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Looking at my title, this sounds outrageous! But here's what I mean.

Situation:

  • A question is asked that I'm interested in.
  • It seems from comments that others are interested too.
  • It's asked vaguely, with no context, and nothing to indicate what would constitute a meaningful answer.
  • It is therefore almost immediately put on hold as too broad.
  • I suggest in a comment how it might be made more specific.
  • There's no sign of the questioner's return.

I can't really edit the question, because the edit would be at least 75% new material, homing in on aspects not mentioned in the current version.

So, what's the best course of action? At the moment I'm thinking I should wait until the question is closed (in case the questioner returns and improves it), then ask my own version as a new question.

Does this seem reasonable?

The question is Relation between $\pi$ and $e$ - Coincidence or not coincidence?

My version would ask whether any explanation is known for the coincidence, and give one or two examples of what would constitute a reason (eg a consequence of some relationship between series for calculating the two numbers could count as one).

Note: I'm asking primarily about what to do in general with this sort of situation—the linked question is just the most immediate example of it. I included that because I was asked to. Thoughts on it are helpful, but the real issue is what to do next time I want to ask a better version of someone else's on-hold or closed question.

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    $\begingroup$ Please link the question to which you are referring, so users can better gauge the context in which you are asking this question. You can attest to your interest in some mysterious, unidentified post. But without a link, your claim that "others seem interested too" is mere opinion, unless you link the question so that other users can judge for themselves. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Dec 27 '18 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ In general, refrain from posting questions that are merely "hypothetical", which is what your current post amounts to. If you have a situation in which you are concerned about a particular post that actually exists, you need to identify it. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Dec 27 '18 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ @AmWhy Now linked. (I asked in a general way because I'm interested in a general principle if there is one, but the linked question is the immediate cause of my asking.) $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 27 '18 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I think this is a sufficiently-non-obvious-to-navigate situation that even a purely hypothetical question would be fine, although certainly concreteness is only good. $\endgroup$ – Noah Schweber Dec 27 '18 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ Some older related discussions: Is it okay to re-ask a deleted question? and perhaps also: Interested in a question which is closed because of “no effort”. What to do? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 27 '18 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ You have noticed that in this specific case, there already exists a similar question on the site: $\pi^4 + \pi^5 \approx e^6$ is anything special going on here? (As a side note - is it on purpose that you linked to a comment rather than to the question?) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Dec 27 '18 at 5:05
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    $\begingroup$ Other questions about that same relation between $\pi$ and $e$: math.stackexchange.com/questions/198508/… and math.stackexchange.com/questions/833800/… and news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7892419 $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Dec 27 '18 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin Oh bother—did I? I'll fix the link tomorrow (I found the question via my activity history which I suppose linked to the comment. It's the dead of night here.) $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 27 '18 at 5:20
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I've heard the opposite that singling out other people's posts is against the standards of the site and can lead to targeting of user's posts. The question itself is merely what to do when you find a post you want answered but was written badly and/or in a way that tried to ask too much at once and ended up getting itself closed. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Dec 29 '18 at 7:54
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Were I in your shoes, I would just post the question again. I often find myself stumbling upon interesting questions which were asked very poorly, so I would appreciate people rewriting them. People shouldn't mark a question as a duplicate if the other question was not worded well, unclear, or didn't get an accurate answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Thsnks. I think I'll probably just do that next time. (For this one, I'll look at the linked duplicates and see if they answer it.) $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 27 '18 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ It was a duplicate, and the answers for the original do a good job of explaining why. $\endgroup$ – William Grannis Dec 28 '18 at 15:22
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The page on editing in the Help Center suggests that generally you just edit the question, so long as you are not changing the meaning of the question. From that linked page:

... this site is collaboratively edited, like Wikipedia. If you see something that needs improvement, click edit!

The finicky part about this is deciding what exactly it means to change the meaning of a post. The MathSE community in particular defines this rather broadly; I've been scolded for adding my own context to otherwise context-less questions, since my context is not necessarily the context of the OP. So a safer option would be to do what William Grannis suggests and, after checking that there is not an already-established version of the particular question somewhere on the site, ask the question again, adding your own material, background, context, etc. Then for the sake of good-housekeeping, add a link to your (better) question in the comments of the on-hold/closed question, or if your question gets a good answer mark the other question as a duplicate of yours.


Here's a related situation that has come up before, so I figure I should mention it here for reference:

Sometimes it's the case that an older but popular question with valuable answers gets put on-hold or closed, a question from a time when the standards for what constituted an acceptable question on MathSE were quite different. In this case, especially if you have a vested interest in the question, it'd be a good idea to write a better version of the question that meets the current standards of the site, and then flag the on-hold/closed question to be merged with yours. That way the valuable answers and the old question get to survive on the site in an open and improvable state.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I think that with a lot of the closed-but-interesting questions my version couldn't really be considered a straight edit of them—there'd be background alt why I was interested, what I thought the answer might be, and so on. (Usually they're closed for lack of context.) So posting a new question as my own would make the most sense. I think editing questions should be basically copy-editing: expressing the existing content better, but not adding anything the author wasn't saying or removing anything they were. The author should still recognise it as theirs. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Jan 1 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Though of course they might give permission for more extensive changes, or set the question as CW, which would be a different situation. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Jan 1 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Also larger edits can be quite fraught. Recently I was so misled by the title of a question that I wrote an entire answer to the wrong thing. When I realised, I changed the title to match the question. I felt this was essential. The edit was accepted by the first rrviewer, rejected by the second, then finally accepted. The reviewer who rejected it had rejected over twice as many edits as they'd accepted! So there are obviously widely differing views on editing. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Jan 1 at 19:54

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