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What is the level of similarity for a question to be judged a duplicate?

If 2 questions are such that you end up with a similar answer does this mean the questions are duplicates:

E.g.

  • Why do planets form into spherical objects? vs
  • Why do soap bubbles form spherical objects?
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I suppose it's subjective (i.e. it's something which we must use our intelligence to decide, machine-like rules can't decide that for us), and so it's something we vote on.

As you know, as a moderator I usually avoid voting to close a question (because my vote isn't a "vote", it's binding), but I will close topic I see as duplicates (and people don't usually complain when I do).

However there are many topics on the site and I don't remember every one: if I don't vote that doesn't mean it's not a duplicate, it may just mean that I haven't noticed that there is a duplicate.

And so I recommend that you vote to close topics which you consider to be duplicates.

In general I'd suggest that topics are identical if they have exactly the same answer ... if one question asks something different then it deserves a different answer, so if they don't deserve different answers maybe they're asking the same thing.


I (personally) don't like to see copy-and-pasted answers (exactly the same answer in more than one topic).

The SE software raises a moderator flag when an answer is copy-and-pasted, so I suppose that SE too doesn't like or is suspicious of copy-and-pasted answers.

Instead of copy-and-pasting an answer it might be better to vote-to-close as duplicate (if you think it is a duplicate); or, post a "see also" comment (if you think it's not quite a duplicate, but so closely related that the OP would be interested in reading an answer that was posted in reply to the previous topic).


This isn't a duplicate IMO:

  • Why do planets form into spherical objects? vs
  • Why do soap bubbles form spherical objects?

They actually have different answers (the first is caused by "gravity" and the second is caused by "surface tension", though both are caused by "minimizing potential energy" or something like that).


On the other had I just closed one of the following two questions as a duplicate:

Does the level of awareness of an awakened buddhist also stay the same event when he sleeps?

But when an enlightened person lives he could be in the present all the time. But when you sleep your conscious/awareness may be different or just disappear.

So does the level of awareness of an enlightened person also change or stay the same even when sleeping.

And:

Do Arhats sleep?

I have read somewhere that Arhats (people who attained Nirvana) do not sleep like normal people do. Instead they just stay calm in a suitable position to give the rest required for the physical body, but their mind is always alert...

Is this true?

I dont see anything that one is asking which the other isn't already asking, furthermore one attracted exactly the same answer as the other.

Conversely, these aren't exact duplicates:


Please read this Help topic: Why are some questions marked as duplicate?

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I think SE thinks duplicate answers are OK.

One thing I want to be clear about, though, is that duplication is not necessarily bad. Quite the contrary -- some duplication is desirable. There’s often benefit to having multiple subtle variants of a question around, as people tend to ask and search using completely different words, and the better our coverage, the better odds people can find the answer they’re looking for. And isn't that, really, the whole point of this exercise?

Furthermore, it's OK for duplicate questions to have duplicate answers. While you could argue that the duplicate questions could all be merged into one question with a "master" set of answers, this is kind of irritating from the perspective of the user looking for an answer. Put yourself in their shoes. Instead of finding ...

Source: Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication


As for the treatment of the following question:

On the other had I just closed one of the following two questions as a duplicate:

Does the level of awareness of an awakened buddhist also stay the same event when he sleeps?

But when an enlightened person lives he could be in the present all the time. But when you sleep your conscious/awareness may be different or just disappear.

So does the level of awareness of an enlightened person also change or stay the same even when sleeping.

And:

Do Arhats sleep?

I have read somewhere that Arhats (people who attained Nirvana) do not sleep like normal people do. Instead they just stay calm in a suitable position to give the rest required for the physical body, but their mind is always alert...

Is this true?

I don't agree with what happened on couple of fronts:

  • The terminology and what exactly being asked does differ significantly to leave it open.
  • I do not agree with the deleting of my answer to this question despite the rational given. I think moderators should be more sensitive to topics of controversy and debate including topics around: on or linked to fallibility of an Arhat, unconscious, subconscious, Luminous mind, but not limited to such topics. Or any other topics which there are variations among schools / lineages or are subjected to debate and disagreement where not everyone holds the same POV. Such questions either should not be closed so all can add their POV or close without answers. In case of answers which are not spam should be allowed especially if it is strongly tied to a specific POV. (My answer in this case represented a POV and I did not want to put more effort than needed.) If it is a closed question with some answers users will get only the POVs represented with no ability to add any more from different schools. If a POV is removed while other remain it will disadvantage the particular school / lineage being represented properly. Having a link in a comment is not a solution if there are other answers as the chances of people going through these links are less than scrolling. Every POV should have a fair chance to be represented, especially there is variations.

