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I looked a bit but, surprisingly, couldn't find an answer to this here.

Users with edit-privileges have the ability to approve suggested edits from those under 2000 rep. Recently, I've been approving a lot of edit requests and have found that it appears that my threshold for edit approval is very different from others. I've basically been approving anything that is reasonable, including edits that are nothing more than fixing someone's $\LaTeX$ typesetting. But, I've seen similar edits rejected by others.

Are there specific guidelines for this kind of thing (I haven't been able to find any)? If so, do these same guidelines apply to what 2000+ people should be doing when we edit posts?


I'm bumping this thread, with some examples, because lately it appears that some things are being approved that were not quite addressed by this question, originally.

  1. This one did nothing but add a tag that I think is questionable at best. The question is a conceptual one and I don't see what the spss tag adds.

  2. This one TeXified a file name (huh?) and made other trivial edits (I suppose adding the regression tag doesn't hurt). An important note: this edit did not fix the rather glaring spelling error in the title.

  3. This one did do some constructive things (formatted a line of code) but, again, TeXified computer code.

(1) seems to be in the original spirit of the question - approve trivial edits or not? - so I guess we don't need to go there, since it's been discussed below. (2) and (3) lead to some other issues -

  • If the edit still leaves a glaring error (like 2 above), approve or reject it?

  • If the edit does some good things but also some not-so-good things (like 3 above), reject or approve?

My personal opinion to examples like (2) and (3) is to reject then edit it correctly immediately afterwards, since I don't want encourage rather sloppy edits by awarding points to the suggester. But, obviously other veteran users disagree, so it seems that a consensus should be reached, particularly since we have a very active edit suggester :)

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    $\begingroup$ Although it's hard to find solid guidance, and I'm sure people vary in their standards, you may learn much from this Meta SO post on reasons for rejecting suggested edits. I usually approve anything that's reasonable, but recently there has been a spate of trivial pedantic edits, so it seemed like the time was right to reject one or two of them to get the message across that edits ought to be worth one's while to do and worth a reviewer's while to approve. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jul 17 '12 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ I have just received a notification saying: "An edit was suggested to your post ..., please review it." Do I have to click somewhere to accept the edit ? $\endgroup$ – Stéphane Laurent Jul 31 '12 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ Re the edits: (1) In response to comments to my answer, I now tend to approve minor edits when they are suggested within a few hours after the question's appearance. Older questions need stronger reasons for editing. (2) Why not be generous and approve, rather than reject, proposed changes that you will further edit? Give people the benefit of the doubt and reward them for bringing an issue to our attention, even if they haven't completely or perfectly addressed it. We need to provide abundant, positive reinforcement for all actions taken by the community to improve our site. $\endgroup$ – whuber Apr 2 '13 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @whuber. Regarding your second point, my response is concisely summarized by your first bullet point in your original answer to this question, and is amplified when we're talking about edits that actually have mistakes in them, like texifying non-math and leaving the most glaring errors uncorrected. $\endgroup$ – Macro Apr 2 '13 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ I confess to not having noticed the texifying of non-math elements until you pointed it out (the interface makes it a little difficult to catch this until after the fact); I have already rolled back one of those today. Generally, however, if I rejected all proposed edits that leave glaring (but inconsequential) errors uncorrected, the majority of edits would be rejected: better a partial improvement than no improvement at all--and no, I do not want to undertake to improve every proposed edit I review; it would be endless work. $\endgroup$ – whuber Apr 2 '13 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro: Regarding "file names should not be TeXed" I only have precedent to offer (humbly). e.g. "R/likert.R" in this post by ChI (a mod?) stats.stackexchange.com/a/25156/21072 Also, precedent seems to texify "R" and library names or even variable names so why not a filename? e.g. stats.stackexchange.com/a/26205/21072--------Your "very active edit suggester" :) $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 2 '13 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro: Regarding your critique "TeXified computer code" of my (3) I did not understand where I erred. Can you elaborate. Apologies. $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 2 '13 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat, I don't see your point in the examples you link. "TeXified" means putting dollar signs around something, e.g., $R^2$ (i.e., \$R^2\$), whereas those posts seem to use code formatting, which puts "`" (I don't know what you call it) around something, e.g., likert (i.e., `likert`). $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Apr 2 '13 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ gung, thank you for explaining the difference. @curious, I think my opinion opposes the prevailing view here but I think it is correct so please don't take it personally if I reject some of your edits :) $\endgroup$ – Macro Apr 3 '13 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ @gung. Ah! Now I get it. $R$ and R seem to render both a bit distinctively so was hard to know. Now I get it. :) Thanks. So it's ok to filename.foo but not $filename.foo$ $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 3 '13 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro: Are rejects and accepts based on number of votes? What happens when you reject and someone else would accept. Or is it based on who gets to it first. Personally, if I get too many rejections I'll just see it as a nudge to quit editing. :) $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 3 '13 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ When someone types "Consider the equation colgpa = b0+b1hsize+b2hsize2+b3hsperc+ b4sat + b5female + b6athlete + u;" am I supposed to texify, code or leave it alone? $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 3 '13 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat, I have no idea really. A while back, it was just whoever reviewed it first. From what I can tell, pretty much everything that I've voted to reject ends up getting accepted. I'm not suggesting that you stop editing - I've actually accepted a vast majority of your posts that I've reviewed - I'm just suggesting that edit-suggesters, and reviewers, be a little more thoughtful. Please don't take it personally or as an indication that you should stop suggesting edits. Cheers. $\endgroup$ – Macro Apr 3 '13 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro: I won't. :) Thanks. Hopefully I'll give you less reason to reject in future. $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 3 '13 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat I don't think getting some rejections suggest 'quit editing' (editing is, on the whole, a good thing), so much as to consider whether some edits are as necessary or useful as others. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b -Reinstate Monica Jul 1 '13 at 1:01
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Opinions differ, but SE's official position on this question appears to be reflected in a Jeff Atwood answer on SO Meta last year, concerning "tiny edit[s], like capitalising a single letter, or removing only the salutation from a post."

