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When I only started to use SO, I read and especially memorized this FAQ topic:
http://stackoverflow.com/faq#editing

And I think that it is trying to say only "Your answer can be edited by other user". But maybe the users think (especially new) that it says "Your answer can be edited and you can edit answers of others". Maybe I'm wrong, but I just think so.

Now I read about editing other answers here, on Meta, and understood that editing original author answer is not good in most cases. It's better to add a comment or post separate answer. And if answer is works, voted and already accepted it's better don't touch anything. That's clear and OK.

The point is that I recently faced the answer, in one part of which, in my view, must be important remark. Because I guess original author just quickly copied the portion of its code, but didn't explain the real meaning. And the answer is working perfectly well by itself, but does not answer the question completely. I wanted to add important comment inside the source code (not just add comment below). I tried to carefully edit original response, but my suggested edit was rejected. And now I just want to figure out what I did wrong.

So I want to know more about this on the future. How should or shouldn't I edit original author answers in other cases, besides a simple grammatical/spelling or minor mistakes fixes?

And what is the meaning of "clarify meaning" phrase really is? Can you give me examples of such good edits?

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You're referring to this edit suggestion, right? That's not just a comment, you actually changed the code. Reviewers would need intimate knowledge of the language and context to determine whether that cast (if it is a cast) is even legal. That's not a minor code change at all. –  Mat May 22 '13 at 14:25
    
@Mat, About link: Yes. I did not gave a specific link, because I want to know answer in general. About code: I added comment into code for important remark. And change real code only for fixing minor typo (access to object with absolute name). It happened so that my fixes simply overlapped each other. –  Dmitry Zorin May 22 '13 at 14:35
    
Dmitry, there's no way to tell if that's a "small fix" or not without good knowledge of the language in question. That's not for reviewers (or mods) to judge. A cast can be a major change in code - anywhere from a great fix to turning it into a hellishly hard to find bug depending on language and context. Adding a comment can be ok if it's really, really obvious - but then the comment isn't necessary. Changing a completely obvious typo (misspelling of a var name) can be ok but even that's a code change. And not something you should do. –  Mat May 22 '13 at 14:39
    
@Mat, Now I understood. Thank you. I thought before that the reviewers/moderators are appointed for a specific theme only (specific language for example) and have the appropriate knowledge. That's my main mistake. –  Dmitry Zorin May 22 '13 at 14:56
    
Reviewers aren't appointed at all, it's just a reputation threshold. Moderators aren't elected for their technical expertise (though that certainly has influence over the electors). Reviews are handed out to whoever is reviewing, there is no triage based on tags. –  Mat May 22 '13 at 14:57
    
@DmitryZorin Unfortunately, the new review system has caused people to increasingly frown on suggested edits that require domain knowledge to evaluate. I don't like this development, but behaviour won't change without changes to the review system. (One possibility that's been suggested is to give the post owner more time to review the edit themselves before putting it in the general reiew pool, but then reviews may sit in the queue for hours instead of minutes...) –  Jeremy Banks May 22 '13 at 16:40

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Rule of thumb :

You should never change code in questions. Never
You should not change code in answers. (Unless you are certain that a 100% working, minor, correct change is necessary)

Now that you we got that, we have a few options.

  • Post another anwser and don't forget to quote the code author.
  • Strongly insist in the comment section that the answerer edits his answer.

I know it can sometimes be tempting to reformat the whole answer in your own words but in thoses times remember that if you quote the author correctly nothing is keeping you from writing an improved version of the answer and get it to be accepted since it is more clear / complete.
In my opinion, editing answers is a little more touchy than editing questions.

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You should never change the code in questions. Minor, correct, changes to code in answers is okay but you should be absolutely 100% certain it's correct and attempt to compile it yourself to double check. –  ben is uǝq backwards May 22 '13 at 14:28
    
I think your answer is correct, but don't work on this site for now. In my case I was certain, code 100% worked and complied, and minor correct change was necessary for the sake of completeness and time saving for others. And also I'm sure that SO was created for the sake of learning and knowledge, and is not just a repository with hastily copied code without comments. That just my opinion. Apparently, as I said in the comments above, problem lies in a different plane. Thanks anyway. –  Dmitry Zorin Jun 4 '13 at 8:30

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