@whuber recently gave some reason as to why we should avoid trivial edits to questions/answers:

  • 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.

With the remark that

Because question titles appear everywhere, a good case could be made for even tiny cosmetic edits to titles [...]

I think that retagging recent questions is very similar to editing titles of recent questions: the purpose is to clarify things and make the question easier to find in the future.

But what about retagging old posts? On the one hand, it makes the questions easier to find. On the other hand, we don't want to be flooded by old questions resurfacing because someone added a tag to them.

What is the best practice for this? Only retag questions without (good) answers? Only retag a question if you've made a substantial other edit to it?

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    $\begingroup$ I think re-tagging an old question, regardless of whether there are good answers already there, is important and furthers the purpose of the SE community if done appropriately. It's my understanding that a big part of the goal of stackexchange is to serve as a repository for Qs and As so that future users (not just the OP) can find the answers they need. Tagging old questions appropriately could go a long way in accomplishing this goal $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 18 '12 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ Funny that I just retagged this old question by adding the "tags"-tag ;-) $\endgroup$ – Ferdi Nov 16 '18 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that re-tagging is useful. But, it annoys me that it bumps up questions (ironically this question gets bumped '6 years later' with a tag-edit on 2018 nov 16). Still, this bumping can be useful, for the same reason that user 'community' sometimes bumps older questions. But it would be nice if it would be more clearly visible that such question is a bump. I've had occasions of investing time in "interaction" with OP's of bumped up questions, when I found out later that it was an old question. But then again the universe is strange and maybe this teaches me a lesson, and is still useful. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Nov 16 '18 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Ferdi If you decided to bump such an old question by adding a tag, then I'd say it makes sense to make as many useful edits as possible in one go. I have just added more tags and edited title to be more self-explanatory. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Nov 16 '18 at 20:54

I am a little hesitant to write this "answer", but let me explore a question of a slightly broader nature.

