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Currently on SO, a question can be closed and then edited by its original author. Potentially, this editing can change the context and even spur a reopening of the question.

Is there is value in letting the closed question stand as it first was (thus forcing the OP to ask a new question) rather than transforming the one that was closed.

My reasons

  1. If the question changes sufficiently to no longer be close-worthy then it's a different question.

  2. If comments were left regarding the original form of the question, then they would become confusing and irrelevant following the edit.

  3. An unedited, closed question could provide valuable guidance on question-asking for those following behind.

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Oh, the irony.. –  Greg Hewgill Apr 12 '10 at 0:58
    
@Greg: Meta is high in irony. –  perbert Apr 12 '10 at 0:59
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This question is going in the trophy room. –  Adam Davis Apr 12 '10 at 1:06
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I say when a question is closed the account should also be suspended you know. Keep the confusion down. –  Earlz Apr 12 '10 at 2:02
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@earlz - I'm pretty sure step 8 of the business plan is to hire black ops forces to 'recover' and 'retrain' those that post questions to the site that deserve to be closed. Takes a bit of money, though, so it's on the list right after Corporate Jet, and just before Buy NASA. –  Adam Davis Apr 12 '10 at 2:20
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@Earlz, @Pollyanna, glad to see that sarcasm is alive and well and living on Meta. It's such a constructive approach. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 8:16
    
-7 and still here, jeez. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 11:48
    
LOL Down-voted the question myself. Meta told me I couldn't do that then left the down vote in place. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 12:47
    
@bchappel you can always mark it as community to keep further downvotes from affecting you. I usually do that when I figure out my suggestions suck. –  Earlz Apr 12 '10 at 19:50
    
@Earlz, the rep really isn't important to me but thanks for the suggestion :) I had a good idea what the response was going to be, it's not often that I'm disappointed by being right about something. –  Lazarus Apr 14 '10 at 20:51
    
Why are people downvoting this question. The question is well written. If you want to argue the case for or against this change then surely you post an answer to that effect but downvoting it??? –  Caltor Nov 5 '12 at 10:28
    
Ah, I've read the FAQ and realised voting works differently on meta. Duh! –  Caltor Nov 5 '12 at 23:55
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Closing does not prevent editing by the OP, it merely prevents new answers from being added.

Currently on SO, a question can be closed and then edited by its original author. Potentially, this editing can change the context and even spur a reopening of the question.

Yes, that is the intention -- your question was closed because it lacked .. something. It is your right (and perhaps even duty) as the question owner to edit it to make it better. Garbage in, garbage out.

If the question changes sufficiently to no longer be close-worthy then it's a different question.

Not necessarily. Can you provide specific examples of this? Questions that changed radically and invalidated a bunch of comments and answers? It's easier to talk about with specific citations rather than abstract generalities..

If comments were left regarding the original form of the question, then they would become confusing and irrelevant following the edit.

So flag it for mod attention and we'll delete the comments.

An unedited, closed question could provide valuable guidance on question-asking for those following behind.

Or, it could be seen as broken windows cluttering up the place and leading to more broken windows.

Permissive editing, more than anything else, is what makes the Stack Overflow engine different and useful. You'll have to produce an extremely compelling argument to change that..

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Sorry Jeff, today it's become clear to me once again (I seem to need reminding from time to time) that SO isn't what I want it to be, a programming Q&A site for programmers, and there's nothing I can do about that. Apologies for wasting your time, please feel free to delete this question. –  Lazarus Apr 11 '10 at 23:02
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@bchappell: I read your question the same way that Jeff seems to have: as wanting to be able to edit. Only on three readings did I figure out that you were trying to make a case for turning it off. –  Rosinante Apr 11 '10 at 23:21
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@bchappell: I, like bmargulies and Jeff, was also confused. I've attempted to clarify your suggestion. –  Shog9 Apr 12 '10 at 0:55
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@bchappell - I'm also confused, but for other reasons. What exactly in here made it "clear" that SO is not a programming Q&A site? I mean, there is probably something I missed, and I would like to know the reasons. –  Gnoupi Apr 12 '10 at 8:06
    
@Gnoupi, I didn't say it wasn't a "programming Q&A site", I said it wasn't a "programming Q&A site for programmers". It's clear from the scope of questions allowed and the noise that generates that SO is a programming Q&A site for anyone. That's a great, philanthropic approach but the noise level is so high that the useful stuff is drowned out in the dross for me. It also means that any attempt to encourage the OP to help themselves is leapt upon and discouraged in favour of rote learning. I'm looking for a site that provides quality over quantity. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 8:50
    
@Gnoupi, as to what made it clear, it was a number of things and not just this Q&A. Other things going on in SO and many of the other Q&A here that reinforce the rote learning approach, i.e. give an answer to any question rather than encouraging a beginner to find the answer themselves. That's the Q&A version of what's called box-shifting in the retail world, pile them high, sell them cheap. There's very little emphasis on quality over quantity. Even the rep system, designed to indicate how much the community 'trusts' you is more an indicator of how long you've been here. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 8:54
    
All that together has brought me to my conclusion. SO is no longer the same place I joined last year, I guess I'll be branded a dinosaur for lamenting the loss of that 'state'. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 8:57
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@bchappel - Any Q&A site has for objective to give answers to questions (if I understood the concept well). If I have a question and go to such site, I want the answer. I don't want pointers to what I should search and learn by myself. I like the SO family because to me, it's an end to years of "RTFM". Years of programming "elitism": "learn by yourself like we did or die trying". If you don't want to answer easy questions, that's your right. But that doesn't mean that there are no people to answer beginner like "true programmer" questions. –  Gnoupi Apr 12 '10 at 9:21
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@bchappel - And comments are here to invite the OP to make a better question, to help him define his need. Your approach, like in whole this question, is "if he can't express his need let him die". So I guess you are right. This is not the site for you. –  Gnoupi Apr 12 '10 at 9:22
    
