This question has been edited 47 times over a period of 23 days.

It started just as:

What is the difference between mask and umask?
I know that in *nix, a mask is any bit pattern used in bitwise operations (hence it is often called bitmask).
How it differs from umask? (user mask? unix mask?)

Now it has many more lines and many imprecisions which have been added progressively by its author.

It is impossible to hit a moving target.

I have tried to answer twice and both answers have been rendered inaccurate by additional modifications to the question.


Should there be a limit to the amount of change?


I understand that it is very difficult to draw a line in a general sense. Each case is different. But this case should be an extreme example.

Editing a question should, in general, be avoided.
Specially if it is to answer it.

Should a moderator have block further edits? Maybe.

Should the user have been told the problem he was generating with a "moving target"? Probably yes.

What should a user do instead:

Provide his own answer.

  • An answer should be edited to make it better, by anyone.
  • Could be edited as much as needed to correct imprecisions.
  • It doesn't invalidate other (previous) answers.
  • The OP could also edit and improve his answer.


  • 3
    Another 300 rep and you'll be able to see that OP did post two answers, each as rambling as the question, which got downvoted and was deleted by the OP.
    – muru
    Nov 26, 2018 at 3:36
  • 2
    Similar discussion on Meta SU: OP edited question substantially after answer(s) were posted. I think I've seen others; perhaps on Meta Stack Exchange. Nov 26, 2018 at 6:22
  • 4
    I think that question in particular has come up several times by the same user too. when a user keeps moving the goalposts, I let it go, downvote and move on. Edits should be used for improving and not as a means to avoid moderation of new, weaker questions. Nov 26, 2018 at 8:33
  • 1
    In addition to downvoting and moving on, maybe comment that the question has been substantially edited so much that the question is no longer clear? I've seen questions where the number of edits just to make it coherent English - without changing the question being asked - are huge. Nov 30, 2018 at 16:33
  • I've deleted answers where this has happened; I'm not gonna play games with people like this. I do like the idea of adding a comment so the OP and others are aware of the massive scope change. Dec 2, 2018 at 3:13
  • @muru Yes, he posted two answers, one he removed himself, the other was removed by a moderator. But still, the point is that the user should be told (informed) that his actions are incorrect (harmful to the site IMO). I even believe that moderators (or a process of voting by the community) should be able to block additional edits. That should be helpful to the site. The block may be limited to an specific (problematic?) user, or users below a certain reputation. What do you think?
    – user232326
    Dec 2, 2018 at 3:33
  • @user2066657 The English of my top posts tends to get small corrections over time.... Dec 3, 2018 at 20:31
  • muru is misleading here (maybe not on purpose); the second answer was posted after I edited the deleted one without knowing it was deleted because my browser was kept open for about two days. Only when I saw I edited a deleted answer (by a caching conflict), I republished a slightly better (yet still bad) answer and then deleted it myself as I felt the question should be improved. This is the worst question I ever asked here, not because of the downvoting, but because the amout of edits. I personally feel it was a comedy of mistakes.
    – user149572
    Dec 7, 2018 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


Should there be a limit to the amount of change?

IMHO, no

It's a timing issue.

Ideally, there's a bunch of editing happening before the question is even posted (rubber duck debugging), and then if the posted question isn't clear, there are comments to that effect, to which the question is edited, until the question is answerable (or is otherwise closed). Then there are answers to the question. Then, edits to the question should not invalidate any answers.

I understand the desire to answer questions (quickly); there was one within half an hour of the question being posted which was subsequently deleted, then another 90 minutes later. The question was then closed as "unclear" the next day, until it was reopened about a day and a half later. I would split the responsibility for this situation pretty evenly between the asker and the answerers. The asker, IMHO, needed some help understanding the terminology, much less how it actually worked. As an answerer, you should have a clear idea what is being asked. If I saw a question that was unclear to me and being constantly edited and I was interested in answering it, I might post some clarifying comments, then bookmark it / favorite it and come back later. Later, if the question is answerable, maybe answer it. If the question is still moving or has moved away from my interest, un-bookmark/favorite it and move on. As a voter and reviewer, vote as needed.

I don't agree that the OP should post and edit their own answer, unless they're intentionally self-answering a question that's clear.

In summary, I think we need to give Questions a few minutes to "breathe" before voting or answering. Questions (that are good) that have answers will stick around "forever", so let's make them good.

  • Sorry, but I have to disagree. Yes, some editing is good, extended edit should probably be allowed IMO. But continuous editing (everyday) over 23 days (46 edits) to add more and more additional incorrect issues each time is not, by any measure, good behavior, and even maybe not with a positive intention.
    – user232326
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:19
  • So: Should there be a limit to the amount of positive change? Sure, no. But Should there be a limit to the amount of negative change? Sure, yes. The real problem is how could we differentiate between the two !!! Seems like the Judge quote I know it [obscenity/pornography] when I see it. Please read
    – user232326
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:25
  • I suppose it comes back to timing for me. If someone has answered "the" (a?) (clear) question, then subsequent changes to the Question should not invalidate the answer(s). It's of course, a gray area when the OP thinks that they are clarifying their own question; in this case, I'd also ask whether the Answerer understood the question when the OP seems not to have! If the question isn't clear, it should be closed until it's clear. That's where our hard-working reviewers come in! Again, since most closed questions stay closed, it behooves the OP to put their best foot foward.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Dec 11, 2018 at 16:30

You must log in to answer this question.