I suppose it's subjective (i.e. it's something which we must use our intelligence to decide, machine-like rules can't decide that for us), and so it's something we vote on.

Subjectivity and judgement is double edged sword. If used wisely it is good. But this can also be used as means to justify prejudice, discrimination or furthering one's own agenda or POV or means of censorship or bias.

I (personally) don't like to see copy-and-pasted answers (exactly the same answer in more than one topic).

This is a personal opinion and you should not let personal opinions get into moderation decisions. There may be instance this should be discouraged. There is definitely manpower shortage regarding contribution from Ledi traditions. Once we reach a critical mass of contributors perhaps maybe this can be the case. Until such time there is so much effort one can put.

The SE software raises a moderator flag when an answer is copy-and-pasted, so I suppose that SE too doesn't like or is suspicious of copy-and-pasted answers.

Copy and past maybe spamming. In my case it is not spam. It validly answers the question also. Since there are answers I believe it should be open and my answer also represented.

Instead of copy-and-pasting an answer it might be better to vote-to-close as duplicate

This is sufficiently different. Also depending on the topic as noted before I do not feel this is in some cases the best action when there are answers or incase there no enough close voted where your close vote will close the question before answers.

  • It says that "multiple subtle variants" is tolerated in a question, and that we shouldn't try to combine "semi-related" questions. But when I see an "exact" duplicate then I'll close it. Or if I see a difference (in the question) then I'll post a different answer. – ChrisW Apr 30 '16 at 10:37
  • The post does not mention it cannot be an exact duplicate. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Apr 30 '16 at 10:49
  • "please continue to close and merge duplicates as you see fit" – ChrisW Apr 30 '16 at 10:50
  • Duplicate Answer Flag and How should one respond to “duplicate answer” flags? and similar say it's OK to post duplicate answers to different (similar but non-duplicate) questions ... but that duplicate answers are a warning that the question might be an exact duplicate. – ChrisW Apr 30 '16 at 10:52
  • These are waning but does not mean duplicated. The question is sufficiently different. Any way I do not see the rationale of deleting the answer and it will be helpful if someone does not visit the other question since it already has an answer. In which case recreate this answer in the other question and delete it also. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Apr 30 '16 at 10:55
  • What's the difference between the two questions? In what way are the two questions different? – ChrisW Apr 30 '16 at 15:02
  • This question asks the level of awareness/conciousness of an Arhat and this asks if Arhats Sleep. In this observes that awareness of a normal person drops to nothing during sleep asks if it chages in the case of an Arhat regardless of whther an Arhath speels or not. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Apr 30 '16 at 17:48
  • Do Arhats sleep? is also asking whether "their mind is always alert", which I think is the same as Does the level of awareness of an awakened buddhist also stay the same event when he sleeps? which asks whether "conscious/awareness may be different or just disappear" during sleep. I don't see any difference between those two questions. – ChrisW Apr 30 '16 at 18:01
  • One is asking if is black or white and the other is asking if it pure black or can it be slightly off black or gray. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena May 1 '16 at 1:47
  • With regard to deleted answer of mine it is best all answer are deleted it you want to keep this close. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena May 1 '16 at 1:49
  • I feel the question should be left open with my answer also. If you are adamant always what you way or no other way, then at least either delete the other answer or if possible migrate to the other thread. You are inadvertently disfavoring one tradition over the other through your moderation action. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena May 1 '16 at 1:52
  • I still don't see a difference (so I won't reopen immediately), but I'll wait a bit and if any more people vote to reopen it then I'll reopen it, otherwise I'll leave it close but merge the answers. Thank you for pointing out that answers can be merged, I've never previously done that and had forgotten or never knew that feature existed (instead I imagined, mistakenly, that when questions are linked by comments then people would read both answers). – ChrisW May 1 '16 at 8:32
  • Also IMO this example was a better way to answer than to copy-and-paste your previous answer: because it links to your previous answer but also links to the other answers on that similar (almost-duplicate) topic. – ChrisW May 1 '16 at 8:35
  • This site being small and number of hits on a page is small with the users having the ability to cast reopen votes (500) are small this is an indirect way to get what you want. You should very well know that the cases are next to nothing. So I reiterate my position, there should be no answers if the question remains closed and open if answers are retained. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena May 1 '16 at 8:38
  • Since you think it's important, please remind me next week, so that other people have an opportunity (between now and then) to participate in the decision if they want to. – ChrisW May 1 '16 at 8:42

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