This meta is not exclusively about this example question, so I decided to post separate meta.

Related meta : Let's discuss this question with regard to our scope.

Let's establish how our community view edits as a tool to make an off-topic question on-topic.

As for now, we believe that

  1. Edit should respect the original author's intent (no guessing)
  2. Edit should not invalidate existing answers

The Workplace has made significant edits to questions to make them on-topic - and quite ruthlessly, I've noticed, that the edits are potentially conflicting with the author's intent, and might change the question.

One of the most recent is this question. I linked the revision history. If you know more example of significant edit, please edit it into a list here.

What is our stand to edits that significantly change the question, with potential conflict to the original intent (read: change the core question), especially if the author is believed to not come back, ever?

If yes, please include how long you think we should wait to edit the question.


3 Answers 3


What is our stand to edits that significantly change the question, with potential conflict to the original intent (read: change the core question), especially if the author is believed to not come back, ever?

I'll agree with Anne Daunted's answer that we shouldn't do this. It's not worth the effort. We could just as easily write a new question. I'm writing this answer, because in addition to that I have some further arguments.

I'm going to say we should, in general, keep to the 2 guidelines you posted:

  1. Edits should respect the original author's intent (no guessing)
  2. Edits should not invalidate existing answers

I've read this quite an interesting answer on Workplace meta. What I like here is the 'When should we edit' part:

  • If the question is new, make a comment first, and make a quick edit to get the asker to participate
  • If the question is several hours old and still open, only edit if it looks like it will be closed (it has no good answers, downvotes, close votes, etc.)
  • If the question is already closed with no answers, have at it (anything is better than a no-answer closed question)

The highlights are mine. I think these parts are especially important to take into account when we want to think about editing questions as significant as the one on Workplace was.

That said, for the Workplace question, what I'm seeing is that the question was originally there (although this may be influenced by reading the edits). What I'm seeing there is that 'it just needed to be worded better'. Also:

  • The most serious editing was done by a moderator. This is significant. Personally, I'm not confident enough to go pulling off that sort of 'tricks', and I don't think it's my place on SE to do such things even if I had.
  • The editing was taken to meta, to discuss if it was a good thing to do. That means even the moderator might have had doubts about whether this was okay to do the edit/if the edit was good enough or not, in that specific case.
  • All 7 edits were done within 1 hour and 10 minutes of posting the question: The question was posted on 15:39, and the last edit made at 16:48. I don't think your example question was edited because 'the author was believed not to come back, ever'.
  • According to the meta about that question, it was significantly edited 'to avoid it from being deleted'. That's a different thing than editing because something is on-hold but the user seems to have abandoned their question. I think the fact that a moderator did the editing is important here: Moderators can delete questions, so this moderator must have seen something that made them know this question was not just close-worthy, but delete-worthy.

An example of a question on this site that was heavily edited by other users: How do I tactfully avoid interacting with a person I meet on the way to work every day, at a subway station?

  • The first edit invalidated this now-deleted answer. The gist of this answer was that if OP was so afraid of interacting with random people, she should seek help. Since we're discussing to close questions that need professional help, an edit that invalidates this answer might be, in my opinion, very dangerous. We've talked about the dangers of giving advice to somebody that seems to need serious professional help in that meta question. Although we can't always be sure that something needs professional help (an OP isn't necessarily always honest) in my opinion it doesn't help to edit out the parts that are suggesting it does need that. That's just a way of circumventing a serious problem.
  • This question wasn't edited soon after it was posted, so it could be saved. Instead, the 22 edits are sprawled over 3 days.
  • This question was put on hold, but again there was no indication that it would be deleted before the OP had a chance of editing it.
  • This was not 1 big edit to save the question. Most questions or problems were addressed with another edit when they were raised (and some of those edits weren't done by the OP), mainly dismissing things as not a problem by stating things like "Please address that aspect rather than my possible motivations." and "I have a right to avoid him if I want to, whatever the reason."
  • My last questions in the comments were never answered, with a comment by OP or another edit by the user doing 11 of the 22 edits. I think this is due to the fact that the user editing the question couldn't/wouldn't answer these questions, and the OP never reacted either. Editing stopped after that, and the question is now 'abandoned' by both OP and the editing user.

In my opinion, the editing, due to how it was done, didn't improve the question, there still isn't a very clear question there. Part of this might also be that the comments, edit history, and OP's reaction to frame-challenge answers seem to imply that the OP seemed to want to be validated more than ask a question about how to handle the situation.

So, on to the example from your question, where nothing has been done: How do I let someone I'm romantically interested in know I think we wouldn't work out because I am not straight?

  • It's currently on-hold. But in my opinion (I'm not a moderator, I don't know the guidelines here) there's no danger of imminent deletion. We're patiently waiting until OP edits their question.
  • OP seems to have abandoned it (no answers to questions in comments were ever given, no editing from their side). That's sad, but not our business. If we're in a similar situation, and the answers that are already there aren't helping us, we're free to write our own 'better worded' question. The comments as to what should be improved are still there, a new question could take these into account.
  • If we were to edit it, it would not be a quick edit to get the asker to participate, this question has proved it was abandoned.
  • The question is on-hold, but does have answers. So 'anything is better than a no-answer closed question' isn't applicable here either.

