Human creativity, while extremely powerful, is not infinite; we are bound by our inspirations and our extent in time, so that even all the ideas in the world can be noted down upon a finite sheet

Our ability to distinguish is further limited, as many of our ideas are functionally identical in our mind, so as to even further curtail our creative power

Language compresses creativity even more, with dizzying arrays of diversity in all areas being constantly crunched together into single words, in a constriction so deep that no amount of description can open it up

However, despite all these obvious limitations on our creativity, some people seem to expect that every last question will be entirely distinct and uncommon. For example, take this question, which was closed as a duplicate because both questions involve increasing the size of creatures and the traits asked about both originate in the same phylum. Another example is this question, in which a close vote has been issued because both questions involve herbivores that could be described as fanged, in spite of the fact that both creatures were entirely different in the nature and usage of the 'fangs'. This question goes even further, with the closure seeming to simply be because both questions involve creatures that might be called giants. Looking at these examples, it seems as if finding duplicates is a word-matching game, where people are shouting duplicate once they've found two (or sometimes even one) word associations between different questions

A duplicate should be considered as a question that is wholly redundant, which cannot have answers that couldn't be applied just as well to the question it duplicates. It is not for shallow similarities

  • $\begingroup$ While I think the spider example is tricky, the other twos are quite good examples of this behavior. I've voted to reopen the gigantes question. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2022 at 10:44

2 Answers 2


On the Contrary!

Query 1: I voted to close you version of the underlying question because it asks essentially the same thing as the earlier version. You provide a lot of creature specific details. The details are interesting, but don't really affect the question itself. The question itself is essentially "can I have a really big spider"?

The other query doesn't provide many creature specific details. The question has its own array of problems, particularly its lack of focus. I voted to close it for that reason. One of the questions the earlier OP asks is essentially "can I have a big lobster".

Six of one half dozen of the other: you asked your question after the other one, so it's yours that gets closed for being a duplicate.

Query 2: I agree with you 100% --- this one is not a duplicate because neither question addresses the same specific, or even general, set of phenomena.

Query 3: This question is also not a duplicate, but it is far more problematic than either 1 or 2.

Problems: The closed query really doesn't have a worldbuilding problem associated with it. I read it as a question of idle curiosity. The query is a yes/no (and thus opinion based) question. The OP doesn't seem to know exactly what subject matter he's even asking about: the marquee indicates giants; the image seems to depict tritons; the query body speaks of snake legged people, those are anguipeds.

If this question gets reopened without being seriously edited, I'd vote to close it again.

Conclusion: What makes one query a duplicate of another is exactly and precisely the points they have in common! If two queries have every point in common then they are identical questions; if they have sufficient substantial points in common then they are duplicate questions; if they have no substantial points in common at all then they are not duplicate questions at all.

Take the spider questions: your question has a lot of points that the other question lacks (points that describe the creature you have in mind); however, both questions share one substantial point in common, and that point is they both ask the same question.

A duplicate should be considered as a question that is wholly redundant, which cannot have answers that couldn't be applied just as well to the question it duplicates. It is not for shallow similarities.

I couldn't have said this better myself!

