To obtain the Explainer, Refiner and Illuminator badge, one has to post an answer to a question and edit it within 12 hours. I fully agree that the edit should not happen later – because some people would start editing old questions just for the sake of the badge. However, I fail to see why the edit may not happen earlier (than 12 hours before the answer).

When those badges were proposed, the only reason given for this was:

Strictly-speaking, we could count any edit up to 12 hours after the answer is posted and still accomplish this, but "within 12 hours" seems easier to explain.

Well, let me try my best at explaining the alternative (taking Refiner as an example):

now: Edit and answer 50 questions (both actions within 12 hours, answer score > 0)

new: Edit and answer 50 questions (edit at most 12 hours later than answer, answer score > 0)

It’s a little bit longer (but still shorter than Populist) and you might consider it a little bit more difficult to understand, but I do not think it’s that bad.

But why would this be a good thing?

  • Suppose a question arrives just before I go to sleep. I have enough time to salvage it, but answering is more difficult. So I sleep, go to work, do some chores and once I am ready to answer the question, 12 hours have passed and my good work does not count for the badge. This is obviously disappointing. Of course, this is an extreme case, but when duty or Morpheus call, 12 hours can pass rather quickly.
  • In situations such as the above, the current system encourages bad behaviour such as delaying an edit until one actually answers the question or making a pointless edit after answering the question.
  • Sometimes one comes up with a good answer to a question much later or the answer itself only comes up later (because the world changed).
  • Thanks for the edit, because I misunderstood you there. In that case, I am -0 on this, perhaps -1. Let me think a bit about this. May 9, 2015 at 18:22
  • @Tim: When talking about early, I was referring to earlier than 12 hours before the answer. I amended the question to make this even more clear.
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 9, 2015 at 18:22
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    That might encourage people to go back and post bad answers on edited questions? :/
    – Tim
    May 9, 2015 at 18:28
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    @Tim: except bad answers don't attract the required +1. May 9, 2015 at 18:47
  • @MartijnPieters one hopes they don't... I'm thinking people will find the answer on another site and repost (e.g. Unix + Linux and Ask Ubuntu.
    – Tim
    May 9, 2015 at 18:48
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    I have put together an SEDE query that you may want to play with in order to see the effects that changes would have on the badge. As far as I can tell, you would go from 42 to 46 candidate answers if your suggestion was incorporated. Also, your suggestion would essentially change nothing on Stack Overflow... no additional illuminator badges would be awarded.
    – rolfl
    May 9, 2015 at 21:03

1 Answer 1


Kinda unfair quoting the final sentence off of a paragraph-long explanation and then calling that "the only reason given"...

The 12-hour window exists to both discourage abuse and encourage good behavior - fixing a question a week later is never bad if you actually fix it, but fixing it while the topic is fresh in your mind is what we're hoping to encourage here. Strictly-speaking, we could count any edit up to 12 hours after the answer is posted and still accomplish this, but "within 12 hours" seems easier to explain.

In particular, you missed the "we're trying to encourage fixing the question while it's fresh in your mind". The potential for abuse is pretty low when it comes to answering questions you've once-upon-a-time edited, but that still isn't the action this badge is designed to encourage.

As I explained in the blog post announcing these...

It’s no surprise then that the top editors tend to include an awful lot of the top answerers. If you’re good at writing, good enough to consistently hammer out insightful answers, you’d be a fool not to make sure the introductions to those answers – the questions being answered – were of similar quality. Yet, this seemingly-obvious technique remains unknown to many – indeed, I’ve heard some express shock at the notion that answerers would be allowed to touch the words of those whose questions they strive to interpret and address.

This combo-move - editing+answering - is one of the most powerful techniques available to you as an answerer, and yet many fail to recognize that. So the purpose of the badge, like so many others, is to educate.

Again, there's no harm in going back to answer questions you've once-upon-a-time edited. If you're moved to do so, go right ahead. Heck, you can even earn other badges that way... Just not this one.

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    In particular, you missed the "we're trying to encourage fixing the question while it's fresh in your mind". – How does this apply to the case when I edit the question before I answer it? I am totally with your educational goals and that questions should be fixed as soon as possible – that’s exactly one of the issues I have with the current behaviour: Editing a question is discouraged (or rather: not encouraged) for those who may not be able to write an answer within the next 12 hours.
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 9, 2015 at 19:39
  • It doesn't. You're describing a scenario entirely separate from the one this badge was created for. Which is my point.
    – Shog9
    May 9, 2015 at 19:43
  • Does editing the question and then answering count for these badges? Or do you have to answer first, then edit?
    – TylerH
    Jan 11, 2016 at 20:09
  • Doesn't matter, @tylerh
    – Shog9
    Jan 11, 2016 at 20:33

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