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New user Eyeball asked a question with the not entirely coherent title "I am looking for a book of short stories by Isaac Asimov written by other authors" which prompted these comments (among others):

..."A book of short stories by Isaac Asimov written by other authors" is rather confusing. Can you clarify what you mean?

"...edited by Asimov,", I assume OP means.

I provided an answer to a part of the question, but thereafter another new user edited the title to read "I am looking for a book of other author's short stories edited by Isaac Asimov" without Eyeball having responded to the comments to provide any indication of what they may have meant by their original title.

Without Eyeball's input I would not have made this edit to the title, and was surprised to see it so-edited.

I am also uncertain about rolling the edit back (after all, other users need not exercise my editorial judgement :). But I asked Valorum in comments about the edit, who replied:

I'd be happier if they confirmed it since the edit changes the meaning of the post (although admittedly it also changes it from incoherent to coherent)

In the absence of input from Eyeball, should Ms.Tamil's edit be rolled back (since it substantively changes the meaning of the question, by resolving its original incoherence in a particular way)?

I am interested in an answer, even if Eyeball (the OP) returns to clarify for or against the edit.

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    It's a toughie. In theory the question should have been closed as "unclear what you're asking". – Valorum Oct 22 '18 at 17:29
  • Yes. Although there's a balance between the text (workable enough for at least one answer) and title (totes unclear what you are asking :). – Lexible Oct 22 '18 at 17:37
  • @Valorum You edited the title of my question about editing titles. :D – Lexible Oct 22 '18 at 17:49
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    I've decided to be a bit more proactive when people post general-sounding meta questions but about specific questions on the main site. – Valorum Oct 22 '18 at 17:56
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    If you're going to edit the title anyway, removing redundant text like "Looking for" is probably a good idea. – Jontia Oct 23 '18 at 9:19
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I tend to veer on the side of caution when making title (or body) edits to Story-ID questions since it's very easy to accidentally add in information that wasn't there before. Since the title, in this case, is actually incoherent, the best course of action would have been to

  • A) Post a comment asking them to clarify. If they return and respond, then your job is (hopefully) done.

  • B) Edit the title to contain information we are sure about from the body of the question (for example, changing it to "Looking for an anthology book containing a story about an alien named Ineed by a little girl") and then edit the body of the question to reflect that there might be an Asimov (edited?) anthology connection.

Which I've now done.

  • Wow. Very late to this Meta post, but glad I did option A. I agree and find it strange when people assume they know what the OP meant when it's this unclear. – Meat Trademark Nov 1 '18 at 18:40
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    @MeatTrademark - Agreed, especially when it's a Story-ID question and even the most innoccuous detail can help people to get the answer or set everyone off down the wrong train of thought entirely (warning link is NSFW because of naughty language) – Valorum Nov 1 '18 at 18:45
  • I'd not seen that. Brilliant! Thank you. – Meat Trademark Nov 1 '18 at 19:01
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Edits that potentially change the meaning of a post should not be made to someone else's post (without their approval).

This is precisely why there is a close reason called "Unclear What You're Asking". When a question is unclear and people start posting answers, the answers often either don't properly address what the actual text of the question states, or they don't properly address what the questioner really wanted. This leads to comments and edits which may substantively change the nature of a question, which can often invalidate or render pointless an existing answer.

So the simple solution is that when there is a question that is unclear, you close it (moderators on their own, users with enough reputation via vote, and low reputation users via flag). This prevents answers from being posted until the precise question is clarified. In this way we will avoid situations where we have to deal with edits and answers that don't match up.

If the person who posted the question doesn't ever come back, then there's no need for them to receive an answer. If they do come back they can easily edit to clarify the question and then receive an answer. If another user read the question and now really wants an answer they can post their own question, and make sure it's clear, and receive an answer there.

In this case where the answer and edits already occurred, I would still think that we can close the question now and revert the edits until further clarifications come from the original questioner.

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    I am quite aware of the VTC:unclear option. My question is specifically about the question edit changing meaning absent input from the OP. – Lexible Oct 22 '18 at 18:29
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    @Lexible Edits to someone else’s post should anyway not be changing meaning. – Alex Oct 22 '18 at 18:35
  • @Alex - while not usually on this site, I have been known to make significant changes to others' posts when I am confident that I understand the basics of the question, and others do not seem to be. However, I have been in the habit of noting the change in the comments, so that both the OP will be notified, and can come back and undo my change, and so others can realize the question has been changed, and may not be what the OP meant. I'll also note that I don';t think any of these have been rolled back, and most of the time the OP simply thanks me for helping them out. Again, not on SFF.SE – RDFozz Nov 5 '18 at 18:01

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