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I found an interesing question on SO. While I was working out my own answer a user contributed a very good answer here (in a certain sense of "good"). I didn't understand the contributed answer very well at first, so I spent some time working out what mcdowella had in mind. Now I understand the proposed solution, but I feel like I could explain it better. Is the right solution to edit a previous answer (very creatively, I think some graphical illustrations are needed in this case), or create my own?

Neither method seems entirely satisfactory: the intellectual owner of the idea here is mcdowella, but I don't want to impose my own logic on that user's answer. Perhaps I should upvote the previous answer, credit it, but contribute my own explanation, but wouldn't that seem like "stealing", especially in light of the fact that latter users who have the same solutions do not post it (cf. Knoothe's comment under mcdowella's answer)?

EDIT: I did just choose the "Create a new answer" option on a different question here, however, in this latter case I felt like I could contribute some knowledge/insight other than "clearer explanation."

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I believe the most intellectually honest course of action is to state explicitly "Using foo's idea, you also can say..." or some such. Don't change what foo said, make it clear you are woking on foo's base. Upvoting their answer is nice too.

I for one am very reluctant to edit some post too much. Fix grammar, formatting, typos, OK; minor clarifications, maybe; adding explanations, expanding, adding examples, right out of the question. In the copyright here there is the idea of "moral rights", I can't give away the right to have been the one who autored something, and nobody is allowed to misrepresent what I said. I am careful not to do the second, even if it would make the post much better (that is just my very biased opinion... and knowing that I feel I have to refrain).

Just personal policy, I'm not speaking for SE in any form (a relative newbie here, in any case; no inside knowledge at all).

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Just to be clear: taking their answer without credit is not an option I was considering. It was either "I think foo's idea is right, but I think it might be worth restating it as follows..." or edit. –  angelatlarge Mar 30 '13 at 20:38
    
@angelatlarge, sorry if it came across suggesting that in any way. Long custom, when posting on a public forum (like this one) you are talking to the couterpart, but perhaps even much more to the wider readership (including those who will come later). –  vonbrand Mar 30 '13 at 20:43
    
Nah, I was just being pre-emptively defensive, perhaps. Just wanted to make clear that I wasn't considering stealing their moral rights, even though I might be stealing their upvotes in effect. Perhaps, in some future version of SE one could flag their answer as a "derivative" of another one, thereby sharing points? This will of course encourage "first post" kind of phenomenon even further, so perhaps it is a bad idea. –  angelatlarge Mar 30 '13 at 20:46

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