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Disallowing quoting question parts in answers, rather, in comments only

+0
−11

Quoting parts of questions in answers is a problem because it prevents the legitimacy of a question's OP to try to improve a bad question in case community members think the question is bad by heavily downvoting it, let along, explaining severe problems unclarity or misleadingness in the question.

This could be overcome by allowing quoting question parts only in comments when seeking clarifications for allegedly unclear information or when pointing out allegedly misleading information in a question.

If we agree that quoting question parts in answers is a serious problem, the only solution I find to it is to editorially remove any such quoting, so an OP could try to improve a question and no misleading would take place.

In plea, share your thoughts about this.


PS, I start this topic after a situation were I shouldn't try to improve this question of mine.

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+5
−0

Quoting parts of questions in answers is a problem because it prevents the legitimacy of a question's OP to try to improve a bad question in case community members think the question is bad by heavily downvoting it, let along, explaining severe problems unclarity or misleadingness in the question.

If the question is so bad/unclear that it risks getting closed or simply can't be answered, then it shouldn't be answered. Those who answer anyway with speculations risk down votes too. So the scenario you describe is quite unlikely.

Now in case a question wasn't bad but it needs a drastic clarification - "this applies to both X and Y, which one are you asking about?" Then that's problematic too. Suppose someone gives an answer about "X", then the OP changes the question so that it's now only about "Y". This turns potentially good answers into bad ones and off-topic at that. Such changes to the question should not be allowed once answers have been posted, in case the changes make the answer obsolete. This is the standard scenario for an edit rollback of the question. Better then to ask a new, narrowed-down question.

Otherwise if the improvements of the question are minor and there are answers quoting old revisions, the answers should be possible to edit into shape. If it isn't possible to do so because it would change the meaning of the answer, then those changes to the question shouldn't have been made in the first place.

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General comments (1 comment)
+4
−0

Quoting is sometimes necessary for context. Sometimes an answer needs to focus on one part of the question -- one claim, one line of code, etc. Not being able to quote would impede clarity.

This doesn't mean we don't want askers to improve their questions. If somebody asks for clarification, you should edit. What you shouldn't do is to edit in such a way as to quietly invalidate existing answers.

If your edit doesn't change the answers, except that they're quoting something that you've now revised, you can edit the answers to update the quotes. Do make sure you aren't changing the content of the answer.

If your change is more disruptive, it's usually better to ask a new question. In the new question, you can link to your first one and explain what you've learned from it and what your question now is. Sometimes you think you have a question about X and it turns out your question is really about Y, which you only learned after asking about X. That's normal and there's no shame in it. Leave the original in place for the next person who has a question about X (or thinks so), and meanwhile ask your question about Y. Link the questions in both directions if that makes sense.

We ought to consider some automatic mitigation, too. I've just noticed that we don't number the revisions in our history, which makes it hard for an answer to note "this answer applies to revision 6". If we have revision numbers, then maybe it makes sense to -- somehow -- add that kind of tracking automatically. This answer was last edited after revision N of the question -- add that into the answer history or somewhere else that's visible but not too invasive, and the disconnects that can arise from question changes might be reduced. I'm just throwing out ideas here; we'll need to figure out how this would work and whether it's worth doing. In the absence of an automated connection, answers can be edited manually when the fact that it applies to an older version of the question matters. (I did that Somewhere Else once -- had a question that the asker kept changing in ways that affected my answer, and I finally edited to say "applies to version N" and stopped trying to keep up. That notice was apparently enough to deter downvotes for "answering the wrong question", for what that's worth.)

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+6
−3

Bad idea.

Quoting parts of a question in an answer is useful because:

  1. It makes it clear what exactly is being replied to.
  2. It protects the answerer from changes to the question.
  3. The quotes can act somewhat as headings in the answer. It is easier to find a particular part of an answer that way. Headings can be even better for this, but this is a side advantage of quotes.

You seem to want to pretend that something you wrote originally never happened. Remember that you did actually write it. Like most things on the internet, once it's out there, it's out there.

It is quite unfair to the volunteers that took the time to answer a question if that question is then changed, and the answer now looks bad. Downvotes to the answer can happen in such cases, even though the answer matched the question at the time it was written.


I think that an answer is not a set of replies as that is what comments are for.

Content doesn't belong in comments. Answering in comments circumvents the peer review system and closing of questions. Comments are only for meta-issues about the question, like asking for clarification or making suggestions to the post author.

by that logic, no one can improve a question and "bad" questions are deemed to be "bad" pieces of content forever... Let along, when there is edit history.

Questions can be improved. Such improvements should not materially change the content of the question, though. There is a difference between "improving" and "changing". The system of questions with answers doesn't work when questions are moving targets. If the right question was not originally asked, it is better to ask a new question than to change an old one.

Your motivation is to avoid appearing stupid when an obvious problem with a question is brought to light. But what you propose pushes that problem instead onto those answering the original question. That would be quite unfair.

Once you write something publicly, accept that it's out there. And yes, people will judge you accordingly. That's how the world works, like it or not. The best response is usually to avoid attracting attention to it and let it blow over. Keep in mind that everyone has posted something stupid publicly at some time. It's part of engaging with the world. If that really bothers you so much, then be more careful with what you write.

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