I'm a little twitchy about editing questions after answers start showing up, since I believe that changes to the question can (unintentionally) orphan answers to that original question. In a recent example, the title of the question changed in a way that, in my opinion, changed the focus of the question, making the question fit one particular answer exceptionally well.

This question admittedly seemed a little subjective from the onset, and it suffers in form. There are, in fact, two questions and a small background narrative in the question as originally posted. Neither of those questions, however, have a lick to do with whether saturation should be important. The first question is whether Nikons produce saturation than Canons, and the second (already presuming an answer to the first) is whether that difference can be negated somehow. By changing the title of the question, the meaning of the original question has been changed, and as it stands, only one answer addresses the "does it matter" part at all!

For the record, I agree that "does it matter" really is a far more important question than "do differences exist" (as do most of the commenters). I also believe that jrista's answer is a comprehensive and thorough answer to the original question. I do, however, disapprove of changing an existing question to more closely align with an existing answer, most specifically when that answer belongs to the editor.

Personally, I'd love to see questions locked from editing once answers start coming in. Barring that, however, I believe that if you're going to edit a question, great care is needed if you also answer, either prior to the edit or following the edit. I feel that when you change the meaning of a question to better suit your answer, it's a particularly insidious (and very probably subconscious) form of answering your own question (which is accepted and even encouraged on SO). However, while there are measures carefully put in place to guard against gaming the system with self-answers, no such measures exist (that I'm aware of) to guard against orphaning answers by changing the meaning of the question.

This seems like another example where P-SE is susceptible to a problem that's just not seen in the original SO site. Changing the title of a highly objective question, for instance, isn't likely to change its meaning, and an edit to a technical question is going to stick out like a sore thumb (hey, dummy -- your example doesn't compile anymore), but when you start with a question that's borderline-subjective in the first place, subtle edits matter.

In case you're wondering, I'm posting this here (rather than commenting on the original question) because I'm really more interested in the general case of question metamorphosis and its impact on existing answers than I am in that specific question. I don't think there's an automated solution here; rather, this is an etiquette question.

6 Answers 6


The goal here - the reason the "game" even exists - is to get good questions with good answers, right?

So if someone - an answerer or someone else - edits a question in a way that clearly makes it better, that's a fine thing indeed...

Actually, this is something that's probably more useful when it comes to the more "subjective" questions: askers frequently lack the knowledge to ask questions clearly, and those answering may well be better equipped to help clarify.

Don't forget: if an editor makes a mistake, it can be corrected just as easily as it was made. No sense in being afraid...


One problem I see with limiting edits to the question after answers have been written is the global nature of this community. We are spread across so many different time zones that a contribution, even from members who devote significant time on a daily basis to the community, may not be possible for several hours after a question is asked. I've often wondered if some questions might not receive better, more complete answers if the original poster didn't accept the first answer submitted 10 minutes after the question was asked.

As others have mentioned, many times the original poser of the question doesn't know enough to clearly ask the question using the nomenclature of photography. To limit editing a question to the few minutes before the first answer is submitted would, in my opinion, severely limit the greatest resource this community has: the members spread throughout practically every time zone on the planet.

  • 1
    What might be an interesting idea would be an option to vote a review up or down and give (or take) reputation from the user as a result. This would encourage editing as making a question better would get rep but would also allow people to penalize someone who alters the question to fit their answer rather than simply trying to fix real problems with a question they also happen to know the answer to.
    – AJ Henderson Mod
    Apr 25, 2013 at 17:19

First off, it was IN NO WAY my intention to align the question with my answer. I'm a bit offended that you would think so, as I think I've demonstrated my objectivity pretty well in my tenure on this site and my generally hands-off approach to moderation...I much prefer to leave it to the community to make decisions as much as they can, and I step in when flags get a bit stale or when a particular thing gets a lot of similar flags. It is not, and has never been, my interest to insidiously tune the nature of questions in my own favor.

Additionally, when I edited the title, I was not even aware that I had answered the question...I just periodically go through question titles that are not actually questions, but statements...and try to make them questions. When I do that, my focus is pretty thoroughly on the questions title, and I never look at the answers (if any even exist.) This particular question stood out like a beacon, and there weren't a whole lot of options to turn "Color saturation across Nikon and Canon pictures" into an actual question. The options that I thought of at the time were "Why is Nikon color saturation better than Canon's?", which definitely sounded subjective enough to evoke a debate (something were at an increasing risk for as we continue to grow and gain awareness in the larger scope of the web), which on top of the "a healthy debate is welcome" in the body (which, really, I need to get rid of), is not what we needed for that question. I opted for the less subjective alternative "Do differences in color saturation across Nikon and Canon pictures matter?", as its our practice here on StackExchange to avoid subjectivity and opt for objectivity.

This specific case aside, I do agree that we need to be careful in changing a questions intent. I think the people who regularly do any editing are already pretty careful about such things. But you have to keep in mind, there are often multiple factors involved in turning a statement into a question, and subjectivity or questions that might evoke brand loyalty or any other heated debate should be avoided. A good test of a worthy question is whether you can take a poor and subjective question and turn it into a good question without drastically changing its meaning (which, btw, I do not think I did with the edit discussed above, I think the changes in meaning were minor). If you cannot eliminate subjectivity in a question without changing its meaning too much (and there is a bit of a fuzzy area there), then its probably a candidate for closure.

