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In this question, OP asks to print "123 12 1". To me it's blatantly obvious he meant printing digits 1..n, 1..n-1, ..., 1. So I edited the question to this. @paxdiablo then rolledback my edit saying:

the original said nothing about "given a non-negative integer" stuff. The assignment was a very simple "print out 123 12 1". I don't mind questions being edited to add clarity and fix minor errors but I'm not a big fan of changes that morph the basic nature of the question.

Who's "right"? Should we avoid making such edits when the question as it stands is pretty pointless (it resulted in silly answers literally printing "123 12 1"?

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As an aside, I think making the question generic and parameterized like you did was a genius way to redefine the problem, and is what programming, computer science, and software engineering is all about. Create solutions that solve all cases, and take complex problems and transform them into simple ones. – user163250 Jul 13 '13 at 21:08
up vote 4 down vote accepted

For this specific scenario, a clarification is really necessary. paxdiablo's actually right to rollback: because with how little data the author has given, you can't actually assume non-negative integer. You can't even assume whether the question is asking about numbers or plain strings. Both dealing with numbers and strings to make this output present valid homework, so it is at this point you're dealing with an ambiguous choice. And when dealing with ambiguous choices of what an author is really asking, one really shouldn't change the question to either side as there's pretty much a 50-50 chance you'll pick wrong. Either wait for the author to clarify, or vote to close as Not A Real Question. In the latter case, do be kind and keep watch so that you can vote to reopen if it gets properly retooled.

If the possible edit is not ambiguous, and is in fact pretty much undeniable, it may make sense to clarify. But it's difficult to make this kind of call on exceptionally vague questions - what may look obvious to you... may not only be not obvious to others and may even be completely wrong. It's generally safer to request clarification in comments first, and try to eke the edits out of the original author.

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Okay, agreed.(15 chars) – marcog Jan 14 '11 at 14:30

Comment (wait for it...) then edit

unless if it's spammy or vulgar, in which case you flag it.


How long should I wait?

If the question is by a new user or an unregistered user, wait for atleast 24hours.I would rather leave the question untouched than change what the user meant. Else if the user is a regular user, wait till the user replies or makes the necessary edit.

The above advice is only if you are not fully sure, if you are sure then go ahead with your edit. Leave a comment nonetheless so that the user doesn't feel offended and knows he can rollback.

share|improve this answer
Wait for roughly how long? – marcog Jan 14 '11 at 14:27
@marcog Updated post – abel Jan 14 '11 at 14:37

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