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By keeping the intention of the question, I mean that from my view, I still ask the same, just in a better way.
Others would partly see it like that if they read the old and the new version, and good answers and comments would still me good.
But looking at both question versions independently, they would be just similar, and the older one of lower quality.

In the example case, there was not much activity on the question - one answer, somewhat missing the point, no votes on question or answer. Rereading, I found that I really did not get my point across.
When I attempted to refine the question, it was clear I would completely rewrite it, including the title.

Should I:

  • rewrite the question in place?
  • or ask a new question, and just link them?

Obviously, what to do depends on how much work of others would be lost when abandoning the question in some way.

The example had just this one answer, not contributing very much to the "meant" question. But even then, the idea of abandoning someone else's work felt very impolite, if not rude.

The solution with keeping and fully rewriting the question would involve adding comments to existing work of others, like that answer, to explain to the poster, and the reader, that the context changed, and which parts still apply. In the example, that would be easy to do, but not in general.

In case I should start a new question: How to handle the old, obsolete one?
Is there a common way to get it closed? Should it be left open but soon forgotten? (to keep others work?)

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With the scenario you are talking about you should edit your question to bring it into shape. Please do not "ask a new question, and just link them" as you are suggesting. This is frowned upon and grounds for your question getting closed.

Opening a new question is really for when you are asking something new rather than updating a question that was not properly formulated in the first place. Editing your question could annoy some of the people who answered already if the initial vagueness in your question gave them opportunity to assume incorrectly some of the constraints. However, they would be just as annoyed by a duplicate question. They would probably be more annoyed actually because posting a new question gives the impression that you've abandoned the old one.

People often scan for questions on a topic and chances are that if you posted a new question, the answerers on the old question would see it too and remember. Actually, I run into this every now and then. I scan for new questions and run into one that reminds me of something I've seen before. I check, and sure enough, the new question is an updated version of an old question that did not get the answers that the OP was expecting. It does not take long before close votes accumulate.

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    Ok, that's what I prefer too. I feared that it could be more frowned upon to create confusion by - at least seemingly - switch the content of a question. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:32
  • To be clear, when saying voting to close, you refer to the new question, not the old one as in the proposal in my question, right? Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:36
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    If you are clarifying then you are not switching questions. In all fairness if someone answers an unclear question, they've taken a risk. What they should have done is point out the problems in your question first and then answered.
    – Louis
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:37
  • Regarding "vote to close", if you submitted a new question that is essentially the same as the old but edited to be better, then most likely people would vote to close the new one. The idea being that the old question should be edited instead. I've seen it happen and I've voted this way myself. In some cases I've raise flags for mods because the OP was reposting, and reposting, and reposting...
    – Louis
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:40
  • Could be that my current example is a pretty uncommon case - I feel I misguided the reader somehow by leaving out information, he would either "understand what I mean", or interpret it as a different question, more or less. Seems like it's not that relevant to handle this case in a perfect way :) Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:44
  • Thanks, now I'll go back to my rewrite of physics.stackexchange.com/questions/107495/… Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:47

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