  • I do believe that you didn't mean to change the meaning of the question, and I agree that the question was on thin ice to begin with. I do think that the simplest way to turn the original statement into a question might have been something like "Is there a difference...".
    – D. Lambert
    Jan 27, 2012 at 2:39
  • As I pointed out in my question, though, my focus here isn't necessarily on this particular question other than as an example. I also understand that the more subjective the question, the more susceptible it is to having its meaning changed with small changes in verbiage, but I think the nature of P-SE questions makes it more likely that questions here will push that boundary.
    – D. Lambert
    Jan 27, 2012 at 2:44
  • You may have set an incorrect premise with your wording. I don't think anyone where is "gaming" the system, and I especially don't think many people, especially established core members, are purposefully "insidious". We do have occasional members who abuse our site for advertising, poke/prod/troll to elicit negative reactions, or who simply seem to enjoy debating for the sake of debating...however I don't think many of them have the reputation to make edits most of the time.
    – jrista
    Jan 27, 2012 at 2:49
  • As far as whether the original question had merit as an objective question, I'd originally thought there was a chance that there might be something about the way sensors from Canon and Nikon handle saturation at the pixel level such that saturation really might be different from one to the other. I doubted that this would matter in any practical sense, but that's the sort of really interesting information that turns up every once in a while here.
    – D. Lambert
    Jan 27, 2012 at 2:52
  • I apologize if I set an incorrect premise; I did try my best to phrase it as a succinct question, however. ;-)
    – D. Lambert
    Jan 27, 2012 at 2:56
  • Technically speaking, any sensor, nikon, canon, sony, etc., produces fairly desaturated native results. Its the application of tone curves to the RGB channels of the RAW image that actually produce a more pleasing output. As such, you can pretty much tune the RAW result for any camera to conform to any set of tone curves you want, and make Canon images look identical to Nikon images. Functionally, most cameras provide several pre-set options for that...picture styles or image styles, and usually a few customizable slots. RAW editors also usually offer a few options that are applied on import.
    – jrista
    Jan 27, 2012 at 5:08
  • Its the freedom to apply any tone curve you really want to that lead me to provide an answer that deemphasized the importance of saturation "strait out of the camera". It really doesn't matter, and there are a multitude of post-processing tools that let you tweak that stuff to your hearts content.
    – jrista
    Jan 27, 2012 at 5:10
  • The actual centre frequencies, the Q of the colour filters (whether Bayer or other), the smearing of the low-pass filter and the wavelength sensitivity of the silicon itself could make an actual difference to the ability of the sensor and associated circuitry to capture and render colour, though. It's not necessarily a flat playing field unless everybody is using the same sensor/filter assembly, so the question is valid on its face.
    – user2719
    Jan 28, 2012 at 21:38

The idea of editing feature is to have better questions, so

  • when you feel the edit made the question worse, do a rollback;

  • when you feel the question was improved by edit, you could improve your answer as well. And even without editing, your answer might still help someone who had the problem you originally tried to help with.

The thing is, many answers will get stale even without any editing. New technologies emerge, new artists pop up, your own knowledge and technique improves. Each answer only reflects your best knowledge at the moment of answering (or last edit). Disapproving editing questions would only solve minor part of this problem, while making solving the actual problem of asker more complicated. Generally in life, it is more efficient when you adapt to things changing around you than to tell the world to stop and stay as it is.

I'm sure any systematic gaming will be soon noticed by active community members and the goblin will be dealt with.

  • 1
    I believe the grey area here, for me at least, is that I do think the edited question is a better question. Unfortunately, it also ends up being a slightly different question.
    – D. Lambert
    Jan 27, 2012 at 17:32

This is an old question, but since it was asked, three badges have actually been introduced to encourage this behavior. They are:

  • Explainer (Bronze): Answered & edited 10 questions
  • Refiner (Silver): Answered & edited 50 questions
  • Illuminator (Gold): Answered & edited 500 question

The full rules are explained at New three-tiered badge idea: Explainer →Refiner → Illuminator, but the short point is that improving questions you've answered is a good thing and you can score Shiny Internet Stars by doing so.

  • 1
    Very interesting. While I agree with the spirit of the action (and awards), my point remains -- if the edits change the nature of the question in such a way that existing answers are negated, this is materially unfair to anyone who's already answered.
    – D. Lambert
    Jan 14, 2015 at 21:14

I don’t think it is gaming the system, but I think it’s fair to say that in the quest for a better site, sometimes edits can be a bit over zealous.

Take for example this question (How can I make playback zoom start in small steps rather than going to 1:1 with Magic Lantern?). I’m using this as an example, because I’ve answered it so it’s easier to find. @Mattdm’s edit to the question changed it from asking about a standard 60D to one with custom firmware installed. He’s clearly done the edit in good faith (the OP revealed he’d used a custom firmware in his self answer to the question). The question is now clearer and more specific to the OPs problem, however in my opinion it also invalidates my answer (which assumed standard firmware). To me that aspect of the edit was unnecessary (questions don’t need to contain all of the details where answers clear up the ambiguity, which in this case the accepted answer did).

It’s not just other people’s edits that do this though. Often, the original question asker can become prompted by comments / answers that have been given to their question to edit the question to improve clarity / add additional questions / points. Sometimes this can work, and others again it can invalidate some of the answers that have been given. So you can get situations where up voted answers don’t answer the current version of the question. I personally don’t like this pattern very much. I think questions should have an obligation to stay basically the same. Once they start attracting answers they need to ensure that any edits don’t unnecessarily invalidate existing answers. If it turns out the question has been misinterpreted because it was too vague I would say it’s time to ask another, clearer question (learning from the mistakes). Of course that’s just my opinion (other people might decide the second question warranted being closed as a duplicate)...

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