10
\$\begingroup\$

We've recently seen a number of incidents where a user posts essentially the same problem several times.

  • Sometimes, they delete the old question and post [almost] exactly the same thing again, essentially rolling the dice and hoping for a better result.

  • Other times the existing question remains, and a new one makes only trivial changes

Both of these practices seem inefficient and unhealthy for the site.

  • Deleting questions deletes the responses and analysis which community members have already put into the problem, wasting effort by forcing the process to start anew

  • Even if the original isn't deleted, a new posting still splits the context and collected knowledge of the problem, especially if the old isn't linked

  • Often what are intended to be "new-strategy" re-postings of a problem actually still preserve the same technical misunderstanding at the heart of the original difficulty

It is, however, true that:

  • getting a question originally stated in a poor form taken back off hold can take time (or simply not happen, if edits do not actually resolve the reason it is on hold)

  • poorly stated problems may receive a frustrating lack of response, or only responses which explain what is wrong with the question

  • Stack exchange isn't meant for evolving discussions and so cannot handle evolving problem statements; at the same time, it's really meant for questions which can be concisely answered, not project-arcs which need the evolving discussion of a traditional discussion forum.

How do we deal with these? To a large extent, finding duplicates (and especially re-posts of deleted questions) depends on site users simply remembering that we've interacted with unique aspects of a problem in recent memory.

To be clear, this is a question for the community as as whole. It's our site, and up to us to figure how to make it work well.

\$\endgroup\$
1
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting, the comments on Meta are now being censored... not really sure how this is going to work with such lack of transparency. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Dec 8 '20 at 5:45
5
\$\begingroup\$

Normally you cannot close a question as a duplicate if the target question has no upvoted/accepted answers, however, an exception is made for questions posted by the same user. So if the old question is not deleted, you can close new ones as duplicates.

If the old question is deleted, you could close the new question for whatever reason that applies, and point out in a comment that a duplicate question existed by was removed. If the question has no reason to be closed (other than being reposted), use a custom close reason where you have to write a comment anyway. 10k+ users will be able to see a deleted question and will hopefully support your initiative to close the question.

Note that new users have a low threshold for questions they can delete before they are automatically banned from posting new ones for a week or so. The system will tell them they should try to improve one of their existing questions rather than posting a new one.

If all other options are exhausted, or you suspect bigger issues such as sock-puppets that @Lundin mentioned, flag it and let the moderators handle it.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

When you see something like that, where a deleted question is reposted, and you're reasonably sure about it, flag the post for moderator attention. Provide the username of the first offending question in the flag.

Moderators can see past deleted posts, and in case of repeated questions, they can contact the user and possibly suspend them.

Don't engage directly with the user.

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ On the contrary, given that community moderation is one of the core principles of stack exchange one should most certainly explain the issue to the poster. In fact, when one votes to close a question as a duplicate, a rather boilerplate form of such is posted automatically. It's also important that other users are aware of the issue, for example before they invest effort in responding to a question likely to be closed, and also so that they can review the key technical details in the history of the problem, in the way that such re-posts problematically conceal or leave at a distance. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Dec 7 '20 at 3:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton Certain exceptions, when e.g. a user tries to circumvent certain rules as in this case, should be left to mods, who are, in fact, exception handlers. For two reasons: normal users don't have the full picture of a user's behaviour; and engaging brings inevitably to a long stream of comments, typically more and more unfriendly, which should be avoided in the first place. So, leave it to the mods. \$\endgroup\$ – Massimo Ortolano Dec 7 '20 at 7:11
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ On the contrary, it's community members who are typically aware of these issues as they happen. Diamond moderators are fewer in number, and so not "on the scene" anywhere near as rapidly. The design goal of SE is that the community can handle this itself; if we cannot, we've already lost. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Dec 8 '20 at 5:47
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton The point of flagging such posts is that moderators can not just strongly suspect that someone is cross posting the same thing under a different user name, possibly to dodge bans, they can verify if this is the case. I flagged such a scenario on SO a few days ago and it resulted in various "sock puppet" accounts getting deleted. I did engage with the user trying to be as polite as I could (if one can't, then don't engage indeed). In that case, the poster turned out to have no ill intentions - they were just dim-witted and had an English language barrier on top of that. \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Dec 8 '20 at 10:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton Where do you get the idea that moderators can't do their jobs (not don't, can't) . They are the only ones with the ability to handle situations like this quickly. The only option that the community has is to flag for closing\deletion and that process takes a long time, there isn't enough traffic in the moderation ques to handle things quickly (for all those who read this I invite them to take part in the ques). I notice that there are users on this site who complain a lot and do little or no community moderation. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Dec 14 '20 at 16:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @VoltageSpike About the edit: if the duplicate is deleted, there's no link that can be accessed by <10k. \$\endgroup\$ – Massimo Ortolano Dec 14 '20 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MassimoOrtolano If you have 20k rep you can still see deleted questions and answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Dec 14 '20 at 16:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .