For example this two cases listed below are different questions but same answers may apply and actually answer both questions.

  1. Is there an alternative software for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?
  2. Photo manipulation software with RAW support on Linux

In these two questions the answers can be quite the same and work well on both questions.

  1. Backup to external hard drive using linux (recoverable without installation of additional software)
  2. Back-up tool to restore Ubuntu system similar to Time Machine

In both cases, the questions aren't duplicates but the same answers can apply.

Would it be better to just point in comments to other question with answers already posted or is it better to just write new replies suggesting the same software?

  • I'm afraid that for the first 10 nearly duplicated questions we'll make effort to write relevant answers, and then quality decrease. For instance development IDE recommended are often the same. Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 16:00
  • Fully agreed that’s reason why I believe there should be some kind of consensus what to do in such cases in order to keep quality of site as high a possible. Thus pointing to already existing answer may be helpful.
    – danijelc
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 16:02
  • This question was already answered here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/139961/…
    – user416
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 15:18
  • Actually it does not. It states that duplicate answer doesn’t necessary make duplicate questions. What I'm pointing is a dilemma if it is better to reply with same answer or point the OP to already existing answers. Said this the answers on this questions do explain well how to deal in such cases.
    – danijelc
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


Be very wary of closing down very specific use cases and treating (for example) "every question about photo editors" like your trying to build a general encyclopedia of software reviews that will work for everyone — That is NOT what we are here for.

Ideally, this site is going to be filled with long-tailed, specific problem statements where the "solutions" are highly custom-tailored to the original author specifically. And ideally, these questions should be specific enough, that true duplicates should be somewhat rare.

In reality, you should embrace the infinite variations of asking about the same software categories over and over. This is the long tail of specific problem solving that is going to make this site "work." This is by design.

The Long Tail of Software Requests

The "Software Recommendations" Stack Exchange is not a traditional software listing and review service like download.com or Softpedia. We are not here to duplicate those efforts. We are trying to bridge that gap between generalized software reviews and solving "real-world problems" that they don't already cover. The way we do this is by being a Q&A site where folks ask very very specific question that are difficult to find the answer elsewhere. You are asking very real questions that only a few out of a large group of people can answer based on personal experience through actual use.

How does specialized advice help the rest of us?

When folks google "photo editor reviews", they are going to find us here talking about real-world problems. That is going to separate us from all the other reviews out there. We are not going to be tossing about vague platitudes and broad, sweeping generalization about what is the best software of all time. We are going to be talking about very specific use cases that helped us specifically. And folks will be able to learn by integrating these specific experiences so they can make more informed decisions of their own. This is learning by example.

This isn't a generalized, one-size-fits "best of category" collection.

The Ubiquity of Generalized Reviews

When someone is casting a really broad net ("What is the best photo editing software?"), the community is really only guessing what will help that user specifically. We use the phrase "not a real question" because it doesn't reflect an actual problem the user is having. Answering it is just an exercise in repeating what everyone else says or chiming in with your favorite piece of software for good measure. Taking those recommendations verbatim is a blind leap of faith that those recommendations will work for you, too!

Hopefully we are not hosting these opinion polls and "people's choice" awards at all. But if these questions do make it onto the site, it is certainly worth closing similarly vague efforts as — "we've already had that conversation."

  • 2
    Another excellent answer!
    – danijelc
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 16:59

The core of what defines things as duplicates is that they are, at heart, the same problem. Things having the same solution is often a warning sign that they may be duplicates, but it's not always the case. It has to often be evaluated on a case by case basis.

What we would need to look at is whether or not we can see the problems to be solved as being one in the same. As I noted in an earlier meta, a difference of requirements tends to be sufficient to cause a different manner of problem. But if the requirements in one question happen to be met by the other question (that is to say that the difference is one-sided), there is the option to possibly merge the two together. This I would suggest not to be done as a moderation action but rather as a community-agreed action that people discuss - see if the authors are open to combining their question and such. But that won't always be the case as an option - both of your example pairs are questions seeking separate sets of requirements and so I don't feel either would be comfortable with a merge. In that case we would post separate answers, even if they're the same software being recommended.

Does this result in duplication on the part of answers? Yes, it does, when there exists software that happens to meet both sets of requirements. But if they're unique sets of requirements, we can't really mark them duplicates even if they are solved by the same stuff. To that end the answers should prioritize the requirements that are requested - you did such on your answer here for example. So even though the software being suggested is the same, we still have two separate answers that solve two different problems.

How much of a problem this becomes is dependent on the volume that we actually get "Similar but not quite" questions of this sort. Ideally, people who want to ask for something would be searching the site first, and even if their specific requirements might not be present, they should stumble across existing questions on the similar vein. We should encourage study of the solutions provided in those - a quick check of features to see if the extra requirements are met. Perhaps users can add comments to particular answers if they want to check if a particular software that meets one person's requirements will meet their additional requirements, without needing the rigmarole of a whole new question. The way to do this is to open up the discoverability of existing questions without sacrificing their specificity. Not every question will necessarily need work, but for example the Lightroom question could actually use words like "photo manipulation" in there so that people who look for "photo manipulation software" would find it.

  • This is an really good answer!
    – danijelc
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 15:12

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