# Is it appropriate to close a question as a duplicate of a newer question?

When I opened the close review queue, I was presented with this question on viewing the past. Since I didn't recall seeing the question before, I checked the date and saw it was a year old. The is-a-duplicate comment was from today, so I checked the date on the proposed duplicate: 6 days ago, 13 months later.

While it could be argued one question is a duplicate of the other, should the older question be the duplicate?

• Additional context. The newer question was closed as a duplicate of the older question! The new one got re-opened, and now the older one is being closed. Seems silly. The newer one is clearly the dupe, don't know how it got re-opened. – kingledion Sep 11 at 16:14
• @kingledion That's what confused the hell out of me with it too, I VTCd the new question on the first round so I thought it had come back around I didn't realise it was reversed until I saw this thread. – Ash Sep 11 at 17:19

I'm going to disagree with Ash, as well as quite possibly others, here.

To me, an older question can be a duplicate of a newer question. It's not a given that the newer question must be the one to be marked as a duplicate of the older one.

Specifically, one situation in which an older question can plausibly be a duplicate of a newer one is when the newer question is significantly better in some reasonably objective manner.

Normally the newer question will be a duplicate of the older question, because the older question existed when the newer question was composed and posted. However, pretty much the purpose of duplicates being marked as such is to:

• serve as signposts, allowing people to find existing answers to very similar or outright identical questions
• reduce duplication of effort in answering

If the newer question is better posed, has better answers, and is better received (for one way to judge that, look at the ratio of question votes to question views), it's not entirely unreasonable to mark the older question as a duplicate of the newer one, rather than the other way around.

While marking as duplicate is intended to help the OP, it's also intended to help the community as well as later visitors. If marking as duplicate in one direction is likely to be significantly more helpful than doing so in the other direction, then go ahead and break with tradition if doing so is likely to be more helpful in the long run.

• I'm inclined to agree, but in theory should this not be the exception and not the rule? maybe this should just add incentive to review VTC as duplicate more carefully??? – Blade Wraith Sep 12 at 11:35
• @BladeWraith I'm not sure what you mean to say; could you clarify? I did write that "Normally the newer question will be a duplicate of the older question", so the older question being a duplicate of the newer question would be the exception. My answer discusses why the newer question might not be a duplicate of the older question, but rather the other way around. – a CVn Sep 12 at 11:57
• Apologies, i was agreeing with you but didn't put my comment well, just wanted to add it was worth using this as an example that we all need to look at the circumstances of duplicate VTCs carefully – Blade Wraith Sep 12 at 12:18
• I fully disagreed with this answer until signposts was mentioned - suddenly this answer makes perfect sense & my own 'closed as duplicate' questions hold far more value to me than before. – RozzA Sep 16 at 21:53
• @RozzA Closure is not meant as punishment. Closing as a duplicate even less so. Essentially, closing as duplicate says "we have answered this question elsewhere on the site, and you can find the answers [here]" for some value of "here". If, in your opinion, the two questions are different, then it's up to you (as the person asking the question) to highlight the ways in which they differ. I'm pretty sure the "this question has been proposed as a duplicate" notification on the question says as much, but it's been a while since I saw that one myself. – a CVn Sep 17 at 7:09
• This answer is the canonical one to this question (one newer question can put duplicate stigma on an older one, although this rarely happens in practice). However, this is a matter of luck - if enough reviewers are there to check the new question, it might be closed first even if it seems better (since they are fast, there is no time for good answers to pile up). – Alexei Sep 17 at 18:49
• @MichaelKjörling - while your argument is valid, it certainly may feel like a punishment: good questions counter is decreased (for certain badges) and it might also increase some counter for bad questions (that might get an account suspended for asking questions). And the first user to ask the question has basically done anything wrong. – Alexei Sep 17 at 18:54

The general Stack Exchange answer is that the best question should be the duplicate target. That means that in some cases an inferior old question will be closed as a duplicate of a superior new question.

Remember, the goal of Stack Exchange is to create a canonical set of questions and answers. You don't get a canonical set by closing better questions in favor of worse questions.

Similar meta discussions:

• It's not always about the questions. Answers do count too. In other words, a really good question should not be the duplicate target of another question with better answers IMO – polfosol Sep 18 at 11:39

The newer question should always be the duplicate, I got caught out here, and VTCd because I knew the newer question was put on the review queue as a duplicate some time last week. I thought the newbie had been then put back on the list, obviously I was wrong, I've retracted my vote accordingly.

I think new question should never be closed cause too similar to other older question cause if it is question about something that can change. It is like closing on sports forum question from 2018 which asks: (who won NBA League this year?) just because somebody asked that identical question for two years ago year.

• I don't think we have many such questions on Worldbuilding, but that's an easy fix; just edit the specific year into the question. I've made that kind of edits on various occasions on different sites in the network where a question asked about "current" something and it was obvious at the time what was referred to, but might not be some years into the future. – a CVn Sep 24 at 17:48