From the standpoint of developing the highest possible Q&A database quality, is it best to post a good answer to an old fuzzy question in order to avoid duplication? Or is it better to come out with a competing question that could be viewed as a duplicate but is more tightly scoped (and better described) and therefore likely to lead to better answers?

Here's the real example I just faced:

There's an old Settlers of Catan Question that wasn't tightly worded enough to lead to great answers, IMO:

What are common contracts in Catan?

The exact mechanisms for contracts were not laid out which led to lots of comments and the top answer essentially saying that the rules variations suggested were not worth trying (without giving any playtested reasoning). I discovered when I was about to post a similar question that was more tightly scoped and explained in a format that I suspect would have lead to better answers and better learning. I didn't post this, because I figured it would be considered an exact duplicate, like this one was:

"House Rules" in Settlers of Catan

Seeing this mess, I simply posted my answer to the original question, as that seems to be the encouraged behavior on stack exchange (keep in mind I've only been using the site a month, so maybe I've got this wrong). But this answer was really to another question I had in mind (see below) that would have framed the issue in a different way.

Here is the Question that I did NOT ask:

Title: What are the best mechanics for including future trade promises without departing from Settlers rules? (Play-tested solution described, alternatives/comments requested)

Expanded: When making a trade in Settlers of Catan, there is no official rule encouraging or prohibiting making a promise (to make a certain type of trade in the future) during a current trade. Assuming the group you play with decides to allow such promises (we call them "future trades"), what mechanisms can be used to ensure this occurs smoothly?

I provide one such answer below that we've used in many games, but I'm totally open to suggestions for improvements on my answer, and/or alternative play-tested systems developed by other Catan enthusiasts.

[Note: The answer I provided to the contracts question was inspired by the answer I intended to the question I intended, but with an introductory tie-in sentence]

2 Answers 2


There's a Stack Overflow meta question that covers this:

What to do when your question has an old, stale, unanswered duplicate?

It's not precisely the same question but the answer seems reasonable to me and applicable to the specific example I cited in my question. Experienced stack exchange members - please tell me if you think this answer is appropriate to the Board Games community as well:

Firstly consider why the old one hasn't been answered (is it badly written, is it unanswerable, is it in the wrong place, etc).

Ask your question, making sure you avoid the mistakes the old one made.

Make a note of the old question on your new one, (and explain why any answers that the old one has are no good to you).

If appropriate (and if you have enough rep), vote to close the old one as a duplicate of your new one, and add a comment on the old one stating what you have done with a link to your new one.

  • 2
    This isn't unreasonable. I've duped questions both ways (old->new) and (new->old) depending on which I thought was better.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 6:26
  • @Pat Given Pat and Dave's encouragement and the stack overflow precedent, I did post the new question, here: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/6448/…
    – Joe Golton
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 22:26

If the fuzzy question has a good answer, just simply edit the Question.

If it's a recent question, and the question has more than one good breakdown, you can also suggest the breakdown in a comment, so the OP can only ask the one they're interested in asking, or ask it as two questions.

  • 3
    In this case the rewrite to this old question would be really extensive, which would make me wonder if: (1) This might be offensive to OP (2) Make some of the wording and vote counts to the old answers seem confusing (3) create far more work and confusion than just asking a new question, as this might also to several answers being rewritten and a number of clarifying comments. I'm new to the site and my impression is you don't radically rewrite Qs or As, even if it mostly preserves the main point. Am I wrong about this?
    – Joe Golton
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 14:43
  • @Joe, I don't think you're wrong. Editing existing content is usually fine, as long as you're preserving the intent of the OP. Rewriting a question beyond the original point is usually a problem, even if there aren't existing answers, and if there are, any substantial edits run the risk of invalidating existing answers. (Of course if the question is closed, it may be necessary for the OP to rewrite it significantly, and in that case, the answers might need changes too.) There's nothing that says that the newer duplicate should be closed; ideally I think we'd close the weaker duplicate. Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 21:41
  • @DaveDuPlantis Given Pat and Dave's encouragement and the stack overflow precedent (see other answer above), I decided that posting an entirely new question was a better option in this instance than making extensive edits. So I did it: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/6448/…
    – Joe Golton
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 22:28
  • 1
    Ah, I misunderstood your intent. My suggesting for editing the question was for this scenario: 1) A question isn't well asked (2) There are no answers, because it isn't well asked. -- In that case, the question should be edited (as a consumer of the final product, I don't care if it's by the OP or by the answered after some comment communication). Once editted, the proper question can be answered, and all is good. Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 1:19

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