I did some digging through older topics and didn't see this one so I hope I'm not missing something.

Over the past few days, I've been clicking on duplicate topics and noticed that a lot of them are asked by new users. Here are a few examples:



I got stung by bees in animal crossing new leaf

Skyrim highest level(combat/character lv)

These are all duplicates, were asked by new users, and weren't commented on aside from the pre-filled duplicate text.

Most of the duplicates asked by new users aren't bad questions. They've just been asked before. It's great that we link right back to the question it's a duplicate of. That's really helpful. I think we can go beyond that though. We frequently communicate with new users on other problem questions and answers (unclear, too broad, better as a comment, etc). Why can't we use duplicate questions as another opportunity to communicate with those who are new to the site?

In my opinion, the new users who ask duplicate questions are probably a good fit for our community. They've figured out what the site is for and how it works. Their only sin is not using the search (and come on, we've all done that before). I think leaving a comment that says something to the extent of, "Welcome to Arqade! You might have seen your question got marked as a duplicate. This doesn't mean you've asked a bad question, it's just been asked before! We've linked to the question that could help you find some answers."

I know some of this is said through the pre-filled duplicate text but I think that a more personalized message can make someone feel a lot more welcomed. And I like for people to feel welcome :)

I'm just curious what everything thinks. Should we communicate with new users who ask duplicate questions? Any ideas of what sorts of things we should say?

  • 3
    Minor nitpick: Duplicates aren't technically closed anymore and that text does not appear anywhere on the page (it says "marked as duplicate"). The current text should not make the user feel bad, but should lead them to the answer to their question.
    – au revoir
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:21
  • I know they aren't closed. Sorry, bad wording. I'll change it. :)
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:22
  • 7
    And let's be honest. Search is... fickle. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 20:19
  • I find it easier to search Stack with Google than the built in search.
    – EBongo
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 2:45

3 Answers 3


I think the closing->duplicate system is doing its job as intended. However, on the communication front, I feel it is lacking.

One thing that always irked me when closing as duplicate was the wording of the auto-generated comment.

"possible duplicate: [link]".

It's impersonal and disenchanting, it focuses on the state of question itself, not the problem that the user is facing, and doesn't personally address the person who asked it.

If we want to appear nicer and more easily approachable to new users, I suggest we change the default text to something more personable, something they can respond to. Something like:

"Hi, your question may already be answered here: [link]. Is this the case?"

Not only are we coming off nicer (Look at that, someone went out of their way to find the answer for me!), But we then invite an open discussion as to whether their question has already been answered. We can then move forward with the user, getting more details out of them to differentiate why their problem is different, why the existing answers aren't good enough, or need updating.

Or, on the flip side, we get confirmation that yes, that duplicate answers their question nicely, and we can close it off and everyone walks away happy.

  • 3
    I like this idea a lot. Putting some nice communication in the default duplicate response would be a really good way to achieve that welcoming/friendly factor.
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 1:06
  • 4
    I can say, my first experience with StackExchange was when I was like, 17 (StackOverflow, initially), and I was scared to death to ask a duplicate. I think my first question was either a dupe or off-topic or something (it's gone), and that's part of why I didn't really participate for a long time. If we make it more known that "Dupes are okay! Usually. Don't worry about it!" then I think there'll be less of that.
    – Unionhawk Mod
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 14:26
  • @Unionhawk Definitely. I was terrified to ask my first question because I was looking around on the site and saw what happened when a question wasn't up to par (and admittedly, it's much better now than when I first started with the 'on hold' as opposed to close, etc). I think that if I had been looking around and saw that people were at least forgiving when a duplicate question got asked, I would have started using the site a lot sooner.
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 18:05
  • 5
    I do like the idea of more friendly comments, and would honestly love to see the auto-generated comment change, but I'm not really a fan of this specific wording. To a new user who doesn't know the site well yet, it almost sounds like we won't be closing as dupe if the existing answers were incomplete. Lack of good existing answers is not a good reason to keep a duplicate question open, and I worry that if we ask the user something like that, they respond that no, there isn't a good answer there, but we close anyway, we've ended up making the problem potentially worse. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:08
  • 2
    On the flip side, I would dearly love to see us doing more to encourage people whose questions really aren't duplicates, but look like it, to actually edit their questions, rather than tack a huge "EDIT: This is not a dupe because <Reasons>" block at the end. Hm, maybe someone should flag down an SE dev and see if we can get the wording changed? I'm kinda amazed there isn't already a request on Meta Stack Exchange to change it, actually. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:09
  • @Billy - of course the new wording was just a suggestion, but I see where you're coming from there. Yeah its always bothered me, but generally what I'll do is edit the comment myself (its still your comment and as such has the same 5 minute edit window)
    – Robotnik Mod
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:16
  • @Robotnik You can also post the comment manually before even casting the first dupevote; the auto-comment won't bother generating if the post you're dupevoting as is already linked, IIRC. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:20
  • 1
    @Robotnik I've always hated that text too. It feels like we're talking about them behind there back, right in front of them. I think your wording for the comment would be fine, if we edited the "on hold" wording a little to match. I'm not sure its even far off as it stands, but I like your goal of using the auto text to guide them through the process of what to do next, and seeming welcoming rather than sterile or elitist.
    – EBongo
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 2:51

