Programming languages and environments change rapidly, and SO answers may quickly become obsolete and incorrect. Is there a clear policy on dealing with such answers by others, so that users landing on the page from a search engine aren't misled?
- dealing with one's own answers as they become obsolete
- answer edits that radically change the meaning of the answer are frowned upon
The last bullet above suggests a policy that leads to stale, incorrect answers. I've been its victim, and got banned from editing because my edits to old answers radically changed them - which was exactly the point, as the answers had become incorrect.
But please, let's not discuss my specific case; rather, I'm interested in a policy for allowing contributors to edit obsolete answers left by other users, without being banned for changing the answer too much. On Quora, this wouldn't be a problem, as the edit suggestions are transmitted to the original answerer, who's usually happy to amend their answer. On SO, the edits are reviewed by users who, by policy, don't need to have specific niche knowledge of the topic the answer is in. This has resulted in the bans I mentioned above, and stale, incorrect answers, some with upvotes, left untouched.
To pre-empt some potential objections:
- suggesting to comment instead of editing the answer only solves part of the issue. It's undeniable that many users will stop reading an answer after the first paragraph that gives them the wrong impression about the topic (e.g. "Does X run on platform Y -No, but ..."), and even more users will stop before reading the comments
- tracking down the original user who answered is often impossible because SO has disabled messaging users
- giving a new, correct, answer and hoping that it will bubble to the top, is... weak. I've been giving a lot of these "better answers after others gave less satisfactory ones", yet they haven't been voted to the top. I can dig up specific examples, but that's besides the point. Having correct information should not depend on whether the community gathers sufficient users to upvote the correct information above incorrect answers.