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I have been told by @fyrepenguin, in this discussion, that « edits are not supposed to invalidate existing answers ».

Does this rule exist; if yes, where is it explicited? practically how is it enforced?

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  • $\begingroup$ @Ludo, skimming over your example, it doesn't look to me that the OP's edits made any harm to the existing answers. The OP just sharpened the question (realizing his ambiguities). Given SE policy to facilitate edits (after answers are posted), I wouldn't be surprised at all that examples worse than this abound on this site. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jan 25 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ The original post was asking for samples of code, which I answered, after which the OP realized they intended to ask something different, invalidating my answer. But agreed that it's not the worst example, just wanted to provide an example for context. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Jan 25 at 11:11

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Yes, from How do I use the Suggested edits queue?:

Common reasons to Reject

[...]

  • changes a post to say the opposite, or something very different from what the original post read.
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  • $\begingroup$ In the context of making edits to « reopen » (which context is implicit in my question, if you follow the linked chat), I don’t think such guidance is necessary. Nobody is trying to coerce an OP to say the opposite, I would assume. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jan 24 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ This question has an amusing revision history". The OP wrote "It uses ... which have given [sic] it a 10-year lifespan. A 1st reviewer added "(minimum)" after the 10y. A 2nd reviewer changed "minimum" to "maximum". A 3rd changed it to "5-Year minimum". The question was about using a different type of engines to increase the lifespan. Perhaps the actual lifespan is irrelevant, or perhaps not. But the edits, and the number of 180° are "opposite, or something different" to each other. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jan 24 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @NgPh Yes, some or most of those edits should have been rejected. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Jan 24 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know/understand who is supposed to accept/reject an edit. The OP? A Moderator? An ad-hoc committee? $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jan 24 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @NgPh An "ad-hoc" committee, basically. The "suggested edit" ends up in the review queue, which you can access (with enough rep) in the top-right of the page (menu icon looks like a piece of paper with a checkmark). Voting options include "accept" and "reject", but you can also modify the edit. I'm not sure how many "accept" vote an edit needs to clear the queue though. If you have enough rep points, you can directly edit posts without them going into the queue. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Jan 25 at 10:30
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It's certainly a well-recognized principle, based on common sense1, and necessary to keep the site working properly. I am sure there are several posts in the main meta where consensus can be established.

But if you are looking for an "official list of rules" that enforces common sense and consensus you may not find such a list.

As to

practically how is it enforced?

You just saw it! For edits by users below a certain reputation level they go into a review queue first and are voted on. For those above, it's assumed that common sense and understanding of how SE works has taken root.

And if not, then other community members that have common sense and a respect for concensus may notice such destructive edits and remind the editor not to make them.

1 But what is this so-called "common sense" of which I speak?

In a nutshell, Stack Exchange is about generating good answers to on-topic questions.

If the question becomes a moving target; if the question morphs to a somewhat different question after one or more user writes an answer, then several bad things can happen, including but not limited to:

  1. the value of the existing answers is suddenly reduced because they no longer fit the question as well
  2. the searchability of the answers is reduced as they no longer match the question as well
  3. answer authors may get sick of seeing the value and searchability of their answers getting reduced and stop writing answers.
  4. answer authors may get sick of trying to hit a moving target and stop writing answers.

So once answers start coming in, we keep the question fixed, unless...

...unless the existing answer authors concur with the change.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it’s logical and can be used to justify the principle of no-answer until the question is consolidated. But the practice in SE, to get to this, lacks common-sense. To achieve the goal, common-sense dictates the introduction of a sanitizing period : systematic vetting period during which no answer is accepted. If a vetting process eventually needs voting, do it in a more consensual, less opinion-bending way: e.g. « this is opinion A, this is opinion B ». Everybody has the same information, to cast a vote, in the same period. Have I missed something else (in the spaghetti of FAQs)? $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jan 24 at 9:34
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    $\begingroup$ @NgPh that’s an interesting idea, consider proposing it in the main meta. We can’t effect changes like that at the single-site level. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 24 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ let's see if anybody has anything against this idea. I am a newbie and do not want to show that I can change the established order. OTOH, I like being shown (nicely, but factually) that I was wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jan 24 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ I would maybe turn it around: no edits to the question after the first answer is posted. Or at least force all edits to go through the review queue. Sometimes edits are necessary (e.g. links break, tags change, etc.), but I think it would (might) guard against edits that harm existing answers. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Jan 25 at 11:13

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