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It's StackOverflow I've used most to date, but this suggestion probably applies to all of StackExchange.

I recognize the value of being able to edit questions, but it seems to me there's a disturbingly high level of confusion that regularly occurs because of it. And quite a lot of questions are from first-time users, who aren't up to speed on best practices. If our goal is to build up a repository of useful questions and answers, in my opinion we'd benefit from making question edits visible. For example, this kind of thing can happen all too easily:

  • Questioner asks, "Why does this code give an error?".
  • Someone provides a solution.
  • Questioner finds the solutions works, but on getting past the error, encounters a new (unrelated) error in a later line of code.
  • Questioner does not up-vote or Accept the solution, but edits the question to "put it right" using the solution provided.

Already this question/answer has lost value in our repository: others encountering the same problem in the future will no longer find that problem stated in the question. And in the shorter term, the answer(s) provided to the original question may even appear nonsensical and attract unwarranted down-votes.

So I think it would be a good idea if we could display some kind of markup to show deletions (e.g., strike-through) and additions (underlining, bold, colour etc) and hence preserve the original question.

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    An edit history does exist. (Click on the word edited to see it.)
    – TRiG
    May 10, 2014 at 17:29
  • @TRiG, that's quite true, and it's a valuable function, but it's not quite the same thing and doesn't solve the issues I mentioned.
    – Reg Edit
    May 10, 2014 at 17:34
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    The site would become completely unreadable really fast.
    – Mat
    May 10, 2014 at 17:47

1 Answer 1

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Please No.

The problem here isn’t the lack of immediately visible history, or the fact that such history doesn’t appear in search results. The problem is the changes themselves. If a questioner edits their question beyond recognition, completely eliding the original question, then yes that is a problem, but it’s not a problem that’ll be solved by making the edit history fully visible at all times. Instead, see previous discussions on what to do with chameleon questions.

Indeed, we often suggest exactly the opposite. I frequently edit questions to remove visible edit history. A question, we say, should be self-contained and should make sense in one read-through. Additional details, if needed, should be added into the question where they make sense, not as “edited to add” notes appended to the end of a question (or answer). Ideally, such edits will be a response to comments, not to answers.

If a comment requests additional clarification, the correct course is to (a) edit add the additional information, and then (b) comment to let the person know that the information has been added. The same process can be used for edits in response to answers, but ideally these will be rare.

This process means that a question (and its answers) are easy to read. The edit history is there if you want it, but is not shoved in our face. (This same process is followed by Wikipedia, incidentally.)

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