We get all kinds of questions that are closed as duplicates because they have already been asked here at the site. We also get many questions that are closed as off topic, typically because they are shopping questions or about video.

Quite often before the question gets closed as either a duplicate or off topic, great answers also get added.

  • Should I upvote these answers even when I vote to close the question?
  • Should the reputation of the answerer be considered?
  • Should anything else be taken into account such as the votes to close already, the time that the question has been open, or how obvious it is that it will be closed?

My main problem is that I often see great answers by high reputation users, to questions that are obviously duplicates. Often times these answers do not get merged with the existing questions by the moderators and thus the great answers are kind of left to rot on the soon to be closed question.

I would much prefer someone that knows how the site works(high rep indicates that), add an answer to the question that is being duplicated so the site stays cleaner and has less fragmented answers. I don't want to encourage adding a new answer on a duplicate question. So I am often hesitant to vote up any answers on something I also vote to close.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you flag the duplicates to be merged? This way the great answers can go to the "master" question... \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2013 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RowlandShaw - Yes I understand, I do flag them. That doesn't always happen though which yes could be the root of my issue. I'm not a mod so maybe I just don't understand that process enough of why sometimes they get merged and other times they do not. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Nov 27, 2013 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


So, questions that are duplicate are one of the ones I think it would make sense, because these become merge candidates. That's presuming the user hasn't answered twice, which has happened here before. In one case, where that happened, the merge still went through, but then I deleted the lowest scoring duplicate answer and they lost some potential earned rep as a result. Bad habit on their part.

For ones that get closed for other reasons, it actually prevents the asker from deleting the question in response to the closure as there's then one answer with a positive vote. It's also the reason that, on some of the Stack sites, moderators will delete answers to closed questions, mostly to discourage the answering of something off topic, and that will result in the rep being lost.

In terms of merging, in general, we don't always automatically do it. Sometimes the new answer is basically the same as an existing answer and so doesn't actually warrant a merge since nothing new is added. Other times it is good to have the community weigh in a little before merging. As Rowland noted, if you see ones that you think should merge, flag it as it is also possible that none of us have actually looked at the closed question...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much. I was hoping that a mod or someone with mod experience would weigh in. Can you summarize your recommendation? I'll try here: 1.If it is likely a duplicate; vote on the answers 2.If it likely will be closed for as a non-duplicate; don't vote on the answers 3.Flag items you think are good merge candidates(add new content) \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Nov 27, 2013 at 18:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt - That's a good summary I think. Though, in terms of point 1, check the duplicate first, answer may already be there as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Nov 27, 2013 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with everything Joanne has said. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Nov 28, 2013 at 1:07

Weighing in as a high rep user that does frequently answer questions that are either a) off topic or b) possibly duplicate, there are a few different reasons.

For questions which are off topic for all SE sites, I advocate not voting up answers even if they are good. They are unrelated to the site and shouldn't be a source of reputation. I will sometimes answer an off topic question if it is just barely off topic or if I can provide quick assistance to someone who is in a bit of a bind, however it isn't why the site is here. I actually often vote to close a question while also answering it for this reason.

For questions which are off topic just for photography, I will vote to close and mention the site it fits on. I answer the question anyway and upvotes make sense because it will help the question get a solid start after being migrated to the correct site (answers and votes will follow it over). I almost always answer these if I can because it will be useful upon migration.

Possible duplicates have a few different situations as well. In some cases, I believe it is a duplicate and will vote to close as duplicate but may answer because there is some slight difference in the question that may not merit its own question, however some further clarification may be needed to lead in to the slight differences on the dupe. In this case, I will try to include the necessary primer in an answer and will fill it out a little for completeness. I don't think these need up votes because they are more or less comments that point out the answer.

Another situation is that I disagree with the duplicate, this is a step further than the previous, where instead of thinking it doesn't merit its own question, I instead think that it is different enough in some way to merit its own question. I'll generally try to emphasize that difference when answering and will often make a comment as well as to why it shouldn't be closed as duplicate.

The third category is simply that I'm unaware of a duplicate. I don't often go searching for duplicates when answering questions unless I recall having seen similar before. If that is the case, then I'll write a full answer and hope that it gets merged when closed as duplicate.

I guess a final minor category is on simple questions I may post a quick answer to be helpful even though there is a duplicate that speaks to it. This is often to give a quick response rather than having them have to sift through multiple responses and I don't expect up votes on it because it isn't an answer with any substance, it is just a quick assist to help them in the right direction.

I also tend to answer on the new question if there isn't a good answer on the old, but I suppose that is probably a practice I should alter. It isn't however always clear which of several possibilities will be selected as the duplicate.

I suppose what that all comes down to is that if the answer provides a substantial answer for a question that is on-topic somewhere on SE and it is not a duplicate of an answer that that answerer has already provided, then I think it merits an upvote. If it is a quick and dirty answer just to give a direction to go in and/or is not on topic for any SE, then it should be left alone.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Mods are asking other mods about migrating. I would not assume that a question will be migrated, these are not that common because a lot of newbie questions are often answered on the other site or are also off topic there too (e.g. shopping for a vid cam isn't going to get better traction). Also, some ask on several sites. Net effect, it's been quite a while since I've done a migration. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Nov 28, 2013 at 1:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC: Regardless of if it ends up migrated or not, it will be helpful if it is. Normally I only do an answer on those if I am a high rep user on the recommended target site and I can tell if it fits or not. It doesn't always happen, but then there is still a good answer with a closed question unless we decide to delete the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson Mod
    Nov 28, 2013 at 3:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ It encourages people to knowingly ask off topic questions on the site under the belief that they'll still get what they want. That is starting to be handled by mods with answer deletion, primarily to discourage this very behavior, but mod messages and suspensions can also arise if it continues. Read: Should one downvote answers to off-topic questions? for some more info. This is not desired behaviour. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Nov 28, 2013 at 3:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's fair and makes sense on big sites like SO where someone could repeatedly ask off topic questions and not be noticed, but on Photo, it's easy enough for anyone active to see if someone is consistently asking off topic questions. I guess I have a philosophy that the first time it is off topic is them learning, the second time is them abusing. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson Mod
    Nov 28, 2013 at 5:12

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