My answer to the question What would make scientists realize they were on a flat world? still keeps getting votes and comments. I've long since concluded that some of them are spot on and my answer could be improved with better science and conditions for the answer to be true. So far, I've resisted because it has been accepted and so long ago

The short of it is that depending on the radius of the flat world, the air itself would at some point block most of the sunlight, causing the sun to appear to slowly fade the closer it gets to the horizon and making for a much shorter day. From a storytelling perspective this makes the answer less awesome, but more correct.

In my mind, people voted on the answer as is currently is it feels wrong to change the answer afterwards. On the other side, the science is incomplete if not wrong and that bothers both me and scientifically minded users, as evidenced by the comments.

I'd like some opinions on whether to go ahead or not.


3 Answers 3



That's the only really acceptable answer to this question, because SE is all about giving the best answer. If you've got new insight and new suggestions to make your answer better, I'd actually argue that you've got an ethical, if not a moral, obligation to improve your answer.

I do want to address your supporting concerns, though:

  • I've resisted because it has been accepted and so long ago --- Acceptance of an answer, as you should know by now, only means that the OP liked your answer well enough to give you the green checkmark. That's a token of appreciation from a happy querent to a respondent who did the work of research and creative answering. Well done good and faithful servant! It doesn't mean your answer is the "best answer", only that it served the OP's purpose at the time. (An OP, I might add, who hasn't been active since 2016.)

  • In my mind, people voted on the answer as is currently is --- Yep. And I'd put a penny to a pound that most of them voted four, five or six years ago. No one puts a daily watch on an answer they voted on from four years ago on the off chance that an edit will cause them such inner turmoil that they'll pounce on you with a vindictive downvote. And after you edit it, people will continue to vote on your answer as it currently is! And guess what? Twenty or thirty years from now some WB user yet unborn might just come along with even better science, edit your answer and you'll still be voted on for the answer as it is!

  • it feels wrong to change the answer afterwards --- It's not wrong, so stop beating yourself up! What's wrong is depriving WB users from today, 16 August 2022, going forward from the benefit of new data and new insight.

Given your hesitancy to edit, this is what I'd suggest you do. When you edit your answer, copy the answer you've currently got, then go down to the bottom and insert a couple HR codes to demarcate a separate section. Label that section "Original Answer from 2016" and paste the answer down below. Then, edit the upper section with all your new insight! This way you've preserved the original answer for historical purposes and have also fulfilled your SE obligation of editing to improve upon an old answer!

  • $\begingroup$ +1 I improve my old answers whenever I run across them. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 3:27

Here, I think you can

As a personal viewpoint, peer pressure shouldn't prevent you from revealing new shines of truth, 'specially on something community-driven. But this is a personal opinion, not this community rules, hence I'll refer to the edit privilege help page instead :

When should I edit posts?

Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!

Some common reasons to edit are:

  • to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
  • to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
  • to add related resources or hyperlinks

As far as I understand, you aren't changing the core meaning of your answer (you still use dawns/sunsets to determine if the planet is flat), so adding an addendum could be a solution to your conundrum. Just tell this at the end explicitly this is a recent update of your answer (e.g. : "EDIT Aug. 2022 : I rethought on my answer and with my new knowledge I'd like to tell it's more subtle than what I intended/thought"). Telling that in second thought -even if it's quite late ^^- your answer has some caveats to consider is much more often than not an improvement.

If you happen to change the core meaning too much...

Sometimes you just feel your answer is just plain bad and want to take a whole different approach at the question, for instance you want to talk about winds instead of sunsets in your answer. Then, I'm not so sure whether it's a good idea to edit it. Well, unless there's a very defavorable feedback on it1.

Indeed, it's going beyond "correcting minor mistakes or adding addendums", and people who have voted up have done it because they genuinely think it's a (very) good answer, something you're not really sure your entirely new draft will improve. It also makes it harder for the asker to find what content they accepted -they need to look into answer's history-, if they happen to dig through their archives.

But this doesn't mean the end. Instead, you can always write another answer with this different approach. While it's not removing the accepted/high-voted answer from the lot, it gives a counterweight, something people with the same issue will take the time to read. You can also add a comment redirecting to your new answer telling to look at your new solution, e.g. : "My answer was written in 2016, and I think it's not as good as the new approach I've taken on today. You can find my new answer here (+link to answer)."

1 : ... Or if you feel very bad about it : I'd rather have someone happy than an answer to a question. But then deletion is perhaps better, perhaps.


There's nothing wrong with drawing a line, stating the word "EDIT" in bold face, then posting your improved answer after your original.

In many ways folks on this stack take themselves too seriously. From a worlbuilding context, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with your current answer.

But that isn't to say that other can't benefit from the other side of the discussion. From that perspective, leave the answer you have, draw a line underneath it...

And continue the answer with your improvements. Thus, all are benefited.

  • $\begingroup$ What's the link between taking oneself too seriously and the rest of your answer? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ I'm personally against using the word 'edit' in posts. I get how that's more honest to the voters here, but "update boundaries are artifacts of the creation rather than the content" (source thread, which provides better reasoning than I could give here). $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Joachim The post you're referring to talks a lot more about questions than answers. Do you think this should also apply to answers? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ I think so, yes. (I suddenly had the image of an encyclopedia that mentions edits and updates at random entries, and how that would come across. Not sure that's very helpful, though :) $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 11:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Joachim Indeed, it's not the same format as wikipedia or others, where people seek current information on a topic, as opposed to the best solution to a problem. Like... Hmmm... Advising an old software and updating with a new one : Most would look nowadays for the new one, while others would want the old one because it matches better their needs. History's sparsely used to look for answers (it's really cumbersome and inefficient), hence it can be better to "EDIT" things out. Not that it should be used everytime and make everything heavy to read, though ^^. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 13:07

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