What should I do when I spot someone editing a question to match his answer to it, even though that may not be what the original poster intended?

Here is the example I just spotted.

Those who can see the edits (revision history here) will notice that the original question didn't specify that the centre of the smaller circle lies on the circumference of the larger one. I pointed out that the answer that assumed that to be the case didn't answer the OP's question, so the person who answered it went ahead and edited the question to make his answer correct, even though that may not have been the OP's original intent.

The edit may even have been done without the OP's knowledge or permission.

Edit: To the answerer's credit, he has now changed it back after I argued the error of his decision to edit the question. My question above remains, though, what should be done in situations like this, in particular if the answerer is not as sensible as the person who answered the question I linked to?

Edit: After a fruitful exchange of opinions with another contributor (see Paul Plummer's answer below and the comments that follow it) I thought it might be useful to clarify a few things and summarise the situation.

First, clarifications. My main concerns and the reasons why I posted this question here are 3. In descending order of importance, they are:

  • making sure that people asking questions aren't harmed by answers that don't fit their questions
  • maintaining consistency between questions and their answers so that future visitors to any given question aren't confused by answers that don't match them
  • making sure that people don't "cheat" by editing questions to match their answers

(Note: I'm not claiming that the answerer was attempting to cheat. I have no reason to suspect that. On the contrary, when I pointed out that he shouldn't have edited the question, he promptly rolled it back [after a little convincing].)

Next, summary of the situation as it stands now. The OP un-accepted the answer and the question was rolled back to its original form. Therefore, the question still needs clarification. There is an answer that is correct provided a certain assumption about the question is correct but that assumption hasn't been specified in the question. I believe the OP hasn't been harmed (in the sense above) but appears to have no more interest in the question so I am now concerned with consistency. I have flagged the question for moderator review.

I am satisfied with the answer Paul has provided below but, by all means, feel free to add any opinions you may have.


If it really does go against the original authors intent, then just rollback to a previous version. You can do this by looking at the revision history, and click rollback on the version you want to go back to.

You can also do such things when the OP edits the question to a different enough question. For example see this revision.

Generally a question should not be changed to much, just improved. Maybe the OP did want the version that it was edited to(like they just forgot some condition), but if it changes a nonanswer to an answer, generally the OP should be asked if that is the case. If the OP does not reply then in most cases I would not implement the change.

In this specific instance you had an OP accept an answer that did not answer the question, so you commented to point that out and the OP took back the accepted answer. It seems like you did everything right, and the "correct" thing happened. If the OP never responded or clarified, or taken the green tick mark away, say within a couple of days, I would edit the question so that the answer is actually an answer, and make sure to include why the edit is happening in the "edit summary".

As it is now, the specific question still seems to be unclear, so at this point you can vote it down, vote to close, flag for closure, improve the question etc. I would not edit it to fit the answer until the OP clarifies. If you really want to you can ask a new question (and cite the problem question), and notify the person that they can answer there.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yes, but the point is that it may not be known, at the time of the edit, whether or not the edit is against the OP's intent. In the particular example I linked to, the OP has been silent for hours. Moreover, the OP might not even realise that edits have been made without his knowledge or approval and may consume an answer that's ultimately not useful. In fact, that did happen. The OP accepted the answer, then later I noticed that the answer didn't apply to the question as stated so I pointed that out and the answerer then edited the question to match the answer. The OP wasn't around then. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @wltrup Well the answer is not accepted now, so I am guessing the OP accepted and did not see the gap. I could see an argument for if they kept the answer as accepted to change the question to fit the answer though. Generally I think it is a good idea to notify the OP and make sure the clarify the problem. $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Aug 11 '15 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's why I asked the question here. There are several possible ways to handle this, possibly even equally valid. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @wltrup It does not look like anyone notified the OP in the comments of their question, which is probably the first that should have been done. I don't think the OP gets notified about comments in other peoples answers. Although at the moment it seems like everything has worked out, the OP took back the accepted answer, and the edit was rolled back. Sometimes mistake happen... $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Aug 11 '15 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ I did notify the OP in a comment. First comment to Harish's answer. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ Did the OP un-accept the answer or was it un-accepted by a moderator? I don't know if mods can do that or not. If it was the OP, I find it strange that he didn't then go on to clarify the question, as there had been plenty of requests for him to do so by then. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @wltrup Well I don't see a comment saying something along the lines "you accepted an answer that does not answer the question. Did you mean to ask the question in this way?" under the question. There are some things that sort of get at that under an answer, but OP don't get notified by comments under answers. Did you delete the comment? $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Aug 11 '15 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @wltrup I doubt a mod did that, that is not their job, and I am not even sure if they can do that. $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Aug 11 '15 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ No, I didn't delete any comments. I didn't know that OPs don't get notified by comments to answers despite being pinged. Good to know. I agree that the way I worded my comment may not have been as explicit as it should have been. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @wltrup Ahh, I did not see the ping. They got notified then (pretty sure). $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Aug 11 '15 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ OK, assuming that the OP did get notified, then I suppose he just thought he had enough from the answer already posted to figure things out on his own and decided not to bother with the question again. If that's the case, it's a pity because now the question is sitting there awaiting clarification and there's a perfectly valid answer sitting there as well, just not an answer to the question as posted. If the OP doesn't show up to clarify the question within a day or two then I think it would be best to edit the question to match the answer already given. I know, it's ironic that I'm (cont) $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ suggesting that but the reason is now a different one. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @wltrup I don't suggest that. Personally, if I was invested at all I would probably flag for closure, downvote, and ask a new question where that answer would work. $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Aug 11 '15 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ I did flag it as well. My primary concerns have been, in decreasing order of importance: (1) making sure the OP doesn't get an answer that isn't correct or useful for the question asked, (2) maintaining consistency so that future visitors to the question don't suffer the same fate, (3) making sure that people don't "cheat" by editing questions to match their answers, post acceptance (I know this would be very rare because, first, it requires a mistaken acceptance). If the OP no longer cares about the question, then I'm thinking consistency, hence my suggestion to make the edit after all. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ I'm happy with the paragraph you just added to your answer, so I'll accept it. Thanks for your input. $\endgroup$ – wltrup Aug 11 '15 at 18:14

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