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In my post Imagine I'm on a spacecraft that was accelerated to 1.0$c$ could I only move backwards?, I asked something that came into my mind and I wasn't able to find an answer for it here.

After I posted it, the list of related posts (the list under the title before posting didn't!) showed a question what seemed to be the same. I had a look, found there my answer and marked my post as dupe of that one. Now after that was done I'm getting more and more downvotes for it. What might this reason be? Should I have deleted the post instead?

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for checking that your own question was a duplicate :-) $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 25 '16 at 10:51
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No, you have done the right thing. With some many questions on the site it's very easy to miss the fact that a duplicate exists, and to be fair the site search isn't as great as it could be.

Don't attach too much significance to the downvotes. It's easy to feel that downvotes are a personal criticism, but really they are just a statement that the question isn't appropriate for the site. Personally I don't downvote duplicates just because they are duplicates, though I know some site members feel differently.

Downvoting does remove the question from the site home page, so there is an argument that a question should be downvoted when we don't want it to appear there. Maybe that's why you have the two downvotes.

I believe that it's generally bad form to delete a question. I can't remember the reasons for this, but I'm sure I have seen comments from the moderators that in general questions shouldn't deleted. Just leave the question - there is an automated cleanup process for downvoted questions that springs into life after a couple of weeks.

For what it's worth you should be congratulated for responding to the duplicate link, reviewing the duplicate and deciding that your question is indeed answered by the existing one. Too many people just abandon their duplicate questions and leave it to the moderators to close.

A quick footnote to summarise David's comments below:

I was a bit hasty to suggest you shouldn't delete your question. The Stack Exchange has various checks to detect users who it thinks aren't being serious, and it will eventually block those users from asking any more questions. One of the criteria it uses is the number of times the user asks a question then deletes it - hence my vague memory that deleting your own questions is a bad thing. However deleting one question, or even a few questions, isn't likely to cause a problem. So you should feel free to delete your question if you want to.

A footnote to the footnote:

As it happens the issue of how deleted questions affect your status has just arisen in the question What is the "positive question record"?. This explains why having lots of deleted question is bad.

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  • $\begingroup$ What exactly does this automated clean up üprocess of downvotes do? $\endgroup$ – Zaibis Jun 25 '16 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Zaibis: there's a post on the main meta describing the process here $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jun 25 '16 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ John, you're probably thinking of how we mods say we don't delete questions on request. Other than spam/offensive posts or certain other exceptional circumstances, we let the "roomba" handle it. However, if a person wants to delete their own question, and the system allows them to do so (by showing a "delete" link), they're welcome to do it. The main reason not to delete a question is to preserve the answers on it, but the system won't show the deletion link if a question has multiple answers or one good answer in the first place. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 25 '16 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ If I may, I'd suggest changing or removing the next-to-last paragraph. I think it's fine for @Zaibis to delete their question in this case. (Unless someone comes along and identifies some reason not to do so that I can't think of.) $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 25 '16 at 10:53
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZ: I had a vague recollection that the bit of the SE that blocks you if it thinks you're not serious considers deleted questions to be suspicious. I'm sure I've seen comments that OPs shouldn't delete their own questions for this reason. But my recollection is sufficiently vague that it could well be totally wrong. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jun 25 '16 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, right, there is that. If someone has a large number of deleted questions, they may run into a ban on asking further ones. But that's only an issue for people who consistently post questions they regret and then delete them. We're probably talking order of 10 deleted questions or more, and on the order of 50% of all their questions deleted, though I don't know exact values. It's not an issue for typical posters. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 25 '16 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ Note that duplicates are not deleted by the automatic deletion process. This is, @Zaibis, because the network generally considers duplicates as useful waymarkers to have around so people like you (i.e. with the same general question, phrased in the way you phrased it, but who like you didn't find the existing answer) can find it more easily... instead of creating yet another duplicate. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 27 '16 at 23:54
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I agree with JohnRennie's original view - that you should not delete your question - especially if Answers have been posted. Those Answers might be valuable to the people who posted them, as well as to the wider community. They might be better than the Answers in the Question you are duplicating. Comments can also provide valuable information.

Even if no answers or comments have been posted yet, users might be preparing an Answer and it is very frustrating to have done all that work just to find that the Question has been deleted already. (That has happened to me several times on other sites.)

So I agree that by not deleting and heading your question with a note that it is a duplicate, you did the best you could do.

The slight problem with this option is that you take the risk of attracting down-votes, which cost you rep. That is unfair - you should not suffer from doing the right thing. However, I think it might be difficult to alter the site programming to avoid such a penalty without leaving the rep system open to abuse (posting marked duplicate questions to gain upvotes without the risk of downvotes). Also, the cost is small (-2 per downvote) and few downvotes are likely to be cast if the question is already acknowledged to be a duplicate.

I think a tougher dilemma occurs if you realise that the question is actually a stupid one, or is clearly "off topic", hence is likely to (or starting to) attract many down-votes. Should you delete it then, even if no Answers are posted?

I suggest you should likewise mark it in the title eg "Withdrawn - awaiting auto-deletion" but not delete it, and again allow the system to delete it according to the auto-delete criteria.

There is less of a case for doing this, compared with a duplicate question, since you are unlikely to have gotten any actual or pending Answers - just a lot of negative comments. Nevertheless, I think it is best not to delete in this case also.

UPDATE in response to Comment by ACuriousMind :

My view is that, once the Question is posted, other users may acquire a stake in it. For example, those who are typing/researching an Answer, and those who are debating it via comments or in the chatroom. The OP may decide that he/she no longer requires an answer, or that the question is stupid, but that should not be decisive. Others might disagree, suggest edits, and upvote it. If there are no developments within 30 days, the clean-up process takes care of it.

This view is consistent with that expressed by dmckee that the purpose of Physics SE is not merely to satisfy users' immediate needs for explanations, but to build an archive of Answers for future reference. If the only purpose of Physics SE were to satisfy the immediate needs of the OP, then of course the OP should do as he/she wishes, and delete even if Answers have been posted. Furthermore, all questions might as well be deleted if the OPs no longer need them. But if Questions and Answers have value to the Community of Users, then the OP should not have sole control over their fate.

The purpose of marking in the title is to alert potential respondents that the OP no longer requires an answer. That will discourage some (probably most) users from answering. Exactly what is marked (and where) is up for debate. This is only a suggestion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just for the record: my comments on John's answer, and perhaps the answer itself, were posted specifically to apply to the case where the question doesn't have any answers. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 26 '16 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't make much sense to me - if you think the question should be deleted, delete it. What is the purpose of "marking it" as "awaiting auto-deletion" in the title? Either you want to delete it and just delete it, or you don't want to delete it and hope to not get downvoted and trigger the autodeletion script. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jun 26 '16 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind : Thank you for your comments, which I have addressed in an update to my Answer. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jun 26 '16 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't want the effort of you researching an answer to a question that gets deleted in the interim to go to waste you can always ask the question yourself (and answer it) - bonus of this version is you get the rep for both the question and the answer ;) . The purpose of SE is precisely not to serve the whims of the individual users, which is, for example, why askers can't delete a question that has received an upvoted answer. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jun 26 '16 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind : Yes, those are good suggestions which I hadn't thought of. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jun 26 '16 at 23:23

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