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I often see questions edited into this form:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet blah blah blah paragraph paragraph original question.

UPDATE: The Lorem disappeared and left this message: "new information".

I find this format unaesthetic (since SE questions are supposed to be useful in the long term and update boundaries are artifacts of the creation rather than the content) and feel that new information should, whenever possible, be incorporated into the original text “as if it had always been that way” if practical, and pointing out an update should be done mostly in comments.

Is this an appropriate writing style, and if so under what circumstances? If not, should it be removed or discouraged?

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I would say this is appropriate if/when the "update" invalidates some of the existing answers. Making it clear that the question was updated makes it clear that the answers may not have taken that new information into account. –  Cody Gray Mar 31 '12 at 4:17
Even when an edit affects some of the existing answers, I still rather have the question be edited to look like it has always been that way, and adding a note about that. (Hence: make the note refer to the fact that the lorum ipsum was replaced, but let that note not be the edit by itself.) –  Arjan Mar 31 '12 at 11:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 28 down vote accepted

EDIT and UPDATE are rarely needed, nor helpful.

For future readers, posts need to be standalone, without any history. These sites are not forums, but intend to be libraries of canonical, high-quality, questions and answers. Future readers are not helped by seeing all kind of history.

When people wonder about what changed, they can click the time next to "edited" to see the revision history. And early answerers can be alerted using comments after a question has changed a lot.

For example, the following:

Here's my post, about this and that.

...is much better than:

Here's my post, about something.

Edit: let me add this.
Edit 2: let me replace something with that.

Only in rare occasions, like if editing an (old) question invalidates many existing answers, a warning might need to be added to the post itself, and not be buried into comments. But: only if these are major changes and there's no other way to warn future readers. Like:

Here's my post, about this and that.

(The above has been changed after some posted their answers.)     ⬅ Only if REALLY useful

Alternatively one could warn future readers about major changes by editing it into answers that are now wrong (combined with a comment towards the original author, to allow for updating/deleting it).

Of course, such major updates should not have occurred to start with. Other (less destructive) updates often don't need any notification at all, not even in comments.

So yes, please rewrite to make it look like things have always been there. Future readers will be happy to read it without the burden of any history.

If a post has already been changed a lot (or when some of its answers also refer to things like "your first edit"), then consider just leaving a comment for the original author, to explain a Q&A site is not a personal help forum, and that in future situations it might be better to post a new question rather than changing an existing one so much.

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Meh, I don't like (The above has been changed after animuson posted his answer) either. It's just noise. A comment is more appropriate. You can bold it if you want it to stand out. –  Robert Harvey Apr 8 '12 at 19:05
I feel bolding comments only makes sense if you know for sure the comment is not hidden, @Robert. But I do agree that it should only be in the question itself if there's really no other option to warn future readers. But I guess there are other options to warn such reader, like by editing (or suggesting) such warning into the answer. Would that be better? (That makes it easy for the answerer to remove it if the answer is adjusted.) Of course, such major edits to the question should not happen in the first place, but rolling back to the original question might invalidate later answers... –  Arjan Apr 8 '12 at 19:53

I personally prefer you to leave


type statements in.

Here's why.

Sometimes the set of answers already there answer the old question. The #edit allows you to quickly see what went on there.

Also, I just like seeing how things happened, the initial question, and the refinements to the question as addenda, all on one screen. That's my preference.

Maybe it can be a site-wide setting, in Stackoverflow Options ("Show EDIT history").

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Seems to me that the "show edit history" you want is already there: just click the time next to "edited" to see the revisions ;-) On a serious note: hiding the words "edit:" and then merging the changes into the existing text is not something a computer can do for us. (You do know that Stack Exchange aims to be a reference for future readers, right?) Related: Treat EDIT as more than text, which I'd dislike too. –  Arjan May 2 '12 at 18:56
@Arjan Yes, I like seeing "Edit" as things happened though, without having to look through history. Just a preference. –  bobobobo May 2 '12 at 21:38
But then how do you propose that to be "a site-wide setting"? –  Arjan May 2 '12 at 22:33
I'm only kidding. Lulz. –  bobobobo May 3 '12 at 0:22
There you go: explaining downvotes is just a waste of time ;-( –  Arjan May 3 '12 at 5:47
-- No it isn't. –  bobobobo May 3 '12 at 22:42
Hmm, re-reading this post now it does sound like the last line of this post is meant in seriousness instead of the sarcastic tone I intended it to be –  bobobobo Apr 22 '13 at 17:41

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