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Note: I am not trying to Kumbaya a new user's way in; I want to see any suggestions as to how edits might end the edit war on the post, instead of a simple lock. Besides, my first question is about editing my own answer.


I do not reckon this question to be a duplicate of mine as it does not focus on inexperienced users and our attempts to maintain a friendly atmosphere within the community. Anyway, thanks to rene for suggesting it and discussing in the comments.


There is this question on Stack Overflow which became an object of an edit war.

First, I want to speak about my experience with the post.

I am one of (as of now) two answerers. The original post had two points:

  1. Computing the result.
  2. Printing it out nicely.

Point (1) took up around 1/5 of my post, the rest occupied by point (2), as I found it more interesting.

Then the OP found point (1) redundant and removed it from the question. They suggested an edit to my post which was getting rid of point (1) entirely. I accepted the edit.

The real problem is that the other answer highlights point (1), not point (2). I do not know of OP's interaction with that post. So, basically after all the editing, point (1) remained only in the other answer. So, basically, all the edits invalidated this answer. And that's where the edit war started.

The edits were reverted, then redone, then reverted again. And that is how we got the post locked.

My questions are:

  1. Since point (1) is back into the question, shall I revert the edit on my post to have both points in it? (Truth be told, I would rather not, just to back the OP up; yet, if there is some common practice for such cases, I guess I should act as the site wants me to; on the third (I guess) hand, my post is invalidated now as it touches upon only one point out of two.)
  2. Should we really be so forceful on new users? It is important to spread our attitude towards asking among everyone on the site, yet should it really be done that way? What are your thoughts on other ways to resolve a situation like that? I have some edits in mind for both the question and the answer which is not mine to kind of have a hint at point (1) without touching upon them directly (something along the lines of adding "besides printing, what are the ways to carry out the computation itself" to the question and "let us first address my ideas on the computation" to the answer) I reckon this practice to work not only in this case - all the Stack Overflow links are mostly an illustration.
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  • 1
    Presumably related: meta.stackoverflow.com/q/400256/3001761
    – jonrsharpe
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:14
  • 12
    A question should not be altered in such a way that it invalidates existing answers.
    – rene
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:24
  • @rene well, I agree. Notice that my post contains suggestion as to how to edit everything for a win-win, not a simple Kumbaya. I will probably add this point to the post. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:26
  • 1
    related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/43478/…
    – rene
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:27
  • 2
    fitting duplicate: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/177173/…
    – rene
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:28
  • @rene I do not agree on your latter link being a duplicate of my question, as it does not focus on inexperience and atmosphere within the community. Therefore, the top answer is "just flag it", which is not what I want. I will add the link to the post with my comment. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:31
  • 1
    Is there a specific reason you are posting here, on MSE, instead of meta.stackoverflow.com ?
    – GhostCat
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:44
  • 2
    @GhostCat well, I reckon the question to belong here as it discusses a general topic for all SE sites. Besides, there are some several similar questions here - see the Linked section. Do you think the post would have been better off on Meta.SO? Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:48
  • Just wondering if that was a conscious decision, or "just happened".
    – GhostCat
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:52
  • @GhostCat so, is my reasoning all right? As I reckon the decision to have been quite conscious :). Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:54
  • 2
    I think while there are some general network-wide strategies for handling edit wars and chameleon questions, what your question seems to be asking about is a way to edit this particular question so that the edit war will end, and what to do with your answer after the war has ended. Both should really be on Meta.SO, not on MSE. I don't think we can generalize this enough to have it boil down to a guideline that could be used networkwide.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:55
  • @Tinkeringbell well, that's not what I meant. I guess I will edit the post to make my interest in the, if I may, Meta part of the question more clear. Sorry about that. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 11:57
  • No worries, the 'meta' part is there if you ask me (asking about edit wars is meta). Just to clarify: I'm curious to see what part of it is supposed to be of interest for discussion for the whole network, instead of just SO.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:02
  • 2
    Given the user's other edit to an answer, I think they may be confused on when they should be editing in general. But I don't see an edit ending an edit war in most cases because usually the issue is that the author of the post doesn't want anyone else editing it. Also, without a lock, there's nothing to stop anyone else with enough reputation to rollback the post from doing so if they happen to see it.
    – BSMP
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:21
  • 2
    Don't answer a post with 2 questions, downvote & close it. And what to do with an edit war is a faq.
    – philipxy
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 6:03

1 Answer 1

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Question 2 - New users

In "old" forums it's common to have a conversation where the question changes subtly or completely over a sequence of posts. As humans we are accustomed to holding a conversation. We are much less accustomed to asking single complete coherent questions that need no follow-up. So SE's "house rules" don't come naturally to many new users. They especially don't come naturally to new users from other learning backgrounds.

However SE's power as a Q&A site, not a forum, is to leave questions matched with answers. This keeps the information-to-noise ratio very high for future readers. Allowing heavy edits that invalidate answers severely damages that.

This leaves us with two things weighed against each other:

  • Being kind to new users
  • Maintaining a significant point of SE's value

There are a lot of questions asked by new users who are never seen again. It can be frustrating for new users, but if we break this rule for new users we would be abandoning it entirely.

On balance, I think the right thing happened in your linked question: revert the edit and politely explain to the new user why. It could have been further enhanced by suggesting that they post a new question, though in this specific case (simply removing one question facet) it doesn't seem to be necessary.

I realise that may have frustrated the OP of your linked question, but most new users will recognise in the first instance that they've accidentally broken a house rule. The fact this descended into an edit war isn't really the fault of SE's applied rules so much as the OP's attitude.


Partial answers to multifaceted questions are still valid answers. My first ever answer on SO was speaking only to part of the question and it's received a steady trickle of upvotes over the years. Future readers will always benefit from these answers. Sometimes other answers have glossed over a significant point in the question.

Question 1 - Re-edit to match the question

The question is now locked. The general principle of SE is to leave questions and answers matching one another. Therefore, yes leave your answer speaking to both points if you had already drafted for both.

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