Often there are questions on how to do something with a specific feature of a platform, be it regular expressions, sed or something else, and the result is typically that someone finds a complicated way to do it with the requested feature, and someone else presents a much better way (by any reasonable measure, including votes) of achieving the same result with a different feature which can reasonably be expected to be present in any system where the requested feature is present.

In such cases, would it be OK to change the question to simply "How to do X?", as long as OP doesn't present any reasons why the higher voted solution is somehow inferior or not applicable?

  • 1
    I'd say not. That is not the OP's question. The alternative answer is fine and can remain. But I wouldn't change the question itself. Added benefit of not changing it is that other users with a similar (flawed) approach as the OP would be led to the correct one as well when finding this question.
    – Bart
    May 27, 2013 at 10:06
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    In case of doubt, ask the OP if they really have to use the tool. Of course, more often than not they'll say, "no, I'm fine with anything else", but you can't broaden their question if they have specific requirements.
    – slhck
    May 27, 2013 at 10:09
  • @slhck What would you do if OP doesn't answer such a question? I've tried asking before, and IIRC usually there's no answer.
    – l0b0
    May 27, 2013 at 10:35
  • Then I'd leave the question alone. There's nothing you can do about it, really. If you'd like to see a more generic version of How to Foo (and not with Bar specifically), you could of course ask and answer the question yourself. You'd just have to make sure it wasn't asked before and it doesn't become too broad.
    – slhck
    May 27, 2013 at 10:37
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    How do I avoid my generic question being closed as a duplicate when the requisite answer already exists on a more specific question?
    – l0b0
    May 27, 2013 at 10:42
  • Depends, if the answer is the same as one of the answers in the original question, then you can't do anything. But if the answer is different, then it isn't a duplicate. May 27, 2013 at 11:13
  • But duplicates are usually considered "special" closed questions. Typically a good duplicate will not get deleted as it is a valuable signpost to the original question. You should ask a good question and not just ask "How do I do X" in the body. May 27, 2013 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


You should be very conservative when changing the intent of a question. Completely removing the with feature Y from a question is going to far in my opinion.

First, this is not what the user was asking. While it is not uncommon for someone to get blinders on and ask a bad question about using a specific feature when there are far better ways to reach the same end goal, it is not up for the community to force the OP to change his/her mind.

Second, you are forgetting about the poor guy/gal who came up with the complicate way to solve the OP's problem. If you remove the reason for the complicated solution, someone is going to come by, see this less than ideal solution to your edited version of the OP's problem, and downvote it. Why should the answerer be punished simply because he/she was trying to solve the OP's problem as asked.

If, through comments or other discussion, the OP indicates that they are not restricted to "feature Y", then the question is fair game to be editted, however, it would be fair to the people that have answered the question previously to be pinged via comment so they know the question's scope changed after qualification by the OP.

But if the OP does not respond to comments about whether they are restricted to feature Y, then you shouldn't change it.

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