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In one of the sites I'm active in I see fairly regular comments by some contributors that they hate that people can edit their questions.

Now I intuitively grok why this is a good policy but I don't think I'd be good at expressing it in words to somebody who just doesn't get it.

I assume this is an ancient topic here that must've come up many times over the years, but I can't seem to find a good canonical post on it that I can refer people to. I'd accept links to meta questions, blog posts by Joel and the gang, or relevant help pages.

Please note that I'm asking specifically about when the OP edits their own question.

I can find good answers on the more general issues of any contributor being able to edit any post, but I don't think this will be focussed enough to help such contributors yet. First they have to get that allowing the OP to hone their flawed questions is a good thing. And I'm sure somewhere here that's already been explained very well.

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    Downvote? So it's wrong to even ask this?? – hippietrail Oct 17 '14 at 7:19
  • your question is hard to answer because there are edits and edits. Some are great and some are not, and just looking for an edit rule won't help. – Kate Gregory Oct 17 '14 at 7:29
  • So I shouldn't try to help this user get why editing is good because "it depends"?? Several of the sites I'm active on have many really great "it depends" answers. Anyway I'm just looking for previous answers. An answer with a link to each of the possibilities of what the "depends" equates to would be good. But maybe you mean letting such users give up on the site is also good? – hippietrail Oct 17 '14 at 7:34
  • The most recent question that has had me wanting to help a contributor "get it" is this one on linguistics.SE where it seems the OP realized his question was overly specific and correctly made it more general but an answerer expressed hatred at such state of affairs. – hippietrail Oct 17 '14 at 7:38
  • Are you talking about edits that affect existing answer or ones that don't? – Monica Cellio Oct 17 '14 at 13:39
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    @MonicaCellio: In the case of the sample question the offended answerer feels the OP's edits affect their answer. But the edits merely clarify the question that was too narrow. I think this is a typical pattern. OP is helping improve the Internet by fixing a poorly worded question. Offended answerer went for the narrow answer and doesn't get that the site is QAs that help many people over time and not just giving the OP an answer to their literal question that nobody else should be interested in. At least that's my take. – hippietrail Oct 18 '14 at 2:51
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Let me try for an "it depends" answer if I can. There are a spectrum of edits available to be done on any particular question. '

At one extreme, an unclear and poorly written question is refined and expanded (by the OP or by others, perhaps directed by comments) until it becomes a clear and well written question. In some cases the edits are done after the question is answered and accepted - kind of "oh, if you like that answer then I can conclude that your question was in fact blah blah blah" and in others the editing is necessary for the question to even get any answers.

At the other extreme, a question like "what time does the Eiffel Tower open?" is edited into "what time does the Eiffel Tower close?" after the poster realizes that they won't be able to see it early in the morning and start wondering if they can see it in the evening instead, and then edited again to "what bus/train should I take to get to the Eiffel Tower from [wherever] in the evening?" as another thought occurs to the poster.

Stack Exchange as a whole is clearly in favour of the first kind of edit. See Help Center > How does editing work? where it describes edits that make a post clearer without changing its meaning, and so on.

The second extreme are nicknamed chameleon questions and there are many posts on meta that talk about how awful they are and how to deal with them.

Edits that fall in between these two extremes are more or less acceptable depending on the extent to which they mess with the meaning or invalidate existing answers. The actual behaviour that SE objects to is invalidating answers, not editing itself. The same could hold if a mere comment on a question from the OP clarified some omitted detail (like what programming language is being used) in a way that made all the existing answers useless. Someone editing that into the question is not the culprit now, rather the OP who forgot to include that before answers were added is responsible for the mess.

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    @gnat :-) on edit comment – Kate Gregory Oct 17 '14 at 11:10

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