Based on this question: How to get system uptime in milliseconds in command line?

At first, the question did not specify an operating system, but through later comments, it became apparent the OP was asking for a Windows solution. In line with the answers on this meta question, I edited the question to include this information. That however invalidated an existing answer which provided a solution for linux operating systems. My edit has sparked some discussion because of that.

Therefore, I'm asking it here. What to do with questions that lack information later provided through comments, if adding this information to the question would invalidate existing answers (and what to do with those)?

3 Answers 3


To answer your primary question, yes, please add additional information, provided by the author of the question, to the question. Especially new users are often unaware of the details of how the site functions and they neglect to edit their content on their own.
If you see additional information posted in a comment, and it is particularly relevant to the question (like the mentioning of an operating system), the question should be adjusted accordingly.

If the author of the question does not specify an operating system, then the answers should be valid for as many operating systems as possible.

This does not necessarily imply that the potential answerer has to list all possible variations of the solution. An answer could describe a general concept or approach and mention how to apply that concept to one variation of the problem in question.

If a potential answerer does not feel capable to address the wide variety of operating systems to actually fully cover the question, then the answerer should ask for clarification through a comment.

If he answers disregarding the fact that he will not be able to fully answer the question, he gambles. If the question is phrased more specifically later on, the answer could end up being wrong or irrelevant. At that point it should be treated like any other incorrect answer.

If the answerer feels like he was treated unjustly through this procedure, he should have asked for clarification before answering.

  • "If the OP does not specify an OS, then the answers should be valid for as many operating systems as possible." - Except doesn't that (not specifying an OS) carry the risk of the question becoming overly broad and thus being marked as NARQ? ...
    – Karan
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:46
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    ... Another very real problem I've seen with such questions in the past is that people will tend to post good answers that solve the problem on the OS of their choice. Rarely will you get one encompassing answer with great solutions for every (common) OS out there. This in turn makes it difficult if not impossible for the OP to accept any one answer. I know it's not necessary to accept, but I think ideally people should post separate questions targeting each OS they are interested in.
    – Karan
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:47
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    @Karan that would also mean that people who answer the question bear the same responsibility to make sure it is clear what the OP wants before endeavouring to answer the (overly broad) question. Clearly, the OP is an inexperienced user. In my opinion, experienced users should then act as a safety net and guide new users to forming a proper question, not just answering it as quickly as possible to take the reputation.
    – Pylsa
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:57
  • @BloodPhilia: Yes, I do agree that asking for clarification is the recommended response in such a situation, so as to salvage/improve the question. Personally I would have waited for the OP to respond to Dave Rook before attempting to answer. Just that in this case we were looking for ways to make the best of the existing situation.
    – Karan
    Mar 14, 2013 at 0:04
  • I agree the answerer may have gambled whether his submission would be useful to the OP, but the reasoning also seems somewhat circular: the answerer takes a risk because the question may be specified, and because the answerer knowingly takes this risk, it's okay edit the question. After all, if the question had not been edited, then the answer would not have been wrong or irrelevant. Instead, it could have been helpful to future visitors. Shouldn't we be awarding useful answers, even though they did not help one person in particular? Mar 14, 2013 at 0:04
  • @MarcksThomas I agree that helpful answers are awesome. However, I could be posting how to achieve cold nuclear fusion. It't be awesome and helpful, but completely irrelevant. The big problem I see here is: Where do we draw the line on what is acceptable when it comes to deviating from the OP's question/requirements? Are we to disregard it?
    – Pylsa
    Mar 14, 2013 at 0:08
  • @MarcksThomas: " After all, if the question had not been edited, then the answer would not have been wrong or irrelevant." True. Of course the OP did come along and express a preference for a Windows solution, although that in itself didn't invalidate the Linux solution IMO. In the interest of providing good info. relevant to multiple OSes, how about now re-adding the deleted answer as Community Wiki, so that solutions for other OSes can be added to it later by others? (This would require removing the Windows tag and restoring the question to its original form.)
    – Karan
    Mar 14, 2013 at 0:12
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    @MarcksThomas: If the answer is valuable, the author of said answer could post an additional question and copy the answer over. Self-answers are encouraged and welcome. Mar 14, 2013 at 0:17
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    On the other hand, it's not uncommon for the general concept or method expressed in an answer to be applicable for multiple operating systems, though the specific commands may be OS-specific. I don't really consider such answers incorrect.
    – Bob
    Mar 14, 2013 at 7:58

I was just about to ask the exact same question. I do understand what the the user that answered the question is on about, I just don't think you should adapt the question to fit the answers, even if the OP added additional requirements. Neither do the added requirements make it too localized in my honest opinion.

