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I noticed today that I can gold-badge close as duplicate questions, which is, well, most of our questions. I'm not sure that's ideal; while certainly there are times where I can definitely say something is a duplicate as it's a question in an area I have expertise in, being an expert in "united states" isn't really a thing that makes much sense, and isn't really the point of the gold-badge-duplicate-closure. is really closer to a meta tag, and while it exists for a good reason, it's not the same as having expertise in or .

I don't know if there's any way to remove from the gold badge closure ability, but figured it might be worth asking if it is possible, and if so, if we can.

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You say that you aren't really an expert in "United States," but in order to earn your gold badge you needed to answer over 200 financial questions and obtain over 1000 upvotes on those answers. Only 17 users have managed to do that, and the thinking is that if you have been able to do that, you probably have an above-average understanding of financial matters in the United States. In addition, you must have been around long enough to care about the site and have an understanding of how it all works. You should know enough to know when you don't know enough to make a determination. :)

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. It is good that you recognize that you now wield the dup-hammer, and you should only use it when you are confident. (I would argue that you should always be careful with votes-to-close, even if you are not the deciding vote.)

For me personally, I rarely vote to close as duplicate; not necessarily because I'm worried about being the lone, deciding close vote, but that I'm generally feeling charitable about keeping questions open and letting users answer new questions with new answers. I only close as duplicate when it is truly an almost exact duplicate; similar questions are not good enough to close for me. For a great article on the concept of duplicate questions, see Jeff Atwood's blog post "Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I learned to stop worrying and love duplication." In it, he defends his realization that it is okay, and even preferable, to leave multiple similar questions open, and that trying to micromanage the site to contain one, canonical question for each topic is not possible.

In conclusion, I don't feel that the gold badge dup-hammer ability necessarily needs to go away, but I agree that those of us with the ability need to take the responsibility seriously and limit when we use it.

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  • It's not that it needs to go away "in general", it's that, specific to meta tags like united-states, it should. united-states is very clearly a meta tag, and on sites like Stack Overflow wouldn't be permitted to exist; it is appropriate for this site, certainly, but it's like having a tag object-oriented on every C++/Java/Python/... question; you'd not have necessary any expertise on it, but would still have a gold badge.
    – Joe
    May 27 at 21:01
  • And just to be clear, I'm quite comfortable closing things unilaterally that I have expertise in, I'm a longtime veteran of this and other sites and have been a moderator for several years now. It's not about my comfort closing things, or even me in general, it's more that I think this particular situation is not an ideal one for the site itself.
    – Joe
    May 27 at 21:03
  • 1
    I don't agree that country tags are meta tags; a meta tag denotes the type of question, not the topic. A country tag is a topic, just as much as tags like taxes or scams. A meta tag would be something like "beginner" or "best practices." To relate it to Stack Overflow, a country tag is analogous to a language tag, scoping the question, and our non-country tags are similar to Stack Overflow tags like "string", "list" or "function," tags that more specifically tell us what the question is about. May 27 at 21:13
  • @Joe Stack Overflow's most popular tag is "javascript." Someone who has earned the gold "javascript" badge can close-as-duplicate about 10% of all questions on Stack Overflow. But someone who has earned that tag has demonstrated that they know enough about Javascript and Stack Overflow in general to know whether or not the questions are duplicate, or to recognize that they don't know enough about a particular topic to make a decision. May 27 at 21:18
  • Whether "united-states" is a meta tag is semantics, but it is very broad and covers a wide range of different topics (to a much greater degree than "javascript", I would argue, not only because it's 37% vs 10% of all questions on each site, but also because I would expect basically all those questions to at least involve JavaScript code, even though someone won't be an expert in every JavaScript library or tool you could combine it with). But maybe the scope of this site (per country) is narrow enough or this functionality isn't (mis)used often enough to justify complicating things.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 4 at 23:13
  • @NotThatGuy Yes, "united-states" is broad and covers a large percentage of the questions on the site. But getting a "united-states" gold badge is still not easy. As I say in my answer, we don't expect every one of the gold badge holders to be an expert in ALL things United States, only that someone with the gold badge would be familiar enough with personal finances in the United States to be able to make a trustworthy decision on marking something as duplicate, and also to know enough to not vote when the subject matter is something they aren't familiar enough with. This isn't a problem. Jun 5 at 2:09
  • I'm getting close to a gold badge in "income-tax". Does that mean I am qualified to address all questions about income tax? Absolutely not; there are about 200 countries in the world for which I have no tax knowledge whatsoever. When i do earn that badge, however, the website is not in trouble; I know my limits, as do all the gold badge holders. Jun 5 at 2:14
  • It comes back to the question of why gold badge privileges exist in the first place (and why these aren't just site-wide privileges). I assume it's to limit the privilege to what people would know enough about to accurately judge whether questions are the same and possibly as a general way to limit how much power the privilege gives (and possibly to limit it to topics that person is deeply invested in). I'm not convinced a "united-states" gold badge would meet any of those criteria. But again, I'm not saying it's a problem and we should probably just keep things simple until we see it is one
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 5 at 11:28
  • @NotThatGuy See this meta answer for a discussion about the reasoning behind this privilege. And I’m not seeing anything in there that doesn’t apply to our “united-states” tag. Jun 5 at 11:37
  • I think it would be nice to have it be optional, I want to flag things as duplicates because it might be related enough to be helpful, but not always be the deciding vote. Yes I can hunt a duplicate, copy the link, and add a comment saying "maybe this potential duplicate will be helpful..." but it's a clunkier approach to the non-gold badge duplicate flagging. I'd argue that in general having different behavior for the same actions is 'meh' from a UI perspective.
    – Hart CO
    Jun 5 at 15:20
  • @HartCO Sadly, I think a lot of users think about their close votes that way. They think: “I don’t like this question, and it might not be off-topic, but I’ll vote to close anyway, and my vote isn’t the deciding vote.” I think if users treated all their votes as if they were the deciding vote, then they would put a little more thought and consideration into each decision. Jun 5 at 16:37
  • That's fair, but I find the suggested duplicates more helpful when not unilateral, also the different results for same behavior thing, it could at least warn me that my vote will close it so I don't have to tag-stalk to decide if I want to suggest a duplicate or not.
    – Hart CO
    Jun 5 at 17:44
  • @HartCO When I want to point someone to a related question, I do so in the comments. I don’t find it to be much more work than voting duplicate; either way, I have to search for the other question. Remember that when you “suggest a duplicate,” you are really “voting to close.” If you treat every one of your close votes as if it was the deciding vote, then the different behavior won’t bother you, either. Jun 5 at 18:01
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To the extent that it makes sense to have a hammer on close votes, I think general long-standing participation in the site is probably sufficient. Nearly all questions on this site are quite interrelated in terms of the broad subject matter, enough so that I would say anyone with that level of proven participation should be trusted to have the core ability to detect something to be closed [and where you don't feel comfortable with such a decision for a particular question, hopefully you are aware of that limitation and would not choose to do so].

The only benefit to the change you are proposing, in my opinion, would be that it would grant you the ability to 'throw in a close vote', where you feel it should be closed, but not confidently enough to hammer it. Seems like an edge case resolved by just holding back your vote in that case, with the only net cost being some questions might take a bit longer to close if your vote would have been the 'regular decider'.

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  • +1 for “resolved by just holding back your vote.” If you are not confident enough to close immediately, or if your intent is not to close, but to simply suggest a related question, you should not be voting to close. Jun 8 at 21:28

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