Below I am mainly talking about the recent question “Counting number of increasing subsequences of length k” by orryowr, but I want answers which are not specific to this question.

Suppose that a user wants to ask a question, and he/she finds out that the question has been already asked and answered. However, the answers posted there are not satisfactory because they are unclear or they are not answers to the exact question being asked.

Is there a good way to to ask for a clearer or better answer to an old question?

The following are some ways, but they have their own disadvantages.

One thing he/she can do is to post a question nevertheless, probably stating why the existing answers are not satisfactory. However, from answerer’s viewpoint, I think that it is better to post a new answer to the old question or edit an answer to the old question rather than posting an answer to the new question, because it is the same question and it is just a better answer. Therefore, I think that in this situation, the new question should be closed as a duplicate for the old question. Now from asker’s viewpoint, it is awkward (or possibly even abusive) to post a question knowing that it will be closed as a duplicate of the old question.

Another thing is to write a comment to the old question or its answer. But if the user is new, he/she cannot post a comment. In addition, if the user who made that post is no longer active, chances that anyone notices the comment are slim.

Another thing is to edit something in the old question or propose an edit. If the user has enough rep points, he/she can edit a post. Add a tag or correct a typo or make some other harmless edit, and the question is bumped on the top page and it receives some attention. Proposing an edit has one obstacle, but if the proposed edit is accepted, it has the same effect. But either way, this sounds like an abusive or spam-like activity to me.

Another thing is to bring this up in chat room. Problems are that it is usually not active, and that if the user is new, he/she cannot post a message in chat.

Another thing is bounty, but this requires some rep points.

At the time of writing it is a little odd that three votes were cast to close the duplicate, but the answers to the older question (the existence of which are being cited as a reason by the SE software for the new question being closed) only have 2 and 1 and votes, respectively. I am not sure that it makes sense to close a new question when the old one didn't attract good answers. It might be better to add links between the questions and hope that the new phrasing attracts better answers. –  András Salamon Feb 19 '13 at 18:37
@András Salamon: You are comparing apples to oranges. “Duplicate” does not mean “it has been answered,” let alone “it has been answered well.” I do not think that neither of the two answers to question 3314 posted so far is really good, but I do not think that the lack of good answers to question 3314 is a reason to avoid closing question 16419 as a duplicate of question 3314. I hoped and am still hoping that the duplicate question 16419 will lead to a better answer to the old question 3314. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 19 '13 at 19:23
Agree it would be good to have better answers (wherever they appear), so added a comment to the old one to link to the duplicate to try to increase its activity. –  András Salamon Feb 19 '13 at 19:27
add comment

1 Answer

If the user is too new to edit/comment on an older question, I don't see a problem with posting a new question, even if there's a reasonable chance it will get closed. If they do have the rep, then some of the other suggestions you make seem reasonable (editing or commenting on the earlier question/answer)

add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .