposal.[^3]
  • 3. While a question is proposed as a duplicate, it is marked as such to direct user attention to comments where the proposal is hopefully being discussed between disputer, author, and other involved users. This period is designed to help the author and community resolve the misalignemnt between (author) intent and (community) perception of the question.
  • 4. **Once** a duplicate proposal is disputed, or the window expires[^4], voting opens for closure on the basis of being a duplicate question. The question is closed as a duplicate if the net vote passes a certain positive threshold determined by the *proportion* of votes (e.g. +25%; i.e. at least 5:3 pro:versus[^5]), with some minimum (e.g. +3 votes net) for small questions. This is important on its own (and something which I don't think I've seen discussed) because the judgement of a question should *scale correctly with the popularity of the question:* proportional judgement is **how we do things in a democratic society**, except the threshold is usually 50:50 (or 51:49)! This should also mean that cycles in closure and reopening will be less likely.
  • 5. As in your suggested procedure, a user (including the author) can vote to reopen a question, starting a new vote, and this vote may have a **different** threshold—perhaps the inverse of the threshold to close. A user with the Edit ability may reopen a question automatically with an edit of the question (presumably with the intent to differentiate it from the linked (duplicate) question). **Each time a question is reopened, the window for the author to respond *and* the threshold to close the question (again) decrease slightly.**[^6] This prevents questions from being endlessly reopened, and means that an author should still be careful about the edits made before reopening the question, even with the ability to do so without approval.
  • I believe this proposal satisifes (almost[^7]) all of the goals proposed in the question:
  • * The author is notified of a duplicate proposal, which can be made as soon as the question is posted. While a duplicate proposal is awaiting resolution, a notice informs users viewing the question of the possible duplicate, meaning that they can check the linked question(s) and each make an assessment before spending any (potentially redundant) time and effort answering the question: the question should only receive answers from users who believe it not to be a duplicate.
  • * Authors are provided with a question to check for duplicity (and answers to their original questions), and so can immediately make the assessment of whether to approve or dispute the duplicate proposal.
  • * Feedback of either kind is collected accordingly via suggestions in comments or even other duplicate proposals.
  • * Presenting duplicate proposals as something which authors are at their leisure to make the choice to *accept*, I believe, would do a **massive** deal of good for the way that this would feel. An author can also feel safer knowing that the question has a period of time in which it can be judged by a reasonable sample of people before it is threatened with closure by a small sample size.
  • ### Addendum - a personal note
  • I understand and appreciate that this proposal may be seen as too extreme. I think that it's appropriate for me to mention that part of the reason I wanted to write this answer is because I had a pretty unpleasant time recently at Somewhere Else regarding this topic (and closure in general), and I felt, quite frankly, *bullied and powerless* in the way that the system was set up. I would like to ask only that you consider what *cost* this proposal (in its whole or as its separable components, if any) would have to the good operation of this site.
  • Thank you again for your role in this site, Monica. I hope that my first post on this site is received well. :)
  • [^1]: As a note, I posit that in a well-functioning duplicate resolution system, **there should only be one duplicate to link:** if a question is sufficiently answered by two different questions' answers, then either one of *those* questions should be marked as a duplicate of the other, or the question is sufficiently different to warrant its own answers tailored for the question.
  • [^2]: Whether an edit of the question should be required is a detail for debate. I think this should be a decision made by the author in response to the assessment of the validity of the duplicate suggestion: if the question is then voted for closure in its unedited state, the author suffers the consequences for that decision, but nothing is broken in the system.
  • [^3]: This is intended as a reasonable safeguard against abusing this window. If this suggestion is seen as reasonable, I propose that an author should ideally be warned that an action will trigger this mechanism.
  • [^4]: One might argue that the question should instead be automatically closed as a duplicate in the case of no response from the author. However, I think that *we lose very little as a community by giving the most favourable treatment of the author of a disputed question in this system*. If users are participating properly, then the duplicate proposal should be naturally approved in good time by visiting users anyway, and I think that covering the edge case of an author who is unavailable for more than three days after posting a question is worth more than the cost of having a duplicate question up for as much longer as it takes for the community to close it by concensus.
