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A user asked a duplicate question today because he had no comment privileges to annotate his issues into the original. Normally such a user would be directed to chat, except brand new users cannot talk in chat.

What are new users supposed to do in such a situation? It seems ridiculous to force them to ask or answer questions that possibly have nothing to do with their situation or interest, just to get enough rep to address the issue that they came to the website for in the first place.

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    I hate the practice of closing questions as dupes when the original doesn't answer the case in the new question. No, I don't want to spend rep to get an answer to a question that hasn't already been answered on this site. Please stop worrying about rules so much and start helping people. /rant – Invader Skoodge Aug 7 '12 at 15:31
  • @StrixVaria amusing that you mention that, as I asked about that practice here on the meta last week. meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/5183/… – Ender Aug 7 '12 at 15:37
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    Added an expanded answer to that question. – Invader Skoodge Aug 7 '12 at 15:46
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I think we need to specify what we expect new users to do when they come here. At the bare minimum, I think that is:

  • they should do a cursory search to see if their question has been asked already
  • they should read the FAQ or at least lurk around for a few minutes to see how the site operates at a basic level

I don't think it's reasonable, or practical, to expect new users to do anything more than that.

So let's take the ideal scenario. A new user is trolling the web to see if they can't fix a problem they're having with a game. They land on Arqade, see it's a site devoted to answering questions about gaming problems, and they think "hey, maybe I can ask here!" They pull up the FAQ and see there's nothing that appears to prohibit their question. They also take note of what reputation is and how much you need of it to do various things like comment and use chat.

Then they do a search and find a question that's pretty close to what they're looking for, but it's unanswered.

This is where Stack Exchange breaks down for new users. The only three options available to them are:

  • Ask a new question, which is a functional duplicate of the unanswered question.
  • Leave an answer on the unanswered question with a "me too" response, providing more information that might help a potential answerer.
  • Leave.

All three options, frankly, suck. I can see why there are people who wish to allow users, who have no other option but to leave, to ask duplicates. And SE definitely supports some amount of duplication. But looking at this, I can't help but feel that this is still a poor experience for everyone involved: for new users who aren't getting the help they need, and for regular users who may not be aware of which questions are getting a pass on the duplicate department.

That is, I'm all for saying SE is messy, but having guidelines that amount to something like:

if it's a new user asking a question, rather than helping educate them on best practices so they can get the most out of using Arqade, let them ask their duplicate questions and get no answers like the other versions

is really unsatisfying. We have an opportunity to show Arqade's commitment to quality in action, but we squander it as a reaction to too many new users getting their questions closed.

So, I'd like to propose something else: as regular users with thousands of reputation and tons of experience with the site, we should consider putting some of the work back on ourselves in cases where, as desaivv put it, our heart goes out to a new user and we want to help them.

For example, when a new user does something less than ideal (asks a duplicate question because the original is unanswered, leaves a "me too" answer), consider leaving a polite comment recognizing the problem (new users can't really contribute to outstanding unanswered questions) and explaining something to the effect of:

  • To keep quality high, we don't want to duplicate the same problem so people get confused when one version gets answered but all the others just fall by the wayside
  • If they're interested in giving Arqade a try, before they know it, they'll have enough reputation to revisit this question and finally get an answer
  • Arqade is constantly updating, and if they check back in a couple of days, we might have an answer

Obviously that's pretty verbose for a comment, but covering the gist of these points is probably enough. The expanded version might even be fodder as part of a Skeptics.SE-esque "new user welcome message" that we've been casually talking about doing here.

Secondly, and this is of course entirely optional, if you see a question that keeps getting re-asked or has lots of views or what-have-you but we don't have a good answer for, consider placing a bounty on it yourself. Bounties are one of the two ideal ways to get a question attention (the other being updating the question with the latest information), and what better way to illustrate their usefulness than to lead by example? If new users conclude "hey, bounties get hard questions better answers", it gives them something to work towards so they can eventually get their own hard questions answered here, too.

To that end, I put my money where my mouth is and placed a 500 point bounty on the LAN question we've been duping everything to. It's obviously a major problem that people are having, as evidenced not only by the number of duplicate questions we get, but the number of "me too" answers it got. Hopefully we'll get a great, complete answer, and this particular problem will wind up being substantially less of a mess that it is right now.

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    Hear Hear! Bravo good sir! – Ender Aug 7 '12 at 17:42
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If 1 rep users can suggest edits, and if such actions are going to be the appropriate course to take, we should probably put this information somewhere easy to find (such as the FAQ?), as I highly doubt new users are normally aware of their ability to do this, or what such ability gives them the power to do. (such as solve the referred issue)

  • The one problem being, edits that add questions or comments shouldn't be edits - and there's no way to turn a suggested edit into a comment instead. – Raven Dreamer Aug 7 '12 at 22:35
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    @RavenDreamer I see your point, but know that this solution wasn't my idea, it was what I was told is the appropriate action. – Ender Aug 8 '12 at 10:02
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In the case where the original question didn't get (working) answers, the solution is not to ask the question again. This just fragments the discussion, and makes relevant detail hard to find.

If a solution didn't work, the asker needs to edit their question to add the things they've tried. Posting a new question with some additional details about things that didn't work isn't helpful to answering either question. Editing the original question, on the other hand, bumps it to the top of the question list, which gives it more views and an increased chance of a working answer.

The point of closing duplicates is to present as many possible relevant answers as we can to a given question. If we leave them open, the chances that someone who has this problem later can get their solution is greatly reduced.

  • @Ender, the question you linked is duped to one that has 7 answers. The question also seems to be more of a comment on an answer to another question (we tried X but that didn't work) rather than a question on it's own. – agent86 Aug 7 '12 at 17:15
  • I should note, in good humor, that this may be the shortest post I've ever seen you submit. Ever. – Ender Aug 7 '12 at 17:39
  • I don't like this solution. There is still no incentive for new answers on the question. People who don't click to view the actual content of the edit won't be able to tell that there's a new question to answer. The control is out of the hands of the person who really should be able to accept an answer (the new user). Edits like this also have the potential to change the intent of the original question. A new question is much cleaner on all fronts. – Invader Skoodge Aug 7 '12 at 18:01
  • There's nothing preventing us from linking related questions, even in the question itself, without closing it as a dupe. People can still find their information. – Invader Skoodge Aug 7 '12 at 18:05
  • @StrixVaria I think there's a way to ask a similar non-dupe question on the topic, which we should allow to stay open. It was my impression after reading this topic and the linked questions that there were two dupes posted - one that was a dupe, and a second to add some details about why the first wasn't a dupe. There's a lot of questions on this topic though, and they're all unregistered users, so I may have misinterpreted. – agent86 Aug 7 '12 at 18:18

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