And a very recent question where things were done right: How to open up to someone about loving them, when you don't know if they love you back?

  • We asked OP questions, close-voted immediately and asked them not to worry about the close-voting.
  • OP provided info. We edited in the info to make this into a good question in 8 edits within 30 minutes-1 hour.
  • No guessing was involved.
  • No existing answers were invalidated (there weren't any).
  • Only one edit was made by OP themselves, which makes this a good example of questions edited by the community and how community editing can keep an OP involved.

So, based on what I've found in regard to editing guidelines, and with this example of editing gone wrong in mind, I wholeheartedly agree with the NO from Anne Daunted. And we shouldn't go editing your example question.

  • 1
    Well researched as usual. +1
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 11:58
  • "My last question in the comments was never answered" __ He could be any other person I meet on the subway every day, and not necessarily a street vendor." and "I am really scared of random interactions with unknown people." What are you really asking here? [...] Do you want our help in dismissing this street vendor (duplicate), or avoiding interactions with all random people you might encounter each day (too broad)? – Tinkeringbell Sep 27 at 8:17 __ Since OP did not reply all these days I can confirm,as the user who edited the Q, that your point is checkmate -- yes the Q is too broad. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 22:59
  • In short it is not a duplicate of your street vendors question but as you rightly concluded, it is too broad because OP wants to learn how to avoid any random person she meets a few times who seems to take a personal interest in her, and if you examine the answers that was exactly what detailed advice at least 2 users gave her, @Tinkeringbell. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 23:03


The Workplace handles different problems, because it's a more formalized setting. Problems encountered on IPS.SE usually tend to be more complex, e. g. with the expression of feelings etc. But there are also less complex ones.

Another point to make is, that even if abandoned questions are edited to fit the site, no answer can be accepted.

1. Less complex problems

The questions I posted so far, fall under this category. The number of participants is reduced (mostly just me and one other person), neither is their relationship too complex nor the situation they are in, and it's a commonly encountered problem (judging from answers/comments etc.).

Imagine I had abandoned How do I dismiss a stranger asking for money? and the question needed work. It was decided that the question was a good fit and some or several potential editors had had a very similar experience (maybe even having met that very same "Bob"). So, they could competently edit the question by filling up the gaps due to their own experiences.

Now, no answer could still be accepted and the question arises (as curiousdannii wrote in a now deleted comment): Why not simply write a new question altogether with the same scenario and a caring OP?

I don't see any benefit to editing such a question until it fits.

2. Complex problems

I give some examples of more complex scenarios, not all of them necessarily abandoned:

Sketchy “friend” recently revealed true colors, is attending my wedding. Should I un-invite, and if so how?

How can I convince my 'cousin sister' that the man she loves is of 'bad character?'

How do I let someone I'm romantically interested in know I think we wouldn't work out because I am not straight? [on hold]

Is it possible for my friend to resume communication with his unofficial sister without earning her husband's mistrust?

There are multiple people involved, oftentimes with complex relationships, including cultural differences. They also deal with complex personal problems.

Either a potential editor is in almost the exact same situation

  • then why not write a new question (same as above)?

or not

  • then what would be the guiding line for editing the question? What if editors do even disagree about it? What is the final result - part actual problem, part imagination of an editor?

At least I would have no idea how to edit such question, and imagining I was a male Indian with a cousin loving the wrong man, an asexual and agender woman, a man in that first wedding example (too complex to summarize here) etc. wouldn't lead me anywhere.

In these cases, I'd rather wait for another user with a similar core question to arrive.

  • +1 from me, cara. Your answer is perfect.
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 11:57

There was a recent example of a question that was heavily edited by one or more users on IPS but with the verbal consensus of the OP. Here it is: How do I tactfully avoid interacting with a person I meet on the way to work every day at a subway station?

In my own very personal view, and I realize that some users will strongly disagree with me, the over 20 edits, changed the meaning and character of the original post. It sanitized the question beyond recognition. The identity of the author, the personality of the author was deleted, and replaced by another user. Consequently, I was compelled to delete my answer, as it was thoroughly disconnected from the updated, and edited (improved?) version.

But it's important to note that the author of the original question was present, and if she was happy, and it appeared she was, the edits were legitimate. If the OP had not given her consensus, if the OP had been an unregistered user who posted a question and then seemingly fled, I would not have hesitated to rollback the substantial edits.

I would not recommend editing the question that @Vylix linked in their question: How do I let someone I'm romantically interested in know I think we wouldn't work out because I am not straight?

The OP is an unregistered user; she/he has not visited the site and ergo their post in two days since it was posted on 09 Oct 2017.

No one but the OP herself can answer the question set by Tinkeringbell: Unfortunately, all the answers we can give to the question as it is now will be opinion based. What is your goal?

Edits should improve the formatting, the appearance, and fixing significant grammatical errors, which left alone would otherwise confuse visitors. Edits should not be trivial, but neither should they be revolutionary. I think everyone would agree on that, wouldn't they?

UPDATED: I had to respond to "real life"

Anne Daunted's answer also recommends not editing, for all the right reason which I heartily agree with too.


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