I recently encountered the following scenario:

  1. OP asks a question which is missing some information.
  2. Answerer asks for clarification in a comment.
  3. OP clarifies in a comment but does not edit the question.
  4. Answerer answers question based on clarification supplied in the comment.
  5. OP deletes comment and adds contradictory clarification to the question.
  6. More people answer the new version of the question.
  7. Result: multiple contradicting answers answering multiple contradicting revisions of the question.

The particular question where I encountered this is this one, where I am the Answerer in the above abstract scenario: Is using multiple UUIDs decrease chance of collisions exponentially? (In case you are wondering: in a comment, the OP had originally specified they wanted answers for version 5 UUIDs, then they deleted that comment and edited the question to specify version 4 UUIDs.)

How to handle such a question? In general, we advise askers to not change a question in such a way that existing answers are invalidated, and usually, the most appropriate response is to ask the OP to roll back the edit. However, in this case, the clarification was only provided in comments, and is now deleted, so technically speaking, the question was never changed. Or was it?

Also, I received no notification of the change, so I only discovered it two days later, at which point other answers have been supplied based on the new clarification, which would be invalidated by the rollback.

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Before editing the question, I would probably edit the answer, and explain why it answers a slightly different question than the one which was asked (refering to the deleted comment and the edit). It is not unlikely that others, when trying to find information about related topics, find your answer still useful, even if it does not fit to the last version of the question literally.

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This is a tough one.

One option would be to edit the question after getting the clarification in a comment. You can even use the edit description to note that the clarification edits were derived from a comment. If there's any dispute, mods can see deleted comments on a question and untangle the mess. If the comment/edit were wrong and there are good answers, then the asker can always ask a new question and link the two.

However, in the situation you describe, the best thing might just be to delete the non-matching answer and move on. It's the least work for everyone. If you want to preserve the answer, you can always write up a question and self-answer it. Wouldn't be too hard - you have the answer and you can use the original question as a basis. Linking the two in the body or as a comment would also link them in the Related Questions.

The lack of notifications is something that could be improved. But that's probably a Meta SE question.

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  • Yeah, looking back, asking the OP to put the clarification in the question, or editing it in myself would have been the right call. Not that I care much about that particular question, it was just an interesting sequence of events that I had never really thought about until now. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 20 at 11:06

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