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This question addresses the specific case where an answer asks for clarification of the terms of the question

thus it is not a duplicate question

The following question has been reworded to make it more specific:

Is it considered to be bad form to improve the original question (addressing the objections raised in these answers) making the original answers no longer apply?

Reworded question: Can I edit a question to make it clearer when an answer points out a lack of clarity?

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    Re "objections raised in these answers": That sounds like meta talk in answers (a Q&A site used as a forum). Why aren't they in comments? Jan 20 at 18:56
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum The moderator that said my question was unclear in his answer didn't want to bother asking for clarification in a comment and then complained when I changed the question to make it more clear.
    – user791574
    Jan 20 at 19:09
  • @samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz That is the earlier version of my question that was not specific enough. It was not objections raised in answers is was clarifications that the question pointed out were needed that should have been in a comment and not an answer.
    – user791574
    Jan 20 at 20:33
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    @This_is_NOT_a_forum, I'd be glad to chat with you about the specifics of a particular situation (see the links at the bottom of my answer for more about the context of that specific situation), but it sounds like this question is about the general guidelines, so maybe that is a distraction from the general question. Normally, yes, we would point out lack of clarity in the question in comments, but in this specific case, the question asked "Is this definition correct?" and I answered "No" and gave several reasons why, including that the proposed definition was not adequately clear.
    – D.W.
    Jan 20 at 20:59
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    Please stop yelling.
    – philipxy
    Jan 21 at 12:24
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    Your question is unclear. There's a very wide spectrum of what could be meant by "addressing the objections raised in these answers", both in what the "objections raised in these answers" are comprised of and what is meant by "addressing the objections". There's also a wide spectrum as to what the question and/or answer might be comprised of. What should happen will depend on the circumstances, and, unfortunately, on the policies of the specific SE site. In general, the sites lean towards not permitting edits to the question to invalidate answers.
    – Makyen
    Jan 21 at 18:03
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    The solution could be anything from flagging the "answer" as Not An Answer (if just asking for clarification), resulting in its deletion, through editing the question to comply with the answer's interpretation of the question and suggesting the asker to ask a new question, if they want their real question answered, rather than the question as understood by the answerer, to picking one of the possible interpretations presented by multiple answers, editing the question to clarify that's what's asked there and, potentially, creating new question(s) to hold the other answers.
    – Makyen
    Jan 21 at 18:04
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    Overall, the solution which should be chosen is whatever is best for the site and future visitors who are looking for answers, while trying to invalidate the least amount of work done by people, with the question asker taking the lowest priority, as it was primarily their responsibility to present a clear question in its initial version and respond promptly to any requests for clarification in comments (i.e., edit their question to clarify). [OTOH, it is possible for an answer author to dramatically jump the gun and answer way before the question is remotely clear.]
    – Makyen
    Jan 21 at 18:11
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    "Can I edit a question to make it clearer when an answer points out a lack of clarity?" - things have already gone completely wrong at this point. If there is a lack of clarity in the question, it is supposed to be closed and not answered. Writing in the answer section at all is completely inappropriate for someone who finds the question unclear, especially to ask for clarification or any other such "meta" topic. Answers are only for sincere attempts to answer the question, which must be answerable. Jan 21 at 23:54

1 Answer 1

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Yes. I am not aware of any hard and fast rule, but as a general rule of thumb, it is usually discouraged to edit your question in a way that invalidates existing answers. See https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/286804/160917 and https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/136371/160917.

It is acceptable to edit your question based on comments. But it is usually not a good idea to edit your question to change it based on answers.

Why? Because that wastes the time of people who answered the question. On Stack Exchange sites, some people may potentially consider this impolite.

Our mission is to build an archive of knowledge, in the form of high-quality questions and answers. It is not designed for interactive help or back-and-forth interaction. Leaving a page in a confused state, where the question asks one thing and some answers respond to an earlier version of the question, is not helping that mission. Wasting the time of answerers endangers that mission, because it risks driving away answerers. (See optimize for pearls, not sand.) Chameleon questions, that change after each answer, can be frustrating, and are not desirable or something that is healthy for the site.

If you discover, after reading an answer, that you asked the wrong question, usually the best response is:

  1. Leave the existing question unchanged, and accept that the question you asked isn't quite the one you wanted answered;

  2. Ask a new question that more accurately captures what you want answered;

  3. Treat this as a learning experience. It is an opportunity to learn a lesson about the importance of being precise and careful in the formulation of your question, right from the start, and to practice more care in formulating questions in the future so that this doesn't happen again.


For onlookers: Beyond the general question (which is applicable more broadly), there is some context/backstory that might or might not help understand this poster's experience. See, e.g., Is it considered to be bad form to update a question to address objections raised in answers?, Is this definition of a decider technically correct?, Is it considered to be bad form to update a question to address objections raised in answers?, Must a partial halt decider be a pure function of its inputs?, Appropriate measures for repeatedly posting the same content across the network.

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    When the answer is literally "your question makes no sense" there is no way to change the question without making it in fact a different question entirely.
    – Nij
    Jan 21 at 0:24
  • >>>It is acceptable to edit your question based on comments. But it is usually not a good idea to edit your question to change it based on answers.<<< In other words the mistake was asking for clarification in the answer.
    – user791574
    Jan 21 at 15:43
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    @polcott The mistake was to ask an unclear question (and that's not only once, but on at least 3 different sites...) Jan 21 at 16:01
  • @samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz I had no idea that computer scientists never heard of Rice's theorem. I had to be told this. No one ever always writes infallible questions they must be reviewed in comments and improved. Thus your expectation that I should have written a perfect question is unreasonable and you know it.
    – user791574
    Jan 21 at 16:02