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Asking a math question is an effort of exploration into the delicate world of mathematics. Sometimes a person fails at making a sensible effort and asks a stupid and trivial question due to his/her mental-psychological conditions at that time. A question made under such ill-influenced effort is meaningless, useless and wasting time to be kept or to maintain.

When exploring math in (advanced undergraduate or) graduate level, a person is allowed to have opportunities to independently re-seek and revise to establish a/the right question that is meaningful and/or significant by his/her and common/reasonable measure.

Why Mathematics Stack Exchange cannot have the same policies? Why modifying or deleting a stupid and trivial but answered questions is not allowed for the person that asked it?

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    $\begingroup$ One walks before one can run. Being "stupid" or "trivial" is rather subject. What is your definition? I doubt that you have one. And what do you mean by "ill-influenced effort"? $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 24 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ See also this question: Should I ask stupid questions? $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 24 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that you are actually complaining specifically about your own recent post: math.stackexchange.com/q/3325049/9464. Eric has already pointed out in a comment: "Do not change a question after it has been answered. If you want to ask another question, ask it in a new post." $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 24 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ Also, under this recent post of yours: math.stackexchange.com/q/3331539/9464, Arturo made a comment that "Do not modify questions that already have answers, and certainly don’t completely change a question by editing. That is not how this site is supposed to work! " $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 24 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Jack yes, OP wants to know why this policy is in place. It's not very clear how you answered that. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 24 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ One could argue that it affects reputation points, It can't help people if deleted, etc. but if 0 point or less answers got deleted I'd lose over half my answers. All questions are stupid to someone. Same with most answers. $\endgroup$ – Roddy MacPhee Aug 24 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ For the specific case, the one question got removed by now (by me), the other one seems not to cause issues on its own (and the comments invoking the edited first question got removed to as they seem obsolete). For the future, please, keep the advice not to drastically change questions in mind. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 24 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @RoddyMacPhee: It also is confusing for future readers, who may not understand why an answer brings up X when the question is about Y. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Aug 24 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ "It's not very clear how you answered that." Because one cannot necessarily tell what OP really refers to in the first version of the post unless one looks at the list of OP's recent questions. $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 24 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Jack a question of "why" is rarely answered well by some sort of you were told it is like that. I might agree that it was not clear initially what was going on, yet once you wrote the second pair of comments you obviously were clear about the context. (Personally I find it quite impolite to reply to something I said while not notifying. It feels a bit like talking about somebody behind their back.) $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 24 at 21:11
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This comes up with some frequency and is a concern and reason for annoyances on various sides.

A short version is that of course it would be more convenient for the asker if there was no restriction imposed on them, but we need to try to keep everyone's concerns in mind.

Some more detailed remarks:

  • The software restrictions that answer posts prevent to some extent deletion of the question is basically a necessity. There are too many users that would misuse or actively abuse self-deletions if there was no such restriction. Indeed the precise restrictions became ever more severe over time as problems persisted.

  • The above mentioned restriction also has some drawbacks in that it sometimes interferes with legitimate use cases. If you believe to be in an exceptional situation you can always flag for moderators. Use "flag" and "in need for moderator intervention" and describe your concern.

  • Regarding modifications, the idea is that questions posted on this site are essentially in final form when posted. This allows other users to answer them and to move on. Some users like to have prolonged interactions when answering, but others do not and it can be frustrating to completely answer a question as asked, only to then be faced with modifications and follow-up concerns. That said, a user that intends to answer and notes that there is likely an issue with the question as asked should better point it out in a comment, and not simply answer the question as written.

  • It is legitimate to ask newly arising questions in new posts. I see that you somehow tried to do this and also for this received some push back. The issue seems to have been in part that you had edited the old post and asked a new one, and confusion ensued. Generally, a way to minimize this risk is to link back and to explain exactly what the difference is. However, it is better to let some times pass. Asking many similar questions can raise a red flag.

  • Questions that are outside of the scope of the site or generally not in line with the expectations of the site do get deleted by users that have gained that privilege and sometimes (though rarely) by moderators of the site. That is to say, if the question is considered as 'bad' by many users on the site it will get removed eventually, it just takes some time. If it is not perceived as such, then maybe it was not that bad to begin with and so why not keep it around.

I hope this clarifies the situation a bit. Generally, I recommend not to worry too much about isolated posts. Yes, it can seem like a big deal in the moment, but there are by now more than a million questions, and several million posts, on the site. One post is not a big deal. Often it is better to take what one has learned on the subject and on the workings of the site on board, turn the page, and move on.

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Another important point on modifying questions that already have answers is that it can lead to confusion by later readers. If I answer a question that says “Is it possible for X to happen?”, then the questioner decides the answer means the question is not what he meant and modifies to say “Is it possible for Z to happen when Y also happens?” a future user reading my answer will be understandably confused about why I’m bringing up X.

Even if you suddenly realize the question was silly, had an easy answer, is not what you really meant, etc., it is important not to modify it when questions have already been given. It’s not enough to comment saying “I’ve modified the question”, because you are now imposing on people and forcing them to go and read your new question and modify or remove their answer even if they are no longer interested in doing so. So it’s also a rather rude way to respond to help freely given. In Spanish, we say “Limosnero con garrote”, meaning “beggar with a cudgel”: you are asking for help, but making unreasonable demands on those who volunteer to help you.

In the cases at hand, you seem to have completely changed the question, thus making answers already given useless or wrong, and certainly confusing. That’s not really sociable behavior. This is different from simply making minor corrections (which is fine).


Added: One thing that you can do if you suddenly realized you left out an important condition that allows for “silly” counterexamples is to add to the question with a clear label indicating this is an addition, and perhaps mentioning people who pointed out trivial counterexamples which prompted the change. That way, people can see what led to the change and why the answers given addressed a prior version of the question. You know, like I’m doing here with this paragraph.

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    $\begingroup$ The user insisted on either modifying (fundamentally) or deleting his/her original post, regardless the existence of two answers, which is rather rude. It seems that he/she has already succeeded. I don't understand the current deletion. "Adding" a paragraph seems to be a more appropriate way to handle the post. $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 24 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Jack as you might have noted a separate post with that question and also two answers existed already. Which is a first counter-indication to adding now. Yet, further, the initial version of the post and the edited to version are not that closely related. Thus, while I agree that it can be a good idea to resort to addition in principle, it does not seem like a viable option in the specific case. In any case not at the point we learned about the post. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 24 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Quid: I did not intend the suggestion of an edit adding text to have been suitable in these instances, but rather a comment for possible ways of handling minor additions to a question, as I thought I had indicated. No, in this case it would not be viable, because the user was not just adding a condition, he was discarding the questions and asking entirely new ones. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Aug 24 at 23:22

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