Consider the following question on the main site representative of the questions of interest here:

Is the verb "cast" in acting, metalworking and programming the same verb?

In essence, I think it asks whether cast used in programming has anything to do with cast used for actors and sculptures, etc. This is, however, something of a guess since the original version says nothing about this, and merely asks whether the word has the same root in each case. I found the underlying question interesting (as did at least one other), but others also aired the opposite opinion.

My question here is:

The motivation for all Stack Exchange sites including ELU is to build libraries of high-quality questions and answers. So when a low-quality question (LQQ) turns up with the potential to become a high-quality question, but the OP doesn't edit it or is otherwise unresponsive to comments, should we feel free to edit the question even if this involves an element of guesswork on our part (perhaps with an invitation to roll back), or should we vote to close the question because it is an LQQ at face value?

Existing commentary suggests:

What I'm asking about goes beyond simply clarifying edits - they may be considered wholesale changes to the question. Naturally, this doesn't include changing the question to something completely foreign, but it may involve changing something like Do the words X,Y,Z have the same root? to What does Z have to do with X and Y? with the objective of picking out an interesting aspect of a question where the question would otherwise be (or perhaps less controversially, has already been) closed for being too broad, general reference or uninteresting.

  • 3
    My personal philosophy is to restrict my edits to form, and to the event possible, not change content. In your case, you could VtC the original question, and ask a new under your own auspices, saying you were inspired to ask by the prior question, with this a new twist.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 2:21
  • Thanks @DanBron. That's true, especially after a question has been closed. Depending on how much an edit would change, there may be little difference between the two. I will admit to some hesitance stemming, I think, from the perception of plagiarism. But linking to the source as you suggest is the normal procedure for the research community. Yours is a viable suggestion, especially when the edits would take a question in a new direction.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 5:23
  • I've just voted to close the question on Main. It seems clear to me anyone could easily check the etymology of "the word" to quickly establish that all the senses OP asks about derive from the same original (Old Norse kasta & cognates), so my closevote reason was "Lack of research". If that's not what the OP was getting at, it's an entirely subjective question of What does "different word" mean? Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 15:28
  • 2
    I raised a somewhat similar question on Meta a year ago: When if ever is it justifiable for an editor to change the entire body of a question while retaining the question title? The tension between upgrading a flawed question (on the one hand) and just starting over (on the other) is complicated in that instance by the existence of multiple answers addressing the core issue of a phrase's meaning and implications that the OP for some reason didn't focus on.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 16:21
  • 2
    ... Reaction to my Meta question was mixed, but attempts to revise the main-site question to rid it of some of its weaknesses failed to win approval for reopening the question. I am still tempted to radically revise the main-site question to ask the question(s) that the existing answers address, but it is undeniably awkward to alter someone's original question to such an extent.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 16:26
  • @FumbleFingers Fair enough.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 0:15
  • @SvenYargs Apologies, I missed your meta question - mine is effectively a duplicate. I'd be interested to know the reasons people voted for/against the new-question idea. To me so far, pros: the new question can be sharper without prejudicing existing answers, and the intent of the OP is not compromised. Cons: the carcass of the old question is left hanging in the archive, and relevant answers to the old question aren't migrated to the new automatically. Both approaches work, but with different questions. I'm leaning towards new for this since it would invalidate the existing answer.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 1:16
  • Following this example I've edited this. Thoughts? Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 15:51
  • @CandiedOrange It's a big improvement. Having read the edit trail, I think the question lacked focus more than it was lacking research. The first sentence asks for (multiple) equivalent expressions, but to what end? How would an expression be judged relevant? If guided towards your answer (which is good), perhaps change the phrase to an idiomatic expression (singular). If you're tidying up, also correct the OP's I uses to I use (second sentence) :) .
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


If you think the question has merit but needs to be fleshed out, edit it. If you think you can provide a thoughtful and useful answer, post an answer. If you know your answer will be brilliant, what are you waiting for? Many a time I have seen a really good answer lift a seemingly mediocre and poorly-researched answer from the depths of anonymity.

P.S I also thought that question was quite thought provoking.

  • Hot Licks sounded like he had something in mind. I'm a step or two behind him on this topic, but might go do some digging. Thanks for your answer, it reinforces my thoughts on the matter when I wrote the question. What do you think of Dan Bron's suggestion to ask a new question and link to the old?
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 13:59
  • @Lawrence I see the post has been edited since I last saw it yesterday. It's a good edit, too. Hot Licks usually has good intuition but he rarely does any research to back up his theories/ideas. Why would you ask a new question if this one is still open? Josh's answer seems to suggest that the root is the same one, but it doesn't explain the process, the "how". Oh, and I upvoted the question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 15:30
  • Thanks @Mari-LouA. I've taken another look at the question and am no longer sure that the OP was focusing on the programming cast. I edited the question before asking this meta question, but those edits don't change the question's essence, unlike focusing on programming, which would also invalidate the existing answer. I have started some digging and have some preliminary thoughts on the 2 kinds of programming casts. I might come back and ask a new question if it doesn't seem, um, unseemly, at the time to ask and answer a derived question.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 1:26

Upon reflection, there are three key thoughts:

  1. improving any post improves the quality of the archive (Mari-Lou A);
  2. editing a poorly-phrased question gives a false (higher) impression of the OP's level of sophistication (building on StonyB on ELL, referenced by J.R. on ELU); and
  3. the question should reflect the OP's intent (Sven Yargs).

In keeping with SE's aims and with good manners, I think that we should:

  1. edit any post that has underlying merit, regardless of the OP's ability to communicate fluently (polish diamonds in the rough);
  2. not edit any post that has no underlying merit (avoid polishing turds, as it's popularly and colourfully phrased) - vote to close or delete instead; and
  3. post variants as new questions if the existing question isn't about the variant. Even if the old question doesn't specifically exclude the variant, that's not what the original question was about.

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