  • $\begingroup$ 1. So is this a spider now? Or what about this? 2. Why does something being shaped like a 'spider' automatically mean it must be one? Is this an elephant? 3. Why is it so impossible that a 'spider' might have multiple obstacles to a large size? Could a moss grow to be a tree by just giving it vasculature? $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing It depends on context. If I ask "how large can a red arachnid get?" and "What is the maximum size of a green spider?" I'm asking duplicate questions because despite one asking about mass, and one asking about size, and one asking about a red arachnid and the other asking about a green spider, they're substantially similar, in the context of questions on this site. If an existing question doesn't answer your specific needs it's up to you as the question writer to differentiate it from existing questions. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 27, 2022 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings What if, in your example, the first question was mainly concerned with the sensory legs and their positions? How would the spider question be a duplicate in that case? $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ I've only hinted right now, but in what a "Yes/no" question is necessarily opinion-based? If it's set on purely aesthetical criteria (no best answer can be decided between yes and no), yes, most likely it is, but in the case of putting something under real-world constraints... $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing It depends. On whether contextually the two questions are substantially similar within the context of this site. With the exception of hyper simplified examples like those I shared above it's hard to have a meaningful analysis within the comments. If you want clarification about a specific question, try asking a meta question about it. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 27, 2022 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing --- 1. Pretty much. 2. Yep. You're confusing "the real thing" as a case of some specific iteration of spiderhood, such as a black widow or a wolf or a tarantula with "a metaphorical type" in which spider stands in for anything whose physiological manifestation is sufficiently spiderlike, such as the creatures you and the other OP describe. 2a. No, that's a shrubbery. Here you're mistaking visual impression with inner substance. 3. Spiders may very well have multiple obstacles to large size. You, however, have no obstacle to asking those (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing --- (cont) questions. So long as your queries aren't duplicates. 5. Why don't you ask that question on Main? We've got anemones evolving into trees so why not mosses? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas 2. So if by 'spider' you don't actually mean actual spiders, why do the qualities of actual spiders (beyond what I've mentioned) matter in any way to my question? 2a. What exactly is the difference between visual similarity and inner substance, besides size and position? $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing --- 2. By "spider" I mean any creature that fits the general description of the query being asked within the context of that question and the question being considered as the original of this supposed duplicate. In other words, "spiders" are irrelevant to the discussion. What's relevant is how congruent your question is with the other one. 2a. Did you look at the picture you linked to? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas 2. If it is simply congruence between the questions, then there is no rational at all for the closure, given that these two questions are about creatures with no described commonalities that are more different that a cockroach and an anteater $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing The standard is substantially similar. As the person asking the question if you're going to stray close to another question you need to show us in the text of the question how your new post is substantially different. If you can't write a question that is sufficiently different enough to convince people to not flag as a duplicate and VTC then you should probably be asking a different question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 27, 2022 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing -- Oh, but I can! The reason is quite simple: they are functionally identical within the context of the questions being asked. I don't know what a riverside loan is. Are you perhaps confusing the specific for the general? In this case, the earlier general question trumps your later specific question because you're not actually adding anything new or sufficiently different. When you do this, you risk getting closed. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing Apparently not in a way that was distinct to save the question from closure. You can keep saying "But it's different", but just like in the comments of the question you aren't convincing anyone by repeating that line. If you're just going to repeat that line without listening to the concerns being raised and attempting to address them the question is doomed to remain closed. Perhaps try editing the question instead of arguing in the comments. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 27, 2022 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing You should edit the question until that is a relevant distinction to the question. Blue is not red but the distinction isn't relevance when asking "how large can a spider get" $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 28, 2022 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe try asking "Is x contributing factor for spider maximum size?" $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 28, 2022 at 0:06

More than saying "yes" or "no", I'd like to explain more the difficulties when looking for duplicates. Knowing them should already help in making better analysis and closure reasons.

Comparison threshold

In order to tell if a question is a duplicate, we have to, on a global and atomic point, check that two elements are equal in nature and meaning.

Indeed, at which point do we consider two elements as equivalent or/and leading to the same answers? Would you consider these questions as duplicates :

  1. What is the maximum size the snakebot of Doom can reach?
  2. What is the maximum width the snakebot of Doom can reach?
  3. What is the maximum size the snakebot of Doom offsprings can be at birth?
  4. What is the maximum size the snakebot of Doom's fangs can reach?
  5. What is the size of the snakebot of Doom's blanket to cover it nicely?
  6. What is the best diet for the snakebot of Doom?

I think that's an interesting exercise, to see how many questions you would mark as duplicates to other ones. Comparing the first sentence to others, (2) is very similar in nature. Others are talking about subsets of the question, like (3) and (4). On its side (5) talks about something dependent of (1). And (6)... Well there's not much similarities with others besides having a snakebot.

The results will be highly dependent of one's perception and knowledge about the topic. For instance, (1) and (2) are most likely to be marked as duplicates, having only one very similar word in difference. But taking another look, size means generally volume, or length+width+height or roughly length+width for snakes, while width is... width. For this snakebot, is width (mostly) equivalent to size? In other words, could there be an ultra-large snakebot that is much smaller in size than the biggest imagineable snakebot in volume? If it can exist, are the two questions really equivalent then?

Not that I'm saying they're objectively equal or not. I'm no snakebot of doom expert, and like I said it's all relative to one's point of view. Anyhow, point is that something that seems identical could be different under another prism, and that's partially what makes the job of marking a question as duplicate hard. That and...

