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Subject question: When will we land on other planets in our solar system?

This, as posted, was a bad question asking for future predictions and was rightfully being closed. However, 3 rather lengthy answers with significant upvotes had already been posted.

A user edited the question in such a way that greatly improved it, but it invalidated all the answers that had already been posted.

I hate to see all the answerers' work be wasted, so I rolled back the edit.

Thoughts on a better solution?

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  • $\begingroup$ Even with or without the roll back, some of those answers don’t give proper answers. Many just say to hard, or other things like that. Any Isaac Arthur viewer knows that all the places named can be colonised, even if they don’t have a solid surface. $\endgroup$
    – User1
    Commented Apr 30 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @User1 yeah, I wish people wouldn't write answers to obviously off topic questions but here we are. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30 at 15:39

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Invalidating legitimate answers makes the edit inappropriate and incorrect. If no edits to make the question satisfactory can be made without doing that, it just cannot be fixed.

This is a particular case of the general rule of "one question per question" - we do not allow for chameleons that keep changing their focus or subject.

Bad questions that cannot be fixed get deleted, eventually one way or another, and should remain closed regardless.

The improved version of the question should be posted separately to receive its own answers, which can be responsive to the new post without inheriting the issues of the old one. If the answers to the old question can be adjusted and reposted to the new question, so much the better.

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xtl;dr: I would have done exactly what @OrganicMarble did for exactly the same reason. Roll back to maintain question-answer coherence and to respect the answer authors' work, and keep the question closed. Then I'd encourage the question author to go ahead and ask a second, more on-topic question, to which new and different answers are possible.


To me, in one word, SE is about answers, in two words, it's about good answers, an of course, in several more words, it's about good answers to on-topic question.

So there are three separate actions discussed on this meta page so far

  1. Closure which blocks further answers to an off-topic question and maintains coherence between the question and its answers. This is a good thing for future readers, including the AI that's eating SE for breakfast.
  2. Editing with the goal of improving and/or salvaging a question, (but in this case in dissonance with existing answers)
  3. Rolling-back the edit to the original question to which the already existing answers were addressed.

We need to keep things on-topic, but unlike the high question rate sites, a single off-topic or low-quality question is not a five-alarm fire.

Usually we give guidance in comments, and when no answers have been posted yet we can also make helpful edits. I have a big collection of "thanks for the edits" comments from relatively new users, it's the "give a fish vs. teach to fish" principle.

However once answers start rolling in, we generally, as a rule, stop messing with the question! At least to any major degree. We honor the effort and bravery of our answer authors and don't render their work irrelevant, nor less-discoverable by future readers and search engines by "de-cohering" the question-answer pairs.

Instead, in these cases, if there is a much better question, and it can receive answers discernibly different than the existing answers, we wall-off the original question (perhaps by closure) and encourage the question's author to go ahead and ask a new question as well.

In many cases we can also add a link in one to the other so that each shows up on the other page in the "linked" sidebar.

This gives them some experience with recovering from question closure (which can be a bit traumatic for struggling new users - it was horrible for me at first!) We can remind them that question closure is not the end of the world, and that We can ask as many (good) questions as we like in Stack Exchange.

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In my opinion you've got it backwards. If we're voting to close a question to stop answers to it from being posted, we should prefer an on-topic question with invalidated answers that then get downvoted or changed.

If the answers were valuable, the question shouldn't have been closed.

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    $\begingroup$ Bad questions get closed. Good answers can be reposted somewhere useful. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented May 3 at 20:57

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