Is it okay to close a question as an "exact duplicate" when it is not in fact an exact duplicate? I'm not suggesting that word for word identical questions should be required, of course.

My question was prompted by How do I safely accept Bitcoins without waiting for confirmations which was closed as an exact duplicate of How to accept Bitcoin payments at a real world store. Aside from the obvious issue that confirmation delay is just one issue in accepting Bitcoins at a store, the questions aren't even really overlapping. For example, the question closed has a completely different set of requirements since it isn't about face-to-face transactions while the other question definitely is.

I guess I have two sub-questions:

Was this question closed by mistake, given that the really are quite different? One is about a retail store specifically and included other issues than just confirmation delay. The other was specifically about confirmation delay only, not limited to face-to-face transaction, and focused on using third-party arbitrators to avoid it.

In general, should a question be closed as an exact duplicate if it is not an exact duplicate? If the question differ in circumstances or one only includes parts of the other, shouldn't some other closure reason be used? (Assuming it even is proper to close a question just because it overlaps a previous question significantly.)

  • Note that you are free to vote to reopen the closed question if you agree that it was not an exact duplicate. I notice there are 5 upvotes but only 3 have voted to reopen... Sep 2, 2011 at 2:08
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    My personal opinion is that some people have gotten a little mod-happy, and have been closing questions zealously. I'm against this zeal, and more so against the deletion of questions. Sep 5, 2011 at 13:26

4 Answers 4


I would suggest solving this problem with set mathematics which probably sounds more difficult than it is. If a non-exact duplicate question is entirely contained as a subset of another question then it should be considered duplicate. If even a small portion of the question's subject matter is not entirely contained within the suspected duplicate then the question should not be closed.

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    I think an exception could be if the older question is extremely broad and the current question is narrower and wasn't covered in the answers to the older question. "What's a good X? What's a bad X?" "Is Y a good X?" (Assuming the answers to the first question weren't about Y.) Sep 1, 2011 at 19:52
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    I see no problem with making exceptions. It's a judgement call, but that's what mods do: make judgement calls. Sep 1, 2011 at 20:00
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    I think the refinement is that you have to take the answers into account too. If the previous question and its answers (including expected answers not yet given) have the present question and its expected answers as a full subset, then the question should be considered the same question. Sep 1, 2011 at 20:08
  • As a reminder, slight variations on questions can serve as useful gateways to older questions.
    – Gary
    Sep 3, 2011 at 7:46

In this case, maybe it was my fault. I asked the How to accept bitcoin payments at a real world store? question last night and user9704 downvoted it (he claimed it was not a question) and cast a close vote. Right afterwards he asked How do I safely accept bitcoins without waiting for confirmations?. I felt kind of cheated so I flagged his question and some moderator must have closed it.

I am aware that these are different questions so maybe his should be reopened.

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    Ah, okay. So maybe this was just an unusual situation and there isn't an actual problem with use of this close reason. Sep 1, 2011 at 12:46
  • My apologies for your feel of being cheated, my intentions are to have clear communication above all else. Sep 1, 2011 at 17:30
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    @user9704 No problem, but creating a new question every time you want to correct a user's grammar is not a good practice. You could have suggested an edit for example. I tried to provide a background to my question so that the answers could focus on how to solve the problem in that particular situation.
    – nmat
    Sep 1, 2011 at 17:58

I'd actually have a look at the answers, too: If one of the most visible answers already completely answers the narrower question, I'd suggest closing it as a duplicate. (If the narrower question is younger.) Otherwise I would just post the other question as "related: [link]", making readers aware of the connection.


I posed my question in effort to distill the nuts and bolts of using bitcoin as a currency in a non organizational fashion and in a situation where neither party may have recourse given the rise of an issue due to possible faults with the currency itself. These are different set of issues then a retailer with a store front might have. I did not like the fact that it was not in the form of a question so I used the tools available to make my opinion clear.

My question was objectively different from nmats. Doris' un-involvement with the bitcoin stack exchange shows that her decision was made with no due respect to the topic at hand. Her hasty move to shut down the thread as an exact duplicate shows reckless ignorance to the process we have all subscribed to here.

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    I think that's phrased more harshly than necessary. But it does point out up one of the reasons moderators need significant familiarity with the subject area. I think the "exact duplicate" close reasons should only be used for very nearly exact duplicates, and these two questions weren't even that close, IMO. Sep 1, 2011 at 18:29
  • It might be best to take this commentary in stride, and do some more observation of the site before reentering the meta discussions. Sep 5, 2011 at 13:33

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