  1. Tagging. In my view, a tag should be indicative of the subject matter and we should avoid so-called "meta tags" (e.g., ) insofar as possible and reasonable. I've seen the resurgence of a couple that seem borderline cases of this recently. I recommend asking yourself the question: Is it likely that a user would come to this site and want to learn everything they can about ? If not, then is probably a poor candidate for a useful tag.
  2. Retagging old questions. This can be a useful community service, but it needs to be done with care. Like anything, when taken to its logical extreme, it can be disruptive. We had just such a case of this about a year ago when an active user unilaterally created a tag and retagged somewhere between 60–100 questions in a single sitting with this tag (which, to boot, was essentially a "meta" tag). It unfortunately generated one of the more acrimonious exchanges on meta.stats.SE that I've seen and the retagger ended up leaving the site over it. My thoughts are that if you're going to retag several old questions, please get community input if it requires the creation of a new tag, and please try to do it during "off-peak hours" as much as possible.
  3. Persistent editing. This leads in to a related item. Many of us naturally suffer from cases of perfectionicitis (inflammation of the perfectionix, an organ that has apparently developed over fairly recent human history). Some cases are more chronic and/or acute than others. Thankfully it is nonfatal. When making edits, we need to keep in mind the residual consequences and be respectful of other users and the space on the main page. Try to condense and collate edits as much as possible. If you're going to make an edit that is substantial, (a) think it through as carefully as possible first, (b) look at what else on the page may need to be updated and (c) make all the changes in batch. I've noticed a somewhat recent uptick in cases of the same questions rising to the top 4, 5, 6, 7, or even more than 10 times over the span of a few days with several separate edits to an answer, later a title change to a question, then later adding (or removing) a single tag to the question, etc. This can be (largely) avoided with a little extra planning and with no real drawbacks to content creation and management. Taken to its logical extreme, it can generate significant discontent that is unnecessary and completely avoidable.
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    $\begingroup$ Cheers, @cardinal! What you wrote is very close to my own thoughts on this subject. I'd be interested to know if others agree with us. $\endgroup$ – MånsT Jul 18 '12 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with much of what you've said but note that it can be difficult to make all the relevant edits in one go. Due to the issue I mention in meta.stats.stackexchange.com/questions/1181/…, I've been 20 minutes into editing something then have the page crash and having to start all over (this has happened on several different comps, btw). For that reason, I'm more inclined to make incremental edits at times. At one time you noted that I made 8 edits in 2 hours or something and this is the reason why. $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 18 '12 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ Overall, I think, if the edit you're making at a particular moment in time is a good edit, then I don't see a problem. Some people may undergo a process of "simulated annealing" with respect to a particular question or answer and I don't think they should be specifically discouraged from that if what they're doing is actually improving the question/answer (if they're not, that's an entirely different issue). Also note that you can sort the questions however you want (e.g. by newest) so this doesn't have to be a problem for you if you don't want it to be. $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 18 '12 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro: Sure, there are always cases where we overlook things or find new ways of saying things better! I've even made somewhat small edits just to get the layout to flow nicer on a couple occasions. The sorting issue is a good point, though I think the default is the "active" tab. Simulated annealing can be done in "offline" fashion, too, especially if someone's thoughts are evolving on the matter. That also avoids the crashing issue you mention, which is really unfortunate. I'm glad I haven't run into that, myself! (Though, I often do compose first drafts of mine in a text editor.) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 18 '12 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Another issue is that the editor can't help the fact that the question is bumped when they edit it. I edit my own questions/answers a lot (and others but obviously I'm more familiar with the questions I've posted in) and I can honestly say I'd still do that even if the posts were not bumped. I regularly look back at various answers of mine (maybe they are recent, or I'm reminded of them somehow) and see something I should change. The fact that the question gets bumped shouldn't determine whether or not this action is "ok", especially since it can be trivially handled with one click. $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 18 '12 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro: See here; sadly the powers-that-be do not agree with us. An obvious safeguard to protect against hiding malicious edits would be to only make the edit-without-bumping capability available to high-reputation users and, maybe, only on their own posts. My answer speaks to repetitive/piecemeal editing, not one-time changes. Indeed, I'm suggesting making changes in batch if one is going to edit at all. If a user thinks there answer is in a high state of flux, my opinion is it is better to collate those changes offline and update later. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 18 '12 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro: My (current) opinion is this is a more sensible approach than suggesting that readers should just click on the "new" tab (which, on a site like this, is not too active, nor as interesting or informative, at times). But, maybe I misinterpreted what you were suggesting regarding this last bit. :) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 18 '12 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal, re: "My answer speaks to repetitive/piecemeal editing, not one-time changes. Indeed, I'm suggesting making changes in batch if one is going to edit at all." I get what your point is, but I simply disagree that piecemeal editing is bad, in itself. If the edits each improve the post, then I see no issue. There's a reason you can edit your post 10 times before it's automatically community wiki-ed. If the edits truly are useless, then I say flag a moderator and ask them to reprimand someone for trying to bump with no real useful edit (I'd be interested in what the mods think of that). $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 18 '12 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/4666/7003 $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 18 '12 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ For my part, I agree w/ basically everything here. I like the question, @Macro's comment to it (+1), find the answer thoughtful & balanced, & agree w/ the subsequent comments. This may seem odd, since it seems like there's a debate here, but I wonder if there needn't be: ... $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ I'm familiar w/ Macro's editing style, but I don't think it causes any of the problems mentioned. The edits are multiple, but occur within a short window this only interrupts the main page if someone else posts during that window. Even then, it would just switch the order of the top 2 Qs. It would be different if it dropped off the page & then were re-edited, repeatedly, but that's not the case. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the input @gung (I was beginning to wonder if anyone else had opinions on the subject). I think that if the question did drop off of the main page and then get bumped it would be more debatable but I still think that's fine, as long as the edits were constructive. Re: cardinal's suggestion to take one's thoughts "offline" and edit all in one batch - if it's a complicated, multi-part issue you're pondering, it may be better to edit parts as they occur to you so that you don't receive critical comments/downvotes in the meantime on an issue that you're already aware of. $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 19 '12 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @gung: Just to be clear in case it is not: My answer was certainly not directed towards any individual user or intended as explicit criticism; it was meant as one view on a sensible approach to tagging and editing. Among other things, it is meant to articulate the view that I don't think it's unreasonable to condense a set of preplanned edits to a page to a single operation and it gives readers and users a better sense of what is actually new content. Of course, as I said, this is just one viewpoint; I do not expect everyone to agree with that and there may be good counterarguments. :-) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 19 '12 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro, I don't disagree w/ editing Q's that drop off the main page. The key word there was "repeatedly". That is, what I would find abusive, is if someone waited until an answer dropped off, & then re-edited to bump it, waited until it dropped & bumped repeatedly. (Of course I'm inferring a lot about someone's intentions here, in practice we would only see the manifestations of that behavior.) At any rate, as you are not doing that, I don't think there's any problem. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal, it was clear to me that you were just trying to state a reasonable alternative option. I just thought it might be worth pointing out how you both were right. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 15:04

