Answered a question today where the OP asked how to add an extra row in a table, but accepted an answer that added an extra column. I realize that this is a simple example that most people who find it would be able to see through right away, but a serious newbie could be very confused by this. Other questions may not be so simple and it might not be as obvious. The existing answer may, in fact, be what the OP needs but the question was asked poorly or from limited understanding and doesn't reflect the answer.

Should we re-write (edit) the question from the perspective of the accepted answer? Clarify through comments (which I've done, but the OP appears to be a fly-by, non-registered user and may not be back for some time)? Flag for attention - then what would the mod do?

Normally, I wouldn't edit a question to change the actual question it is asking but in this case it appears reasonable, given that the accepted answer seems to answer a completely different question.

Your thoughts?

See adding extra table row

Similar to What happens when an accepted answer is wrong but the OP is gone? but in this case it seems that the question is wrong, not the answer.

  • 2
    If the answer is just wrong I would vote down the answer for being incorrect, vote up the correct one (if any) and leave comments on both explaining the problem. If the asker actually changed their question implicit by accepting an answer to a different problem I'd personally be tempted to rewrite the question.
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 29 '11 at 14:57
  • In this case, it's not clear that the answer is wrong, it's just different. I get the feeling that the question asker really wanted an extra column, just didn't know it.
    – tvanfosson
    Dec 29 '11 at 14:59
  • 1
    I think the OP of the answer is doing an injustice here, to themselves and the site by A) not providing an explanation of what they deduced from the question to specify such an answer, and B) for not providing any explanation at all. Dec 29 '11 at 15:00
  • If that's the case I'd post a comment asking "did you mean Y? Your question is about X but you accepted an answer about X". If they don't respond, long term I think it's more important that the question fit the solution found than respecting the asker's exact wording; it's a community site after all.
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 29 '11 at 15:01

After thinking about it, the plan I'm going with is to comment on the question and downvote it. This may be a very narrow case, but it seems wrong to downvote the answer in this case as the answerer was doing his best to interpret a poor question and seems to have gotten the interpretation correct. As a flag to others who may find it, however, the question should be "marked" clearly as a bad question, through a downvote, as it doesn't seem to reflect the actual problem that the OP has. There are other issues with it, some of which were cleared up by my edits, that also lead me in this direction.

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