  • [^5]: To be clear about what I mean here for completeness, I mean that for a voting ratio of `x:y` (`x` pro, `y` versus), a threshold of +25% means that `x − y = 0.25(x + y)`, that is, the difference between pro and versus should be 25% of the total votes. I realise this is a pretty unconventional way of doing it, so perhaps defining a threshold directly (by ratio or otherwise) would be preferred, and I apologise for this eccentricity.
  • [^6]: For the response window, I'd suggest a reduction of −12 hours per reopen suggestion, to a minimum of 32, which covers one day plus a reasonable window for difference in activity time during the day. For the threshold, I think that −5% is a reasonable step, to a minimum of +5%. A question which has hit this minimum threshold can no longer be opened without approval by a user with the Edit ability.
  • [^7]: The last bullet point is a little vague, so I hope that not satisfying it *directly* doesn't detract from the quality of this suggestion. However, I believe there could be merit in having a grace window before a question can (first) be closed in general, in order to give the question time to be seen (and answered) by a proper number of users.
  • As a momentary foreword, I would like to express my appreciation to you and all of the members of the community which have worked to make this site possible. I wish it the best in its growth and development, and hope to help as a part of it. Now, here's my proposal on this topic:
  • ## Duplicate proposals should be *separated* from closure-as-duplicate voting.
  • I think you've made a very good point about question closure (and the accompanying feeling of judgement—or, as I would put it, *dismissal*, perhaps even *exclusion)*, and I think this insight should be applied to duplicates a step further than you suggest.
  • Again, as you mention, a question being marked as a duplicate (of an *answered* question, at least) should be a *good* experience for the question author if all goes well, who should then gladly close the question as a duplicate. However, I think there's a fundamental problem with a single proposal-closure duplicate system: **the tendency of users viewing a question marked as a duplicate is to judge whether the question as asked is a duplicate for themselves.** There's the added issue of the voting process starting *immediately*, not necessarily giving the author time to review the question before it's closed—and once that happens, it can easily become a fight against the perception that a question is closed for good reason.
  • In either case, there is an important step which is being missed in a system which treats the *question*, not the *author:* the primary purpose of this site is to **answer the questions of its users**, whether directly posed or through the provision of existing answered questions, and in the case of a disputed duplicate proposal, *the author feels that the linked question does not answer the question the author is trying to ask*. This mismatch is key to resolving good-faith duplicate disputes, and should be the *primary* focus of a user viewing a question with a duplicate suggestion that has not yet been closed.
  • This might seem like a benign issue, in which I'm putting too little faith on the users judging the question duplicity, but there's a deeper principle here: we should be *maximising* the ease of use for individuals acting in good faith (i.e. trying their best to follow its rules and principles), but an author who feels that a question has been wrongfully closed as a duplicate is quickly put in an uphill battle, being required to *convince* and get the attention of enough people to reach a position where the question that the author is *trying* to ask can be asked instead. This can be exhausting, and worse, can *drive users away from trying to ask their questions*, and I think there should be some safeguard against this kind of situation.
  • My proposal for the procedure of duplicate resolution, in full, then, is this:
  • 1. A user marks the question as a possible duplicate, linking to the question(s) it is believed to be a duplicate of.[^1] An explanation of *why* the question is thought to be a duplicate should be provided such that the author has immediately actionable information.
  • 2. The author has **72 hours** to respond to the proposal, either by accepting the proposal (closing the question as a duplicate), or by disputing the duplicate.[^2] Any activity on the question by the author reduces the window to 1 hour, since its purpose is to give the author time to edit the question or otherwise address the proposal.[^3]
  • 3. While a question is proposed as a duplicate, it is marked as such to direct user attention to comments where the proposal is hopefully being discussed between disputer, author, and other involved users. This period is designed to help the author and community resolve the misalignemnt between (author) intent and (community) perception of the question.
  • 4. **Once** a duplicate proposal is disputed, or the window expires[^4], voting opens for closure on the basis of being a duplicate question. The question is closed as a duplicate if the net vote passes a certain positive threshold determined by the *proportion* of votes (e.g. +25%; i.e. at least 5:4 pro:versus[^5]), with some minimum (e.g. +3 votes net) for small questions. This is important on its own (and something which I don't think I've seen discussed) because the judgement of a question should *scale correctly with the popularity of the question:* proportional judgement is **how we do things in a democratic society**, except the threshold is usually 50:50 (or 51:49)! This should also mean that cycles in closure and reopening will be less likely.
