Imagine you posted an answer, which at the time seemed good and got a few upvotes. Then a few months/years later you revisit your answer, read it and wonder how you could have ever come up with such rubbish. What would you do?

I have had this a couple of times recently and obviously the first thing I'd do is try to salvage the answer as much as possible, by editing it. But a few times it was just not salvageable, so I ctrl+a-ed the answer and rewrote it as a whole, resulting in a much better answer (based on upvotes of course, not being cocky or anything).

Is this rewriting of answers fair towards the earlier upvoters? Should I have just made a second answer instead?

I guess this question is related to this question:

Should questions that are unanswerable until later (unaired) episodes/chapters be allowed?

I recently read there, that when an unanswerable question is asked, it should be answered with the currently available knowledge. Then, later ...

When the answer is finally revealed, the real answers will come without invalidating the existing answers. Furthermore, the existing answers will still be useful to people picking up the series late and don't want a full spoiler.

What if you yourself want to answer the same question again, but now with the newly available information? Should you create a second answer? Or should you edit your original answer?

  • 2
    You can always add a different answer if you don't want to "wrench" an old answer.
    – Unihedron
    May 29 '15 at 14:57
  • As long as you are here to maintain, you can just rewrite the whole answer as an edit. I don't feel there is anything wrong with the author making such change.
    – nhahtdh
    May 29 '15 at 15:20
  • 4
    @nhahtdh That's problematic since anyone who upvoted or accepted the answer wanted to support the original answer, not necessarily the new edit you've made. (Another way to think about it: what if you changed it from correct, to wrong?)
    – Cattua
    May 29 '15 at 16:38
  • 1
    There was some discussion of a similar issue in the SO context in this Meta Stack Overflow question.
    – Torisuda
    May 30 '15 at 21:23
  • 1
    Fun fact, a while ago on German Language, I posted an answer which gained upvotes (more than three) but then the experts arrived and proved me wrong in almost every detail. I decided to delete it and write another correct one later; did so, and it got more upvotes. Plus I earned the disciplined badge. Some people said I could have just edited the original, but I felt it to be fairer that way.
    – Jan
    Jun 5 '15 at 23:23

I would say this is basically the answerer version of "moving the goal posts", a behavior discouraged by OPs. For those who don't know what that means, it refers to someone asking a question, getting an answer to it (we'll suppose it is pretty good: it gets upvotes, seems to answer the original question, etc.), and then editing their question in such a way as to make that answer essentially meaningless. Clarifying the question, such as improving the language or adding further requested details, is fine, but a wholesale alteration of the fundamental question itself is considered bad form. An exception is if there are currently no decent answer attempts posted. Otherwise, for posters who feel they need to completely alter their question to get "what they really wanted to know", it is generally encouraged that they post a new question entirely.

The short answer to your question is then contained in the original comments: alterations for the sake of basic maintenance is okay, but "wrenching" an old answer or otherwise fundamentally invalidating the community's votes and answer acceptance is bad.

This is, after all, a Q&A set of sites generally meant not to satisfy the posters and the responders, but of anyone who happens to think of much the same question and wanders in here off of a google search or whatever. While an OP may decide he botched his question, or an answerer may change his opinions, if it was a well-formed and answerable question, or a well-formed and positively upvoted answer, then it should remain: somebody else may have the same question and find the answers helpful.

I will note that if your answer is not the accepted answer, then you may simply delete your answer at any time (as long as you are a registered user), regardless of how many upvotes it may or may not have. You can then post a new answer, or not, as you desire. If your answer is the accepted answer, then you cannot simply delete it, and your recourse is to post a new answer if you wish to make a significantly different argument. You can post as many answers as you desire to any given question, as long as they are earnest attempts to answer the question(s) at hand, and are in some way meaningfully distinguishable from each other. A question on the Mathematics SE may have an answer which could be derived in a dozen valid and different ways, and it is generally acceptable for a single person to post a separate answer for each one.

Exactly where the line is between "improving" and "fundamentally altering" may be hard to tell at times. I would suggest that if you are unclear on which one you are doing, then go ahead and play it safe and make an entirely new answer. It's easier to placate a community that thinks you should have just merged them into one answer than a community that thinks you're being deceitful.

Similar reasoning would apply to your last question. If you decide the new information does not lead to a significantly different answer, then it seems to be accepted form to add this into the original answer with some sort of clear indication that additional material was added rather late. I would not be opposed to it being given its own answer, either. For answers that seem to have been invalidated by new information, posting a new answer and adding a disclaimer to the original post, such as "This answer was made before Chapter 207 came out, and so may no longer be completely accurate or relevant", would be good. The option to delete is also available to an unaccepted answer, if you feel that is best.

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