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A similar request resulted in our sane merge process. That works great if the questions are really duplicates and if all the answers apply. But sometimes the Venn diagram looks more like this:

Messy intersection of A and B

If one question asks just about A and another comes along and asks about B, it can make sense to refocus one question to include the intersection and the other to exclude it. In that case, one question becomes A and the other becomes B ∖ A1:

B ∖ A

If you happen to be quick about it, the answers separate naturally with the questions. If you aren't quick (or need to sleep on it figure out the best way to split the issues), you get a variety of answers that address A and/or B. Thanks to editing, the system handles most of the cases. But it doesn't cover the situation where an answer to A focuses entirely on the intersection of A and B3. In that case, the answer collects votes, views, and comments on a question it partially answers and (after the questions are divided) it suddenly doesn't answer the question. A moderator can suggest a few things:

  1. Delete the answer and copy it to the other question thereby losing the votes and comments.

  2. Edit the answer to indicate that it was valid for a previous revision thereby exposing the unimportant details of site history to anyone who stumbles across it via Google.

  3. Copy the answer to the other question and edit the initial answer to point to it thereby failing the same way as #2 and making voting, um, weird.

  4. Do nothing thereby leaving an answer that does not answer the question.

What I propose is another option that will neatly solve all the problems we've created for ourselves:

5. Give ♦ moderators the power to move an answer from one question on the site to another.


I can think of other scenarios where moving an answer might be helpful besides the situation I describe above. If there are any traps that I might be missing, I'd love to know what they are, even if it's just hard to do in the SE code. I have to say that I assumed moderators could do this and so did one of our users. Since I couldn't find a related proposal that post-dated Improved Question Merging, I'm guessing it's just an oversight.


Footnotes:

  1. There are other options besides relative complement, but that seems like the simplest case and is the actual situation we are facing on Biblical Hermeneutics.2

  2. For those interested: A and B.

  3. Or, as we found, an answer to B that focuses on the same intersection.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

How frequently is this needed in practice? When this was proposed, merging was an extremely unfriendly process, so the notion of cherry-picking excellent answers had some merit - even if botched, it would've been less destructive than a full-scale merge. When merging was fixed, it became possible - and not so unpleasant - to handle most cases using that tool, even if it did require deleting some answers in order to move others.

I should note at this point that this is technically possible, but the end-results aren't great; there's no placeholder where the answer used to be, so if you don't plan on just deleting the source question it can leave a bit of a hole. Not to mention confusing anyone surveying the aftermath.

For now, if you come across a situation where this is needed, just ping one of the Community Managers and request assistance in resolving it.

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Kinda like when I pinged you about that x = x++ question. –  Mysticial Sep 24 '12 at 22:04
    
@Mysticial: yeah - which I ended up handling by doing a full merge, since this both left the "signpost" stub and gave the other authors a chance to update and preserve their answers. –  Shog9 Sep 24 '12 at 22:06
    
A better way might be to make the merging tools less scary and reversible. We can probably cover all the common use cases with those, but I still find the question merge to be plenty scary and would hesitate to use it in difficult situations. –  Mad Scientist Sep 24 '12 at 22:07
    
@Mad: technically, it is reversible, though since that isn't exposed to mods either I suspect it might be a bit flaky (if you consider the likely scenario of stuff getting modified post-merge, you can probably imagine how). Since merging doesn't destroy anything anymore, it's considerably less "scary". Again, if you need it to happen, ping one of us and we'll get it sorted out. –  Shog9 Sep 24 '12 at 22:13
    
This works for me. When y'all get sick enough of manually moving answers, you'll build a tool for us to use. In the meantime, it did make me a bit quicker than normal to close an ambiguous question. Whether that count's as a plus or a minus is up to the reader. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 22:14
    
@Mysticial: Do you happen to have a link to the question so that we can see how it turned out? –  Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 22:20
    
@JonEricson (stackoverflow.com/questions/12033676/…) - So the story is that it got (properly) closed as dupe after accumulating a lot of votes. Then 10 people voted to delete it. I noticed the deletion later on - and I was quite bothered that Stephen C's answer (which is better than all the ones in the dupe target) went away with the question. Shog happened to show up in the C++ lounge one day. And I pinged him to do something about it. –  Mysticial Sep 24 '12 at 22:24
    
@JonEricson You don't have 10k so you can't see them, but all the answers that were merged from the new question were deleted except for Stephen's answer. –  Mysticial Sep 24 '12 at 22:25

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