There have now been two questions closed as "duplicate" in the past several days (at least that I have seen) that are definitely not duplicates. Yes, they are similar / related / overlapping, but not true duplicates. Aren't "duplicates" supposed to be the exact same issue / problem / scenario? If a new question is 90% - 95% the same, does that really qualify as a duplicate? What if that 5% - 10% difference makes a huge difference in the answer / solution?

The first item below is maybe 50% overlap, but the critical issue (cross-DB security vs. intra-DB security) is such that anyone being affected by cross-DB concerns won't benefit in any way from the supposed "original" question / answer. The second item has far more overlap, but the difference in length of string means adding a simple CONVERT as opposed to creating a stored procedure to break a long string into chunks.

Why are we doing this to people who are coming here for help? All it does is add to confusion and spread misinformation. If we want DBA.SE to be a site known for QUALITY content, then we need to respect variations in nuances between issues and only mark true duplicates as "duplicate".

PLEASE, can we stop being so trigger happy to close questions and give them a chance to sort themselves out? Can we maybe engage the O.P. to have them explain why their question is not a duplicate of question XYZ? (and, of course, re-open those two questions Thanks to @Max for re-opening those questions). Thanks :-)


To clarify the exact issue here of which I doth speak: I do understand the points made by @Max regarding the process notifying the O.P. that there needs to be some clarification, and that the process shouldn't take too long since the longer it remains unclear the more likely it is that one or more good-hearted folks will spend waste their time — life's most valuable resource — on an answer that is likely to not be relevant to the actual question once clarified (or is relevant but has already been answered via the duplicate, depending on the reason for closing).

HOWEVER, I am not speaking of questions that need clarification. I am speaking of questions that specifically do not need clarification, and are being closed mostly due to:

  1. hastily reading of the question and/or the proposed duplicate, or
  2. not appreciating / accepting the nuance of the question (i.e. being too easily dismissive of it), or
  3. as noted in @Mr.Brownstone's answer, not having enough knowledge to understand the question

The two questions I referenced towards the top had enough info in the question from the very beginning to determine that they were not duplicates (not exact duplicates nor even variations of a pattern). In both cases I ended up editing the question title to more accurately reflect the true nature of the question, but the questions themselves were clear enough. For the first one, "Access view...", even if someone did not have enough knowledge to pick up on the fact that the cross-database issue made them entirely different questions, I had added a comment to the question explaining the difference, and that was after only the first (at most second) close vote. For the second question, the solution noted in the "original" question would have worked, but it was also over-engineered in this case and was unnecessary given that my solution took all of two - four seconds to implement. Now, someone did not appreciate my solution (noted in comments on my answer) because it would not work in 100% of all possible strings (hence #2 above) but that is a choice that each person needs to make for themselves. We aren't gatekeepers of knowledge. We share knowledge and let people make informed decisions because they are adults, not children. I explained the nuance of the situation to the O.P. and that it wouldn't always work, but would work for them in that moment and likely many other moments over the course of their career. Closing the question so as to hide this workaround is insulting to other professionals who might actually be able to make an intelligent decision if told how and why things work the way that they do rather than given simple mantras of "just always do / use this" or "never, ever do X (e.g. use a CURSOR)", etc.

The other, more difficult to assess, aspect of this is being patient with folks who are not native English speakers. In at least one, if not both, of the questions noted here, I assume the O.P. to be a non-native speaker due to both language used, sentence structure, and in one case, how the number was formatted using spaces instead of commas as the thousands-separator. I am not sure that everyone will understand the note, or more specifically, the importance of it, that is posted when a question is first marked as duplicate. And, native speaker or not, it could be that the O.P. is thinking to themselves, "this question is already clearly different than the proposed duplicate, so I have nothing to change". I know that I have run into at least one situation, a while ago, with a non-native speaker who didn't understand the notice provided regarding the need to award a bounty on a question that they posted after I posted my answer, but received no additional feedback so wanted me to get the bounty and did not understand the rules for automatic awarding of bounty vs when it won't be automatic.

