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When I get stuck on a problem, I post it on SE to see if anyone can help me with it. But, I continue to work on it on my own after I post it. The sheer act of posting helps me clarify my thoughts. Then, I'll often get comments on the question that help me clarify things further. Post-posting, I end up with ideas about how to much better word things. I think this is particularly true for me because I find myself needing to ask fairly complicated question in an area in which I am not familiar with conventional terminology.

The FAQ also says to update your question frequently with your own progress. I think this is a good idea, as ideally my "progress" will help people better understand the question, and maybe give people ideas on how to answer, or at least contribute to the general body of knowledge on what doesn't work.

However, I do not know how to best go about the updating. I don't want to continually change the wording of a problem. Sometimes I'll realize I could ask for a more general case, make more clear parameters, etc. and I'll want to add that clarity... but it's at the cost of confusing people who may have already attempted to start answering. As for "progress reports" -- I don't want to question to get overly long. I feel bad creating inconsistency by posting an update, then deleting it and replacing it with a different update altogether a few hours later -- but less bad than I'd feel with them both taking up space in the question.

So.... my question to you is: how do you balance improving your question and adding progress statements with keeping it consistent and manageable?

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    $\begingroup$ I will say that I found your question interesting, but was a bit dissuaded from putting too much time and thought into it since each time I checked back, it had undergone a (sometimes substantial) change. Sometimes, it might be best to formulate a solid, carefully worded and thought out question beforehand and then post it, even if the answer won't fully satisfy your curiosity. You can always ask a follow-up and the feedback you get from the interaction with others here might actually stimulate further thought. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Aug 16 '11 at 13:00
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I don't want to continually change the wording of a problem

This is fine, so long as the question doesn't have answers, or if it has, say, one answer that can also be updated. But if there are 6 answers, all working against the assumptions in the original question, then that might be problematic.

This of course also depends how radically you are changing the question. Are you elaborating and adding more detail, or are you altering the basic premise of the question as you go?

Editing is almost always a net good, but if you have reason to believe your question is built on shifting sands, better to keep it in draft form for a while until you solidify it a bit more. Otherwise your edits will undermine the very people who are so generously contributing their time to formulate answers to your question ...

In short: it depends.

(and it's also possible to leave your question as-is and ask a followup question, too.)

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