How should one bring an older, but appropriate Q & A thread up to date?

Specifically, I am referring to this question. But, I would like to understand what position the community consensus is for updating older questions.

Several of the answers, in this question, do not accurately answer the OPs question. Some are now inaccurate. I would rather not go through each answer and comment that they are wrong or incomplete(I'd prefer not to make other users look uninformed). How should I proceed in an older thread to point new users to updated information and keep a perfectly valid question current?

Or, am I simply approaching this in the wrong manner? Is there a FAQ that I can refer to on this etiquette?

Many of the answers that I have found here in my short time on the site have been useful, but slightly out of date. How can I add to the answers and distill the solutions with newer knowledge without having someone searching behind me and have to wade through cruft?

I've looked through the related links and haven't found an adequate answer.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

we've gone throught his before!

One day Oracle changed the licensing of Java and the package had to be removed from the partner repository, rendering almost every single Java question on the site (and on the internet) out of date.

We ended up fixing in less than 2 hours with only 3 of us, AND found the time to fix the official documentation too. Within two hours of a major change, AU was all up to date. I still find references to the old way of installing Java that doesn't work on sites all over the place, but AU had a fix very quickly.

We're basically writing technical documentation -- even if an answer is correct one day it might not be the next. We're not writing poetry here, you shouldn't feel the need to let something incorrect stay on the site because you're afraid of hurting someone's feelings, or even be emotionally attached to a post.

I fix people's answers all the time, and people fix my answers all the time; that's what this site is about!

What I do is:

  • If it's something major, like an entire tag is a mess, then I post on meta.
  • If the question has a bunch of duplicates, or a ton of views (like over 10k), post on meta.
  • Day-to-day little syntax fixes or adding a sudo or gksudo I just do it on the spot.
  • Wrong information that's salvageable, downvote + comment
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If most or all answers to a question are out of date, and you don't want to comment on the answers, you can comment on the question. The authors of the answers won't be notified, but people who come upon the question will be able to consider it, and may contribute to bring it up to date.

If the answers can be fixed in such a way as to conform to the editing guidelines--keep within the scope of the answer and respect the author and the author's intentions--then you can edit them yourself to improve them! Instant win.

Keep in mind that the most common way for answers to be out of date is that they provide information that applies to some Ubuntu releases but not to more recent releases. That doesn't appear to be what's going on in the example you gave...but when that does happen, you can edit the answers to indicate the scope of their applicability. The best way to do this is usually to put a version number, list, or range at the top--that way, people reading through can immediately see which answers apply to which releases. If you can post an answer that applies to whatever releases aren't covered, that's a big plus.

Often it's a greater undertaking to bring answers up to date, or to create an answer that is applicable to more recent releases (or a more recent situation). When this happens, consider the following resources:

  • Chat. You can discuss it with others and see if others are able and willing to help. This can lead to people editing or posting answers, or simply to ideas being hashed out or suggestions made that would enable you to add an answer or improve the existing ones.
  • Bounties. You can put a bounty on a question to publicize the need for more current answers. The bounty can go to an existing answer once it's edited, or to a new answer. Rather than shouldering the burden of setting all the bounties yourself, you can discuss the need in chat and see if others are willing to put up some of them.
  • When the need for revision is pervasive, such that a similar need affects many questions (or one or more of the most important questions on the site), you can post here on meta about the need for revisions.
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You seem to give quite a bit of thought in responding to many questions. I appreciate that and it helps me get used to the site/community. It just seems that, judging from the questions that I respond to, that I am digging into older questions and I don't want to annoy people with reviving dead questions that no one cares about. –  Kevin Bowen Dec 28 '12 at 10:19
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Fixing old questions is what this site's all about! –  Jorge Castro Dec 28 '12 at 15:48

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