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I've been thinking about the rewrite of this question: Could a business be structured around Multi-level Marketing, yet still be ethical?

My own interpretation of the problem is that it asks about the ethics of a company instead of the potential pitfalls for a person who chooses to become involved with that company. The top answers would seem out of context with the edits, but could be edited to match the new context.

I assume the answer is probably going to be "yes, edit the answers too", but I just wanted to give the community a chance to weigh in before I proceed.

On the same topic, but a separate question, should we delete answers that are not applicable and cannot easily be applied to the new context of the question? For example, a short answer with nothing but a product or service recommendation on a question that is now asking for general advice instead of specific products/services, per the question I edited this morning. Such answers will now unfortunately look a lot like intentional spam.

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“Ethics” does not make the question off-topic. We have lots of questions that talk about ethics. And multilevel marketing is inherently about personal finance, as the business model is to become business partners with individuals. The ethics of these businesses is of interest to potential investors, salespeople/partners, and customers.

I do appreciate the effort you are making to rescue questions. However, in my opinion this question is on-topic as-is. If editing the question changes the meaning so much that all of the answers need to be rewritten, then what are we preserving with our effort?

  • I didn’t say the problem was “ethics” the problem that I stated was “ethics of a company”. “Personal finance” suggests questions should apply to individuals in their financial decisions. – Nathan L May 17 at 14:13
  • @NathanL Right, but as I state in my answer, the ethics of a company are of interest to both investors and customers, and especially so for MLM companies, who actively recruit lots of individuals as business partners. – Ben Miller May 17 at 14:53
  • Ethics of a business, like accounting questions, should be more closely tied to how it affects the investor. Can a company of [type] be ethical? How does that tie in to investing/partnership? That's a philosophy question (as I already stated in the second paragraph of my question). If we allow general ethics questions about a business without tying them to how a person who is involved would be affected, then we should allow general accounting questions that have nothing to do with valuation from a stock investment perspective. My opinion on that won't change. – Nathan L May 17 at 15:33
  • If I rewrote the question, what would be out of context would be the framing of the answer as a philosophy question. I could keep the majority of the content of the top answers with some edits, but I guess the next step is probably to make the edits in question and let the community roll them back and delete the question if they don't think I did a good job. – Nathan L May 17 at 15:35
  • @NathanL Unfortunately, “the community” doesn’t roll back edits, just as “the community” doesn’t make edits. Only an individual user can make an edit, and another individual user can roll back the edit. It is an incredible power, and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Edits should not be made that fundamentally change the authors’ intent of the post. – Ben Miller May 17 at 16:14
  • @NathanL Regarding the on-topic-ness of this question, we don’t need to speak in generalities about whether the ethics of any company affect personal finance enough to be on-topic. This question is specifically about MLM companies, the ethics of which are absolutely of-interest to the personal finances of many individuals. – Ben Miller May 17 at 16:17
  • The community can certainly come to a consensus about whether the edits were reasonable in a meta question such as this one. – Nathan L May 17 at 16:21
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If you are doing a massive rewrite of the question, and that invalidates the answers, you should reconsider attempting a rewrite of the question.

In the question you refer to, 10 people answered the question, one was even picked by the person asking the question as a good answer.

My own interpretation of the problem is that it asks about the ethics of a company instead of the potential pitfalls for a person who chooses to become involved with that company.

Your proposed re-write would end up with a question that would just be a duplicate of other questions on the site.

The top answers would seem out of context with the edits, but could be edited to match the new context.

But there are 10 answers, are you going to re-write all of them, or are you going to flag ones you don't feel should be re-written and flag them for deletion. And how would you know how those original writers would answer the new question.

I assume the answer is probably going to be "yes, edit the answers too", but I just wanted to give the community a chance to weigh in before I proceed.

I am here to say your assumption is wrong. After 14K views and 10 answers the question should not be re-written. Either it is good as it is, or it isn't good in its current form and should either emain closed or move towards deletion.

  • In this case I should have written that parts of the top answers are out of context because they use the word “ethical”. Those answers could have a change of wording to fix that context without completely invalidating them. – Nathan L May 16 at 12:37
  • My assumption about preferring to save the question with a rewrite should have been written more clearly. I assume the user who asked that these questions not be deleted would prefer my rewrites to outright deletion. I think there are plenty of users here who are okay with deleting this question. I’m making this effort (even though it makes me uncomfortable) as an effort of good will to another high rep user whose contributions I value. – Nathan L May 16 at 12:43
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I think in general you should edit answers to match the question if you can do so without fundamentally changing their intent.

On the question of product recommendations answers, I think those are generally ok to leave. It's ok in principle to recommend a specific product if the recommendation answers the actual question, though it does sometimes cause headaches for us as moderators trying to sort out the spam from the genuine answer.

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Slippery slope. As Ganesh notes, the 'product recommendations' might be ok to just leave their answers. In other cases, I'd be very cautious.

With over 1000 closed questions, I'd hope we can get many open with little controversy. Although, the current top 2 - Could a business be structured around Multi-level Marketing, yet still be ethical? and Should I charge my children interest when they borrow money? both seem pretty problematic, and I'd welcome members' deletion of both. Easy to pick from the next dozen, ranked by votes, to look at for possible edit.

  • Yes, I agree that those two are problematic. I don’t think the charging interest question has any hope of being saved. If you wait until they’re adults, it’s a little late to teach your children good financial habits. A cautionary tale for parenting that doesn’t fit here. If I thought I could cleanly save the ethics question, I’d have done so already, but I have my own ethical questions about rewriting so much content created by other people without their consent. – Nathan L May 16 at 12:52
  • The only 'ethics' issue in editing, as I see it, is if/when you change an author's work in a way that ends up attributing a belief that's not theirs. For example, if in one of my answer I refer to "Dave Ramsey, Financial Celebrity" and you change it to "Dave Ramsey, Financial Expert". In that case, you would have clearly vandalized my post, and I'd likely overreact with a long suspension. Short of that type of egregious offense, members are aware that both questions and answers are subject to crowd-sourced editing. Ben's "what are we preserving with our effort?" nails it. – JoeTaxpayer May 18 at 12:54

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