# What to do when the original question is transformed considerably after getting clarification?

I know that deleting one's own question is not encouraged on this site but I'm curious about this situation. This question prompted this inquiry. This began as a simple question about how to interpret the predict.lm() function in R. As Michael Chernick and I continued to question the original poster to get clarification, it turns out he was using OLS to model a proportion, which is usually a poor approximation. After Michael and I both agreed that he, at least, needed to transform the response, a new line of questioning began.

At this point, the question was pretty much unrelated to the original question, and I suggested that he start a new question and consider deleting this one - is this the correct recommendation? He's surely no longer interested in the question he was originally asking and there were no answers, although I suppose a future person could be interested (although in this case simply reading the help page would've done the job). How about when there are answers to the question but they are now obsolete given the modification? Perhaps in that case we would just start a new question but keep the old one?

Edit: It turns out the original poster did delete the question per my suggestion. My question still stands - was this bad advice?

• Sounds like reasonable advice to me. Questions can sometimes be revised to the point that only people who have followed them from the beginning have any idea what's going on. – Matt Parker May 18 '12 at 17:49
• I agree with @MattParker. I don't think there is much point in keeping questions just for the sake of keeping them. – Peter Flom May 23 '12 at 17:03

As long as no answer was provided to the question (but see also How can I delete my post on Stack Overflow?), I think there's no real problem if the OP deletes his question and asks a new one; and it is not forbidden to delete one's question. However, no cross-reference can be made with the initial post, and comments will be lost for others (at least users below 10k rep won't see them). If the comments thread has demonstrated that the question, as originally posed, was really off the mark, then it is probably good to start a fresh question, and maybe summarize the main points raised in those comments.

It also possible to simply update the question in case there were some missing piece of information, or actual comments suggested the original question should undergo major revision. This way, we can always refer to comments and post revisions.

So the question is really about recording a trace of comments, and I don't think they are worth to be kept if the question turns out to be completely different in light of them.

(I think you were of good advice by suggesting to start a new thread there.)

• Good point about losing the comments. Specifically, if they were asking the wrong question in a way that future searchers are also likely to ask it then it's valuable to preserve the conversation. The OP could even add an answer explaining that they reformulated the question and link to the new version. That way, future readers who are asking the same question will find it, rather than finding nothing and asking the same question from scratch again. – octern Jun 1 '12 at 23:07
• I agree. The enormousstock of googlable questions is part of what makes stackoverflow.com so valuable. – fmark Jun 14 '12 at 0:00

I've struggled with this on some of my questions. Seems like there are three choices:

1. Totally edit and rework the original question, perhaps keeping the original question text at the end of the newly reworked question.

2. Keep the original question, but edit it to say something like "Lesson learned, mistaken question, see the new question at _". Make a new question and link to it.

3. Delete the original question and make a new one.

One question for those among us who know how things actually work around here: If a question is deleted, do people who got credit for answers or up-voting retain that credit? I don't think deleting the original is a good idea if those who participated lose credit for their efforts.

Now that I've thought about it for a while, I think the best answer is option #2. Create a new, better question, then edit the old question to put a cavaet at the top and a link to the new question. That preserves the "lesson learned" aspect so people can see how the question was mistaken and learn, it preserves the work of those who contributed to the thread, and it gives a clean break so the improved question can be more clear and valuable.

The old question remains for when you search, but won't be upvoted, etc.

• I believe credit for deleted questions disappears. This is one reason moderators and high-rep users may un-delete questions. The primary reason, though, is that when replies or comments in a thread reflect an effortful discussion and show progress toward understanding or solving a question, then--regardless of how much reputation is or is not involved--it has become a community product and should not unilaterally be deleted. – whuber Jun 1 '12 at 21:30
• @whuber: exactly. A second, better-(in)formed question may be the best option for posterity, but if the first thread is informative it should be kept. I've tried to even leave my own answers that illustrated a misunderstanding that was corrected by comments because I figured that other people might have the same misconceptions. – Wayne Jun 2 '12 at 0:03

I think there's been some good discussion here. Let me add 1 small point / suggestion. If the original question were kept (e.g., @Wayne's option #2), the community moderator will keep popping up the question from time to time, which can be kind of annoying. If the question constitutes a misunderstanding that people may make again in the future, and the comments lead to a sufficient clarification, then those comments could be summarized as an answer and the answer marked as 'community wiki'. In this way, the clarification will become more salient to someone who stumbles across the post in the future, the post will remain as a permanent record (as we prefer), you wouldn't be stealing someone else's credit, and it wouldn't keep popping up just because there isn't an 'answer'.