Simplification and rewording

The most important one in my opinion is simplification, something that encompasses every closure rationale, but 'specially duplicates. As you try to understand the question, you have to make a picture of it in your head. It also fills in the missing pieces so you can compare the two end puzzle you've made.

On top of this, you have to simplify things in order to compare at some point. Indeed, if we take back the question (1) and (2) about snakebot size and width, word-by-word they're different, but essentially they are asking about the same thing (a measurement of distance about the same creature).

That's, I believe, the issues that your sample questions faced. Because of the way the questions are stated or because how people perceived them and turned them around, some duplicates could be found. Alendyias question about herbivorous fangs is a good example of this : The meaning of the question got distorted under the review lense, and because two questions are asking about herbivorous and fangs, they looked like they're under the same sun.

Duplicate checking time

It takes more time to check for duplicates than any other reasons, simply because you not only have to read one question, but two or more.

This synergize very badly with simplification and rewording. The more time passes, the more you can forget what the original question was about, or what one of the possible duplicate was about. Your puzzles get deformed, and some pieces of one can be found on the other, making them more easily look alike.

And the more the possible duplicates there are, the harder it is to juggle with them all.


Checking for duplicates is probably the most arduous task if we were to count time and complexity together. That's why it's easy to become lost in it and make mistakes. Or not! Remember that it all boils down to comparing things, and this comparison is set on subjective criteria. If your question is being closed for being a duplicate of another one, focus on the points that make your question stand out. If you're asking about a spider's max size and there's already one about crustacean max size, turn it around and focus on the issues that crustaceans don't have, like how such big and many eyes can be arranged on your spider's head. The more detailed you go and argue, editing the question to match these precisions, the more chances the differences will be seen by the other party.

  • $\begingroup$ The exercise is interesting: are those six questions posed in chronological order? Order does make a difference! 3 through 6 are obviously non-duplicate, as they ask about things other than specifically size. I'd argue that if Q2 were asked first, Q1 would not be a duplicate because it completes the phenomena being discusses: it asks about all dimensions, not just one. If Q1 came first, I'd close Q2 as a duplicate because its answer is subsumed within Q1. Some of the other queries relate to size, but creature size is not their focus. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas They're in chronological order... Of when I thought them. I think if we had to put an order, it would be the first compared to others, but I also think that questions can be more or less grouped in sets when looking for duplicates, making order less important. A bit (though not exactly) like if X=Y and Y=Z, then X=Z. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Okay. In that case, I'd VTC Q2 for being a substantial duplicate as Q1 ought to deal with width as a fundamental aspect of overall "size". To continue: I'd be scrutinising Qs3 & 4 for good descriptions of anatomy, as those are good queries; Q5 is purely opinion based, so that's an autoclose; Q6 again is a good query but would need some good background. Qs 3, 4, & 6 follow from Q1 but are obviously not duplicates. Specific knowledge of snakebots is not required, just common sense. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Re your conclusion, while I'm generally not adverse to using clever verbiage to bypass SE rules or even WB customs, I also think personal honour and public ethics plays a large role as well. If one's query about big spiders gets closed because someone already asked about big lobsters --- the better part of valour is simply not to bitch about it. This time someone found that you'd written a duplicate and you got caught. No worries! For the purpose of the query, lobster = spider. Move on and ask another question! Just make sure it's not already been asked! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas That's not that easy; If a query has the potential to not be a duplicate, asking a new question about it will often times get closed even quicker than the first, especially when following your duplicate closure rationale. That's why I won't republish a new question about Greek Giants, even if under the prism of legs instead of size. Now you can always ask an entirely different question, but that leaves the problem, your problem unattended. I don't see this as a peculiarly successful result, personally and community-wise. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2022 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ Sure --- if a question has the potential to not be a duplicate, then I'd advocate for the OP to edit it. I only recommended asking a new question because you yourself took the time to edit the hell out of that giant question! Since that question doesn't actually ask anything, there's no reason you couldn't cannibalise some interesting parts and make a good query out of it. It's not like we haven't dealt with snakey legs before! My close rationale is, I think, pretty simple: if the question can be answered by another, I VTC. I'm pretty easy to convince otherwise! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 27, 2022 at 20:30

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