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Related: Trivial edits to closed/on-hold questions.

Recently, we seem to be getting a lot of edits to old answers (two or three years) where the edit does nothing other than correct a particular user's capitalization of words at the start of sentences. Most of these edits seem to be being accepted.

In my opinion, these edits do more harm than good: they take up people's time in the review queue and, more importantly, they bump the old question back onto the front page of the site. This means that recent, active questions get pushed onto page two, where people don't see them. Also, at least some of these questions are ones that I think would have been closed if they were asked today, since the site's standards have changed over time. Bringing these questions back onto the front page encourages people to spend time answering them again.

Please be careful when reviewing edits. In my opinion, edits that just alter capitalization of old posts should be rejected as "No improvement whatsoever".

Does this seem reasonable?

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    $\begingroup$ I have nothing to add over the bold part. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 7 '15 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I have to add something to paragraph three. If we have many minor edits that bump questions, we train users not to click through to threads where the last action was an edit. That way, major edits may go unnoticed and uncredited. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 8 '15 at 12:35
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I basically agree. If it's just a one or two capitalization errors in an old post, I agree that an edit that fixes only those is too minor: such edits are better avoided. On the other hand, if there are extensive capitalization errors, such that the fix makes a substantial improvement to the answer, then such an edit could be appropriate. It would be nice to benefit from the latter kind of edit. I haven't seen the edits that David Richerby is referring to, so I can't tell where they fit within this spectrum.

I do have one piece of advice. If you're making minor edits like this, don't go looking for posts to edit. It's one thing to edit a post when you come across it and notice it can be improved -- that can potentially be OK. It's another thing to search for instances of capitalization errors (e.g., searching for posts with capitalization errors, searching for all posts from a particular user who you notice has many such errors) -- that should be avoided. This will have multiple benefits, including naturally rate-limiting your edits to a low rate.

Another piece of advice: if you are editing a post, look to see whether there's anything else you can improve. This often helps increase the value of your edits.

I do appreciate that you want to improve the site, and don't want to see that attitude discouraged. However, there are costs to edits that are too minor, especially if you're making multiple of them each day. So, please take all the comments you've seen here into account.

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The first thing what I want to mention: correcting grammar makes the things better, it is generally a positive and not a negative deed, even if it is minor.

But: despite that it is a positive thing in a general sense, it may be harmful on the current limitations of the SE system.

In most cases, highly qualified experts of an area have perfect grammar. If there is an exception, it can have a lot of reasons. On my opinion, many of them is acceptable and should be tolerated, many of them isn't. Some examples:

  • He is working in an uncomfortable environment.
  • The capitals of his keyboard layout are mapped to the non-latinic alphabet of his native language.
  • Sometimes he is only acknowledged to write in a chatting style on the net. As I experienced, this is somehow very rare in the case of professionals.
  • Or he is using a braille writing system where using capitals and similar things would be simply unfeasible.

There could be another reason against that, and this is that a capital letter correction doesn't worth the 2 points of reputation which can be got for that. This is a systematic problem of the SE, adding major changes to a post extending with cutting edge scientific results worths exactly the same 2 points as a grammar correction.

Wikipedia has a "minor edit" box which can be checked on edits, and the reviewers have the option to get the list of the recent changes without them.

Maybe a similar feature of the SE would be also useful, but unfortunately it is over our scope. If it would exist, I would be happy to click this on all of my minor edits. I've initiated now a feature-request discussion about this on the meta SE.

This would also eliminate the problem, that doing minor edits over a (site-specific) acceptable rate highly worsens the site experience of the community members checking the questions ordered by their most recent activity.

There is an obvious argument: if a post wasn't received well, it should have been long downvoted and closed/deleted. If it didn't happen, it can be interpreted that the community accepted that, and this can be enough reason to not let them rest in peace with typos and grammar bugs.

Currently I've found an user whose posts are really on a professional level probably from the academical sphere, despite that he doesn't use capitals. I was aware the bumping problem and so I've reduced the edits to around 3-5/day, but it seems even it wasn't an acceptable rate.

