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Setting a question as Accepted means some kind of approval from the OP, "this answer's particular way of explaining things clarified the question for me." AFAIK, even if you have a zillion rep, you cannot mark an answer as Accepted on the OP's behalf, the OP has total subjective power. However, moderators or high-ranked users might decide that the question is a duplicate of another question, which implies that the other question's Accepted answer, if there is one, is announced as being the answer which also clarifies the issue for the OP. Even if it doesn't.

I see this as slightly problematic, because each person seems to have a different view to music, and learning music is a long and subjective process. If a question doesn't happen to be a "duplicate", then people keep trying to find ways to describe something so that it explains the issue for this particular person, who gets to decide whether they get it or not. OP is the king there. But if the question is said to be a duplicate, the OP is given some material, like "here's information, take it and go away."

Shouldn't the OP get to decide whether a question is the same as another one? Or is the OP supposed to edit the question so that it looks different, to keep it open? That's problematic too, because very often if someone has a question about music, they're not experts, and they cannot even write a proper specific question.

Stack Overflow was designed to replace the highly annoying Experts-Exchange site - a goal which it indeed totally accomplished - but does this mean that Music StackExchange is actually deep down designed to be an "experts exchange" site as well? The mechanism starts to cough up when the OP is not an expert? Or let's say, the system is not good for handling the most common case.

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  • Good points. If the answers in a dupe don't solve it for the OP, then it may be worth giving the new question an airing. It may well be that the original question is old and forgotten, so with a new airing may spawn new contributions.
    – Tim
    Feb 17 at 17:15
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I want to start of by saying the OP already has a lot of power when it comes to their own question. You've already mentioned accepted answer ability which only the OP can do. They also do have power to agree with a duplicate and close their own question which is gives them access to the close privilege when they may not have it. Likewise no matter their rep they can comment on any post to their question which while not a hard privilege to get, it is something a new user coming in will not have.

With all of this in mind, we do have to keep in mind the long term goal of the site which is to build a library of questions and answers to music practice and theory questions. If we don't take care of our consent it gets unwieldy and harder for people to use when coming to and looking for an answer on the site. Finding and closing questions as duplicates along with editing a question to make it findable should be very much part of what we do to help with this. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this, but I do feel like we answer the same handful of questions over and over again which is not only tiresome, but can also lead to the same question getting drastically maybe even orthogonal answers to question that are highly voted and at odds with each other.

So now we get to the core of your question. Since the OP can already agree with the close as a duplicate, let's focus on when they don't agree with the community. I do think we should close things that we view as duplicates, but we should be very willing to work with the OP if they don't think it should be one. Through editing and asking more in depth questions about what the OP wants we should be able to get the OP a new answer to a more refined question.

We've had recent examples of this with time signature related questions. One of our early questions which we answered a bunch and is the common canonical question for duplicates is the difference between 3/4 and 6/8. We have gotten recent questions that focused more on the gap of knowledge that is not understanding the denominator of the time signatures. Looking at question in a different light an get a new question that has not been directly answered, but has been tip toed around and may be the OP's actual question.

Now I know this is not easy and we'll all need to put in a bit more work, I do think it is the path we should go down rather than just allowing the same questions because the OP does not agree with the question being a duplicate.

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  • Maybe it should be possible to record the OP's differing opinion on the closing of a question as a duplicate, and if the claimed duplicate actually helped them understand and solve the problem or whatever they were asking about. :) When a question is answered and the answer was accepted, I think like, nice that this person learned something. But when a question is closed as a duplicate, I can't help thinking, what happened to the OP after that. Dec 24 '20 at 17:33
  • I thought anyone could close their own question. Isn't it a matter of deleting all the words in edit?
    – Tim
    Feb 17 at 17:17
  • @Tim they can if they have the permission, but for duplicates specifically if someone suggests it's a duplicate you have the option to agree and close it which does not happen in any other scenario if you not have the vote to close privilege.
    – Dom Mod
    Feb 17 at 20:03
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The following are my opinions, and may or may not be representative of the will of the community or moderation team:

"the original question's Accepted answer, if there is one, is announced as being the answer which also clarifies the issue for the [poster of the duplicate question] [...] I see this as slightly problematic"

I think you're correct that the duplicate poster does end up losing their right to indicate their accepted answer, and that this is perhaps not ideal. But I would also tend to argue that it's more important for the original poster to have the right to accept an arbitrary answer on their question than it is for a user who posts a duplicate to get that same right on somebody else's original question. I don't think overriding an original question's accepted answer is the way to go. But should the dupe poster retain any input on their answer preference?

I acknowledge that asking original questions can be difficult; Stack Exchange is a large place, and even after careful searching it's still possible to unwittingly post something that's been answered or almost completely covered before.

Would it be possible and worthwhile to find a way to allow posters of duplicate questions to indicate the answer they would accept from the original? Keeping in mind that anyone finding their question marked as a dupe can still comment, up/down-vote, or award bounties (via privileges) on the original. These options already exist and can be outlets to express a preferred answer.

I still am not totally satisfied with the "here's existing info, take this and leave" message we may seem to give off from the current duplication function. But combing duplicates out of the site is a priority, and with that comes an implied principle that duplicate questions do not deserve to remain on the site. By that logic, it makes sense that dupe posters don't have input on the existing original question. Again, that's maybe not the friendliest way to handle new posters who were asking about things in good faith, but we have to get rid of duplicates and thus we can't worry too much about giving specific answers to each individual who asks about topics that have already been covered. As a site, I think we're trading off some of the personalized nature of interaction and individually-tailored answers in the name of a tidier database with fewer, higher-quality answers to each question.


Regarding the subjective nature of marking things as duplicates, it can be tricky to tell sometimes whether two questions are the same. Sometimes, they will be about the same topic, but will yield two valuable and different sets of answers. Or one question encompasses the other, but the narrower one gives a more precise answer with unique info where the more general question may be lacking specific details in its answers. Occasionally, two questions may be superficially dissimilar, but the answer to one serves perfectly as the answer to the other. And it's not uncommon for the duplicate poster to disagree with those who voted. Luckily, there is recourse available. When this happens to me as a question asker, I try to do a couple of things:

  • Look for existing info on the site about the topic before I write my question, see if I've already been answered.
  • If I found some questions discussing a similar subject, I might try to head off dupe votes before they occur by mentioning the earlier question and why I think my question is different enough to remain open.
  • If the vote already occurred, I might edit it to make the existing differences more clear (or simply to rewrite it in a way that makes it a unique question, if it turns out they were in fact too similar as written) and explain in the same way I did for the above case. Editing the question will also put it into the Reopen review queue, if I remember correctly, and leaving a comment explaining your stance surely never hurts.
  • If there's cause to do so, I might perhaps take my case up on Meta. Duplicate questions can be fairly subjective, so sometimes it's nice to get a more detailed explanation and/or a variety of reasons why your question is a duplicate.
  • And sometimes you just gotta give up, too. It very well may be the case that no one here agrees with you or believes that your question is different enough, and sometimes I just try to have some blind faith in the idea that my question being closed by the community is making the site a better place, even if I may not understand how or why!
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    When I think about this, it all comes down to the fact that the site format works well for professionals and nerds, but not for novices and non-nerds. On Stack Overflow, the mix is perfect because coding is a profession for geeks. But when it comes to music, IMO most people with questions really need a personal tutor, interactions and persistent training, not a catalog of information. Someone who keeps them trying, gives insights, goals and occasionally adjusts the heading. Dec 25 '20 at 12:55

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