  • 5. As in your suggested procedure, a user (including the author) can vote to reopen a question, starting a new vote, and this vote may have a **different** threshold—perhaps the inverse of the threshold to close. A user with the Edit ability may reopen a question automatically with an edit of the question (presumably with the intent to differentiate it from the linked (duplicate) question). **Each time a question is reopened, the window for the author to respond *and* the threshold to close the question (again) decrease slightly.**[^6] This prevents questions from being endlessly reopened, and means that an author should still be careful about the edits made before reopening the question, even with the ability to do so without approval.
  • I believe this proposal satisifes (almost[^7]) all of the goals proposed in the question:
  • * The author is notified of a duplicate proposal, which can be made as soon as the question is posted. While a duplicate proposal is awaiting resolution, a notice informs users viewing the question of the possible duplicate, meaning that they can check the linked question(s) and each make an assessment before spending any (potentially redundant) time and effort answering the question: the question should only receive answers from users who believe it not to be a duplicate.
  • * Authors are provided with a question to check for duplicity (and answers to their original questions), and so can immediately make the assessment of whether to approve or dispute the duplicate proposal.
  • * Feedback of either kind is collected accordingly via suggestions in comments or even other duplicate proposals.
  • * Presenting duplicate proposals as something which authors are at their leisure to make the choice to *accept*, I believe, would do a **massive** deal of good for the way that this would feel. An author can also feel safer knowing that the question has a period of time in which it can be judged by a reasonable sample of people before it is threatened with closure by a small sample size.
  • ### Addendum - a personal note
  • I understand and appreciate that this proposal may be seen as too extreme. I think that it's appropriate for me to mention that part of the reason I wanted to write this answer is because I had a pretty unpleasant time recently at Somewhere Else regarding this topic (and closure in general), and I felt, quite frankly, *bullied and powerless* in the way that the system was set up. I would like to ask only that you consider what *cost* this proposal (in its whole or as its separable components, if any) would have to the good operation of this site.
  • Thank you again for your role in this site, Monica. I hope that my first post on this site is received well. :)
  • [^1]: As a note, I posit that in a well-functioning duplicate resolution system, **there should only be one duplicate to link:** if a question is sufficiently answered by two different questions' answers, then either one of *those* questions should be marked as a duplicate of the other, or the question is sufficiently different to warrant its own answers tailored for the question.
  • [^2]: Whether an edit of the question should be required is a detail for debate. I think this should be a decision made by the author in response to the assessment of the validity of the duplicate suggestion: if the question is then voted for closure in its unedited state, the author suffers the consequences for that decision, but nothing is broken in the system.
  • [^3]: This is intended as a reasonable safeguard against abusing this window. If this suggestion is seen as reasonable, I propose that an author should ideally be warned that an action will trigger this mechanism.
  • [^4]: One might argue that the question should instead be automatically closed as a duplicate in the case of no response from the author. However, I think that *we lose very little as a community by giving the most favourable treatment of the author of a disputed question in this system*. If users are participating properly, then the duplicate proposal should be naturally approved in good time by visiting users anyway, and I think that covering the edge case of an author who is unavailable for more than three days after posting a question is worth more than the cost of having a duplicate question up for as much longer as it takes for the community to close it by concensus.
  • [^5]: To be clear about what I mean here for completeness, I mean that for a voting ratio of `x:y` (`x` pro, `y` versus), a threshold of +25% means that `x >= 1.25 y`, that is, votes for should be 25% greater than the votes versus. I realise this might be a pretty unconventional way of doing it, so perhaps defining a threshold directly (by ratio or otherwise) would be preferred, and I apologise for this eccentricity.
  • [^6]: For the response window, I'd suggest a reduction of −12 hours per reopen suggestion, to a minimum of 32, which covers one day plus a reasonable window for difference in activity time during the day. For the threshold, I think that −5% is a reasonable step, to a minimum of +5%. A question which has hit this minimum threshold can no longer be opened without approval by a user with the Edit ability.
  • [^7]: The last bullet point is a little vague, so I hope that not satisfying it *directly* doesn't detract from the quality of this suggestion. However, I believe there could be merit in having a grace window before a question can (first) be closed in general, in order to give the question time to be seen (and answered) by a proper number of users.
#1: Initial revision by user avatar Fie‭ · 2021-09-18T02:37:08Z (about 1 month ago)
As a momentary foreword, I would like to express my appreciation to you and all of the members of the community which have worked to make this site possible. I wish it the best in its growth and development, and hope to help as a part of it. Now, here's my proposal on this topic:

