@GeneJ has attached a comment to the question now called Determining what old document with Illegible handwriting says? that reflects a concern that the process of iterative editing of a question and original answer (by different people) can move them in different directions.

That has the potential to create the situation where an old answer looks at best inadequate and perhaps nonsensical when viewed by an (inexperienced) user unaware of the practice. They might well ask "Why was such a poor response voted up by these experts?"

As careful researchers, a casual user might always compare the timestamps of the Q and the A, and if there is a mismatch review the edit trail of both to find the point(s) where they were contemperaneous, and then decide if the information is what is needed. Or he or she might look for a source with a more rational organisation.

I can envisage a circumstance in which I would edit my previous answer back to a stub in order to remove the potential for embarrassment. From a community perspective, that is not desirable.

3 Answers 3


With a sufficiently active community, helpful comments and wiki-style editing should (ideally) be enough to keep the answers updated and relevant when the facts (or the question) change. Instructive comments will alert the original author about the change, and suggested edits let even more user improve post.

But when the questions becomes egregiously obsolete or irrelevant (i.e. unsalvageable), you can always 'flag' for a moderator's attention. Moderators can review and delete the post if it is warranted. But try not to abuse the flagging system as a way to push your technical objections or request sweeping improvements to the content. That needs to be done by the community. Moderators are there as exception handlers. They're not there to wield the super vote on your behalf or assert strong editorial control over content.

  • I think what Robert said is that there can be circumstances in which every answer to a given question is eventually edited to be a clone of every other answer. And that is good. We are already seeing instances of answers shown to be less than satisfactory by later posts, being improved by borrowing content from those later posts (even without any change to the question).
    – Fortiter
    Oct 19, 2012 at 13:42

I usually change my answer to reflect any changes in the question.

I wouldn't quite edit down to a stub, but if I no longer had an answer to the revised question, I would say so.

Questions should be improved if they are poor, but they shouldn't be changed so much that all the answers are invalidated.

I think edits to other people's questions should be the minimal necessary to make it acceptable.

One other thought. I would consider rolling back the edits to the question to the point that the answers are all relevant again.


We are all learning how to write top notch questions for this great new Q&A format. A month from now, we'll know more than we do now; a year from know, we'll chuckle.

Even though my answer doesn't appear squarely on-topic right now, the concepts are still valid for those times when you can't make out the full text in a source or record. To edit out that part of my answer would have well, edited out most of the answer. No one seems offended that I've left the material there, or at least no one has said anything to that effect.

I appreciate knowing about the other options.

  • I was not criticising your approach. In fact I find it admirable. I was (perhaps clumsily) drawing attention to two risks (1) that new users who do not understand the mechanism may form low opinion of individuals and (2) how some posters of answers could try to deal with that.
    – Fortiter
    Oct 20, 2012 at 1:03

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