This question and that near duplicate ask tree hashing/signing of JSON. They come with JSON examples that are plausible deviations from the standardized syntax (quoting character omitted or changed, extra comma at end of enumeration). There is no indication that the deviations are intentional.

For the first question, the deviations remains long after I made notice in comment. In my answer I tried to accommodate for deviations, but that makes the already long answer even longer.

What should we do with such apparent errors, with two extremes being:

  • Leave the question as is as a matter of principle, even in the absence of indication that the apparent error is intentional.
  • Forcefully fix the question in the absence of such indication.

Note: I take for granted that answers have a large latitude, from ignoring the deviation without even mentioning it, to dealing with it explicitly.

  • $\begingroup$ ‘Should I take the effort to fix a question that the author doesn't want to put effort into updating?’ $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2019 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ ‘Should I coopt a near-duplicate question to make it more distinct from an existing question and therefore more interesting for me to answer?’ $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2019 at 3:18

1 Answer 1


I'd leave in the differences in the question, as you don't want to into a fight with the author over them. StackExchange is already weird in a sense that it lets other users edit your questions. I've had furious comments and roll backs of askers on SO when I edited their messages, even if just to correct an obvious spell check or misspelling names. Leaving a comment to change as you did is the correct way to handle this, in my opinion.

I think most people are fine if you only consider the correct syntax in your answers though. You could even start your answer giving the changes required (possibly even copying the structure or part of the structure) and make it yourself easy. Indicate that the off-the-mark usage of e.g. JSON is making life complicated, point out the error and answer accordingly.

One nasty side effect of changing the sample code is that other people may also be writing answers, using the bad syntax within it. They would have to change their answers or roll back if you change the answer significantly. This is especially true of newer questions.

Very simply said: don't make any significant semantic changes to questions as they may be against the authors intent. If you do the review rounds then you will recognize this reason to reject edits. As trusted user you are assumed to know it, so the system won't bug you about it, but it is still in effect.

Finally, if you think that the question contents make it hard to answer and the author doesn't react to this kind of constructive criticism in the comments: feel free to downvote the question. Shame if it is otherwise a good question, but yeah, that's life.

  • $\begingroup$ I tend to follow your advice of not editing the question, for a slightly different reason: rather not make something hardly reversible and potentially damaging when uncertain. But I come to regret it at times, and this is one case. $\endgroup$
    – fgrieu Mod
    Feb 24, 2019 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Meh, I don't think it is an error that will cause the universe to explode - there are no clearly defined lines here, so it is difficult to tell when you stepped over one :) $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes Mod
    Feb 24, 2019 at 13:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (with the speed it is currently expanding you might as well conclude that it is still exploding of course, and we're just the debris - all the reason not to worry overly much) $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes Mod
    Feb 24, 2019 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ typo?: "when I edited there messages", or is it "when I edited their messages" $\endgroup$
    – DannyNiu
    Feb 27, 2019 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ Ouch, that's a horrible typo. Now that kind of mistakes you can edit out if you want, DannyNiu. Thanks for the heads up. $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes Mod
    Feb 27, 2019 at 13:11

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