Today, we got the question Seasoning refuses to stick to carbon steel pan. Tried various techniques. The OP insists that he read our earlier questions on the same topic, but his is not a duplicate, because it still doesn't work for him.
This is not an isolated case. Last year we had the same situation about fish sticking to a stainless steel pan, although I can't find the question right now. I have seen it happen, but with less awareness of duplicate problems, for macarons.
What is common in these cases is the pattern:
- There is a task which is quite difficult to get right and requires skill.
- The site gets a question which asks outright for proper instructions about how to do it, plus a handful of other questions which are not an exact duplicate but are related to somebody failing the task. The main question is popular and gets good answers.
- A user tries it, reads the older questions, fails.
- The user posts new question saying "I followed the instructions and I failed, now tell me how to do it right. But don't close as a duplicate because the older question didn't help".
The crux of the matter here is that it is not a matter of following instructions, but a matter of skill. The instructions are of course necessary, but they are not sufficient. There is a skill to be learned. Having your fish not stick to the pan is a matter of perceiving with all senses what is going on in your pan, and reacting intuitively to the tiniest sign of trouble without being able to express in words how you recognized it.
This kind of skill is just like throwing darts or walking on a slackline. No matter how much somebody tries to describe the process in words, the only way to get to it is to fail dozens of times before you get the bullseye or your legs stop shaking. But the people asking it are not aware of that. They keep asking for better instructions, because those in the older question "don't work".
I certainly have sympathy for their predicament. There are a lot of things in the kitchen which don't work that way, and can be done well the first time round with a good recipe. Before knowing how to do it right, the OP cannot tell if they are failing because of missing skills or because of bad instructions.
Closing this kind of question feels like a very unfriendly thing to do, especially when contrasted with the dozens of users who ask duplicates without checking if we already have the question. At the same time, keeping the question open has all the downsides of having a duplicate around, and does not really help the OP.
The OPs themselves are likely to misunderstand the closure. They feel that they have been diligent in their research, and in the past I have had discussions where they think that I was the one who misunderstood them. They are convinced that all they need are better instructions, and are resentful that the closure prevents them from getting those.
What can we do to prevent this kind of misunderstanding? How do we close the question while helping the OP to make the necessary mental shift and realize the real challenge of their situation?