A new user asked How will our world change if all animals suddenly die?. The OP indicated the question was asked as a result of the previous "all men/women suddenly die" questions, which were both closed as too broad, both of which remain closed at this time after meta discussion. In keeping with that idea of such questions, the "animals all die" question was also closed as too broad.

In comments, the OP of "animals all die" gave another user permission to edit the question, which s/he did, extensively. The edit is so extensive, in fact, that the after is almost unrecognizable from the before. The OP expressed surprise at the extent of the edit. The question has since been reopened and again put on hold.

It seems the entirety of the edit was made without input from the OP. While I'm sure the editor had good intentions, I'm not sure this is the kind of edit we should be supporting/encouraging.

Thoughts from the community?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I left a comment asking the OP how he feels about the edit, explaining that normally we'd reject such a major edit but if he's ok with it then fine. I assume he'll comment there eventually; he doesn't currently have enough rep to answer this meta question. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ The question was reopened (2016-03-24 13:25:08Z), but is now again (2016-03-24 17:35:19Z) on hold as too broad. I also added a link to the relevant meta discussion. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Related discussion: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/2455/… $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 21:04

4 Answers 4


The Original Question

I definitely think that the original question was poorly thought out, and was far too broad. I believe the driving force behind it was curiosity, and was not researched at all(for example, most plants would die, as they require the help of insects to breed, etc.), which should not be encouraged (curiosity is fine, but the OP should put some effort to figure it out)

The Edit

The edit is completely unacceptable. It changes the question to a point where it is completely unrecognizable, going as far as to come up with a back story for the OP.

If the editor had wanted to ask that question himself that would have been fine, however imposing his views on the OP's question should not be tolerated.

We should definitely help new users frame their questions in a way that is better suited for the site, however rewriting their questions to this extent is not the way to do so.

Pointing them to WB Meta, the scope conversations, and maybe having one of the moderators speak to them in chat is.


I don't want to enter the specific details of that particular question, which is covered by other answers already.

General points

We should never assume we understand the intent of a user. As such, we should always limit ourselves to minimal edits: typo, formatting, grammar are ok. Modifying the focus of a question isn't. As such we shouldn't do it.

In this case, the editor did ask the user for authorisation before doing so. Which I'd consider a minimum. Without it, I'd have rolled it back as soon as I saw it. But even then, one cannot ignore that newer users aren't that familiar with what is and what isn't acceptable.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Another kind of edit that's ok even if larger is pulling in info that the author provided in comments. (If it's a new user I try to leave a comment pointing out the edit link and saying I edited that info in. Even though there's an edit link, new users sometimes need to have it pointed out that they can do this.) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ I think especially on first questions, extensive edits are sometimes necessary to salvage a question and a good way to teach them what is acceptable. A recent example: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/posts/37383/revisions $\endgroup$
    – Josiah
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree with the satement, @Josiah, the OP should salvage a question. We can help them or guide them for that. This is why there are comments. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 20:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Incorporating information from comments into the question itself is usually non-controversial, as long as those comments are made by the OP to clarify the question. Sometimes we can simply copy the comments into the question body verbatim, and other times it takes a little linguistic massaging to have them make sense, but in both cases, we are staying true to the OP's intent. (In the latter case we can also always just copy the comments verbatim, and encourage the OP to fix up the question from a linguistic point of view.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I agree -- was just pointing out that "extensive" wouldn't be relevant in that case. When I can cut/paste the OP's text I do; when I need to massage it I do that. That should be non-controversial, as you said. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Oh, I wasn't arguing against your point. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 14:02

I asked OP if she/he is OK with an edit aimed at putting the question within the scope of worldbuilding SE (since the original was not). Hence the aim of the edit was to keep the soul of the question intact (what would be the effects of taking out all animals from the environment) but reword it so as to make it precise and limited in the scope (which would make it compatible with worldbuilding SE).

OP replied with "why not, as long as I get an answer" (most of the comments were later removed).

It was clearly mentioned by me at the end of the edit that I was editing the question simply to put it within the scope of worldbuilding SE.

If OP is uncomfortable with the edit, or that the edit changes the premise of the question, then yes, my edit should have been rolled back. But simply objecting because I added a backstory and presented his/her question in a more precise and direct form is ... rather harsh I would say.

I think the objection to my edit should have come from OP (or moderators) only.

Edit to add

Yes I later saw OP's comment to my edit as "wow. such a big edit hahaha". I don't know if he/she was objecting to it. If they were, I agree with fellow members that the edit was unjustified and should have been rolled back. Let's wait to hear from them.


I agree completely with @AndreiROM that this is unacceptable. To further answer the direct question on how to handle the problem, I suggest we simply chastise him (in chat?) and inform the new user what happened and exactly how his/her question is too broad. Then we roll back the edit.


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