Following from Is it Permissible to Cherrypick Someone Else's Answer for the Same Question, I'd like to bring up something I've thought for a while:

HDE 226868's answer, There's nothing wrong with expanding on a point someone else has made. Collaborating is basically what we do. is what I'd like to expand upon.

I actually think there comes a point when the community can, and should, sort of "take over" ownership of queries as well as responses. By this I mean a sense of community custodianship. Obviously, the OP keeps actual ownership, because it's their name on the post! But, if we want our Qs & As to be good, we may at times need to help each other improve them, either factually or grammatically or sensically.

To that end, it's long been my opinion that we shouldn't be afraid of diving back in time to look for older questions that could have been written more clearly (especially old closed questions), "adopt" them and if possible work them into openable condition. Same goes for answers. We shouldn't be afraid to edit poorly written answers if we think they have merit and could be improved. This does nòt in any way mean that I am advocating hijacking a query or response in order to alter or change its fundamental sense.

Specifically: I know there are answers out there which as of today are "expired" or out of date simply because new information has come along since WB.SE was founded. I think this will be especially true of queries that touch on astronomy and technology. And this is only going to get worse as time goes on.

Due to our collaborative edit framework, we do not specifically need the OP's permission to do this kind of work, and in any event, they'll get notification that an edit has been made, so they can monitor if they wish. It (ought to, anyway) go without saying that we must respect the original intent of the OP when "expanding upon" or "improving upon" their original work. This exercise isn't about stealing others' work so much as making that work better.

We do this as a matter of course as questions and answers come along. I'm simply advocating that we extend our perspective horizon back into the past. As JBH says, we're here to write good answers and also good questions.

Question: Is this a step too far, or would this be a valid practice?

Clarification Log: "Adopt" means exactly what it says: we improve upon existing Qs & As. // I'm not advocating "altering" questions. // I don't see much sense in re-asking the same question -- as you say, that would only be flagged as a duplicate. // I'm advocating "getting poor questions off life support"!

  • $\begingroup$ i think in this case you need permission or clarification though (if the person still active), because you may end up making a different answer or question or far off from the original intention, what you think is correct and not desecrating it maybe not so to the original intention, compare to the cherry picking that make new answer and adding his new thing in it a bit. unless i get something wrong regarding what you try to propose. not considering many people hate long word or text (even with good english), hence i dont dwell or detailed more in my answer despite some of it actually crucial. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ Just as another possible solution, you can always offer a bounty on an old question if the answers are out of date. I think one of the bounty reasons refers to this specifically. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 14:48

1 Answer 1



Things don't get owned by the community just because it's on the site. There is a long-standing policy of not altering questions and, further, a general hesitation to making edits to questions because doing so might change the query.

Ironically, one of the low-quality delete reasons tells you what to do here: If you have a question, ask it!

If your question is the same as the one you want to "adopt" (I'm not even sure what that means), then yours will be flagged as a duplicate. If you think there's a better solution to the problem, post a new answer; the post will bring the question to the top of the list when sorted by "Active" where it can be reviewed by the community. It likely won't get the same attention as when the question was first asked, but now the information is where it's supposed to be.

No, we don't need a poster's permission to alter the post; that's the whole point of open edits. But we also don't always receive a notice that a post has been edited. I can count on one hand the number of times I've received such a notification. So, either I'm just that good at writing, or there's a reputation threshold above which the editor doesn't trigger the notice.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. On the note about notifications: edit notifications get sent out for "substantive" edits, which are usually dictated by the number of characters changed. So, hey, seems like you are a good writer - even if your posts are edited a lot, maybe the changes are just really minor. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think a reputation threshold exists for when you stop receiving notifications. I received one today because one of my answers was edited :) $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2020 at 15:23

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