What I am asking for here is more patience. Taking more time to more thoroughly read the question, and potentially the proposed duplicate, and more understanding of those who might not (fully) understand what is being communicated, regardless of how clear we think we, or the posted notices, are.


2 Answers 2


I agree; voting-to-close as dupe is easy to get wrong. And does tend to send the wrong message. In that vein, I've voted to re-open this, where you provided another excellent answer prior to it being closed. FYI, I think you did the right thing by adding a comment declining the duplicate.

I disagree with the premise that we are "trigger happy" with the close-votes. Closing a question is by far the best way to get the attention of the poster, and to get them to clarify and improve their question.

  • 1
    Thank you for the feedback, and for the votes on those answers and the re-open vote(s). I did not get a chance to add a comment beforehand on the 2nd one (the printing one) before it was closed, but addressed the user about this in my reply comment to their comment on their question. Regarding the "trigger happy" thing, are you saying that it is better to close first and then get clarification? Wouldn't it be better to post a comment asking them to clarify, and stating that it will close if they don't? Being quick to close without asking first might come off as harsh to newcomers. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 22:24
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    I agree it does come off as a bit harsh. I'm really saying that "vote to close" will force clarification before someone (many times, me) posts an answer that is actually wrong.
    – Hannah Vernon Mod
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 22:27
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    I see. So you are saying that doing so early prevents people from answering and potentially wasting their time on a question that is likely to change in details? And that by waiting through a discussion increases the chances of wasted time answering / accumulation of incorrect answers that might not change if the poster of the answer doesn't check back? Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 22:31
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    @SolomonRutzky, I agree with Max, and please note that questions aren't actually closed based on votes. They're first put on hold. Which should be a step on the road to improving the question and getting it reopened, if the asker is really interested and willing to improve the question.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 8:27
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    As I've noted in the recent past, I'm in favor of not waiting for the question to be put on hold to let the OP know there may be an issue, and of prompting for specifics when possible. That said, I've seen questions that needed some fine-tuning get down-voted out of sight before they could be put on hold; I think the hold/close process is a better option than that. Fixing a question that's been down-voted to a minus 5 or 6 doesn't help much, as very few people will look at it at that point.
    – RDFozz
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 15:27

I don't think it is limited to closing as duplicates - I think it extends to all other reasons for closure as well. Over the past few weeks I have seen questions that have been flagged for closure as "too broad", "unclear what you are asking" or "too localized", while this can be the case sometimes I also feel like there are good questions that are getting flagged because the person reviewing it may not have enough knowledge to understand the question.

For example, I saw this question a few days ago that was flagged as requiring closing and the reason that was given was "unclear what you are asking". When I reviewed the question I fully understood what the OP was asking, but I just didn't know the answer. I did not feel like the question needed editing to make it clearer either so I rejected the close vote.

I have been thinking over the past week on how could we improve this process, and one of the things I came up with is what about if the site could do something along the lines of this:

  • A question is tagged as 'x'
  • Only moderators and users who have sufficient reputation gained from tag 'x' (not just total reputation) are able to review the post and close it.

Using the above method would for example prevent me from closing an Oracle tagged question just because I do not understand what it is asking due to my lack of experience with the platform.

I know the probably would be some re-engineering of the site but it is just an idea that I thought of...

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    You're fighting a good fight @MrBrownstone. Keep it up. Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 16:54
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    Mr.Brownstone (and @EvanCarroll): thanks for the feedback. Yes, I have come across this as well, both here and on good 'ol S.O. And I think it is part, or could be part, of what happened with the two questions I mentioned. I have updated my question to clarify the issue. I also have not had time to look around too much and hadn't noticed the review queues (more than "suggested edits") and just saw the various options, including "closed votes" and "tools". I will have to spend more time there ;-) Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 22:42

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