I completely agree -- reject them, with extreme prejudice.

There are subtle implications of edits that reviewers should be aware of:

  • Users are awarded badges for making lots of edits, editing old posts, etc. Do you want to encourage abusers who make dozens or hundreds of trivial edits in pursuit of a silver or gold star?

  • Any edit opens a post up to re-voting: existing votes can freely be removed by the people who made them.

  • Sometimes even a tiny edit materially changes the correctness or meaning of a post. When that happens, trouble brews.

  • Edited posts become "active" and appear in the list of questions.

For the last reason alone, any edit made to a post really ought to be of sufficient import to make the post worthy to be re-read by community members. (It's annoying to check out a reactivated post only to find that somebody merely turned a "1" into a "$1$", or capitalized a keyword, or whatever.) The penultimate reason implies that conscientious editors and reviewers are expending considerable time and effort: let's not unduly increase those demands for the sake of an unattainable perfection.

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    $\begingroup$ Because question titles appear everywhere, a good case could be made for even tiny cosmetic edits to titles--at least to assure good grammar, good punctuation, brevity, and clarity. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jul 17 '12 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ The fourth point is, I think, an important one. Personally, I don't mind small edits to recent questions, but it can be annoying when old questions (sometimes even with accepted answers) pop up again with a "1" turned into a "$1$". $\endgroup$ – MånsT Jul 18 '12 at 6:14
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    $\begingroup$ I have to admit that I have strong perfectionist tendencies, & I often have to restrain myself from correcting things that others may find "trivial"; I suppose sometimes I'm not successful. However, I do think a distinction can be made for questions that are new & already on the top of the main page, & questions that are 6 months old & stale; the former don't seem so bad, whereas the latter are egregious. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ Note that Jeff has a) strong opinions not always shared by a majority (even SE staff) and b) rarely perceives non-trilogy (SO, SU, SF) sites. On the high-volume sites, loads of trivial edits can overwhelm the moderators and high-reps (many of which don't care to work on the queue). Smaller communities don't have this problem but might instead want to focus on quality in every aspect. Therefore, it might be feasible to edit smaller stuff on a smaller site. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jul 26 '12 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ I don't mind why people make trivial edits (so long as they're improvements, albeit small ones). I don't mind if an edit opens up a post to re-voting. If an edit changes the correctness/meaning of a post it's a mis-edit & should be rejected. The last implication is the only worrisome one in my opinion, & I wonder (I doubt I'm the first to do so) if the system mightn't be changed so that minor edits don't bump up the question. In the interests of full disclosure I'm a trivial editor - seeing '$log(x)$' or 'Poison distribution' is like a dagger through my heart - but sympathize with the ... $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Apr 9 '13 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ ... reviewers, & as soon as I reach 2k rep. I swear to shoulder my part of the burden. BTW I really, really wanted to edit 'continal' in Jeff's post, but restrained myself. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Apr 9 '13 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ I actually find it useful when some random older question get some new exposure (I believe there is even some automatic routine randomly doing that for unanswered questions) so I am not sure that it is a big problem, at least when it's not more than two or three questions at a time. $\endgroup$ – Gala Jun 29 '13 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Scortchi: I bet you weren't the only one to have that idea; the edit has probably been attempted and rejected many times :D $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jan 10 '14 at 15:19
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I think that whuber has covered the major issues just fine, but I think I can add a little bit of practical advice that may be useful.

