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After answering a question the other day I came across an unusual situation.

The content of the answers received prompted the original poster to change edit their question (both title and content) such that it significantly changed its nature and substance.

Without going into specifics, the question talked about performing an action on a particular class. The edits changed both the required action and the Class to act on -- from "How do I cut down a tree?" to "How do I grow a flower?".

As a result, the existing answers - which answered the original question - are no longer relevant to the newly worded question.

So, what is the etiquette for changing a question? Obviously clarifications and embellishments are encouraged to get the most accurate / specific answer to your question, but at what point should we just ask a new question? Is there a point at which question edits should be rolled back?

Further, what's the etiquette for the now inappropriate answers? I personally deleted mine as it was no longer appropriate - should I have instead edited it to add a quote citing the original question?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Apr 30 '10 at 2:50

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

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I wonder why it took 1.5 yrs. for this question to be moved from SO to here. –  OscarRyz Apr 30 '10 at 2:53
    
@Oscar it looks like a diamon mod has been busy finding questions tagged [sofaq] –  Earlz Apr 30 '10 at 4:49

4 Answers 4

I would say that it depends upon how old the question is and how drastic of a change it is. For newer questions (e.g. less than 24 hours old) I would just make revisions to my answer to reflect the question unless it is a drastic change. If it is an older question, I would likely roll the question back to the original one as by that point in time there might be a lot more people that have seen and answered the question and it might have been picked up by Google as well.

In regards to the original person asking the question, I would suggest that changing the nature of a question should be discouraged since there is no penalty for asking more questions here.

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If the original question and the answers still have value for others then leave the old question with the old anwers, create a new question and link to it. This gives people the opportunity to add useful input to the old question as well as the new one.

If the original question turns out to be the wrong question in any situation then change it.

Remember that stackoverflow is not only about getting your questions answered but also about creating a searchable repository of knowledge.

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I've seen instances where the entire meaning of a question can be changed just because the original question was not properly translated to English.

How do I set the default page for my web site?

Became...

How do I set the default page to my web site?

Changing the preposition upon clarification adjusted the entire meaning of the question from a server setting to a client-side command. I answered the original question moments before it was altered only to come back later to find downvotes and comments suggesting that I read more carefully.

What do you do in the case of a typo that alters the meaning of the question that had valid answers?

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The original asker of the question is generally allowed to change the substance of their question at their discretion. The problem of older answers no longer being relevant is a problem, but up to now I think the community has seen it as the answerer's problem, not the askers. I think there are uservoice suggestions to help answerers deal with this event.

As an answerer, you should either delete your answer or modify it so that it is pertinent to the new question. I don't think you should quote the original and put it in your answer, as that won't be easily searchable in the same idiom as the rest of the site. If anything, you could re-ask and answer yourself the original question if you think you have useful information to contribute.

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