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I am not sure how I can ask for help with this other than here, although I realised I've asked related questions in the last couple of days on meta: sorry.

There are currently a pair of questions which are clearly effective duplicates of each other:

The first question was asked by someone who clearly believes in various conspiracy theories, for instance see their comment to this answer which I'll preserve here in case it gets deleted:

The documentary "Astronauts Gone Wild" (2004) by Bart Sibrel, (see: archive.org/details/AstronautsGoneWild) convinced me that the Moon manned missions were not real. The technology necessary for putting people on the Moon and bringing them back to Earth does not exist.

This question was closed a few days ago, at which point I asked (and answered) the second in order that good answers (not just my answer which may or may not be good) would not be effectively lost on closed questions.

It's since been reopened. However I think it's extremely unlikely that the person who asked the question will ever accept any answer, or at least any answer which is correct.

I think accepted answers are useful because they are partial proxies for correct answers (although whether that's true for A2A questions I am not so sure).

But I also think duplicates are not good: one of these questions should be closed, but I can't work out which I should vote to close (or actually close in the case of my question).

What's the right thing to do here? It would be nice if there was a definitive answer for cases like this, as I'm sure they've happened before and will happen again, given space attracts conspiracy theorists.


A note on accepted answers and closed questions. Above I said that answers to closed questions were 'lost' (now changed to 'effectively lost'). I realise that these answers still exist. But the way I (and I suspect others) use the site is to treat a closed question as one which has effectively failed peer-review: I am much less likely to look at answers to closed questions than to ones which have not been closed. A similar thing applies to questions which do not have accepted answers: a non-closed question with an accepted, answer with plenty of votes is by far the most likely thing to attract attention. And it's clear that in this case the original quetion will almost certainly never have an accepted answer.


Finally, just to be clear: I'm not doing this because I want the karma: I'm doing it because I want the site to be as good as it can be. I'd be completely happy to reattach my answer to yet another question and close mine as a duplicate of that question. Or for that matter to turn my answer into a community wiki if that's better, or whatever is deemed best for the site.

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  • $\begingroup$ See my comment below. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 4 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ Answers aren't "lost" on closed questions. And it didn't even stay closed for long! Did you consider the option of just deleting the new question? $\endgroup$ – curiousdannii Mar 4 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ @curiousdannii: you are correct of course. But (see my added note) closed questions are effectively questions which have failed peer review, and I (and I bet most people) tend not to look at answers to them. A similar thing applies to questions which don't have accepted answers, which the original one almost certainly never will. $\endgroup$ – tfb Mar 4 at 11:54
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If the community determines the questions are true duplicates, then they can close the older one as a duplicate of yours. There is no rule that prevents this. We just usually close newer ones because the topic has already been dealt with appropriately, but if your question is more likely to attract good answers than the other it makes more sense to close the older one as a duplicate of yours.

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  • $\begingroup$ ex post facto mea culpa: I'd advised to post the new question, though the new question had already been posted before I'd answered. Now the old question is reopened. I'd said "we usually try to salvage the question rather than post a new version; that's the norm. But there can certainly be exceptions..." I wonder if this is a good candidate for merging since the answer on the newer one is really good and should have high visibility alongside the answers on the older one? Or perhaps now it's open they can just copy/paste it there? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 4 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ Merging would be complicated now since it would result in duplicate answers. I'll take a look at it tomorrow (in 13 hrs or so). $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Mar 4 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ oh I see; I didn't realize it before, the new answer is essentially identical to the old answer. Oh, in this case (at)tfb can just make one good answer on the old question via copy/paste. ya, no merge is necessary, never mind? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 4 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ The answer is essentially a duplicate yes. I am going to nuke my version of the question because am just exhausted by the whole process. I think it's very unsatisfactory that we'll be left with a question asked by a conspiracy theorist (whose account seems now to have been suspended) which will probably never have an accepted answer but, well, like I say, I'm too exhausted to fight such people now. $\endgroup$ – tfb Mar 4 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @tfb I'm sorry your experience was bad in this case. I recommend next time coming to meta first, before creating the new question. That way we can come to a consensus on what to do first and we don't have people editing and reopening the bad question while your question is getting good attention. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Mar 4 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage: I did. That's one of the reasons it's so frustrating. OK, the case I asked about wasn't quite the same as I hadn't yet posted the answer for that one, but it was similar (in particular it was the same conspiratory-theory person). Well. $\endgroup$ – tfb Mar 5 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @tfb I understand your frustration, but I really mean ask specifically for each question, not the general case. Doing that and linking to it on the question gives people a chance to see it to help prevent confusion. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Mar 5 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage: OK, I can see why that's the right thing. It also means that I just won't spend time on it: the barrier to helping in this case is high enough that I'm unwilling to climb it. Which is also fine: lots of other people are willing to climb it and many of them will have better answers than me. $\endgroup$ – tfb Mar 5 at 12:36

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