As has been pointed out, there is a lot of material out there on various meta sites with advice and guidelines for when an edit should or should not be rejected for being too minor.

But when the rubber hits the road, and you're sitting there staring at a suggested edit, I initially found it difficult to synthesize it all into a rubric for what action to take. (I can approve edits on SO, but not here.)

What I have settled on is basically this:

  • My threshold for when an edit is too minor is inversely related to the age of the question.
  • Before approving any edit, check if more could be done.

If the question is very recent, I am more likely to let a minimal edit through. The older the question is, the higher my standards become. Obviously, I don't follow this literally: if a question was posted 3 seconds ago, I wouldn't approve a single capitalization fix! But if a question was posted within the last hour, and I see a suggested edit that only removes a "Thanks!" tagline, and I don't see anything else worthwhile to be done, I will generally approve it.

The reason I settled on this approach was because it seemed to me that the largest cost to editing questions is the fourth point that whuber lists: that the question is bumped to the top of the active list.

Personally, I haven't seen the revoting issue become a really widespread problem.

Also, if someone is making dozens or hundreds of minor edits, it will be obvious. You will very quickly say, "WTF? Why is the suggested edit queue filled with edits from this one user?"

(This happens pretty regularly on SO. For instance, someone will simply search for a commonly misspelled word in titles and just dive in.)

In those cases, I typically recommend rejecting them en masse (regardless of whether you agree with the validity of the edit) and raising the issue on meta. Massive serial editing ventures should be organized by the entire community, not a single individual.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Good advice. $\endgroup$ – whuber Jul 23 '12 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ I upvoted this answer, & I think it has a lot of good advice. But FWIW, I think correcting a misspelling in titles so that the Q will be findable is worthwhile; I do agree that this should be discussed on meta 1st, though. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Aug 5 '12 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ I'm one of the recent serial editors myself. My edits certainly haven't been rejected en masse, and I've been careful enough to make most of them complete and at least mostly correct. I'd say that if there's a single person making a single kind of edit throughout, that kind of edit should be judged on its own merits, though the person should be contacted if all the inadvertent thread-bumping disrupts the site's organization. However, I've noted that there is not a consensus that even this effect is harmful enough to justify rejecting valid edits on old posts. (+1 overall btw!) $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jan 10 '14 at 15:26
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Just as a specific example, can I suggest that single letter edits to two year old posts simply to change correct British spelling to the US equivalent are exactly the sort of thing that should be rejected out of hand?

I'm not sure what CV policy is in general on the international vagaries of English orthography, but it's hard to see merit in that kind of dredge through ancient history. If I were to wade through old answers changing "color" to "colour" I think people would rightly consider it an abuse. Please think twice before approving such trivial edits.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps it is best to bring up your complaints to the specific instance in the chat room? Mistakes happen, but complaining about it on this old post isn't the best course of action IMO. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Aug 20 '12 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy Perhaps. But the post is about exactly this issue of policy. And a month doesn't strike me as particularly old given the low turnover here in Meta. $\endgroup$ – walkytalky Aug 20 '12 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @walkytalky - I'd tend to agree that approving such things isn't helpful to the community. From my experience, there are not a ton of suggested edits of this type although I will admit that I only see, maybe, 10-15% of the suggested edits (many get handled before I ever see them). Suggested edits for actual misspellings and math typesetting errors are more common, which seem to be somewhat different from what you're talking about - do you object to those too? $\endgroup$ – Macro Aug 21 '12 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro Like the other answerers, I think it hinges on substance. A maths typesetting error is almost certainly worth fixing on grounds of correctness and clarity. A minor spelling mistake may not be. A difference of opinion on spelling clearly isn't, since there is no right answer. (Unless we do, in fact, wish to insist on US spelling throughout, which would be a whole different discussion.) $\endgroup$ – walkytalky Aug 21 '12 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ I find myself mainly editing questions that are poor grammatically. I don't need approval to edit. So I am doing this when I am sure I understand the content. But I think coorect english helps everyone when they are reading it. When I do this I don;t give age of the post any consideration. But this seems to happen most often before any answers have been given to tghe post. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Aug 25 '12 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelChernick: That last comment is deliciously ironic. "coorect "? :) $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Apr 2 '13 at 21:13

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