I saw this question today and immediately thought to check for past posts on the same topic. I came across this old post from 2009. The old question has a clear title, but the question text is really unclear. As a result, there are several answers that are shooting in the dark based on several different interpretations of the question. Buried in the mound of seven answers is the now-inactive OP's own solution, which confirms that his question is really the same as the one asked today.

Of course, since the old question was in such horrible shape, it would be asking a lot of a (new) user to recognize that their question has been answered previously, so I've chosen not to flag it as a duplicate. Moreover, the new question is phrased more clearly, and as a result, the answer it received is also more clear and helpful than any for the old question.

Now, the question is: What should be done to the old post? It has many problems that I think keep it from being genuinely useful.

  1. The question is very unclear. In order to be (more) useful, it could use a re-write based on the OP's answer.
  2. Several answers don't address the intended meaning of the question, yet they have several up-votes.
  3. If the question is rewritten, the old misguided answers and their erroneous up-votes will remain. This will perhaps make the question even less useful to visitors of the site, because there will be a number of (now inexplicable) wrong answers highlighted as good.

I don't think down-voting the misguided answers would be the most just solution (I'm sure the users who answered would agree), but otherwise, the question will remain a mess, even if it's rewritten.

Given this lack of good editing options, is the new question covering the same topic much more clearly grounds for removing the old question?

(Also, let this serve as a cautionary tale for users who would rather answer quickly without understanding the question than leave a comment asking for clarification. While that behavior may be an effective way of fishing for rep, it can hurt the quality of the site in the long run.)

  • Something similar had happened to me. I answered a question fairly quickly. The question was fairly well written. Sometime later, after I answered the question, the OP left a comment to their own question, adding more details, and adding some requirements for an acceptable solution. This made my answer look incomplete, and basically irrelavent. I deleted my answer and haven't looked back. – Kevin Fegan Apr 25 '13 at 7:32

You could close the old question as a duplicate of the new one. This would solve two problems:

  1. The old post is unclear, and thus should be closed
  2. The same question was posed in two places.
  • Okay, but will that remove rep from users who answered the old question? – Excellll Jul 13 '12 at 17:48
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    @Excellll If the question is just closed then no. If the question is deleted, then yes, they will lose rep (there is a policy of not deleting duplicates because of signposting). – soandos Jul 13 '12 at 17:49
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    Ugh, the old one is a mess. Closing as a dupe of the new one seems like the way to go — but I wouldn't mind deleting obsolete answers from the old one if it's clear that they're not solving the problem at all. Tough call to make though. – slhck Jul 13 '12 at 17:56
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    I believe that mods can merge the good answers and delete the rest of the junk with the old one. I suggest flagging for deletion anything that isn't worth keeping on the old one. – James Mertz Jul 13 '12 at 18:20
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    Just a note that under certain circumstances (score of 3 or greater, visible for 60 days), reputation is not lost on deletion anyway. – Bob Jul 14 '12 at 0:55

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