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Since the beta, I've posted 421 answers to Stack Overflow. Some of them are good - at least, I think so, they got votes, and were accepted. Some of these are just, in my estimation, OK - and they got accepted as well. Some are now just out of date.

I want to spend an afternoon editing my answer history, improving technical accuracy, explanations and general language whilst trimming out of date information. I want to focus on accepted answers, but improve my answer stock in general. I don't intend to change the substance of any answer unless it is incorrect, and will leave historical notes for information removed for being irrelevant.

My question is, what's the etiquette for this? I don't want to trigger any abuse filters, nor upset people who have accepted my previous answers. Should I stagger the process? Post new answers if the modern, "more correct", version is distinctly different? Abandon the idea?

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Given that there's two badges for editing old inactive posts you should definitively feel encouraged to do this. I wouldn't bother posting new answers but instead just update your old ones. –  Some Helpful Commenter Mar 30 '12 at 18:51
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It will trigger an alert, the "user is destroying content" trigger isn't very smart. Nothing to worry about, anybody that reviews the alert will clearly see that you are not actually rage quitting. Improving answers by editing is otherwise a highly encouraged practice. –  Uphill Luge Mar 30 '12 at 18:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

If your edits will improve your answers, go for it. Stack Overflow gets a bazillion of new questions per second, you won't upset the front page much, as you would on a site with less traffic.

On accepted answers, if you are changing the substance of the answer it would be nice if you noted the update, instead of overwriting the answer. For example:

old answer


although my answer was true back in 2010, I've since discovered ...

Or if you are significantly changing the substance of the answer, well, it might be preferable to post a new answer. Don't worry much about historical notes, the revision history of the answer fulfills that role sufficiently.

Stack Exchange follows a wiki model for a reason, there's room for improvement in everything. Follow the normal editing guidelines, as they are outlined on the "Edit questions and answers" privilege page:

When should I edit posts?

Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!

Some common reasons to edit are:

  • to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
  • to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
  • to add related resources or hyperlinks

Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged.

If you are editing fast (really fast) you may stumble on the CAPTCHA a couple of times, and you may raise a flag or two (although I've never seen such a flag), but there's nothing to worry about if your edits are improving your posts.

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"Stack Overflow gets a bazillion of new questions per second" Confirmed, this is actually an accurate figure. ;) –  Bill the Lizard Mar 30 '12 at 19:07
    
StackOverflow in general gets a lot of new questions per second, but if you're bumping a bunch of questions in a particular tag you'll probably upset someone. –  M.Babcock Mar 30 '12 at 19:11
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@M.Babcock Good point. Well, if OP is actually improving his content, they'll get over it. –  Yannis Mar 30 '12 at 19:20

As long as you're adding to your answer (including code samples, throwing in some relevant links, etc.), only the most anal of users should take offense. As for changing an outdated answer or removing incorrect information, that's a bit more tricky. I'd make sure to include some sort of reference link indicating and supporting the change. But even then, as long as you clearly mark your edits and leave historical notes (like you said), I wouldn't expect it to cause any problems.

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The only time I'd be interested in historical notes is if it related to a particular version, otherwise they're just noise –  Some Helpful Commenter Mar 30 '12 at 18:55

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