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Today I've seen a specific user comment on multiple threads that the target of a close-as-duplicate is not accepted, and therefore one cannot vote to close as a duplicate with the target thread as the duplicate.

Is this the case? My expectation is that if this were true, the interface would not permit one to vote to close-as-duplicate unless an answer in the target thread were accepted.

Moreover, I've been active on this site for several years and have not encountered this explanation before. Does it have any merit?

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  • $\begingroup$ It is correct that most users cannot nominate a closed thread as a duplicate--but diamond moderators can. Therefore, if you're sure this would be a good action, please just raise a flag. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jul 3 '18 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber I think I may have poorly expressed what is at issue. What I mean is that a reviewer in the VTC queue is commenting that it is not possible to close a question as dupe because the target thread has not accepted answer. To protect that user, I will flag an example. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Jul 3 '18 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ I think that it might be impossible to vote to close as a duplicate of a thread that has no answer (or perhaps no upvoted answer? not sure about that). It is definitely possible to vote to close as a duplicate of a thread with an upvoted but not accepted answer. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Jul 3 '18 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @amoeba Yes, that's sort of my point -- I know that it is possible. The curiosity is that a specific user is insisting otherwise, and in several threads. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Jul 3 '18 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ The user must have been confused. My point was that there does exist a similar policy; that's probably why there were confused. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Jul 3 '18 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ @amoeba The user was confused. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Jul 4 '18 at 14:35
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I'm not aware of such a policy, and I don't think it exists.

No upvoted answer (as @amoeba mentions) is a policy that at least would make sense for the SE team to have implemented: Presumably the close voter could upvote an answer on the target thread if they thought it had sufficient merit. If they don't think any of the answers are worth an upvote, why should the OP take them as good enough to use to resolve their issue? If the close voter is the answerer on the target thread, but no one else has ever upvoted it, then it may be good enough, but we might not want to trust them, as they are hardly unbiased. Etc.

On the other hand, whether an answer is accepted is not something that most anyone has any control over (except the target thread's OP, of course). We certainly see plenty of questions that are asked and the OP never shows up again, even when really good answers are provided. Several times, I've seen a new OP post a thank you comment, but not accept, most likely due to unfamiliarity with how the SE system is designed to work. Etc. At any rate, the point is that it wouldn't make sense for the SE team to have implemented that rule.

tl/dr: If you believe a question is well answered elsewhere (and you probably should have already upvoted the answer you think is that good), close away. As @whuber suggests, if you are blocked from doing so for some reason, but are confident of your choice, flag it.

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    $\begingroup$ Suppose I am looking at question A. I have found a duplicate question B with no answers. However, B is a better question than A (as in, it's asked in a better way). In such a case, I won't hesitate to VTC A as a duplicate of B. Look at things the other way around: why should we have unmarked duplicate questions simply because none of them have ever received an answer? We have plenty of good questions with no answers. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Jul 3 '18 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ @StephanKolassa, that might be reasonable. I believe that the SE system won't let regular users VTC a thread as a duplicate of a target w/o any answers. That said, if you're confident enough, flag it & we might go ahead if the case seems strong. $\endgroup$ – gung Jul 3 '18 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ @StephanKolassa An extreme example of this phenomenon is that some users persist in asking identical questions when that question has been closed previously, or simply received no attention. Moderator flags are the best way to deal with that. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Jul 3 '18 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, indeed, I see that VTC is not possible in this scenario. "This question does not have an upvoted or accepted answer." I seem to be engaging in wishful thinking... again. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Jul 3 '18 at 20:53
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Here is the relevant Meta.SE thread:

The search results include only answered questions (per the usual SO definition of "answered", where the question must have an accepted or up-voted answer). ... Moderators can override this last restriction if necessary.

The rationale here is that it can be fairly hard to discern whether or not an unanswered question is actually a duplicate, and even when it is closing doesn't really accomplish very much. When searching for a "canonical" answer in particular, duplicates without answers (or with bad answers) are just noise in the results.

This decision has not been uncontroversial - the original post is now at -16, and here is a highly-upvoted thread advocating that questions without answers should be valid duplicates.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for digging this up. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Jul 5 '18 at 7:09

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