Twice now, I've made an Answer to a question that IMO was very poorly worded. Then (good thing) the Questioner improves the Question. But (bad thing) my response to the original poor wording continues to receive downvotes. In both cases, the whole rationale for my original Answer is now moot.

Q: What should I do? What are consequences of deleting the question?

1 Answer 1


(Preface: This is general advice not a judgement on your particular answers.)

When you answer a question, you should really focus on answering the core issue. Cut through the noise of a distracted or poorly phrased question and give a reference quality answer on whatever the main issue was. Sometimes to do that well you will need to address issues with the question. Addressing these issues should be additions to your answer to put it into context, not the main body of it. This way whether the question gets cleaned up or not, the core of your post will still be relevant.

If the issue with a question is just poor wording, you can even edit the question itself before you start answering so that everybody is working from the same base. If the questioner is clearly confused on an issue, make sure the edit conveys the same original confusion and just clean up the grammar/spelling so that people can determine what needs answering.

One problem that sometimes happens is that somebody asks a half baked question, gets an answer that clears up their initial concern, then edits the question to be about the next logical step in the issue. This creates a moving target where each revision of the question is really separate question but since the issue got cleared up in the OP's head they feel like they can move on an make it a more advanced question. This is an inappropriate use of editing. We aren't just here for the person that asked the original question, we're here to create a reference library so that other people with the same issues can find answers.

If you come across one of these questions where the actual issue has morphed, the thing to do is get it rolled back to the original and ask them to frame the later version as an independent question. Any answers that have come in should be moved to the new question. Catching this sort of edits early makes them a lot easier to fix.

Edit: If one of the case studies you have in mind is this answer, I don't think any of the generalizations above apply. The "question" you answered would not even have been a real question on this site, it would have been closed pending a fix. As such your "answer" is really no more than what should have been an ephemeral comment looking for clarification on the question. It doesn't really serve an ongoing purpose as a reference that enlightens people about Christianity and it's traditions in regard to that question. I suggest just neutralizing it. You'll get your rep back and life goes on.

  • No, the problem is NOT one of "didn't foresee OP's likelihood of improving answer," but RATHER one of "OP greatly improved post after I pointed out big problem, rendering my Answer moot".
    – pterandon
    Jun 10, 2013 at 15:58
  • @pterandon If your answer has been rendered moot, wouldn't that be an instance of the second possibility I listed here? If your answer no longer applies, the question has morphed so much that the core issue is different and should have been made into a different question.
    – Caleb
    Jun 10, 2013 at 16:32
  • @pterandon: see edit ^^^
    – Caleb
    Jun 10, 2013 at 16:41
  • 1
    In that case, @pterandon would also get a bronze badge: Peer Pressure.
    – user3331
    Jun 10, 2013 at 23:46
  • Looks like good company :)
    – Caleb
    Jun 11, 2013 at 6:00
  • Okay, "neutralizing" is what I'm asking for-- the site would be better off with the thing deleted, (regardless of whether that means I get the points back). How is that done?
    – pterandon
    Jun 11, 2013 at 10:58
  • @pterandon I was using that term as a euphemism for "deletion". There isn't an alternative. One of the main features that makes SE sites effective is the low signal to noise ratio. In this it is different than a normal forum where tangential notes like the answer in question here are tolerated and even encouraged. Here, we don't think the site is better off for tolerating posts that don't directly answer the question. As for "how", just use the "delete" link under the post. If three other people vote to delete it will be removed without your consent but you can remove it with one click.
    – Caleb
    Jun 11, 2013 at 11:00
  • The site is better off the point I raised being deleted now that it is moot: isn't that what I said? Some of the churn here is in disagreement over just how bad the originally worded question was, which your defense is showing how much you tolerate.
    – pterandon
    Jun 11, 2013 at 11:16
  • @pterandon I think a lot of my comment just now was in response to a mis-reading of your comment. My fault not yours. I'm was going off in response something that you hadn't actually said. Sorry for the confusion.
    – Caleb
    Jun 11, 2013 at 11:18

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