Question: How do we address the issue of people posting the same or very similar questions?

stevie is asking a question about website
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by stevie | March 21, 2018 15:30 | #15991

Please describe the problem (or idea)

I have found myself and others accidentally (or unknowingly) posting questions that are the same or very similar to those posted by other people. Here are a couple things I'm thinking about on this:

  • The simplicity of posting material as a question reduces the barriers people have in getting material out up, but does not prevent duplicates.
  • I know I could have avoided this by searching through questions with the tags I was planning on using, but not everyone would know to do that.
  • If similar questions are posted, the answers to those are stored in different places.
  • Sometimes, the different ways people ask questions are nuanced. Another way to think of it is that sometimes answers people post on one issue, apply to other questions asked.

Here's an example of somewhere that this has happened:

You can see how these are slightly different, but could have similar answers.

What are other things to consider on this issue? And what are ways we might work to address it?


This is a great question. On Stack Overflow, it comes across as pretty unwelcoming when someone says (as they often do) "duplicate" and just links to the other question, so i agree it's worth doing this thoughtfully. They do seem to have a nicer "duplicate" alert here:


I think it's also helpful on the wording on the dashboard near the questions section to say something like "search your question and if you have a new one, submit it here. Help to answer other peoples questions, too!"

This is really nice text, @Zengirl2 -- we should use it!

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My first reaction is that I don't think repeating questions is that bad: our community is built around providing ways for people to actively engage, and I think that stepping in to a conversation by asking a question is one way people choose to do that. I also don't think it's necessarily a bad think to have multiple posts/questions on the same topic: the content on our dashboards scrolls by pretty quickly and I have a feeling that there are different people seeing and responding to questions at different times: our knowledge base is growing all the time, so it's likely that even simple questions might have new or better or different kinds of answers from month to month. We provide the "ask a question" field before the "view questions by topic" option, which may suggest to some that it's a first step.

That said, I think our search function has some nuances to it that might not be intuitive to a new user, so even if a person does perform an initial search for what they're looking for, fine-tuning or searching within groups of results can be a challenge, especially if you're not familiar with the site/community and might not know off the bat how research notes, activities or wikis differ.

I would love to see a way to merge closely related questions so that great responses can be colocated. That way I think we could start building out an FAQ that might be a great first-stop for some users.

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I also wanted to say that I really like the new page that combines the questions. Some people like to hang out on forums and just answer questions, and this makes things a lot easier. :)

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