It happens only too often, that an OP finds himself in a position that the question doesn't actually reflect the problem he has. We then don't find it odd to add some extra requirements or to slightly change the question to salvage it. Why would we now?

I feel we can leave the answer in place, seeing it's good answer, albeit no longer of use to the OP.

As I mentioned in the comments:

It is not up to other users to change the nature of the question so radically as to no longer reflect the OP's problem to accommodate existing answers. What if more users started posting Linux solutions? That wouldn't help the OP at all.

If you are unsure about the exact question, I consider it bad practice to answer the question. Especially when you're aware the question isn't phrased specifically enough. I believe it should be common practice to clarify this first, as Dave Rook attempted with his comment.

What operating system is this for?

If you still want to answer the question, write it as broadly as possible, to reflect all possibilities. If you don't you're gambling with your answer's validity.

Furthermore, the subsequent suggested edits "war" is out of order. The edit suggestion review system is there for good reason. When a user keeps posting the same edit suggestion over and over again, I feel this is abuse of the system. Especially if five individual users have rejected the suggested edit of removing the OP's additional requirements eleven times. It could be a mere matter of time before someone actually approves it.

  • @H.-DirkSchmitt I fully understand, but the decision has been made. I felt it a wrong edit. The system is there for a reason.
    – Pylsa
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:28
  • The OP asked for a Windows solution later, but I didn't see him outright reject the Linux answer either. Frankly, would it have been all that outrageous to have added both Windows and Linux tags and prevented this controversy? We already had an answer for Linux and could have ended up with good answers for both OSes (still might of course), instead of none as at present.
    – Karan
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:53
  • @Karan I agree, and as reflected in my answer and comments, I felt no need to remove the answer. I was trying to look for a solution, mainly by the help of meta here. However, the owner of the answer felt he had to remove the answer before the matter could be resolved.
    – Pylsa
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:55
  • @H.-DirkSchmitt No, but the requirement was set by the OP, albeit outside the actual question. Hereby validating MarcksThomas' edit. Furthermore, you know your edits have been rejected.
    – Pylsa
    Mar 14, 2013 at 0:23

For me is the criteria the quality of the informations which is added.

  • It it makes the intention or requirements better to understand, it is normally a good thing.
  • But it isn't acceptable if it invalidates an given answer.

I have seen today some questions, where the OP hasn't done the effort to write clearly his requirements and has changed the goal, after he received some answers.

This bad habit shouldn't be supported.

Answering a question takes time. This should not become invalid only because the OP hasn't done his homework.

To obtain good and valid content it is not acceptable that the answer contributers are getting discriminated, because the questioner hasn't taken himself the time to express all his requirements.

  • 2
    "But it isn't acceptable if it invalidates an given answer." Why? Answers aren't sacrosanct. If the OP adds additional criteria to their question later on, then answers that no longer match those criteria become invalid and will either be updated, deleted, or left as is and possibly downvoted. There's nothing wrong with that. Yes, answering takes time, but it was your choice to invest that time based on nothing but an assumption, rather than asking the OP for clarification.
    – Indrek
    Mar 14, 2013 at 0:30
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    @H.-DirkSchmitt No one wants you to delete your account! I certainly do not. I for one, value all members of our community equally. I have looked into some of your answers and they seem quite good and useful. However, we do have conventions and self-regulating systems in place that should be followed. Please do not let all this scare you away, instead, use it to discuss existing policies and help us come to a joint solution. This debate, as heated as it may become, is just another fine example of community-based regulation, even if we do not always agree with the outcome.
    – Pylsa
    Mar 14, 2013 at 1:10

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