Very few questions can not be answered by searching the web, and if repeat questions are not allowed. The site will slowly move from a forum to a data base. Is the site concerned about this?

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    $\begingroup$ It's worth taking a look at the number of question on Stack Overflow. Of course, they have a lot of repeats, but every week still see a multitude of good new questions as well. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Sep 30 '16 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ Why would we be "concerned" about that? If we truly reached a point where we cannot think of a question anymore that is not a duplicate, then I'd say that is a tremendous accomplishment, not something to be concerned about (although I don't believe that will ever happen). $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mod Sep 30 '16 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ I think people like live events and interaction. The concern would be a growing silence on the question boards and the lack of interaction between the people. But it sounds like good new questions are not in short supply so it's not an issue. I don't understand why this is viewed as a negative question though $\endgroup$ – Lambda Sep 30 '16 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Lambda It's hard to say it's a "negative" question -- downvotes here on Meta just mean people don't agree with the question. So, the downvotes are a sign that people don't think what you raised is a problem. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Sep 30 '16 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ The Stack Exchange sites are not forums (see e.g. <meta.stackexchange.com/a/92115>) (fora?). They are think tanks (ref. <meta.stackoverflow.com/a/325681>). $\endgroup$ – Peter Mortensen Oct 7 '16 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/7181/2451 $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Mod Oct 14 '16 at 18:08

It was never a forum to begin. The goal of the site is to provide high quality Q&A from experts in the field. If we've answered every question, then mission accomplished.

But since science progresses, we will never be able to keep up with the questions at the leading edge of it. If science stops progressing and there is nothing new in the broad areas covered by the site, then there's a lot more to worry about than the future of the site here.

In other words, I'm not concerned about it.

And maybe to clear up another point of concern -- yes, most things can be found by using your favorite search engine. But unless the first hit, with the most comprehensive and accessible approach to answer your question, is not this site, then there's still work to be done. If you can get your answer by stitching together a few Wikipedia articles and some Yahoo Ask questions, cool. But that doesn't mean that question (and the resulting researched answer) shouldn't appear here too, as a single, authoritative source.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for responding to my question so quickly. I'll start to think of it as a Q&A rather than a forum. $\endgroup$ – Lambda Sep 30 '16 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ One thing I'd add to this answer: I see the role of this site as complementing existing standard resources, rather than becoming a truly comprehensive resource on its own. That is, if a question is already perfectly well explained on Wikipedia (for example), and we could give a great answer by just quoting the Wikipedia page, there's no need to have that question here. Where we come in is when somebody is confused about something in the standard resources and needs clarification beyond that, or when the standard resources don't address a question well enough. $\endgroup$ – David Z Oct 1 '16 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ @lambda, just to air tpg, check this mother Meta post: Is Stack Overflow a forum?. $\endgroup$ – user36790 Oct 1 '16 at 17:51

I think that a certain density of repeat questions is a good thing, and should be supported.

The reason I think this is that repeat questions encourage new answers, and the answers may not be repeats. It's tempting to say 'but physics is a hard science, there's only ever one right answer', but I think that's not true: new answers can present and encourage new ways of thinking about an existing area, and that's a good thing. This is why, for instance, new textbooks on old areas of physics can still be interesting.

One answer to this is 'well, you can just add new answers to old questions'. However, if old questions already have accepted answers then any new answer is extremely unlikely to be accepted. So anyone interested in reputation is thus going to be put off by that. Of course, one could then argue that, well, you should not be interested in reputation: that's nice in theory but, in fact, people are interested in reputation and the whole site is predicated on that. Thus not allowing duplicates is likely to actively suppress new answers.

So I think a certain, not too high, ratio of repeat questions should be allowed.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, to get new answers, we don't need to "allow" repeat questions. We currently close them as duplicates, and people who think they have an answer that adds something over the answers given at the older question can follow that link to the duplicate and add their own answer there. I've personally done so several times and it is good to avoid duplication of effort by giving an answer to the repeat question only to discover someone wrote almost the same years ago already. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mod Oct 1 '16 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind I think an actual study of typical users might be informative (you being very far from such, as probably am I). $\endgroup$ – user107153 Oct 1 '16 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind: I realised that, of course, the reputation system means that people will almost certainly be less likely to add new answers to old questions than to new ones (see edit to my answer). I don't expect this will change your mind, of course. $\endgroup$ – user107153 Oct 7 '16 at 11:04

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