Worldbuilding is the only Stack I am aware of that discourages improving a question if it invalidates answers. I could be wrong about that, but what it does is suggest that answers are more important than questions.

Stack Exchange at first appears to support this behavior. From the Help Center's "I've thought better of my question; can I delete it?" page we read:

If your question has good answers, though, it's not fair to have those answers removed along with your question: other users put effort into helping you and even if you no longer want the answers, somebody else might. This is why the system prevents you from deleting answered questions most of the time.

But what's a good answer? An answer that's well thought out, documented, and presented but doesn't meet the OP's actual problem isn't a good answer. It's only a quality answer. The page continues with...

If your question is unnecessarily specific, edit to generalize it. Do you really need to name specific employers, vendors, or other details? Is your location actually important? Can you make the code more generic and rename some variables? Don't invalidate existing answers and don't make it so vague as to be unanswerable...

And that's probably where our belief comes from. That last sentence, taken out of context from a discussion that's so old it still reflects some of the earliest Stacks on Stack Exchange. Curiously, the paragraph isn't talking about making a question more specific, but more general. In a larger discussion, I could agree with that. But adding detail is a function of improving the quality of the question. It's so important, it's actually a reason to close the question.

So, I get the idea that an OP should try to avoid invalidating answers. But that's a far cry from the need to improve a question. From the Help Center's "Why can people edit my posts? How does editing work?" page we read...

If you see something that needs improvement, click edit!

Editing is important for keeping questions and answers clear, relevant, and up-to-date.

  • To fix grammar and spelling mistakes
  • To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)
  • To include additional information only found in comments, so all of the information relevant to the post is contained in one place
  • To correct minor mistakes or add updates as the post ages
  • To add related resources or hyperlinks.

And then there's the entire "What if I disagree with the closure of a question? How can I reopen it?" which says, in part...

You should first try to edit the question to improve it as much as possible.


The consequences of our current policy are:

  1. It encourages people to ask a new question that's basically a duplicate of the previous question other than for the addition of details that happen to invalidate answers to the previous question. This is against the policy that users should edit their question rather than ask it again.

  2. It's confusing when questions are closed and the only way they can be opened is to edit the question with enough information to overcome the closure reason — which will in nearly all cases invalidate answers.

We've been asking about this for a long time

The list of Meta questions about invalidating answers is long.

Most of those questions are fighting the very problem this Stack's policy creates: The OP was helped to improve their question to solve the problem they actually needed solving, but because this Stack thinks answers are more important than questions, the OP is now stuck with not getting their question answered or having to fight the "duplicate question" problem created in an effort to not...

...not what?... Make the respondents feel bad?

Why are we protecting answers over questions?

The principal goal of Stack exchange is to be specifically useful. To answer specific questions with specific answers. Users who have so little self-discipline or so little experience with the site that they'd answer a question before it was fully developed put themselves into the position of having an irrelevant answer. But for some reason, this Stack doesn't appear to like the idea of anyone's answer becoming irrelevant.

My Opinion

It is my opinion that respondents are as responsible for waiting for a question to be ready as the querent is responsible for creating a question that's ready to be answered. It's deplorable that we believe a question should become locked in stone simply because an answer has been posited. From the Help Center's "How do I write a good answer?" we read...

Answer well-asked questions.

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which...

  • ...are unclear or lacking specific details that can uniquely identify the problem.
  • ...solicit opinions rather than facts.
  • ...have already been asked and answered many times before.
  • ...require too much guidance for you to answer in full, or request answers to multiple questions.
  • ...are not about worldbuilding as defined in the help center.

Don't forget that you can edit the question you're answering to improve the clarity and focus - this can reduce the chances of the question being closed or deleted.

Conclusion and Policy Proposal

Caveat responsor. It is my conclusion that the Worldbuilding Stack should not encourage answers over questions. It should encourage edits to questions that improve the question for the OP's purposes and to improve the applicability of the question for others.

