This question was originally a closed as "not constructive"- in its original form, it was asking which of three R machine learning packages was best.

The author has since edited the question so that it has almost nothing in common with the original, except that both involve machine learning in R. The new question, about a specific error in the deal package, is answerable and on-topic (thought it might deserve a bit of editing).

I've seen discussion of chameleon questions before, but that usually concerns the case where open questions have been answered and the user is changing them in response to answers.

The right thing in this case would have been to for the user to ask a new question, but given that he hasn't, should the question be reopened, or the edit rolled back and the user encouraged to ask a new question?

(It's also possible, though far from apparent, that the user could be question-banned, and editing his old questions as a way of circumventing the ban).

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    I've seen this happen a number of times with users who are question-banned. – Mysticial Jan 26 '13 at 21:49
  • Mere seconds after I asked this question, the same user asked his question again on Meta, which does increase the likelihood he is question banned (or at least not overly familiar with the site's rules). – David Robinson Jan 26 '13 at 21:50
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    It's a not-altogether-unreasonable interpretation of the "Edit your old questions to improve them" advice. The new version of the question is likely something I'd vote to close, too, however. – jscs Jan 26 '13 at 21:52
  • I had a case where the question was closed. It seems that if a user has only a few points although he intends to change his own question & grey about box he is unable to do so. The procedure to edit and reopen your own closed question is too hidden for newbies. @bill-the-lizard Could you help out in this case? – slackmuggle Mar 2 '13 at 9:46

This is a tough one. If there had been any answers I would definitely say this was not cool at all. However, he was told to edit his existing closed questions to make them fit into the site guidelines. (He very likely is question banned, based on deleted questions.)

I'm inclined to let this one slide. This user has three open questions at the moment. If any of those are edited into completely new questions, we'll know for certain that this is an attempt to circumvent the ban. Until then, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Update: I now notice that the user did make small changes to two of those questions about an hour ago. These look like attempts to improve the existing questions.

  • Do moderators not have the ability to tell for sure if a user is question-banned? – David Robinson Jan 26 '13 at 22:28
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    @DavidRobinson No, the only additional information that we have on that is that we can see deleted posts in everyone's profile. – Bill the Lizard Jan 26 '13 at 22:29
  • I wonder if that's a worthwhile feature (wouldn't some moderator decisions, like banning a user on Meta for asking programming questions there to circumvent a question ban, be helped by the information?) In any case, your answer sounds right, and I'm glad the question is reopened – David Robinson Jan 27 '13 at 0:02

Improving questions that get closed or in general is highly encouraged. Improving - not completely changing into someting else.

I would say that such harsh changes are vandalizing the post and should be rolled back.

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    but that puts the banned asker between a rock and a hard place. The original question isn't salvageable. They can't ask new ones. Editing the old ones might get them out of jail. If they radically edit crap into a good question (especially if there are no answers on the crap) isn't that a net gain, and a step towards making a good SO user out of the banned user? – Kate Gregory Jan 26 '13 at 22:03
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    @KateGregory: On the other hand, isn't that a way of circumventing the question ban? (Effectively it's just letting them ask new questions- and even if the new ones are poor, they can reedit them and try again). – David Robinson Jan 26 '13 at 22:09
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    Well... If you're circumventing the ban by turning bad questions into good ones... Mission Accomplished! – Shog9 Jan 26 '13 at 23:29

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