## Duplicate proposals should be *separated* from closure-as-duplicate voting.
I think you've made a very good point about question closure (and the accompanying feeling of judgement—or, as I would put it, *dismissal*, perhaps even *exclusion)*, and I think this insight should be applied to duplicates a step further than you suggest.

Again, as you mention, a question being marked as a duplicate (of an *answered* question, at least) should be a *good* experience for the question author if all goes well, who should then gladly close the question as a duplicate. However, I think there's a fundamental problem with a single proposal-closure duplicate system: **the tendency of users viewing a question marked as a duplicate is to judge whether the question as asked is a duplicate for themselves.** There's the added issue of the voting process starting *immediately*, not necessarily giving the author time to review the question before it's closed—and once that happens, it can easily become a fight against the perception that a question is closed for good reason.

In either case, there is an important step which is being missed in a system which treats the *question*, not the *author:* the primary purpose of this site is to **answer the questions of its users**, whether directly posed or through the provision of existing answered questions, and in the case of a disputed duplicate proposal, *the author feels that the linked question does not answer the question the author is trying to ask*. This mismatch is key to resolving good-faith duplicate disputes, and should be the *primary* focus of a user viewing a question with a duplicate suggestion that has not yet been closed.

This might seem like a benign issue, in which I'm putting too little faith on the users judging the question duplicity, but there's a deeper principle here: we should be *maximising* the ease of use for individuals acting in good faith (i.e. trying their best to follow its rules and principles), but an author who feels that a question has been wrongfully closed as a duplicate is quickly put in an uphill battle, being required to *convince* and get the attention of enough people to reach a position where the question that the author is *trying* to ask can be asked instead. This can be exhausting, and worse, can *drive users away from trying to ask their questions*, and I think there should be some safeguard against this kind of situation.

My proposal for the procedure of duplicate resolution, in full, then, is this:

1. A user marks the question as a possible duplicate, linking to the question(s) it is believed to be a duplicate of.[^1] An explanation of *why* the question is thought to be a duplicate should be provided such that the author has immediately actionable information.
2. The author has **72 hours** to respond to the proposal, either by accepting the proposal (closing the question as a duplicate), or by disputing the duplicate.[^2] Any activity on the question by the author reduces the window to 1 hour, since its purpose is to give the author time to edit the question or otherwise address the proposal.[^3]
3. While a question is proposed as a duplicate, it is marked as such to direct user attention to comments where the proposal is hopefully being discussed between disputer, author, and other involved users. This period is designed to help the author and community resolve the misalignemnt between (author) intent and (community) perception of the question.
4. **Once** a duplicate proposal is disputed, or the window expires[^4], voting opens for closure on the basis of being a duplicate question. The question is closed as a duplicate if the net vote passes a certain positive threshold determined by the *proportion* of votes (e.g. +25%; i.e. at least 5:3 pro:versus[^5]), with some minimum (e.g. +3 votes net) for small questions. This is important on its own (and something which I don't think I've seen discussed) because the judgement of a question should *scale correctly with the popularity of the question:* proportional judgement is **how we do things in a democratic society**, except the threshold is usually 50:50 (or 51:49)! This should also mean that cycles in closure and reopening will be less likely.
5. As in your suggested procedure, a user (including the author) can vote to reopen a question, starting a new vote, and this vote may have a **different** threshold—perhaps the inverse of the threshold to close. A user with the Edit ability may reopen a question automatically with an edit of the question (presumably with the intent to differentiate it from the linked (duplicate) question). **Each time a question is reopened, the window for the author to respond *and* the threshold to close the question (again) decrease slightly.**[^6] This prevents questions from being endlessly reopened, and means that an author should still be careful about the edits made before reopening the question, even with the ability to do so without approval.

