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In this question, the questioner by misremembering used "quark" instead of "strange". This was edited by a third party after my reply, and the admission in the comments by the questioner that a slip was made, and made my reply completely irrelevant.

I do not want to delete my answer, because it was not wrong within the previous framework of the question. I am not familiar with "strange matter" and in any case it is an entirely different story.

What is the protocol on this? In my opinion the question should be deleted by the owner if there are answers that will become irrelevant, and resubmitted in the correct format. This would delete any answers of course, which would be hard if someone had worked hard on an answer. If there are no answers of course editing is fine.

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  • $\begingroup$ There has been lots of discussion on meta regarding questions which are changed by the OP once they get answers, except that they usually center on the OP doing it on purpose to get you to solve more problems. But your situation isn't quite the same--here there was an honest mistake by the OP, and it's not that you don't want to edit your answer, more of you can't. Still, it may be an interesting read. I personally feel you may be benefited more from asking this on the mother meta, though its not necessary. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 24 '12 at 5:57
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In general, when a question is edited such that your answer no longer applies, you have the following options, in decreasing order of preference:

  • Edit your answer such that it actually does answer the updated question (recommended)
  • Delete your answer (recommended if you don't feel that you can adequately answer the updated question)
  • Ask the questioner if they would be willing to revert the edit, and perhaps post the new version of the question as its own post
  • Leave your answer in place, but in this case you run the risk of the answer being downvoted because it doesn't address the question in its current form
  • Revert the edit yourself (not recommended unless the OP okays it)

In some cases, when a question is edited such that one or more answers no longer apply, if the edit is exceptionally disruptive, it would be appropriate to revert it. What counts as "exceptionally disruptive" is a judgment call made on a case-by-case basis, but in making that decision some of the factors that should be taken into account include:

  • how much the edit changed the meaning of the question
  • whether the edit reflects a change in what the poster intends the question to mean
  • whether the edit was prompted by comments asking for clarifications
  • the quality of the original question
  • the number of answers that would be invalidated by the edit
  • the quality of the answers that would be invalidated by the edit

As a rough guideline, what I would consider "exceptionally disruptive" is something like: the OP has changed their mind about what they want to ask, and the question's meaning is changed significantly, and the original question was good quality, and multiple upvote-worthy answers would be invalidated by the change. I've seen situations like this come up occasionally on the site, and I've reverted edits in those cases, but it's very rare.


tl;dr: in this situation specifically, deleting your answer seems like the most appropriate course of action.

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If you want to go with David's fourth option (leave the answer and run the risk), you might edit a prominent header onto you answer explaining what happened (i.e. "this was written as an answer to a early version of the question and does not apply to the current version").

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  • $\begingroup$ I really disapprove of doing that, though, because from the perspective of someone who hasn't been watching the question and answer from the beginning (i.e. 99%+ of the intended audience), it looks like an answer that doesn't address the question. And it runs counter to the entire spirit of Stack Exchange to have answers that don't address their questions. $\endgroup$ – David Z Sep 24 '12 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky It really depends how much work you have in that answer. I've had questions slide out from under my answer after I've invested considerable time and energy in them, and I know that anna often writes comprehensive answers. Arguable the right thing then is not to allow the question to change and force the OP to write a new one, but you will meet resistance when suggesting that. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Sep 24 '12 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ That's what the "exceptionally disruptive" provision I mentioned (actually, made up :-P) is all about. It's basically a matter of weighing the value added by keeping the answer against the value lost by not allowing the question to change. Posting the edited question as a new one is an option. In any case, IMO it has to be a choice between keeping the answer and the old version of the question, or discarding the answer and keeping the new version of the question. A mix-and-match, i.e. keeping the edited question and the original answer, is something we should try very hard to avoid. $\endgroup$ – David Z Sep 24 '12 at 23:13

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