I just did a complete rewrite of this question, in an attempt to bring it into line with acceptable standards for politics.se.

IMO the original was a barely-disguised rant, and subsequent edits did little to improve it ... while I've tried to retain all of the usable content of the question, I think it's fair to say that I radically changed its tone.

Given that the question had already been answered, I'm concerned that my edit might be considered poor etiquette if nothing else.

Is this level of editing considered reasonable?

  • I apologize but I just rejected your suggested edit. I feel pretty bad since you put in a lot of effort into it, but IMHO you didn't fix the main problems with it, despite making a fair amount of progress
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 5:58
  • @DVK No problem ... TBH I was motivated at least in part by a desire (against my better judgement, frankly) to take the OP's claim of good faith at face value. I agree that my rewrite remains problematic, but there's only so much you can do before it's a different question altogether.
    – user97
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:03
  • @Yannis - ROFL... 2 rejects of the edit, one "too much" one "not enough" as reason :)
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:22

4 Answers 4


You seem to be asking two unrelated questions here. I'll split my answers in two:

1) Is it a good tone to drastically edit a question in light of the fact that it has a good answer?

If the edit makes the answer invalid/meaningless/incorrect, whereas it WAS valid/meaningful/correct for the old poor question, then such edit should not be made. I am unsure if it's against the official SE rules, but I agree with your concern that it is at best, poor etiquette towards the answerer.

If the edit is made which does NOT render existing answer invalid/meaningless/incorrect, then see my second answer.


Awesome effort, but I'm afraid I had to reject the edit. You're right, invalidating existing good answers with a radical edit to the question is not... good. Edits are always welcome and in general I'd say be bold and edit, but when there are already answers it gets a bit tricky. If you think about it, your edit, if approved, would leave us with a +5 answer that didn't really answer the question (strictly speaking: not an answer).

Furthermore, the question (at the time you edited it) was not closed. Although I can see why you felt certain it will be closed soon, you can't ignore the possibility of it staying open. When you feel a question is in need of a radical improvement, your first instinct should be to get it closed, and then edit.

This, of course, would have been a far different discussion if you've submitted your edit before the question had an answer. Although your version of the question is still not constructive (imho), it's a step in the right direction and I would probably had approved the edit, just removing the sentimental opening sentence would be good enough for me. Not enough to salvage the question, but certainly a good edit.

Lastly, I want to emphasise DVK's point about getting a second opinion before a surgery. Discussing radical edits is an excellent use case for our chat room.

PS. You can find some excellent advice on "heroic edits" on Meta Programmers (All of this has happened before and will happen again... again... again...)


2) Is it good to make drastic edits to poor questions (if no good answer which may be impacted exists).

  • First of all, editing for TONE (without touching content) is always allowed.

    (NOTE: this may seem contradictory to my rejection of your edit, but I felt that the edit just didn't help AT ALL, despite improving the tone somewhat. The question is not salvageable IMHO).

  • If the question is undoubtedly poor (e.g. tons of downvotes, VTCs, comment criticism), then ANY edits you make to make it salvageable are fair game. No limits on drasticality.

    As an example, a fairly poor question of mine on SFF.SE was edited by one of the mods to go from -3 to +5 total votes. I was very thankful. A drastic edit of mine took someone else's bad question with good core from negative to like +10. That user expressed gratitude :)

  • If the question has deficiencies and disagreements around it, but there is no consensus on how bad it is or in which way, you should try to avoid drastic edits to the content without building community consensus on what the content should be.

    What may SEEM to be a rant to you, may not to others. Get a second opinion before a surgery. However, this is very much a judgement call and depends strongly on individual question and individual edit. Given that this question had a +2 score, I would be wary about super-drastic edits without a meta discussion first.

  • If the question has no consensus on its badness aside from your opinion, you should avoid editing it drastically.

    I got called out by mods on SFF.SE for editing a question that was awfully offensive (granted, my edit was... edgy shall we say, but they explicitly complained about how drastically it changed the meaning vs. the wiseass edit tone. Frankly, I think the mods were in the wrong for letting the highly offensive question to stand in the first place, but them's the bosses, them make the rules).

  • As a side note, the etiquette I usually try to take is to comment on the post I edited, in the comment explain the reasons for the edit and offer to roll back if the OP disagrees with the edit, if the edit wasn't cosmetic.
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:25
  • Thanks ... some useful pointers here. A minor aesthetic quibble: splitting your answer in two means it appears out of sequence, at least some of the time.
    – user97
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:37
  • @ZeroPiraeus - yes, it's a feature of SE engine, to prevent people mass-upvoting a single answer (e.g. the earliest one that already has more votes and would otherwise get all the attention).
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:39
  • @DVK That's... the first time I'm hearing that.
    – yannis
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:45
  • @YannisRizos - are you referring to random ordering of the answers, or to my answer above?
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:47
  • @DVK To your reasons for splitting the answers.
    – yannis
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:49
  • @YannisRizos - I honestly didn't really HAVE a reason per se. It just appeared to be two unrelated questions, and I wanted to make the answers more readable. More a stylistic preference than anything
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:50
  • @DVK No worries, just seems a bit strange, as the answers aren't antithetical (which would be a very good reason to post separate Meta answers). I've added a link to this answer in your first one, so it'll be easier to find whatever the sort order.
    – yannis
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:52
  • @YannisRizos - ah... yeah, THAT would indeed be why most people post separate Meta answers. I can combine them if you feel it's better that way.
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2013 at 6:53

Basically, the worse the question, the more edits allowed.

If it is a "pretty good" question (more upvotes than downvotes), edits should be minor, basically for clarity, etc.

If it is a "bad" question, many downvotes, votes to close, etc., "surgery" is in order. Basically the same idea as "sacrificing a limb to save a life."

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