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In context of this question of mine that was closed as a duplicate, I have a few questions:

1) What is the policy on editing the accepted answer to an older question and then marking a new question as duplicate?

I assume that "duplicate" mean "duplicate when it was asked". But if someone can edit an answer on an old broader question to include the answer to your new specific question, then all questions on the site are potential duplicates?

2) For the question concerned, I feel the close vote confuses duplicate questions with different questions that have one part of their answer as duplicate. The newer question is specific while the 'Canonical' question is too broad and still does not answer it entirely. Thoughts?


Marking a question as duplicate is also a rap on the knuckles that says "you did not search well enough". But this is misleading, as at the time of asking the new question, the original question had an accepted answer that did not provide a solution to the newer question.

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    I think the main issue with the question is that it asks a couple of questions as one question. I agree with you that the answer to the canonical question only answers a part of your question, but I would also say that your question should probably be split up. The question about the airline having problems with your onward instead of return ticket for instance is IMO a separate question. – drat Apr 8 '16 at 8:41
  • @drat Is it not simpler to allow for an answer discussing all the major potential problems with return v/s onward tickets to the Schengen zone, given that I might actually not know which other parties may have problems. Do we really favour 5 questions, one for the interviewer, one for VFS, one for the airline, one for the Indian emigration check, and one for the Swiss border guard? – Pranab Apr 8 '16 at 15:53
  • @Pranab Every one of those should be following the Schengen rules. So the relevant question is about whether VFS enforce the rules properly/other rules. The existing quesiton answers on the rules that shoould concern of all of them. – CMaster Apr 8 '16 at 17:14
  • @CMaster: I never really had that question about VFS, you know. My question was purely about onward vs return. It emerged during the discussion of specifics that VFS might have a problem with it. Whereas the 'canonical' never even mentions VFS. And that is exactly my point, if you shut down the specific situational questions then how will such specific answers emerge? – Pranab Apr 9 '16 at 1:31
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I own this one.

The question was about providing onward travel tickets instead of return tickets.

I looked at the 'canonical' and noted that it could be improved by changing 'return' to 'return/transit'. I made the change. Then I hammered the OP's question as a duplicate.

We then spent about 45 minutes in chat where I explained how to create a new question about VFS and gave the OP some ideas about why it was important to separate the visa code from VFS from solo females etc.

I also explained that he can lodge a complaint in META.

What is the policy on editing the accepted answer to an older question and then marking a new question as duplicate?

There is no policy. The effect is that you got the answer to your question.

But if someone can edit an answer on an old broader question to include the answer to your new specific question, then all questions on the site are potential duplicates?

Changing "Return tickets" to "Return/Transit tickets" is a permissible edit and helps answer more questions. This same thing has happened to nearly all the canonical questions on the site (see 'do I need a UK transit visa' for example).

Check the edit history on this canonical.

The newer question is specific while the 'Canonical' question is too broad and still does not answer it entirely. Thoughts?

Yes, you broadened your question and rescoped it to the extent that it's now 'too broad'. Now it includes solo females, VFS, border controls, and more.

Marking a question as duplicate is also a rap on the knuckles that says "you did not search well enough".

Marking a duplicate means your answer is someplace else. Feeling a rap on the knuckles is natural, but cannot be avoided. I wonder if your reaction is proportionate to the situation.


Denouement: your question has been reopened. I would not be surprised if the community now marked it as 'too broad', but all the best of luck in getting a satisfactory answer.

Epilogue: the question was closed by the community as 'too broad' thus acquiring the rare distinction of a single question being opened, closed, reopened, and reclosed all within a 12 hour period. None of the valuable suggestions and help offered by the community have been implemented as of yet.

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On seeing your question, user Gayot Fow was inclined to notice that the existing answer they had placed was wrong - return tickets are not an absolute requirement, merely onwards travel that the traveller has appropriate ppermissions for. Having realised an error in the existing answer, it would have been remiss of Gayot Fow (although understandable, I'm sure all long-term contributors have answers that are wrong somewhere) to have left the inaccuracy in place. Having fixed the inaccuracy, the beleive was that the question you were asking was answered by this previous question. This made your question a duplicate, so normal procedure is to close.

There's some discussion about what exactly counts as a duplicate, and how agressive duplicate closing should be:

Marking your post as a duplicate is not a punishment or slight on yourself.

I assume that "duplicate" mean "duplicate when it was asked".

Not really. The duplicate text merely states that the answer can be found already somewhere else. Stack Exchange intends not to just be a live Q&&A site, but a repository of knowledge. As there are always more people who need help than are able to give it, being able to point people to existing answers to their questions saves time and helps more people get answers. I realise it is disheartening to do a very good job of prior checking of the site and formatting as you have done with your question. But it benefits nobody to answer the same questions again and again.

Where a "duplicate" in fact only answers part of the question, that is a sign (in most cases, there are some where the problems are deeply interlinked) that the question post is in fact asking more than one question. In this case, the community will typically seek closure as "too broad". Then, the question can be split up into it's constiuent questions. Those that are duplicates can be marked as such. Those that are not can be answered.

Why is this desirable? Again, going back to the repository of knowledge idea. If a good answer to a specific issueis buried in a long, rambling answer to a long rambling question, then it may never be found by those who need it. However, by taking each atomic question seperatley and linking where necessary, we can help everybody find information on their questions often before they even ask!

  • If a user opens too many "duplicate" questions they are blocked, so I hold that marking a post "duplicate" is equivalent to "RTFF". Secondly, the answers were duplicate but the questions were different, so per Joel's own reasoning, both questions should have been retained because people searching about Onward Plans would deem the Canonical question irrelevant. I opine Travel SE is suffering from this on the whole, because a lot of real travel questions are based on intersectionality of circumstances while the SO format comes from the world of coding where answers are more 'universal'. – Pranab Apr 8 '16 at 15:00
  • I have not downvoted the 'canonical' question as far as I know. – Pranab Apr 9 '16 at 1:20

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