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I asked a question, and received some answers that had completely misinterpreted the question I was asking.

I could edit the question to be more clear, but seeing as it already has answers that seems unfair to make edits that (further) invalidate them.

Is it okay to edit my question the other way, so that the existing invalid answers become valid? (And then later, I can always reask the original, in a hopefully less ambiguous way.)

To be clear, I'm asking about editing my own question, and I'm asking about a situation where none of the existing answers answered the question as it was asked.

Tl;dr. I asked X. People answered as if I had asked Y. Can I just switch the question to Y?

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    Normally? Probably, depends on the situation. In the case you're asking about? No because you edited it so it became a duplicate and then closed it which feels borderline (self)-vandalism, at the very least. The better response is to comment on the answers and ask them to edit accordingly which was already being done.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Dec 16 '21 at 12:36
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    Previous meta says to not make edits which invalidate existing existing answers, but this is asking about the reverse case.
    – ibid
    Dec 16 '21 at 12:36
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    @TheLethalCarrot - In that case the question the answers had been answering was a duplicate though.
    – ibid
    Dec 16 '21 at 12:38
  • Right, so the problem was with the answers not the question.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Dec 16 '21 at 12:41
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    @TheLethalCarrot - When two people misinterpret it the same way it probably means I wasn't clear enough in the question (obviously I thought I was, or I wouldn't have posted it in the first place, but here we are).
    – ibid
    Dec 16 '21 at 12:44
  • In the case where you asked about X, which contains Y and Z, only wanting answers to Z, but got good answers to Y, the best approach for all involved is to ask a new question specifically about Z, with the new knowledge of how you need to phrase it to get the answers to Z.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 20 '21 at 14:27
  • @FuzzyBoots - The issue with that is that if X1 was originally written to imply only Z, than a more clearly worded X2 would probably be closed as a dupe to X1. Without editing they would be two identical questions, just one with better wording and the other with wrong answers.
    – ibid
    Dec 20 '21 at 15:03
  • @ibid: I can see where people might close it, but part of the Duplicate policy is that the question has already been answered by the other post. If X1's answers do not cover X2, it is not a Duplicate. If some answers (even if not the most upvoted. or not the accepted) on X1 cover X2, then it's more ambiguous.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 20 '21 at 15:10
  • @FuzzyBoots - So if we're assuming X1 is the general question enough to make the more specifically worded X2 a distinct question, would it be fine editing X1 to make it explicitly general?
    – ibid
    Dec 20 '21 at 17:54
  • That seems reasonable to me. If the first question simply asked "In Harry Potter, is it possible to sneak into the girl's dormitories?" and you get good answers for the books, but want them for the movie, changing the question to "In the Harry Potter books and films, is it possible to sneak into the girl's dormitories?" will not invalidate those answers, and "In the Harry Potter films, is it possible to sneak into the girl's dormitories?" is distinct. That said, if there's already a general question for the books and films, or one for the films, the question has already been asked.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 20 '21 at 18:27
  • @FuzzyBoots - In this particular case there already was a general question, and my question was supposed to be different by limiting the scope to the movies. For whatever the reason, the answerers all approached it like it was a general question. So leaving this as a movie-specific question (or editing it to make that distinction clearer) will keep the current answers invalid (or make them more invalid). On the other hand, leaving this as a general question like the answerers assumed (or editing it to make more explicitly general) will make the answers valid, but make it a dupe.
    – ibid
    Dec 20 '21 at 21:35
  • @ibid: Not knowing which question this is, did you accidentally ask the general question?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 20 '21 at 21:46
  • @FuzzyBoots - I don't think so. I specified at multiple points in the question that I was asking for only movie answers, but it still got interpreted as the general question. Perhaps I could have been clearer though, or put that part in bold.
    – ibid
    Dec 20 '21 at 23:53
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    I did this exact thing on this question. It was also to avoid close votes, but I reworded the question to better fit the answer because it was also the answer I actually wanted but didn't know when I first asked the question!
    – Skooba
    Jan 3 at 18:55
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The existing policy on SFF:SE

...we dislike edits that invalidate answers...

and the policy described in the Help Centre

Don't invalidate existing answers and don't make it so vague as to be unanswerable,

specifically refers to question edits that invalidate the existing answers. In this instance you're not invalidating them, you're simply making an edit to your question that makes it more general, which is explicitly allowed.

If your question is unnecessarily specific, edit to generalize it.

Unfortunately, making this perfectly valid edit then makes the question untenable in a different way (e.g. it turns it into a dupe), which means that you're stuck between a rock and a hard place, since we don't generally allow edits that make a question closeable where there are existing answers.

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    Would then this be a good case to request the questions be merged, so the existing answers could be preserved and moved to the more relevant question?
    – ibid
    Dec 16 '21 at 14:21
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    Also, are dupes really off-topic? My understanding was that they were on topic and even considered a good thing (e.g. signposts), but just closed to consolidate the answers to one place.
    – ibid
    Dec 16 '21 at 14:31
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    @ibid - Yes(ish), but I don't see that the answers to yours add a lot of value to the dupe. That's my subjective opinion, of course.
    – Valorum
    Dec 16 '21 at 14:58
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    However, it's been my observation that questions with the same answers tend to get marked as dupes even if the questions aren't quite the same. So I could see this getting closed anyways. And then it would be better for the question to also be a dupe. That way the Asker can reword the original question without worrying about it being closed as a dupe.
    – trlkly
    Dec 27 '21 at 1:40

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