A long-standing de facto rule has come about over the course of Arqade's existence. The sentiment here is that any two questions asking for the same information are necessarily duplicates. I can understand the appeal of that stance. It's easy to understand, easy to apply, and doesn't require much maintenance or effort.
Unfortunately, there are some edge cases where this rule is utterly counterproductive to our main goal: Help gamers get answers to their gaming questions. Our rules exist to streamline this process, to organize and facilitate it. The rules exist to serve our ability to help users. The users come first, and when the rules act in such a way that it hurts users, we need to take a step back and look at what's going wrong.
You may ask, "Well, what about off topic questions? What about game recommendations? Closing those questions hurts users." But it doesn't really. Closing questions like that acknowledges what we're weak at, what we're strong at, and helps us focus the content on the website so that experts with the knowledge to help users with the right kinds of questions don't have to wade through a sea of unrelated questions to do so. Overall, closing questions correctly helps the kinds of users we set out to help.
That being said, here are some things that can go wrong in the close process specifically in regards to a user asking a question that has already been asked:
- There is no answer yet on the existing question.
- The existing question has an answer, but that answer doesn't help the new asker.
- The answer is outdated.
- The answer is wrong.
- The questions have a subtle difference in focus.
- The existing answer isn't sufficiently detailed to help the new asker.
In all of these cases, assuming the asker has a correct on topic question that would not have been closed in isolation, closing the question hurts the asker. In a case like this, we are putting the perceived rules of the site ahead of our primary goal of helping users. To be the asker in this case must leave the sourest of tastes in your mouth.
Historically, we've told users to bounty the old question, or even had existing high rep users bounty the old question, in an effort to get updated or complete answers. Nobody should be required to spend reputation just to ask a question, however. Brand new users who have just run across our site for the first time can ask questions; there should not be such a restriction here. (I'm not so sure about how much I like the bounty system in general, but that's a topic for another time.)
StackExchange implemented a change which was controversial at the time, to disallow duplicate votes if the target question does not have any upvoted answers. This change was the first step in this direction of trying to put helping users first.
...the proof is in the answers. If the question looks the same, but the answers aren't solving the asker's problem, that is not a dupe – that is a legitimate new question. Neither the person asking nor the person who lands from Google cares if the question has been asked before: they care if it has been answered.
So, rather than a de facto rule that hurts users for the sake of having "clean" rules, I would like to try out a de jure rule: Do not close questions as duplicates if the target question does not help the new asker. See the list above for the set of circumstances to which I see this applying initially.
I propose that, starting as soon as possible, we enact this rule on the site on a trial basis. We won't know whether it works or not until we try it out. Will there be issues? Certainly. I can already see some of them coming. But it is worth ironing out those issues for the sake of the users who have legitimate questions, when we have legitimate means of helping them.
If we go for it, this will require a period of adjustment. Please take to meta to help clarify this policy, so that we can work together to develop a practice that both helps users and has clear rules. In the case that we do give it a try, we would reconsider whether this has been a success or a failure in January 2017. I want to put a hard time limit on the experiment so we can come to a conclusion and not languish around forever in a land of instability.
So, I leave it to you. Shall we start this experiment, or should I just shut up and accept the status quo?