I believe this proposal satisifes (almost[^7]) all of the goals proposed in the question:
* The author is notified of a duplicate proposal, which can be made as soon as the question is posted. While a duplicate proposal is awaiting resolution, a notice informs users viewing the question of the possible duplicate, meaning that they can check the linked question(s) and each make an assessment before spending any (potentially redundant) time and effort answering the question: the question should only receive answers from users who believe it not to be a duplicate.
* Authors are provided with a question to check for duplicity (and answers to their original questions), and so can immediately make the assessment of whether to approve or dispute the duplicate proposal.
* Feedback of either kind is collected accordingly via suggestions in comments or even other duplicate proposals.
* Presenting duplicate proposals as something which authors are at their leisure to make the choice to *accept*, I believe, would do a **massive** deal of good for the way that this would feel. An author can also feel safer knowing that the question has a period of time in which it can be judged by a reasonable sample of people before it is threatened with closure by a small sample size.

### Addendum - a personal note
I understand and appreciate that this proposal may be seen as too extreme. I think that it's appropriate for me to mention that part of the reason I wanted to write this answer is because I had a pretty unpleasant time recently at Somewhere Else regarding this topic (and closure in general), and I felt, quite frankly, *bullied and powerless* in the way that the system was set up. I would like to ask only that you consider what *cost* this proposal (in its whole or as its separable components, if any) would have to the good operation of this site.

Thank you again for your role in this site, Monica. I hope that my first post on this site is received well. :)

[^1]: As a note, I posit that in a well-functioning duplicate resolution system, **there should only be one duplicate to link:** if a question is sufficiently answered by two different questions' answers, then either one of *those* questions should be marked as a duplicate of the other, or the question is sufficiently different to warrant its own answers tailored for the question.
[^2]: Whether an edit of the question should be required is a detail for debate. I think this should be a decision made by the author in response to the assessment of the validity of the duplicate suggestion: if the question is then voted for closure in its unedited state, the author suffers the consequences for that decision, but nothing is broken in the system.
[^3]: This is intended as a reasonable safeguard against abusing this window. If this suggestion is seen as reasonable, I propose that an author should ideally be warned that an action will trigger this mechanism.
[^4]: One might argue that the question should instead be automatically closed as a duplicate in the case of no response from the author. However, I think that *we lose very little as a community by giving the most favourable treatment of the author of a disputed question in this system*. If users are participating properly, then the duplicate proposal should be naturally approved in good time by visiting users anyway, and I think that covering the edge case of an author who is unavailable for more than three days after posting a question is worth more than the cost of having a duplicate question up for as much longer as it takes for the community to close it by concensus.
[^5]: To be clear about what I mean here for completeness, I mean that for a voting ratio of `x:y` (`x` pro, `y` versus), a threshold of +25% means that `x − y = 0.25(x + y)`, that is, the difference between pro and versus should be 25% of the total votes. I realise this is a pretty unconventional way of doing it, so perhaps defining a threshold directly (by ratio or otherwise) would be preferred, and I apologise for this eccentricity.
[^6]: For the response window, I'd suggest a reduction of −12 hours per reopen suggestion, to a minimum of 32, which covers one day plus a reasonable window for difference in activity time during the day. For the threshold, I think that −5% is a reasonable step, to a minimum of +5%. A question which has hit this minimum threshold can no longer be opened without approval by a user with the Edit ability.
[^7]: The last bullet point is a little vague, so I hope that not satisfying it *directly* doesn't detract from the quality of this suggestion. However, I believe there could be merit in having a grace window before a question can (first) be closed in general, in order to give the question time to be seen (and answered) by a proper number of users.