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Consider this situation. I post a legitimate and correct answer to a question and receive a few upvotes. Then the OP realizes that's not what they wanted to ask, and significantly rewrites the question, rendering my answer irrelevant and useless. Ideally the OP would comment on every answer saying "check my edit" but some people don't know to do that.

This leaves two possibly bad situations:

  1. I never know, the answer stays, and the votes don't reflect the usefulness of the answer anymore.

  2. All of a sudden I get an influx of downvotes because my answer isn't helpful anymore. If I'm checking and notice my rep has dropped, I come back after the fact, edit the answer, and bring it back to the original quality. This is great, but 9 times out of 10, the downvoters never come back and notice the answer has been edited. It might get more upvotes, but it still doesn't reflect the true value of the answer.

If we can get notified when the OP gets edited, we can nip it in the bud and go back to edit our answers to match - thus maintaining the quality of the answers on SO.

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+1, something similar I posted in drupal meta meta.drupal.stackexchange.com/questions/2697/… –  Bala Oct 24 '13 at 7:20

7 Answers 7

This is a good suggestion. I've been downvoted before simply because the question was edited changing the validity of my answer. Most people tend to realize this is whats happened but some don't. It would be good if there were such a notification so you could modify or delete your answer, as appropriate.

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I've had similar experiences to Cletus where the answer I posted was the first and correct, but over time the question changes and all of a sudden you can get hammered because you were unable to keep up with the changing requirements of the question. This can definitely get very annoying.

This would also be incredible useful for those of us who monitor questions to close. If this was combined with the ability to remove a close vote, it could allow us to vote a question to close when it doesn't meet standards, and when it is revised, we would get notified and be able to then remove our close vote if we felt it was an improvement.

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This is so true - you maybe need to educate people more so they recognize this when they vote. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN May 14 '10 at 3:13

An alternative would be to show clearly that particular answers were written before the original question was edited, for example:

This answer is for a previous version of this question. Click here to notify the user if their answer is no longer relevant.

Another option is to display an alert to the downvoter when downvoting an out of date answer.

I think the majority of SO users would be glad to edit their answers if they're no longer relevant to an edited question, but without notification it's extremely difficult to check before getting downvoted.

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Wrong solution because you are trying to address the wrong problem.

Changing the question out from under good answers is simply rude and should be discouraged. I wrote an expansive version of this argument on a later question.

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Agreed with your argument, but how do we prevent people from changing questions like that? As much as the behavior is rude and discouraged, it still happens. If we were to get a notification, we then have the chance to edit our answer, complain that the question was changed and it was rude, or take some action. But without knowing anything changed, we're still faced with the same bad situations as above. –  lc. May 26 '10 at 6:08
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@dmckee: While I agree that it is rude, the suggestion is still valid in that there are people who make minor edits or addendum and the answer would still benefit from being updated. –  casperOne Nov 8 '11 at 22:16

This seems like a highly requested feature, and still doesn't have enough ROI.

Why?

  1. We like notification, not spam. which one of those two is more likely to happen? well it depends on the quality of the feature. Users with thousands of posts may have to either spend a lot of time to manage subscriptions, or just get spam.

  2. Users should "play" fair - changing a major thing in your post after you got upvoted answers can be rude. You can never avoid users from "abusing" a system.

  3. The core functionality is mostly achieved through other activities i.e by the first down vote or comment. it's clear that it's not fair, and the down voter may never return to change his vote regardless of what you do. if it's a highly ranked post, most chances that you will be know that there was a change quick enough.

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Simply sending everyone a reminder each time a question is updated, will be a cure that is worse than the original problem. Most of the time I answer a question, it gets edited later (often several times). And of these edits, 9 out of 10 will not invalidate the existing answers.

All in all I agree that it is annoying to see your answer being invalidated from time to time, but receiving tons of notifications over words put between backticks would be more annoying for me.

Hence I suggest we don't simply send notifications when the question is updated, but either do something more advanced, or don't do anything at all. Here are two options I could think of:

  1. Major edit indication: Next to the edit summary, make a checkbox indicating a 'Major Edit', the reversed of what they have in wikipedia. When a major edit is made, the relevant users get a notification.
  2. Targeted advice: Try to detect whether an edit is likely to require different answers. If this is detected, briefly show text to the user with the hint to notify those whose answer is now outdated.
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"Question edition" is but the tip of the "notification" iceberg (when you actively participated in a question by posting an answer). If another answer is added or modified, you aren't notified. If a comment is made without the right '@', you aren't notified. You can catch some of this events with the "star" (which is why I have ~6000 "favorite" questions...), but even then, if the question get closed, you aren't notified. Notification is simply not properly addressed. –  VonC Oct 18 '13 at 14:12
    
not everyone, just those who answered. Giving the ability to subscribe/unsubscribe will make it 100% non-spam. –  Yosi Oct 19 '13 at 9:44

I currently have a large number of posts bookmarked so I can monitor them. In each case, I have posted an answer based on what I thought the OP wanted. However, the question was interpreted differently by other posters.

Of course, I could have waited for the OP to clarify the question before answering. However, I have found that I have a high rate of success correctly interpreting the original meaning. And I may not be around when, if ever, the question is clarified.

I used to star them and use the favorites tab to monitor them, but I really don't want these cluttering up my real favorites. Using browser bookmarks means I have to manually follow up which is a pain.

Having the ability to subscribe to posts is probably redundant since that is effectively what favorites is, but I'd really like to have some mechanism to monitor activity on questions I've answered (without having to star them).

Possible Solution
Maybe the answer tab could work similar to the favorites tab so that the tab and individual answers get highlighted when there is new activity on the question. I don't think notification of favorites activity goes to the inbox so it wouldn't be spam.

Another Possible Solution
Add the ability to categorize favorites. There is a feature request that suggests several improvements to favorites. One could use favorites to receive notification on any question and then use personal tags to keep those favorites organized. I think this solution would kill two requests with one feature.

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"I used to star them and use the favorites tab to monitor them, but I really don't want these cluttering up my real favorites." I lost that hope a long time ago, and now have 7200+ "favorites" on Stack Overflow... –  VonC Mar 3 at 10:12

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