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This is drawn from my experience today.

During my attempt to answer what I believed to be a fully-formed question about dragons, the question shifted rather dramatically away until, when I came back to the answer box to paste in the answer then format it for presentation, the entire look and feel, and the subject itself (to soldiers), of the question had been edited away. These were not trivial spelling or formatting, or "I forgot an additional clue" edits; it became radically different, such that I was convinced I pasted my answer to an irrelevant question.

In an effort to stave off the "disgruntled" opinion this may draw to me, I will say, "I am not disgruntled; my answer was completely OFF, and I realized it when reading the other solution(s)". I'm just asking "should a question remain "fully baked" once submitted, except for trivial, edits?

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Questions should not usually be radically altered after posting, other than to correct outright errors.

This is for the exact same reason mentioned by the questioner here; major edits may make nonsense of existing answers, or of answers being worked on while the edit is done. There may be cases where the improvement in the question is worth that cost, but then I suggest that:

If a question is radically altered after posting, the fact should be explicitly acknowledged in the edited version of the question.

That way, readers have a clue that they may need to allow for the possibility that answers fail to match the question through no fault of their authors.


In any case, this is not common behaviour; I don't think I have ever seen it before on PSE. I have a cynical conjecture about what happened in this particular case.

The person who posted it also posted at least one other question, at about the same time, that turned out to be from an ongoing competition.

I therefore wonder whether (1) this question is from the same competition and (2) the user modified it in order to try to hide the fact (e.g., by making it less apparent on googling) that s/he was trying to cheat in a competition.

(Weak evidence against this: searching for the relevant keywords from the earlier version of the puzzle doesn't turn up any competitions. But the point may have been to protect the questioner from googling by the competition organizers.)

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    $\begingroup$ Rollbacks are a thing, too, in particularly egregious cases. $\endgroup$ – Aza Jan 26 '17 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ In response to your second bolded point, I would suggest that if a question needs radical alteration, it should be posted as a separate question. If the first is so bad as to be unsalvageable, it should be closed/deleted by the OP. If the original question still works, it can be answered separately from the new version. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Jan 27 '17 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ Suppose you post a question but accidentally miss out a crucial paragraph of information, or a copy-paste error puts a completely wrong diagram, or something like that. In that case it's probably better to update the question, even though the alteration might be pretty radical. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jan 27 '17 at 15:58

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