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).

  • 3
    I've seen this happen a number of times with users who are question-banned.
    – Mysticial
    Jan 26, 2013 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). Jan 26, 2013 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, 2013 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? Mar 2, 2013 at 9:46

2 Answers 2


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? Jan 26, 2013 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. Jan 26, 2013 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 Jan 27, 2013 at 0:02

Well... If you're circumventing the ban by turning bad questions into good ones... Mission Accomplished! – Shog9

That is the goal of every ounce of the system: make you create better content. If the question is closed, then any attempt to put it in a good standing should be welcomed and accepted. If there are answers, they should be just deleted. They were answering a subpar question anyways, so it's very unlikely that the answers would be any different.

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    Changing a bad question into a completely different good question is not something that should be encouraged. The new content should be posted as a new question, and not burdened with irrelevant history, creation date, comments, flags, etc. If that is the only way for someone to get out from under a question ban, then we should rethink that, not encourage people to invalidate answers. I have seen very useful answers to closed questions and I don’t agree that we can assume a poorly asked question always produces poorly written answers.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 12, 2021 at 13:42
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    @ColleenV the example in this case does not invalidate existing answers. If it isn't invalidating existing answers... no harm is occurring? You could consider it a way of circumventing the question ban, but if the end result is a good question and no answers are invalidated, why not? There's no harm in deleting awful answers.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 12, 2021 at 15:08
  • @ColleenV [citation needed] Shog was all for it. Why aren't you? Why should OP have a indelible question that noone wants, nor the OP, nor the community. It's as if people can't redeem themselves.
    – Braiam
    Aug 12, 2021 at 15:15

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