This answer to Inspirations for "Little Nemo in Slumberland" and "Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend?" originally had only the name of the illustrator, and an image taken from an article.

After doing some additional research, I found the probable source of their image and arguments. I felt very uncomfortable with writing my own answer given that the hard part (the majority of work) was done by the person who originally found that article, since searching by topic is a lot harder than searching by image. So I edited the post to include an additional comparison image from the same article, as well as some text from the article describing the possible inspiration. Per this post, edits that make major changes and preserve the intent of an answer are acceptable.

On the other hand, it’s possible that in adding so much additional information, I deviated too much from the original intent of the author, and that I should instead have written my own answer.

Was the edit appropriate, or does it change the meaning of the post too much?

4 Answers 4


IMO, your edit was just fine, though I think you would also have been justified in writing your own answer.

As you pointed out, the "core" of the answer was in the original post, so none of your edits really changed "the intention" of the answer, they merely changed the "presentation". That's what edits are for; you made a correct answer into a correct but more informative one.

IMO, the amount of effort put into your changes would probably also have justified writing up an answer of your own, especially if there was "research" involved (e.g. you didn't just click a hyperlink). But editing the existing answer was an even better way to go.


Your edit goes well beyond what would be considered to be an acceptable edit. Had I seen it in the queue, I would have rejected it as conflicting with the author's intent.

Looking over the original post and comparing it with the finished product, it's clear that you've taken their single line stub answer (which frankly resembles a comment) and totally overhauled it, turning it into a fully rounded answer by adding a central thesis, a narrative, links to a second relevant article and additional pictures cross-comparing the picture source with the original work to highlight the similarity.

So what's wrong with that?

First off, with an answer that small (and limited involvement from the OP) it's really quite difficult to determine what their intent was, other than highlighting that the two sources are quite similar.

Second, almost nothing of their original answer now exists. Excluding the image, less than 4% of the answer is what they wrote in the first place. Including the image, that goes up to a slightly more healthy 7% but still very low.

The fact that you've put so much effort into "improving" their existing answer is what spawned this question

Award Bounty to Answer Editor

With even an experienced user having difficulty determine what, if anything, the OP actually contributed to what is now, essentially your answer.

What should I have done?

Given how much additional effort has been put into improving this answer (by you), the obvious course of action would be to write your own answer, crediting the OP for finding an additional source that was useful in helping you to write your answer. People can then choose which answer to upvote and determine, for themselves, whether the original answer deserves upvotes.

Are there exceptions?

I'd like to put in a special word for questions. The reality is that the hardest part is locating and identifying the property in question. It's not uncommon to add a book review or a wiki quote that drastically adds to the word-count. In those instances, the OP still deserves all the credit for having worked out what the darned thing is in the first place.

  • 1
    @Adamant - Story-ident questions are a bit of a special case (which is why we have a whole bunch of extra policies about them!). Adding a single sourced book review or a quote from wikipedia can often go well beyond the "50% rule", adding more to the answer than was there originally but I'd argue that that's acceptable as long as all you're doing is adding clarity to an original post.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:37
  • 1
    @Adamant - With a story-ident answer, I'd be tempted to let it slide. The OP might not have access to the source book/comic/whatever. If all you've done is open it up and copy/paste/screenshot, then you're not conflicting with the intent.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:41
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    @Adamant - There have been many occasions where I've used my slightly larger library of comics and novels to source relevant quotes for users who can't access sources.. That's not "writing a new answer" it's "being community-spirited"
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:42
  • @Adamant - Marginal. As I said, Story-Ident questions are a special case since the heavy lifting is the "identifying it" bit. Everything else is, frankly, window-dressing. I'd probably reject an edit that totally overhauls it though.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:49
  • 2
    If there is a relevant distinction, I suspect it may be that in a case like this, the answerer may disagree with the arguments in my additions, thus making the post conflict with the author’s intent, whereas with a story-identification question, even edits that add substantial numbers of quotations are unlikely to be objected to.
    – Adamant
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:57
  • 1
    @Adamant - Precisely. I've never seen a story-id edit rolled back where it added more (and relevant) details.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 17:07
  • @Adamant - Added for clarity.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 17:13
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    @Valorum "I've never seen a story-id edit rolled back where it added more (and relevant) details." What about this (now deleted) story ID answer which was the subject of this meta question? You rolled back the edit that added details. Please clarify why that edit does not fall under the story ID exception, or if you've changed your position since then.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 5:01
  • @Null - I don't see that my position is especially inconsistent. The community agreed that it was acceptable and I've largely taken that on board with regard to Story-ID questions. That doesn't make the behaviour acceptable on other types of questions, nor do I have to stand my ground forever.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 9:25
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    @Valorum I'm just trying to figure out if you think that particular edit falls outside the story ID exception you've posted here, or if you changed your position over time (there's nothing wrong with that, of course). The fact that you apparently forgot about your rollback meant that you might not have considered whatever criteria you used to judge that other edit as unacceptable "vandalism".
    – Null Mod
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 14:36
  • @Null - Looking at it now, it still seems very borderline to me.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 14:55
  • @Valorum - Your answer has the most votes (though it’s fairly close). In any case, in the absence of any clear consensus the other way, it’s best to err on the side of caution. I’ll roll back the edits and write my own answer using the information that I researched.
    – Adamant
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 22:12
  • @Adamant - For what it's worth, I'll be upvoting both answers.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 22:13

Heh. You and me both... I've run into this a few times in the past, and I still occasionally find myself wondering where the line is. At this point, I add basic plot and book cover information to one-sentence answers, particularly from people who obviously just joined. If I find it's getting longer than that, or if my research starts to indicate that it's less than a sure thing, I write my own answer, giving credit at the top to the person who found the original. I then usually leave a comment saying that I found additional information and that, if they'd like, they can make use of it in their answer.

At this point, I don't even care about the rep points. I just like there to be a full and complete answer, and I don't want to risk having information be lost due to my fixes being reverted for being "conflicting with the author's intent".

  • I think we need to distinguish between story-identification questions (where the real hard work is finding them in the first place) and other sorts of questions.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 17:04

Your edit definitely added a lot to that answer. At this point I personally view the answer as a collaboration more than an answer you edited.

Something I've done in the past on other sites in the network when I feel uncomfortable because I'm building too much on existing answers is I will credit the original post(s) and wiki my own answer. This gives credit to the other people, allows me to add my own interpretation/expansion of their ideas, and it is abundantly clear I'm not trying to profiteer. Plus people can feel comfortable adding to my work since it is more explicitly community property. I don't know if this plan of action is ideal, or widely condoned. It made me feel better though.

As a side note based on the situation that sparked this post, you would get the rep if someone awarded your answer a bounty even though it was a wiki.

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