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One highly off-topic question of real analysis was asked in the main site by a new user. One user sent, 1 hour later, a long answer going far beyond the the question, and then, 12 hours later, edited the question to make it more interesting and in keeping with his own answer. [The question has been closed little after the answer was posted, and, after the question was edited, it was reopened, the 5 votes including the answerer's vote, soon after being edited, and including a moderator vote.]

Should such edits be recommended?

I don't have a definite opinion. In the negative side, the final interesting question remains attributed to a user who has little to do with it [edit: this is much less the case once the question is cw], and who also didn't indicate any agreement to such changes (as a frequent editor I usually try not to modify the intention of a question, even if it's just a broadening, unless this was suggested by the OP in the comments). Also, I see a problem with modifying a question so as to make it in keeping with one's own answer. At the positive side, this results in producing a post of interesest to the MO audience rather than a post which was to be eventually deleted.

Side question: in such a case where the "community" has decided to take over a question, should the question be made cw?

Edit: the question has now been made cw by moderators.

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    $\begingroup$ That is a good question. -- IMHO such edits should rather not be recommended, as they may leave the community (or the moderators) the choice between rather unsatisfactory options: have the question closed as off-topic with a highly upvoted answer, or reopen the question in a form which has not much to do with what the OP originally asked, or delete the originally off-topic question together with an answer which has substantial content. In the given case, with a bit of a bad feeling I have cast the 5th vote to reopen. Also, I have made the question CW (maybe the answer should be CW as well(?)). $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Oct 3 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ I may well be mistaken here, but I thought that my edit of the question was very much in line with the "wiki" character of Stack Exchange in general and MathOverflow in particular (here is an example that predates the merging of MO in SE). But if I'm mistaken, I apologize and will refrain from any action of this kind in the future. $\endgroup$ Oct 3 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ "At the positive side, this results in producing a post of interest to the MO audience rather than a post which was to be eventually deleted." We can have both: the "post of interest" can be posted, question along with answer, as a new post, and then the original post deleted. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ What bothers me most about such situations is putting words in someone else's mouth. The earlier example mentioned in Carlo Beenakker's comment is even more extreme and I like it even less. In the case at hand, I'd prefer to either do what Carlo did at first (answer a different question but leave the original question unmodified) or adopt Gerry Myerson's suggestion. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ Let me voice my minority opinion that (in this particular case) Carlo's edits were fine. The original problem was perhaps not optimally stated, but its meaning was clear even from the title. The answer was also obvious, but Carlo's generous interpretation and answer were interesting. I think MO has thought through this issue before "What should we do with stone soup?". If there were an issue to worry about, this would not be the question that would concern me. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Oct 4 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia Maybe you intended to include a link to the question here on meta: What shall we do with stone soup? $\endgroup$ Oct 4 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @MartinSleziak. Yes, that's what I was thinking of. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Oct 4 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ It's perhaps worth reminding everyone that such practices (that is, not answering the question that was actually asked), in very slightly different form, have been very common on MO, without raising anyone's eyebrows. More specifically: (1) answers that start "I can't answer the actual question, but ..." ; (2) answering (as Carlo did) the question the OP "should have asked", when the question taken at face value has obvious defects; (3) (less common, but not unheard of) posting the question "the OP should have asked" as a new question oneself and answering it instantaneously. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ As I said in the post, I don't have a definite opinion and I often feel in the situation where I'm indeed tempted to modify a question. I believe posting, beforehand, comments proposing a possible improvement of the question could be a way to leave both the OP and the community a chance to react, before modifying the question. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Oct 4 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @ChristianRemling, I think it's worth noting explicitly, as you surely meant to do implicitly, that the question isn't about any of those behaviours, all of which leave the original question unchanged—never attributing a question to a user a question they didn't ask, even if it would have been better that they had. I take @‍YCor's question to be thus: should we allow this new behaviour to accompany such unexceptionable practices? $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Oct 4 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ My vote is no, for what it's worth; I think that we rightly have a culture of allowing meaning-preserving transformations of other people's posts, but rejecting or discouraging meaning-changing transformations, even if that change is for the better. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Oct 4 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ @LSpice: Yes, the point is well taken. But still the distinction is a fine one, and I guess I just wanted to point out that in its more extreme form the policy "answer the question as asked or keep your mouth shut" has never been the practice on MO. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have a strong opinion on this but one can imagine if the OP objected, they could roll back the changes or say something in the comments. $\endgroup$ Oct 6 at 14:37

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