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I just had a disagreement with another user about an edit to a new user's question, and I was hoping to get some community input.

For this question which was tagged JS but also referenced Java, the original poster was clearly using Java and JS interchangeably. It seemed likely that he meant Javascript but this was not entirely clear from his question.

Another user edited the question to change all references to JS. I disagreed and rolled back the edit since the original poster had not weighed in at all on his meaning, and the question had been posted for less than 3 minutes. In the end the OP made it more or less clear that he meant JS, and I restored the edit.

My question to the community is, when is it appropriate to try and clarify another poster's question beyond the information given? If we think we "know what they mean" is that enough justification to edit and clarify the question?

  • If there is reliable hint (e.g. code) on what the language is, then it is appropriate to edit. – nhahtdh Mar 19 '13 at 17:54
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    hm "added 6 characters in body; edited title" is not the greatest edit summary I've seen. Bad things tend to happen more frequently when the editor fails to clearly summarize what and why is done (BTDT) – gnat Mar 19 '13 at 18:09
  • I'll remember this, and will maybe delay doing so in the future. However, for me, the context made it clear what the poster meant. (especially mentioning "other scripting languages", while also having a semi-clear mention that poster is familiar with the fact C# is not a scripting language beside the mentions of JavaScript directly) – ppeterka Mar 19 '13 at 19:25
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If it's clear what language they're using, than yes, an edit is appropriate.

If you're not sure you know what they mean, than you should be asking for clarification in the comments, not editing it into the question.

Now in the particular question you had phrases like

in html and other scripting language, so javascript "fits" a lot better than java would, so I'd say that that edit was probably appropriate

  • The asker explicitly mentioned Javascript in the post too, so it was clearly supposed to be JS. This is pretty much exactly what edits are for. – Ben Brocka Mar 19 '13 at 18:27
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The edit was not appropriate at the time posted (although it happened to be correct).

You should be 1000% certain about what the OP means before clarifying the question.

If the question is ambiguous, it is better to provide the OP with answers to all different interpretations, than to erroneously change the meaning of the question. Recent example of bad edit. It was rolled back and OP accepted the answer that invalidated the edit.

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    If the question is entirely ambiguous then it's not answerable. The site is better off with a question that can be answered and might possibly be useful to future visitors. Now obviously it's best to ask the clarifying question and have the OP edit it, but there is no need for certainty here. If you're just reasonably sure then the negative consequences of editing it are lower than leaving the question. In the event the edit was wrong and the OP's problem isn't solve, you can either revert the edit, or if there are already several answers, just ask a new question. – Servy Mar 19 '13 at 18:27
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    No, absolutely not. An incorrect edit can easily be fixed, the mess that will be created by people answering all different interpretations cannot (unless of course we count deletion as an easy fix). Editing in good faith is a lot more appropriate than posting answers to ambiguous questions, even if the edit turns out to be incorrect. – yannis Mar 19 '13 at 19:14
  • @Servy That is what I was exactly thinking when I did the final "should I do this" check before sending in the edit. I had a green light on "Am I reasonably sure?" and "Is it easy to revert back if I happen to be wrong?" questions. – ppeterka Mar 19 '13 at 19:18

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