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A user can change an answer/comment after it has been up- and/or downvoted. And the new version of the answer/question may be very different than what the readers first up-/downvoted. On the extreme, say someones good comment was upvoted 50 times, then the user changes that comment to say "f..k the xxx", then another reader comes in and sees this comment has 50 upvotes and wonders how that can be.

This seems to be a consistency issue for me (comparable to database design). But it's a difficult issue also: what else should happen, should users not be able to edit their comments after receiving one vote? That would not be nice. Of course, the moderation system of SO helps a lot. I wonder if the SO team has pondered this question and alternatives? Because this issue is not only related to SO, but to any system that makes use of voting of user content.

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If I saw a post that said "f..k the xxx" with 50 upvotes, the first thing I'd do is check the revision history to see who vandalized it. IOW, I don't see this as a problem. – Mysticial Jul 29 '13 at 5:14
Say the original user was the one who vandalized it. On SO we have a pretty decent community, but if you consider this question more broadly, wouldn't it be a problem really? – staccata Jul 29 '13 at 5:15
Then you revert it, and maybe flag for moderator attention. It's not like it never happens - people rage-quit every day. – Mysticial Jul 29 '13 at 5:16
Ok, maybe the extreme case is not a great example. Say the original commenter changes the answer to something decent, but to something that is in essence different from the original answer? You cannot revert it then. – staccata Jul 29 '13 at 5:18
Don't mix-up comments and questions/answers because comments can only be changed by commentator withing 5 minutes' grace period. And moderators can change it anytime. – hims056 Jul 29 '13 at 5:19
For posts, the history will still be logged after 5 min. regardless of whether it's the same user. So you can see those and roll it back. Within those 5 min. there isn't enough time for too many votes to accumulate. Comments cannot be edited at all after 5 min. (Mods can edits comments freely though. But they're trusted not to abuse it.) – Mysticial Jul 29 '13 at 5:20
I didn't know about the 5 minutes rule for comments; that seems a reasonable solution. But the problem exists for posts, because even if you know the change history, and someones new answer is in essence different from his original one (AND not offending in any way), you cannot revert it back. – staccata Jul 29 '13 at 5:25
@staccata - You can always revert your vote back if the post is updated after your vote. Do you have any example post? – hims056 Jul 29 '13 at 5:28
@hims056 - The possibility of reverting the vote is a good one. I am asking this question in relation to a project I am working on that also has some (very basic compared to SO) voting system and where the users may not be that decent :) – staccata Jul 29 '13 at 5:30
@staccata - But what's your question here? I can't understand whether you are asking for Stack Exchange or your project. – hims056 Jul 29 '13 at 5:32
Both; wanted to know how stackexchange is doing – staccata Jul 29 '13 at 5:33
Could you make your question a little more like a "question"? I wonder if the SO team has pondered this question and alternatives? can be answered with "Yes." If you want an open-ended discussion, then the issue in itself is very broad. – AsheeshR Jul 29 '13 at 6:13
up vote 1 down vote accepted

First off, make sure that you're not confusing answers and comments. Answers can be edited indefinitely, by anyone, at any time. Comments can only be edited by the original poster within the first 5 minutes of submission (and ♦ moderators).

So yes, an answer could change drastically, even multiple times, since you first looked at it and voted. That's why we allow votes to be changed after an answer is edited. If you revisit the answer (or look in your vote history in your profile), you can change your vote as appropriate (or simply retract it).

But comments can really only change within the first 5 minutes. So yeah, assuming that you vote on a comment immediately after it is posted, and the person makes a drastic edit to the comment within the first 5 minutes, you could have voted for something that you no longer agree with (there is no downvoting for comments).

Then again, this is extremely rare. Someone would have to be intentionally trying to dupe people, and you would have to be vulnerable. All you have to do to prevent this is to be less zealous with that mouse. There's no time limit on casting a comment vote; you don't have to hurry.

Also, comments that have been edited are specially indicated as such: that's what the little pencil icon is at the end of it. If you hover over the pencil with your pointer, you'll see a tooltip that says how many times the comment was edited.

Finally, keep in mind that all votes are anonymous: even if this did happen, no one would be able to connect your vote (and implicit support) back to you.

So I don't really see this becoming a problem. If you see someone abusing comment edits like this, you can flag one of the comments for moderator attention and ask them to look into it and/or ask the user to stop doing this. Edits are supposed to be for fixing typos, or maybe adding some more information. If you want to change your position entirely, just delete the original comment and start all over. The poster of a comment can delete it at any time, regardless of how many votes it has.

If it was decided that something should be done about this, I would suggest extending the period when users can cancel their upvotes on comments to 5 minutes, which would make it coincide with the 5 minute window in which the poster can edit. That way, if a comment you voted for was edited to say something you no longer agreed with, you could still remove your vote. But I don't think this is necessary.

share|improve this answer
I think there is a practical problem with the ability to revise your vote for an updated answer, namely are most people closely guarding their votes or just vote and forget about it? I think the second. But then, I don't know a more practical solution, because of course it is very reasonable that people should be allowed to edit their answers. And, we can ask if it is that important to have a perfect system, in this case. But was it a site about political matters for example, well, then, making editing impossible of voted for answers could make sense (but keeping the delete option at all times – staccata Jul 29 '13 at 12:25
@staccata Answers have a full revision history. You can go back and see if the post was modified. If used to say one thing, and later it was edited to say something completely different, it would be obvious that something was up. You would have to take the vote count with a grain of salt. Otherwise, no, there's no way to solve this problem. – Cody Gray Jul 29 '13 at 12:27

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