Deleted topics lead to error page

User gets an email that ends in

I’ll tidy this one up as a duplicate. :+1:

Visit Topic or reply to this email to respond.

But when the user clicks the link the system has no idea of what page to show at all.

Thus it seems when items are marked as duplicates, the system
should ensure the old link still redirects somewhere appropriate, and
doesn’t become a 404, etc.

I am unsure where it would point to once the topic in question has been deleted? Would the 404 not indicate that the topic has indeed been deleted as a duplicate?

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With 301 to the other one.

Could that be automatic, similar way it should (is it?) when merging or by choose by acting staff because by definition it is 404; that can and should be under debate.

I feel doing redirections too difficult on Discourse, but the issue is propably just me.

At WordPress I have several plugins that helps me with 404/410/301/302 question. But WordPress is a bit different world per design and amount of users, so maybe it is unfair to compare.

I don’t know if that can be done for the reply-by-email link?

The full post included a link to the other topic, as did the post prior to it, so there should have been some context:

Would this not be sufficient?

It doesn’t matter. It never matters and that’s why we are using 301 redirections. Will it break possibility to continue discussion on that topic that email is using? Propably, I don’t know — but clicking that link should be redirected on forum.

Are we talking about same thing? As I see it here is too different scenarios/happenings:

  • what happends when an user (or Dan in this example :wink: ) is using reply-button of email client
  • what happends when an user clicks view topic link

I think if someone replies to a closed or deleted topic by email then they’d get an email saying that their post wasn’t published and why.

If it’s following the link to a deleted topic, then they would get a 404 to indicate that the topic no longer existed.

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But they should not in this example. They should redirect to that other topic — that’s why we have 301 in the first place.

Sure, AFAIK we can do it, but it needs a bit too much work — or it is just me.

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A reply which says the topic is going to be deleted as it’s a duplicate is exactly that, a reply.

There’s no special action happening here to link/merge the topics.

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All I know is on,, buzilla etc. following the old link, one will at least see:

#1234 has been marked as a duplicate of #2345,

so the user still has something to click on, and you are not leaving him out of gas in the middle of the Nevada desert,

I mean the person following the old link might just be someone innocent, who did not create the duplicate. No need to penalize innocent bystanders.

It’s simply bad for business. I can’t think of any system where trail information is thrown away, except in the case of blocking.

Github, Bugzilla, and other issue trackers — and Stack Exchange, for that matter — have the inherent ability to close an item as a duplicate. That is, there is a Duplicate state which is tracked.

Discourse lets moderators combine topics by moving posts, but to my knowledge there is no actual “close as duplicate” functionality that includes tracking that status. What you’re seeing is just someone saying “oh, this is a duplicate, so I’ll delete it”.

That’s not the system throwing information away. It’s the moderator or admin.

I can see a “real” duplicate feature being useful in many cases. But it raises a lot of design questions that would need to be figured out.

Short of that, it’s might be better for the moderator to:

  1. Comment linking to the other topic.
  2. Unlist the topic instead of deleting.
  3. Maybe close it, or mark it to close in a week.

That way, there aren’t mystery 404 errors when following links.

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If a moderator merges posts from one topic into another it leaves a closed stub which refers to the new destination. That mechanism exists today.

@jidanni is talking about topics where the moderator has made the explicit decision to not do that.

Well perhaps there should be more handy buttons for (templates for) moderators to do the right thing, instead of doing it by hand and creating dead ends. (I don’t know. I’ve never been a moderator.)

(And if they attempt to do it by hand, a friendly warning should come up and say, “Here try this instead.”)

To be clear though, your topic summary really boils down to “Deleted topics go to an error page” - there isn’t a discourse issue. The tools to merge and redirect already exist, you just don’t agree with the way particular topics have been moderated.

Just to note, we use all of the available tools when organising our topics here on Meta, and try to be as sensitive as possible to both posters and readers when deciding which are appropriate to use in each case.

It is rare for a duplicate topic to be deleted rather than merged and is generally reserved for cross-posting. Even in such cases an explainer is given with a link to the other topic so as not to cause confusion.

I think this should provide enough context for why a decision has been made, as well as give directions to where a more appropriate place to continue the discussion can be found.