This question is prompted by Are there consequences of publishing software under a free or open source license?

The original version of the question related to the "free as in speech" analogy and asked about consequences (do the consequences of free speech apply to free software, in summary). The question got an answer, and a few users found it interesting enough to upvote.

The question was then closed, while under discussion in chat; the author asked for help editing the question so it could be re-opened. The new, re-opened question bears little resemblance to the original question...

Shouldn't this have led to a new question, instead of editing the existing one?

  • 1
    is there any point in editing a closed question if the edits AREN'T sufficient to get it reopened?
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:45
  • 1
    @Shog9 To make the question readable enough so that its topicality and suitability can be determined. To prepare for a meta discussion. To add some clarifications with more coming if/when the author comes back. To remove a problematic tag if the question isn't close to being deleted. To fix a misleading title if the question isn't close to being deleted. To polish a turd when anti-deletionists block the deletion of the question. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 0:15

5 Answers 5


As long as the author is happy with the new question they have got through the editing, it's fine. Obviously some resemblance is necessary, but not absolutely required.

In this case, we were asked in chat to edit the question to make it a good question for the site. We did so. It turned out that it does actually ask the same basic question in the end (what are the consequences), just phrased and styled differently.

  • 1
    Isn't it somewhat unfair to the answerer though? (I don't particularly mind, but I got the impression we want to encourage well-researched answers, so if potential users get the impression they could get the rug pulled from under their feet they may not bother...) Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:39
  • 2
    As opposed to putting time into researching an answer that just gets deleted along with the closed question, @Stephen? That doesn't sound very encouraging either...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:47
  • Thanks for the thoughtful cluebat, @Shog9! I hadn't thought through to the fate of a closed question. The reaction for an answerer isn't quite the same though since in the deleted case, the answer just goes away, whereas in the edited/reopened case the answer can appear to be completely off the mark. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:50
  • 2
    In that case, it would be polite to at least leave a comment notifying the answer's author of the change.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 17:51

It probably should have been a new question, as now there is a +6 answer on the question that doesn't really make sense any more. So much so that it'd be flaggable as not an answer.

Ideally we'd prevent this in first case by closing unclear questions before they pick up answers. (Though this one didn't really read as if it was unclear, but apparently it wasn't what OP actually wanted to ask.)


If a question is closed for good reason, generally as too broad or opinion based, then edits can be substantial in an effort to have it reopened. If an author wants it reopened, then this is okay.

Most of the time, the question body can be worded differently to give the appearance of a different question, but the bottom-line normally remains the same.


We should be careful with editing a question so much it changes completely, even if the question is on hold.

A closed question, especially during beta, has inherent value in helping us define the scope of the site. Editing a question to get into scope decreases this value, or at least has less value than both the question in scope and the question out of scope together.

While the scope is still in flux (and it is) it also isn't entirely unthinkable that an answer may still be in scope when the scope changes further, and could be re-opened as is then (though for this question I doubt it)

Further, if a question changes scope so much that answers don't match the question any more, especially upvoted answers, may give people bad answers to the newly scoped question. This should be avoided as well.

It should be preferred to ask a new question, rather than editing the old question to fit the scope.

  • I'm not 100% sure I agree with everything I say here, but I do believe they are all reasonable points that I want to put out for broader consideration/voting.
    – Martijn
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 19:48

As the poster of the question under discussion, I would point out that I was more interested in seeing the underlying question asked than its specific wording. So by and large I am not unhappy with the results, though they do make the first answer seem a little disconnected. I've been trying to determine whether that answer can be edited to bring it back in line without changing it drastically.

I think that

a campaign started in chat to get it re-opened

is slightly overstating the case. I did move to chat (rather than in comments) to discuss it before it got closed , and basically said that I was soliciting edits from others to remove any apparent editorializing of the original code. If I couldn't see that it was opinionated, I would be unlikely to be able to correct the problem. As I said, I wanted the question asked.

As I look back, I think the editing went too far in the end, and this question has morphed into something different. I may either re-edit it or delete it.

We do need to be careful to avoid this type of thing in the future.

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