This is not about the general topic of answering your own question.

Rather I came upon a question where the asker publishes several slightly different versions of his initial answer while he improves them. Of course, the chronological history is lost on viewers because answers are sorted not for their posting time (purposefully, and that's a good thing).

I am undecided on what to think about it, or how to deal with this when it comes to reviews & flags. Even before I comment, I'd like a discussion, so I can build a better opinion.

After having asked a question, while we're learning new things about the problem, I believe we're faced with two options:

  1. Edit the question with new information, or
  2. Add one or more answers

We probably have to distinguish multiple types of questions:

  1. Benchmarks "how to get things done fastest?"
  2. Style "What's the most pythonic/beautiful way in doing it?" (probably the same as (1))
  3. Ordinary questions

For types 1 & 2, multiple answers feel natural, the answers are valid independently of one another.

For type 3 I'd go with option 1, namely editing the question over time as knowledge grows.

Any other opinions? More Q types, or options on how to deal with this as an author?

And finally, could you elaborate on how to react to that particular question?


Just remembered the timeline feature, which helps to sort out the chronology of that question. This would help a reviewer to flag obsolete answers for deletion. But again, let's hear your opinion first..

  • Flag them as "Not an Answer." As noted in the flag dialogue: "This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether." (Emphasis mine) Sep 20, 2013 at 17:33
  • 3
    Looking more closely, it looks like each of the answers was a slight variation on the previously posted one. Thus, it might make sense as one answer: but that answer should have been edited rather than a new answer posted. Sep 20, 2013 at 17:37
  • 1
    This particular case clearly should have been edits, both because he starts with a non-working function and edits it into a working one, and also because, as said earlier, he's just improving the same fundamental approach. If a user has several entirely independent but valid answers to a question they are more than welcome to post them as separate answers, although they could combine them into one if they wanted.
    – Servy
    Sep 20, 2013 at 17:43
  • 5
    Flagging as not an answer will just have your flag rejected (they all look like answers). Use a custom flag if you must flag.
    – Wooble
    Sep 20, 2013 at 17:43
  • @DavidRobinson Wobble is right. While this is not an answer, it doesn't appear as such at first glance. Whenever it's not dead obvious you should use a custom flag to explain in detail, and it's a sign to mods to look a bit more in depth.
    – Servy
    Sep 20, 2013 at 17:45
  • The tendency here seems to be to custom flag all answers but the latest. - Plus a comment to explain it to the user. Now, I'm only surprised the discussion starts with comments here instead of answers tongue_in_cheek
    – cfi
    Sep 20, 2013 at 18:08


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