I'm relatively new to the Chemistry SE community, and sometimes when I go to ask a question, I notice that the same (or similar) question has already been asked. However, the previous question doesn't have a good answer (or is unanswered). In this case, is it better to ask the question again in a new post (which might be marked as duplicate) or comment on the old post (which might be several years old)? In other words, what are the customs of this site in regards to reviving old questions/discussions?
As Martin commented, it really depends on the type of question. In any case, you always have the following possibilities:
- Ask a new question
- Edit the question to bump it to the first page
- Add a bounty
- Bring it to the attention of people in chat
Consider the following cases:
I have exactly the same question as asked and unanswered before!
If you ask a new question which turns out to be the same question, it may be closed as a dupe (depending on whether users remember the old question). Not the ideal option.
If you can find something substantial to edit and bump the question, do so. Maybe add a comment that you would really love an answer.
If you can spare some rep for a bounty (50 is usually enough), do so.
You can always bring it to the attention of people in chat.
I have a similar but not identical question. I cannot simplify or complexify my question to get the exact same one, but I can see their similarities.
You might want to ask a new question, if you feel there are enough differences. You may want to help the old question by including a link to it.
Do not edit the question to change it to your needs while bumping.
Of course, you could add a bounty but it doesn’t help you as much as if it were the same question.
In chat, you can ask things like:
So I have problem X and found similar question Y, is that applicable to my problem?
And hope to get help.
Since a similar (or almost equal) topic was asked about today, I'd like to add a few points to the generally good advice Jan has already given.
[A] problem arises when someone is asking a question but cannot extract a useful answer from the 'duplicate'. This is because the answer is either too complex or is explained with a different view.
Explained with a different view. Maybe that answer uses different terminology, notation, concepts, etc., then search about background about these. If you have problems finding appropriate content, post a comment, maybe the author is still around and can give you more references.
Occasionally, your 'view' might be outdated and deprecated, a theory that is, but shouldn't be taught anymore. (It happens more often than you'd think.) In such cases you will probably find no-one to answer the question in a way conforming to these outdated concepts. Learning new theories is important, getting rid of old ones is also important. So while you could ask about that, these questions are generally not well received, and often lead to a single-line answer: 'Don't use outdated models.'
If you get no response after a while, you are welcome to ask a new question. Make sure to include as much context and explanation as possible. Spent time with it to get your point across and to differentiate it from the original question. Always try to ask about concepts, not about specific exercises.
An answer is too complex for you to understand. Some answers cannot be simplified. You should try to understand the underlying concepts. Post a comment asking for additional information or clarification. Be prepared to study additional material by yourself.
If you still have trouble understanding the answer, you are most likely able to point exactly to the point where you have difficulties to understand. Craft a new question, again providing enough context to understand your problem. Make sure to differentiate it sufficiently from the other query.
Obviously those points never guarantee a response that will be helpful to you, but that would be true for any new question anyway.