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There is a question that I answered a while back, that I find myself looking at every now and then. Recently I noticed something that changed about the accepted answer. Here is the question:

what exactly is device pixel ratio?

The original accepted answer was answered in early 2012. The originally answer was approximately 300 characters in length. The answer was simple and straightforward. The OP liked the answer enough to accept it.

Then, nearly 3 years later (Nov 2015), the accepted answer is significantly edited by the original user who wrote it. The new accepted answer is now approx 2500 characters. An approx 850% increase in size. Big change:

Here are the revisions:

https://stackoverflow.com/posts/8785677/revisions

Should answers that are altered this much be flagged or rolled back or something? When someone specifically marks and answer as accepted, and then later the answer is changed so much that it hardly reflects the original answer, is it still the right answer? Would the original person who asked the question still accept it in it's current form? The question was asked so long ago, who knows if the original poster ever even came back to see the heavily revised answer?

I thought it was a weird situation that I have never noticed before. I don't know if this is something that is acceptable or not. At the same time, in this case the original answer was heavily expanded on, not necessarily heavily altered itself. So maybe it's not a bad thing. Or maybe it's misleading. Maybe the original poster accepted it because it was originally a short, simple and straightforward answer. It's definitely not short anymore. I dunno. Just reaching out to see if there are opinions on this topic or not.

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    Unless it was vandalized I don't see a compelling reason to flag/roll it back, it's their answer after all. – user400654 Feb 17 '16 at 18:22
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    They still have the original as a "Short Answer" at the start of their answer, so they still have exactly what the asker accepted. At a glance, it looks like the answerer simply expanded to explain the answer more in-depth, which is a good thing. Why in the world would you flag an answer for being edited to be better? – Kendra Feb 17 '16 at 18:27
  • That is a good point @Kendra. I only asked about it because I wasn't sure if there were policies or best practices regarding stuff like this. Also "better" is subjective. For all we know the original poster might have liked the original answer because it was short and to the point. But I understand exactly what you are saying. Thanks for the feedback. – Jake Wilson Feb 17 '16 at 20:57
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An accepted answer doesn't necessarily assert that it's the "right answer", but we do bump all edited posts to the top of the activity queue to help assure that no edited content goes undetected.

If there was an irregularity or some other type of vandalism involved, the post would go through the same due diligence as any edited content. But I don't see giving accepted answers any type of special status or explicit Moderator attention in this regard.

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I think that in a way what has always been said for chameleon questions (see Exit strategies for "chameleon questions" or What to do when the question is updated to make your answer obsolete for a shorter version) still apply here.
It is not the timing of the edit we should focus on, nor the user making it. Our focus should be quality.

For those reasons, unless the changes either:

  • turn the answer in another one altogether (example: the user was suggesting one approach to a problem, now he is advocating a different one)
  • harm the quality in any way, for example by introducing spam, ads for product and such

I would leave the change there. If there is some harm done instead, probably the focus should be restoring the original value: this can be as simple as rolling back the change and asking the user to post a different answer instead if his belief have changed or asking a mod to step in if things get worse and you find yourself in an edit war. The main point is to just focus on the actual content and protecting the value, with the desirable added bonus of at least attempting the nice, diplomatic route first.

Since we are at it, I will point out that your question isn't just related to coding questions and answers, but could be instead be applied to every site in the network. With this argument sorted out, it is worth to notice that it is perfectly plausible that some fine, quality and even accepted answers will be edited in the future.
A game update could change the suggested way to beat a level. A new movie in a serie may change that answer about that one unclear episode. A new season in a candy colored ponies show may finally give some answers about the whereabouts of an old famous sorcerer. All of those would probably prompt changed in answers that where made before those new info surfaced. In such cases, probably it would be best to leave a short version of the old answer, pointing out that an external cause made it obsolete ( and maybe linking the original revision for quick access), or even leave both versions there (SharePoint, I am thinking of you and your breaking changes). I don't think there is a silver bullet here, you should try to handle each case with common sense (and remember: if anything else fails, try to get somebody else opinion on chat or meta. Sharing ideas is always a good idea).

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No information has been removed so why would it need to be rolled back. Moderators could not do it as they cannot be subject matter experts in every possible tag so flagging it won't be useful; it was an answer before and it's still an answer after the edit, neither has its quality disastrously declined i.e. it's not obviously been replaced by nonsense.

Editing will put the answer to the top of the active list so if it was edited into nonsense it would be seen and rolled back most likely by ordinary users rather than moderators.

If the OP ever logs in again they can unaccept the question but accepting and unaccepting is entirely down to them.

If you feel the answer is now terrible downvote it, if you think it's currently good, upvote it. That's all you can really do here. The answer both before being edited and after being edited seems fine to me.

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