@Gnoupi, I'm not suggesting that "RTFM" is the solution. What I'm saying is that rote learning does no-one any favours, it builds dependency. It's also not elitism, I'm not saying that 'real' programmers are great and beginners are crap, I'm all for helping someone but I want to see that they've at least tried to find the answer for themselves before they come looking for someone to give them the answer, either that or ask a question that's related to a specific problem rather than "Tell me how to do x". –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 11:02
    
@bchappell - For information, I'm not against the fact that we have to push people to ask better questions. This is why I said that comments should be used to suggest something to do. I highly discourage answers to incomplete questions, or "guessing" answers, we have to invite people to improve their questions. But your idea is to simply prevent any chance to improve if 5 people judged the question to be closed. In the end, the objective is to provide answers to questions, which will then appear as first google results, helping then everyone. –  Gnoupi Apr 12 '10 at 11:19
    
@bchappell - In the end, you should not be the one judging if someone should have searched more before asking a question. And as such, if a question is in your opinion "not searched enough", then again, just pass. Nobody forces you to answer it. But don't come preventing people from giving an answer, just because you judge the OP to have given not enough effort to something "easy to solve" in your own opinion. –  Gnoupi Apr 12 '10 at 11:24
    
@Gnoupi, who mentioned comments and are you suggesting that comments can be used to encourage people to do a better job? I also never implied that someone who can't express themselves should be left to die. Don't you feel that's a little bit of an over-reaction, no-one dies if they don't get their SO question answered. Someone might die if some of the OPs manage to get jobs writing software for flight control systems but that's back to my original point. I didn't say they couldn't or shouldn't edit their question unless it changed the question sufficiently to be a different question. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 11:35
    
@Gnoupi, again, where have I said that people should be prevent from answering any question? My issue is, and I'll repeat it again for you, that if I do comment to that effect I will get attacked and the OP's question will stand without any reference back to them. So your standpoint is that any and every question should be left, no matter how bad, vague or confusing for the sake of future search results and that I should just ignore these and move on. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 11:39
    
@Gnoupi, if I have no right to make a judgement on the questions I see then what right have you to make a judgement on my question? –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 11:40
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Users should not be able to edit closed questions in order to make them more palatable!

The point of asking a question is to get an answer.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Questions are not sacred objects to be etched in stone to stand memorial for eternity. They are living, breathing things, and may need to grow.

Especially in their early adolescent phase, when questions are gangly and ungainly, significant editing is to be tolerated and expected.

Such editing may result in some confusion, but it's best to adapt to that changing ground than it is to clutter the site with near duplicates because people start thinking they should open a new question rather than editing the one they just submitted.

A closed question is not permanently closed. It's a sign that 5 people believe the question, as currently formed, is not appropriate for this site. However, others may disagree and vote to reopen it.

If it's modified (and it should be, because, again, the point is to get an answer, and that can't happen if it's closed) then the likelihood of it being opened again increases.

It's okay for a question to change from bad to good. Recidivism among closed and reopened questions a very low.

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+1. great explanation. –  Earlz Apr 12 '10 at 2:09
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@Pollyanna, thanks for the fatuous response. From your comment to my question above I hadn't clearly received the sense that you were better than me but now it's clear. I'll bear that in mind for the future and won't question anything. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 8:15
    
I will add that editing a bad question into a good question should of course be encouraged and promoted but we are talking about a question bad enough to warrant closure and bad enough to stir at least 5 people into action, something that seems hard enough where bad questions are concerned but relatively easy if the answerer isn't rolling over and handing over the family jewels. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 8:20
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@bchappell - I'm confused. Are you being serious? It really, really appears that you're trolling. Please let me know what I've said that infers a sense of superiority to my writing and I'll reformat it. It's certainly not intended. –  Adam Davis Apr 12 '10 at 14:04
    
@bchappell - Closure is merely the beginning of the process to delete a question, or redirect a questioner to modify it. It's not a death sentence, nor should it be considered one. –  Adam Davis Apr 12 '10 at 14:09
    
@Pollyanna, after your comments against the question itself I may have read more into your answer than was appropriate. –  Lazarus Apr 12 '10 at 15:58
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Allowed? Absolutely

Good idea? Well, some questions can't be made acceptable without changing them beyond recognition. Leave those ones alone. Likewise those that will be dupes. Otherwise go for it.

Questions that are rightly closed have a pretty good chance of being deleted eventually, and won't provide any guidance. Worse, users don't read. And the users who ask most of the bad questions are even less likely to have trawled through the site in search of closed questions and thoughtfully pondered why they are closed and how they can avoid the same fate.

Better to provide examples of questions that belong on the site.


Examples of questions that can be rescued:

  • "What Foo should I use to bar?" or "What's the best Foo for Bar?" can sometimes be changed to "What Foo libraries provide feature X, Y, and Z?"
  • Anything with impenetrable syntax and usage if you can get some guidance from the OP. This is especially helpful is the OP if not a native English speaker.
  • I have seen people transform "Why does Foo suck?" questions into a "What are the pros and cons of Foo as compared to Bar?" which sometimes works and sometimes not. Forget it if you're in holy war territory, but it is worth a try if the alternatives really have differt strong domains.
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@dmckee, thanks for the response. I appreciate it, it's a good response. However, it's clear to me that this question needs deleting. –  Lazarus Apr 11 '10 at 23:05
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