I want to add another thought here, which hopefully isn't too far afield to be off topic (it depends on what "old" means). One thing I regularly do is scan the list of new badges every day to catch what have been considered the best questions & answers of CV that I may have missed. When I come across a tumbleweed, I also check those out. Now some questions don't get much attention because they don't have much merit, but once in a while I think a question does have merit. In such a case, I often edit & retag it explicitly for the sake of bumping it back to the top of the queue, and with tags / title / keywords etc., so that it may have the opportunity to get more attention. Moreover, I gather this is the point of SE's having the tumbleweed badge.

  • $\begingroup$ I hope you're not adding unnecessary words/punctuation or editing unnecessary tags to do this, @gung ;) Really though, I think most questions which earn the 'tumbleweed' badge are in need of editing, so I think that's a good service you're performing. $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 19 '12 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro, I don't think I've ever made an edit that I thought was unnecessary, b/c I think they typically didn't get attention b/c they were mis-tagged or whatever. But it is an interesting question of what to do if you thought the question was perfect but still didn't get any attention. I suppose in that case I could offer a bonus, but it would depend on how strongly you felt about it / how generous you felt etc. As I say, I haven't seen that situation yet. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ (+1) Particularly for mentioning that you look over recent badges. That is something that I don't do, mostly because I have a hard time understanding the motivation for acquiring badges. But, in a sense, there is useful information content in (some of) them that can be leveraged to improve the general site experience. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 19 '12 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @cardinal, if one of your main purposes in using / visiting CV is to learn stuff that you wouldn't otherwise (eg, doesn't tend to show up in textbooks), as is the case for me, looking at popular & highly voted questions & answers is a really useful discovery strategy. On a different note, while I sheepishly admit I like getting badges, I readily acknowledge that many of them are strange & could probably be eliminated. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @gung: No need to be sheepish! I didn't mean my comments to sound critical of others. It would be naive to discount the effects of gamification on the success of this site. We are all influenced, albeit in different ways and to differing degrees, by this. Some of the badges actually strike me as counterproductive to site functionality; but, I'd have to look through the descriptions again to remember which ones. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 19 '12 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal, the gold badge for having lots of zero score accepted answers ('Unsung Hero') is weird. I guess it's good for your answer to be deemed good by no one but the OP (who didn't upvote for some reason??)? I'm guessing, based on your comments in this thread, you don't like the 'Archaelogist' badge which rewards you for editing ancient posts. It does seem odd but it'd probably benefit from requiring that these edits take place on at least 10 unique days (or something) so someone won't just go on an editing spree. $\endgroup$ – Macro Jul 19 '12 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro: I believe if you don't have rep of 15 you can't vote at all, even on answers to your own question, which is a likely way that this could occur. It seems a little silly for you not to be able to give (at least, positive) feedback on answers to your own questions, regardless of rep. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 19 '12 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro, the question for SE is, 'does the existence of this behavior tend to benefit the site on the whole?' & at a minimum, I think it's clear that it hasn't hurt. There have been a couple of isolated cases where it has been detrimental, but I suspect a large number of cases in which it's been beneficial, and thus a net plus. As for Tumbleweed, Tenacious, and Unsung Hero, they are described here as intended to acknowledge "unrecognized contributions". $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '12 at 17:26

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