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I'm really confused regarding this post I answered yesterday: Is it safe to wash meat packaging before throwing it away? The question was previously worded as Disposing of meat packaging, and its contents were asking what was the recommended way to dispose meat packaging.

I gave an answer which got upvoted. But while I was away, the question got edited drastically that completely invalided my answer. My invalidated answer was just sitting there for 11 hours, without any disclaimer that my post used to answer the question. (There used to be another answer along with the three remaining ones, but it's gone now.)

At first I thought that surly the edit was made by the OP, who just might not be familiar with how things work in Stack Exchange. So I rolled back the edit, and politely asked them not to make edits that invalidates answer in the future.

But later to my surprise, it was a mod who made the edit. I didn't want to defy a mod's decision, so I had no choice but to make another rollback to the mod's revision and edit a disclaimer into my answer (which, BTW, received downvotes while I away and unaware of the edit).

But up until now I'm thinking: Edits that invalidates answers aren't allowed, see Change to question invalidates my answer, what to do? Of course, if there was something problematic about the question to begin with, then drastic edits might be okay... but there was nothing wrong with asking how to dispose of meat packaging.

The mod did add an explanation along with their edit:

changed wording since the answers to the original went into a discussion on recycling

I agree that a discussion on recycling began, but it didn't or shouldn't have anything to do with the question; it was a completely valid question. To be honest, it appeared to me that the discussion was started and continued by one of the many answerers.

Can we please not do this to fellow answerers? At least add a disclaimer to the question, or even to the answers that will be invalidated?

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  • Just for clarification: The mod did point out that the question was changed to fit the scope and emphasized what answers should focus on. Do you think that was not sufficient, and if so, why? – Stephie Mar 28 at 19:02
  • @Stephie You mean in a comment? I didn't notice it until now that you mentioned it, thanks for letting me know. But I believe the comment might not be read by most passing users. – Anastasia Zendaya Mar 28 at 19:51
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The Meta Q/A you linked to advocates a good and valid approach and we do follow the general process here as well. But there’s a fundamental difference between changing the scope of a question in a way that both versions are on topic and the case here.

The question was read by multiple posters as “how to recycle properly”, which is not within our scope. (One might speculate whether adding the tag “disposal” may have contributed to that assumption.) The other way to read the question was about food safety, which is perfectly fine. There are two ways to deal with this kind of posts, one is to close them as off-topic, the other to rephrase them with more focus on what’s on-topic. The latter is of course preferred if it means we get a good new question and we are grateful for every user doing what’s colloquially sometimes described as “heroic edit”. And yes, that may be the end mean that the question is quite different from the first version. This is one of the reasons why SE allows and encourages community edits to improve posts as collaborative work.

If that invalidates some answers that were focused on the off-topic bits, that’s accepted - ultimately there is the “don’t answer off-topic questions” rule, as given in the How do I write a good answer section of our Help Center:

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which... [...]

  • ...are not about cooking as defined in the help center.

I am sorry if you felt that your answer fell through, but let me encourage you to quickly check whether a question is within our scope before writing an answer or to accept that the community may do the kind of edits that happened in this example.

Asking to edit a disclaimer into all posts that may be affected by making the question clearer and on-topic is in my opinion too much. It may be done as a curtsy yes, but as all users including the moderators are volunteers (who happily participate as much as they can, but do have a few other things in their lives that may need their attention), I would not demand or even suggest that this becomes an obligation of any kind. I think more posts would be just closed as this is way easier done than a well-phrased heroic edit.

I don’t think any real harm was done even if your post did get a downvote in addition to the upvotes.

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  • Thanks, I'll read your answer. But about the last part; one user reversed their downvote into an upvote after I explained the situation. – Anastasia Zendaya Mar 28 at 18:45
  • And that’s perfectly ok - our Q/As have a certain element of volatility and many of us have reversed votes after edits or discussions. – Stephie Mar 28 at 18:47

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