Every now and then the moderators will get a flag identifying a possible duplicate question that is a very general or root issue to the potential problem or query given by the OP of the flagged question. The reasoning behind this is that the canonical accepted answer of the general popular question happens to be also a good answer for the dupe question that is far more specific.

Here is an example:

Flagged Duplicate: Should you ever use private on fields and methods in C#?

Original Question with Canonical Answer: How would you know if you've written readable and easily maintainable code?

I am unsure the best way to proceed with this. Historically I would decline such flags with the reasoning that the questions are far too different to be considered duplicate. The OP certainly might not understand the general root of their question, hence why they are asking in the first place and I can see them becoming confused and angry about this without a good deal of explanation as to why the canonical answer on the dupe is actually fundamentally answering their question.

The other argument for declining the flag is that the flagged question is so specific that the canonical answer while technically correct, is insufficient to explain the context about why. In the example above, the canonical answer is to "Peer review your code", which implies that the specific question about why one would explicitly declare the private keyword in C# is intrinsically related to coding style on the team. The canonical answer I feel is not good enough and doesn't provide enough context specifically to answer the flagged question.

I understand the other side of this too that the question is actually pretty basic and doesn't really show much research on the part of the OP, or demonstrates an actual problem the OP faces so to reduce noise on the site we can link all of these to the question with the canonical answer. If the community feels this is the best option then I fully support it with the caveat that we should take extra effort to adequately explain to users why we are doing this.

What is the opinion of the community on how to handle this going forward?


The relevant MSE Discussion on this: Does the new guidance on duplicate questions suggest closing a question as duplicate, if the original answers the OP's question?

We are not necessarily beholden to the outcome of question on MSE and if we don't feel this will work well for our community we are free to come to our own conclusion. I do think we should very carefully consider the outcome of MSE discussions however on this site.


1 Answer 1


I would definitely not consider those two questions duplicates.

As someone who wants an answer on why they should use the private keyword when it is the default behavior, the answers in the second question provide no context, and therefore have no relevance to me.

In addition, there may be other specifics I should know about that would not ever even have the chance at being answered in the second question, because the second question is not even close to being a duplicate of the first one.

Questions should be marked as duplicates if the linked question has or is likely to provide a complete answer to the first question, and contains enough context that someone doesn't have to try and guess how on earth the "duplicate" question relates to their own.

It would also help prevent chains of questions getting closed as duplicates and the end result being the first question in the chain is in no way answered by the last question in the chain. I've seen this many times on Programmers, and it's a bit annoying when you're seeking answers.

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