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Two days ago, I asked a question. Specifically, my question was: "Do Starfleet officers get to go on leave during times of war?" I soon received two responses, both of which were clear and direct. However, upon reading both of them, I realized that one of the respondents had partially misinterpreted my post (justifiably, considering the wording of the title). I had intended to ask about voluntary shore leave for rest, recuperation, vacation or other reasons--all that mattered was that it was whether or not the decision was made of free will, and not by requirement (such as being required to rest due to an injury). In fact, the first part of the respondent's answer quoted a case in which a character took voluntary time off for self-reflection, which did answer my question--but the second part had also included a case involving medical leave. I already knew that medical leave would be necessary, and that it was not the same as shore leave. In essence, although this question was partially acceptable, it was also answering a question that I did not intend to ask.

In order to clarify my question, I changed the title to "Do Starfleet officers get to go on shore leave during times of war?" I also edited the body slightly:

Are there any known scenarios of Starfleet officers going on shore leave during war?

In addition, I inserted a piece explaining my corrections.

Edit: I just wanted to clarify that I'm talking about taking a vacation, not resting due to health-related events.

This was to make it abundantly clear that I was talking about voluntary shore leave for R&R, vacation, recreation, or self-discovery.

A day later, I discovered that the respondent had rolled back every single one of my edits because they believed I shouldn't have changed my question to invalidate their answer. This started a debate: was it appropriate for the respondent to roll back all of my edits so my question fit their answer, or was it wrong for me to change my question to invalidate their answer?

I was disappointed for multiple reasons.

  1. First, the respondent already did provide a strong, clear answer, so I had considered accepting it. I knew that editing my question would require the answer to change some because the second part did not respond to the question I truly intended to ask. Despite this, I would have been willing to accept it even after the edits because the first part was not invalid and answered my question perfectly.
  2. Second, the respondent seemed to believe that when I made the edits, I did so with the intention of invalidating their answer. My true goal was to ask clarify my question to eliminate confusion and wrong answers. I had not received any wrong answers (or at least none that were entirely incorrect), so I did not believe the edits would have a significant impact on the responses.
  3. The respondent neglected to consult with me for potential options so we could both be satisfied. Instead, they blatantly told me to write a new question with the edits I made. Of course, the new question would have been at high risk for being a duplicate. It would have been nearly identical to the previous question, and I had already gotten questions. What would be the point of asking a new one if it's just going to get closed?

Today, TheLethalCarrot cleaned up the chat and wrote, like the respondent, "I would [like] everyone to note that edits to the question that invalidate existing answers should not be made" while leaving a link to a question on Meta Stack Exchange addressing this particular problem.

This post starts, "Here's the situation- someone asks a question, accepts an answer, and then un-accepts the answer, and edits the question, making that answer and other existing answers incorrect..." This situation is already different from mine because I never accepted any of their answers.

At any rate, one user answers, "If you have a brand new question, don't edit your existing question to ask it. Ask a new question instead, or ask for clarification using comments." They go on to say, "Users are encouraged to clarify and improve existing questions, if they are under-specified or otherwise incomplete. That's not the same thing as asking a new question that renders the existing answers invalid." I was not asking a brand new question. My edited question would have covered the exact same subject, while only eliminating a single irrelevant scenario and thus clarifying an under-specified question. Plus, an edit of one word in the title and body of the question, respectively, can hardly be called a "brand new question." If I really did write a new question with those edits, I have no doubt that it would have been closed, given that a number of users have trended towards strict or even harsh close votes these days.

This is a somewhat nuanced and complicated issue, but in this case, was it right for the respondent to roll back all my edits?

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    You can't invalidate answers, whether or not you accepted it, period. This is a network-wide policy. Questions are free here so just ask a new one instead of demanding that the answerer "consult with [you] for potential options".
    – Null Mod
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 23:17
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    @Null What do you mean when you say "just ask a new one?" How do you write an identical question without getting it closed? The whole point of this post was to explain why editing the question did not invalidate the answer. It seems that you didn't actually read all the way through this post. And if you did, then somehow you completely ignored/forgot that part. What I'm asking for here is a fair and rational judgement of the situation, not a word-for-word repetition of what the others have been saying. Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 23:48
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    You are forcing me to somehow write a "new question" by changing a few words. That is called asking a duplicate question, which breaks Stack Exchange policy. My other option is to clarify my question and partially "invalidate" a single answer, which is also breaking SE policy. So which policy should I break? Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 23:53
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    I'm already familiar with this case because I was one of the mods handling it before the comments were cleaned up. You write a new question by linking to the original and explaining how you are clarifying, or leave the original question unedited since you admit you received a "strong, clear answer".
    – Null Mod
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 0:19
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    You can also try editing the question to say something along the lines that you are primarily interested in shore leave but that an example of any kind of leave will work. This doesn't invalidate any answers but gives better guidance for new answerers on what you're really looking for. I've done that myself -- see, e.g. here or a similar note I left at the bottom of this question.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 3:28
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    @Null - OP doesn't need to ask a new question since their existing question already covers what they're asking. If there was a good example, it could just be added as an answer to the existing question
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 9:37
  • Purely as an aside, I didn't block the second edit. That was done by two other users; scifi.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/204040
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 10:03
  • You may want to note that "R&R, vacation [and] recreation" are three entirely different kinds of leave.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 10:10
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    One thing which may be useful is introducing additional detail into the question to indicate specific things that you are looking for without removing the general query. Sometimes, that can even include using strikethrough formatting to indicate details that were part of the original query, but are now known to be false.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 21:26
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    @FuzzyBoots - I didn't actually object to the second edit, which basically said "I'm particularly interested in x"
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 10:00

1 Answer 1

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A fundamental principle of the Stack Exchange network is that you can't edit a question to invalidate existing answers, no matter how much you might want to.

How does editing work?

Some common reasons to edit a post are:
To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)

https://meta.stackexchange.com/help/editing

This has been discussed in detail here:

The appropriate courses of action if you realise you've asked a question that's too broad or poorly scoped are to;

  1. Wait and see if additional answers address your specific case
  2. Prod the respondents with friendly comments
  3. Post a bounty asking for answers that address the specific case.

Do I need to ask a new question?

No. In this instance the question asked encompasses a wide variety of possible responses including the one you realised that you're after. It would appear that you were unaware that the term "on leave" means a range of things (e.g. rather than the more explicit "on shore leave"), but if an example of shore leave came up, it would still make a perfectly good answer to your question.

There's no need for a new question that only asks about shore leave, since that would be a direct duplicate, as would a question about any of the other types of leave mentioned below.

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  • The question of acceptance is irrelevant to the question being asked, so I've ignored it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 10:04
  • The question of who's allowed to roll back an invalid edit is irrelevant to the question being asked, so I've ignored it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 10:05

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