And if that invalidates answers. That's unfortunate, but a natural consequence of one or more of the following:

  • Not having the self-discipline to avoid answering a question quickly.
  • Having so little respect for the OP that a respondent wouldn't help the OP perfect their question.
  • Caring more about farming reputation than participating in the community.
  • $\begingroup$ meta.stackexchange.com/questions/286803/… $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 20:36
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Worldbuilding is the only Stack I am aware of that discourages improving a question if it invalidates answers. That's funny... That rule pretty much applies to all Stack Exchange sites. $\endgroup$
    – user80961
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 20:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user80961 I've not found that to be true - especially on the technical sites. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ What's wrong with caveat respondens? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas You're timing is excellent! I just edited the post to include Latin Language's suggestion of Caveat Responsor. I suspect the difference between the two might only be a minor grammatical context. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ Pretty much. Seems to be agent noun vs participle thingy. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas: Latin Language SE is more than a bit pedantic in favoring a specific flavor of Classical usage. I've even seen answers on that site quibbling about the Classical meaning of words / constructions used by Euler (who was obviously writing in New Latin, not Classical Latin). That being said, responsores, "those who answer", "answerers", is an actual Classical Latin noun; respondentes, "those who are to answer", "those from whom answers are expected", is mostly adjectival, but, like any adjective it can be used as a noun; it would still be more natural to see it qualifying a noun. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - It is in fact perfectly natural for the paedagogantes to trumpet their own nominal learning while ignoring their own participiality in the matter. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 5:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've been an SO user for longer than I've been a EB user and I remember people getting whacked for invalidating answers there too. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 7:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've been on the horns of this very dilemma, erring on the side of editing - resulting in one member rage-quitting as I recall. Watching $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 4:56

1 Answer 1


It should encourage edits to questions that improve the question for the OP's purposes

This is where the wall will be hit.

I have seen many cases of well shaped questions where the OP, not liking the received answers, simply decided that the mechanism given in the answers wasn't applicable and tried to edit it away in the question, even getting mad at the answerers for not giving the type of expected answers.

If we let this happens we face the risk of having a potentially endless loop of question -> answer -> edit to rule out answer -> new answer -> new edit which would turn SE into the endless discussion forum we don't want it to be.

Especially for worldbuilding questions it is to be expected that answers to questions might clear the OP's mind and lead to a refinement of the OP's purpose. It doesn't mean however that that refinement shall be embedded in the original question as an ad hoc to prevent those answers to be applicable.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've seen this too, but I've not seen it happen nearly so often as I have the complaint that an OP can't make a necessary edit because it invalidates answers. There's got to be a better way than expecting the OP's question to be perfect out of the gate. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ so what should the OP do in the case they dont like the answer or the reader misunderstood/misread it then? making new similar/ almost identical question but restrict/rule out that answer part? or just stuck with the current one, cant do anything, because making identical even though it has some minimal change would still be considered as duplicate? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 17:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JBH -- The enemy of the Good is the Perfect. Don't expect perfection, and when you don't get it, you won't be so worked up! My usual practice when offering counsel is simply to remind the querent they can ask a new question: a follow-up, a reimagination, a clarification, a rewrite. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 13:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I didn't know I was worked up. There's a hole here. We don't allow questions to invalidate answers, but we also don't allow people to abandon a question and ask it again. Both sides of the problem have reared their ugly heads from time to time. My belief is that protecting answers is the more easily dispensed-with and more productive if dispensed-with practice. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas wont that can just end up like what L.Dutch bring up there but now in another questions form? and it also risky to get flag/ implied as duplicate too. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 8:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH, we don't allow edit to invalidate existing answers, and we don't allow posting the same question twice. As yourself have explained to countless users, explaining why question A is different from question B prevents closure as duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica Allowing edits to invalidate answers is the point of this post (in what other way could they be invalidated). And yes, I've pointed out the issues of duplicates to many. But I'm still re-evaluating this policy and, at this time, still believe it's a mistake that's a substantial disservice to the OP for the sake of protecting the feelings of respondents. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 14:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm still trying to figure out this site and not anger people. So. How can a user escape from the cycle? Question asked, then answered, but needs focus=closed. OP edits the question, but since the VTC is based on needsfocus it invalidates answers. That's why it was closed. Just example. Editing the question will invalidate answers=Not allowed. Making a new improved question is duplicate=Not allowed. Should they inform those who answered that there are major edits? Ask mods for the removal of the old question? $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 22:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Seallussus -- Part of the issue that you bring up is people, often times long time members who ought to know better (and I include myself in this number!), answering "bad" questions before the kinks get worked out. That is, before the question gets paused and fixed. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 1:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas, Agreed. Even I did it. But it was a question that I perfectly understood and while it needed clarification I kinda got what OP wanted and answered it, but it got closed. This is to show that there is a another big problem of personal opinions as to whether or not the question needs improvement in the first place. A might just VTC because they see it needs to be edited. B kinda agrees but gets what OP wants and answers anyway. C might find it perfectly valid in it's current format. Might be a bit rare to have all 3 in a question but it could happen. Adding to what you said. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 16:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .