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I've answered a couple of questions about smoking recently. In one of the other answers, there's a pretty compelling argument against my answer. I haven't changed my mind just yet, but I definitely plan to experiment as grilling season is upon us. My answer is definitely the conventional wisdom.

If I change my mind and want to revisit my answer, what's the appropriate way to do that? Delete my answer and add a new one? Edit the existing one (which may leave up votes that aren't really relevant)? Just add a new answer? What if the answer has been accepted as "right" by the OP?

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Edit the existing one to be right, or as right as you can make it.

This expectation is built right into the system: editing an answer (a) bumps the question to the front page, and (b) allows previously-locked-in votes to be undone. So if anybody is unhappy with the revised answer, they can flip their previous votes.

Of course, if it's totally unsalvageable then you can delete it; there's even a badge for it. But if it can be simply revised, you're doing more good for the community by improving an already-highly-voted answer than you are by taking it down.

  • In the specific example I'm thinking of, my answer was basically "Do A" and if I decide to change my answer the change will be "Do Not A". It would be a complete reversal, but people have already agreed to "Do A". I guess a delete would be the right action. But does that change if the answer is accepted? – yossarian Mar 27 '13 at 13:27
  • I have read elsewhere in SO Meta I think that you just hack the system by doing a minor edit, like adding a space, and then you can change your vote. Its gaming the system a little bit and does require that you have sufficient rep to be permitted to edit on your own. Not sure I approve, but there it is... – SAJ14SAJ Mar 27 '13 at 23:41
  • @yossarian: I don't think your comment changes anything about my answer. Do you have a right answer, or not? If so, edit it and take advantage of the fact that it's already highly voted in order to help people. If the only edit you can make is to strike out everything in your original answer and don't intend on adding anything new, then yeah, I guess delete it in that case. – Aaronut Mar 28 '13 at 0:00
  • @SAJ14SAJ: That's mentioned on our meta here as well. That rule still applies even if someone edits his/her own post. So if yossarian edits his answer, and the edit makes it wrong, then everybody who sees it can undo their votes. It's an intentional feature designed to (try to) mitigate the risk of vandalism. – Aaronut Mar 28 '13 at 0:02
  • @Aaronut- your answer makes sense from the point of view of the site but kind of ignores the social implications. If I saw someone edit their answer to reverse its meaning and clone a competing answer I would assume that user is a jerk who is gaming the system for rep. If another answer is correct I think the right thing to do is to delete the incorrect answer. – Sobachatina Mar 29 '13 at 18:35
  • For the record- I know yossarian is not a jerk. I'm just pointing out that the site isn't just "create a valuable site full of correctness". There is also the rep game and real people who might feel competitive about it. – Sobachatina Mar 29 '13 at 18:37
  • @Sobachatina: I don't think it was suggested at any point that the edited answer was going to be a clone of a lower-voted answer. He just mentioned an "argument against" his answer. If the edit would be outright ripping-off, then it has nothing to do with editing anymore and more to do with plagiarism (or the appearance thereof). In the context of this question one really has to assume that there aren't any significantly better answers with lower votes. – Aaronut Mar 29 '13 at 22:13
  • In that case I totally agree. – Sobachatina Mar 30 '13 at 0:32

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