Given the (relativly) fast evolving process of Android development, there will always be obsolete answers. I wonder how to handle these?

  • Downvote
  • Inform moderator
  • Edit

I think edit is best when the answer has only changed e.g. for a new release of android.

But what is considered best practice when it comes to a answer like this? I am not sure, but I think the Market update, which brought multi-account support, was rolled-out on every Android devices (or >= 2.0?). The answer suggests a factory reset, where nowadays some clicks will do it. What possibilities are there to fix this?

It looks like there is a competitive answer… that now reflects the new changes to the Market. An edit to the answer marked as "the answer" referring to the other more up to date answer would probably be the correct approach to this. –  Bryan Denny Oct 5 '11 at 14:39
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Edit, edit, edit, OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, EDIIIIT!

One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to track down a solution to a problem online is the mountain of dated answers you must wade through, usually without any clear indication that they are, in fact, obsolete.

Your example is a prime example of this problem: how irritated would you be, if you found the question, followed the advice in the top answer, only to find out later that you'd missed a much, much easier solution further down the page? I've edited this to indicate the historical nature of the technique and point out the new answer. Note that while Matthew is correct in noting that edits which fundamentally change the meaning of an answer are discouraged, this is meant more to avoid controversy - if an answer was once correct, editing to make it correct again does, in a sense, preserve that intent.

A more interesting scenario might involve an answer that becomes incorrect in a new version of the OS. Since not everyone will be able to upgrade, you'll want to preserve the original answer... But you'll also want to clearly note that it only applies to specific releases. If you want to go the extra mile and compile a comprehensive, "Here's how to accomplish X in every Android version" answer, that's even better.

Note that editing does not preclude also answering. If a substantial amount of new information is required to provide an up-to-date answer, posting this separately can be much cleaner than trying to cram it into an existing answer. It's a judgement call, really - but in no event should you quietly ignore an incorrect answer just to make your own look better - edit, down-vote, comment, or flag (in that order) as needed to ensure it isn't left as a stumbling block for future readers.


If an answer is incorrect, unhelpful, or even just mediocre compared to other answers on the question, please down-vote it. And also up-vote the more useful answer(s). In the absence of an "accepted" answer, this will change the default sort order to put the more helpful answers nearer to the question and the top of the page.

Flag for moderator attention

If you see an "accepted" answer (green checkmark to the left, pinned directly below the question) that is flat-out incorrect, and for whatever reason are not able to edit it to correct the problem... Then leave a detailed comment describing the issue (and ideally linking to a correct answer) and then leave a flag notifying a moderator. When necessary, moderators can delete accepted answers, something even the owner of the answer cannot do... In order for this to happen, it should be obvious that the answer is, in fact, incorrect and uncorrectable - don't assume moderators are familiar with the subtleties of the topic being answered, give them the information they need to make that call.

upvoted for first sentence, because I knew I did not have to read any more after that. –  Jeff Atwood Oct 7 '11 at 2:19
I didn't know we could delete accepted answers. That's awesome. –  Matthew Read Oct 18 '11 at 22:13
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Personally, I would add a separate answer (as P.T. did in this case). He provided the up-to-date information and should get credit for it. So far he's got 40 rep from the answer than he wouldn't have gotten by editing the other answer, and I think he deserves it. It also serves to alert the post owner that things have changed, which an edit would not. Finally, the editing page says you should "clarify meaning without changing it". This sort of edit would clearly be changing the meaning.

If the post is CW then an edit is appropriate, of course. For example, Separate answers on our rooting question have been deleted and incorporated into the main post since we want everything to be cohesive.

It's certainly inappropriate to downvote the outdated answer (IMO) since the answer was correct and useful at the time it was posted; it's not the answerer's fault that Google changed the game. I would consider adding a a phrase like "At the time of posting" to the outdated answer, though, just to make it clear that the answer was once correct to anyone unfamiliar with the history of the issue. As Bryan notes you could also mention the newer answer in an edit, but I would be careful with this; you probably don't want to edit another answer to point to your own since it may be viewed unfavorably.

(And "wrong" answers should never be flagged, outdated or not.)

What about the problem that a wrong answer is marked as accepted? Who should edit the accepted flag if the OP does not do this? Imagine someone googles the question, only reads the accepted answer and does therefore a factory reset, just to find out later that it wasn't necessary.... –  Flow Oct 5 '11 at 16:04
@Flow Accepting an answer is always, always up to the asker of the question. If users really need to skim they should rely on votes. Perhaps "As of <date> this is no longer necessary" could be edited in instead of "At the time of posting", and again posting a separate answer should alert the asker who will hopefully change their acceptance. –  Matthew Read Oct 5 '11 at 16:13
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