If you feel like doing so, and can do so while not being a jerk about it, sure, go ahead. I don't however, think that this is incumbent on anyone, anymore than, say... explaining downvotes.

If the fundamental purpose of our site is to help people who have questions get answers, the current system accomplishes that. When a dupe vote is cast, the user who asked it gets notified that "Hey! Someone asked this before and they got an answer! Click this link to check it out!". And their problem is solved and they can go on their merry way. There's a reason the language surrounding dupe closures was changed and the auto-linking was put in place and the system blocks duping questions to unanswered questions, and that's it.

I'm just not entirely sure why reaching out to users who ask duplicate questions (and get pointed to an answer to their question mind you) is any more important than reaching out to users who ask new and unique questions (who might not ever get an answer to their question!). If anything, we've already helped those dupe askers more right off the bat than we have the person who asks something new.

So, if you feel the need to explain what's going on, you're certainly welcome to (but be very careful that it doesn't come off as a sugar-coating on 'search you dummy'), but there's not any particular reason that we have to. By marking a question as a duplicate (accurately, and quickly mind you), we're already helping them.

  • 3
    The "and can do so while not being a jerk about it" point is key. A poor or even not-meant-to-be-rude-but-came-off-that-way explanation of why it is closed is probably worse than no explanation at all.
    – Sterno
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:27
  • @Sterno You're right. And I'm not even saying that we need to reiterate the reason necessarily. A simple, "Welcome to Arqade" message could also suffice...just something to show we aren't running around messing with their questions and not really caring that they are new to the site. Hope that makes sense.
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:30
  • @spugsley My point is that you're not really demonstrating how what you're proposing is all that much better than what we have now... or why people who ask dupes deserve special treatment compared to people who ask questions that just don't get answered. You'd accomplish more by slapping a 50 rep bounty on every question by a new user that still doesn't have an answer as soon as it's eligible. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:37
  • 2
    @LessPop_MoreFizz How is welcoming a new user special treatment? I feel like we should always be doing that regardless of the circumstance (minus blatant spam and offensiveness of course).
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:39
  • 3
    @spugsley I can think of no better way to welcome a new user than by demonstrating the utility of the website. i.e. by solving their problem. My point is that anything beyond that is icing, and I'm just not sure why you feel the need to single this out. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:41
  • @spugsley I don't see welcoming a new user as special treatment at all, it's common courtesy - you welcome existing users when they say hi in the bridge, why not welcome new users when they post their first post?
    – kalina
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:49
  • @kalina you're right. Maybe there should be another post about that eventually. For dupes specifically, I just noticed a lot of these users aren't coming back and contributing after their first question is put on hold as a dupe. I just think we should try to do something more to encourage them to come back and try again.
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 19:51
  • 2
    @Less - "the user who asked it gets notified that "Hey! Someone asked this before and they got an answer! Click this link to check it out!".", The thing is, we're not saying that. We're saying 'Possible Duplicate'
    – Robotnik Mod
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:51
  • @Robotnik Agreed, we're kind of doing the least personable thing at this point. It does its intended job but in a way that doesn't really come off as incredibly new-user friendly.
    – spugsley
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 1:07

I was going to make this a comment, but it will get buried in the flood. (And, forgive me if this should be a separate question altogether . . .)

I'll begin by praising the idea of improving our duplicate message.

But, additionally, I think there's something to be said for welcoming new users across the board. This site is VERY trial and error based in the beginning, and that can put off potentially helpful contributors.

I've been making an effort to welcome new users who post exceptional answers, or ask great questions about games that I enjoy.

I wonder if we should consider having an auto-generated comment that we can post when reviewing a new user's posts. Something along the lines of:

Welcome to Arqade. Please take the time to take the tour which can be accessed by clicking on the help tab in the upper right hand corner of your screen. Thank you for your post, and we look forward to seeing more of you here.

  • 5
    There actually is already a banner for users that aren't signed in advising them to take the tour, maybe this banner should be present for all users below 250 or 500 reputation that have not yet taken it?
    – kalina
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 9:23
  • 1
    I think that would be a great idea!
    – David M
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 14:34

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