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This question on OOC talk has changed significantly since it was originally asked and several answers given. When something like this happens, offering new information, is is best to edit an answer you've given, or to let it stand?

(I see the question is now on hold, so perhaps the question is moot in this case, but I'd still like to know for a general case what the best etiquette is.)

Edit to add: doppelgreener's related link is helpful, but what about a case where the original question appeared clear? There was no need to flag this one, until after it was edited. Now it's a lot more confusing, but has also removed a lot of the information used to consider the original answers.

What is the best practice for a situation like this?

Edit to add: My main concern is situations when an edit totally alters the question, completely invalidating the answers given. Smaller edits to provide clarification or extra detail aren't a problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: What do we do with answers made obsolete by a question change? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 25 '16 at 5:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ With that many answers the question itself might still be reverted to its clear form, and the author asked to post a new question if they wanted to ask a different question, since it has been productive and may be useful to others in the future. It's hard to be certain what will happen with that question before the author clarifies what they're asking about, since figuring out if it should be a question revision or posted as a new question depends on what their question actually is. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 25 '16 at 5:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ That makes sense. I'll wait and see how it all shakes out. \$\endgroup\$ – Longspeak May 25 '16 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd just like to offer my observation that although the late edit was quite substantial, and a bit mystifying in light of the fact that the asker already accepted an answer, it doesn't actually appear to have invalidated the existing answers, necessarily. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Henderson May 26 '16 at 14:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanHenderson Possibly, but it's hard to tell. The question is now confusing enough that it might be the same question, or it might be the exact opposite. The author isn't responsive to requests for clarification either. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 27 '16 at 6:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question in question has been rolled back and reopened since no explanation of what the last edit was supposed to mean was forthcoming. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 27 '16 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ironically this question has become an example of its own subject matter. So, let me get this clear: we have a question that's perfectly good and clear (no obvious moderation needed), then it gets changed, and the change totally invalidates every answer, what do? Is that what you're asking? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 30 '16 at 0:55
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When a question changes, any answers that do not answer the new version of the question should be changed as well.

There's a very simple reason for this: The purpose of this site is to provide useful answers to questions. If an answer does not fully address the question as it is posed at the top of the page, that answer is not a useful answer to that question. Our voting system functions by means of us upvoting useful answers, and downvoting (or even deleting) answers that address the question poorly or not at all.

If a question is edited after an answer has already been posted in a way that means that answer no longer fully addresses the question (and the edit to the answer is unlikely to be reverted), that answer ceases to be a useful one - and like any non-useful answer, it should be downvoted, edited to be more useful, or (in extreme cases) deleted entirely.

This may sound harsh for those users who post an answers in good faith only to have the rug pulled from under them, but there's no real alternative. Answers that don't address the question need to be downvoted or deleted, or we'll no longer be able to rely on the most-upvoted answers being the most useful.

As far as I'm aware, there are two issues that potentially complicate this question, but I don't think either of them is persuasive enough to make us give up the advantages of our voting system.

  • The first is that an edit to a question doesn't allow you to reverse your upvote on answers to that question. I'm not really sure why this is the case, but I suspect it's just something we have to live with.
  • The second issue is that potentially a questions can edited in ways that don't just refine it, but change it completely. As in, questions that get changed from "what are the rules for dice" to "how do I kick my mother out of the game." Such changes automatically completely invalidate every answer they have. When this happens, our response should depend on the situation.
    • If the question was changed because the original wasn't a good fit for the site, answers to that question aren't appropriate either, and should be removed or changed.
    • If the question was changed because the original poster decided that now they have their answer they don't need the old question any more, that user doesn't understand that questions are supposed to be persistent on this site. The user should be educated, a new question posted, and the edit to the question reverted.
    • If the question was changed because the OP has refined what they wanted to ask as a result of feedback on their question... That's a grey area, and we'll have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis. In some cases it'll be appropriate to revert the change and ask a new question; In others, to let the edit stand and update or downvote and delete old answers.

We need to accept that if an answer isn't useful, it isn't useful. It doesn't matter that it was useful once, or that the person who wrote it did so in good faith; If the answer doesn't address the question, that answer isn't a good one. Yes, it's unfair. But it's the only way to maintain this site's greatness.

...On a slight tangent, when an answer is completely invalidated by a question change, it might be better to delete the answer and write a new one than to edit an existing answer into a completely new form, since this prevents votes from before the question edit sticking around.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re that last bullet point, might be good to link to our previous meta on the topic. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 27 '16 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ It'd be really useful if I was notified when a question I've already answered is edited \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs May 27 '16 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe - I should have been clearer in my question. Your second bullet point refers to the sort of edit I was mainly worried about. I have no issue with an edit made in good faith to provide clarity or extra detail; it's the edit which entirely change the question that made me ask. And I will edit my question to add that detail. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Longspeak May 27 '16 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Longspeak You're going to edit your question to change what it's asking, thereby invalidating my answer? :) \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 30 '16 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Yes I am. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Longspeak May 30 '16 at 0:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Longspeak OK, I've edited my answer a little. Let me know if it's still inappropriate. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 30 '16 at 0:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe Looks good. In fairness, I thought the first two sections answered very well the question of what to do when some minor edit alters a question a little bit. But your answer and others' comments seemed to indicate I hadn't really gotten my real question across. So I edited to add detail. I don't think I really invalidated your answer, or changed my own question in a fundamental way. I only wanted to clarify the extent of changes I was concerned with. Anyway, I'd already upvoted it, now I'll accept your answer as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Longspeak May 30 '16 at 2:12

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