Although it is not a professional site (there is one, the Theoretical Computer Science), on my opinion it would be highly subservient to at least try to follow the style of the professional publications not only in the content, but also in the form.

My suggestion would be the following:

  1. I would edit only 3 posts daily.
  2. I would edit only highly upvoted posts (for example, with vote counts over 2).

If it is not acceptable even in these, much lower limits, I am ready to stop it all, although I consider a little bit sorrowful to forbid to improve anything.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Although it is not a professional site" -- huh? The core community consists almost exclusively (afaik) of professional computer scientists. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 8 '15 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ It's not about rejecting improvement. It's about weighing the positive and negative impact. A small grammar fix does not add much to the post, but the resulting bump can disrupt the site in more than one way. That said, you can definitely apply your edits to current posts that are on the front page, anyway -- that would be a truly worthwhile contribution! $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 8 '15 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael Maybe I know it badly. What is the relation between this site and TCS? Is it similar to math SE and mathoverflow? $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 8 '15 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael Other sites do such things (and other massive changes, f.e. cooperative major retaggings previously agreed on the meta) on a way, that they limit the maximal allowed edits per day. It makes such projects slow, but doesn't cause disruption. $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 8 '15 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael If something is bad, it should be eliminated. If not, but it has typos, it should be fixed. If it can't be done, it is bad. You say it is a professional site. Would you upload a publication to the arxiv without literals? What would you think if you would find a literal-free publication on the arxiv, what would be your first impression? $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 8 '15 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @peterh Nobody disputes that correcting grammar and orthography improves a post. The question is whether it improves it enough to be worth the disruption it causes. Also, I don't understand your use of the word "literal": I don't think it means what you think it means. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 8 '15 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby Well, I suggested I will be below daily 3 edits, and only in the case of highly upvoted posts. Is it even too many? $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 8 '15 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh OK -- that's what I thought you probably meant but I wanted to check. I don't see the relevance of comparing to ArXiv. I wouldn't upload a paper to ArXiv without capital letters but I wouldn't post here without capital letters, either. Since ArXiv has no mechanism for editing other people's papers, there's no situation on ArXiv that corresponds to what we're talking about here. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 8 '15 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby Well, I suggested I will be below daily 3 edits, and only in the case of highly upvoted posts. Is it even too many? Btw, today happened at least 2 edits on the site, why do you think it would be so bad if I gave another 2 to that? $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 8 '15 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh That was two approvals of the same (admittedly minor) edit, to a post made within the last 24 hours, which was already on the front page. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 8 '15 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ @peterh 1) This is not about coordinated mass-restructurings, but about community members on editing sprees. 2) I would certainly not bump an update to arXiv only for fixing some isolated typos. 3) If you are talking about posts as linguistically/orthographically broken as those by, say, vzn, my advice would be "don't bother". 4) I stand by my response "please focus your efforts on posts that are on top anyway". There should be enough work there, too. If you think an older post is of particular relevance and has minor issues, feel free to ask in Computer Science Chat on a case-by-case basis. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 8 '15 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael Ok. I think it plays also a role that the site isn't enough big to start more intensive filtering until now. This is what I will do. $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 8 '15 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ I think the number of views is more important the the number of up-votes when deciding what to edit. $\endgroup$ – Ian Ringrose Sep 16 '15 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ Changing the number of capital letters in the title of a post is not an edit worth making. It's perfectly normal to use title case for titles! (Every word capitalized except articles and prepositions.) $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 23 '15 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby Fortunately it is not a problem on the cs, but don't you see this as a way to attract attention unfairly? $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 25 '15 at 5:58
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This seems perfectly reasonable.
I had two ideas, so I will present it here (it is strongly connected to posts that you are reffering to).

If somebody improves (edits) old question, I think there should be answer attached by editor - otherwise, even improving question a lot, it gives nothing. Could it be enforced somehow? Or just deny it for the same reason you gave?

There are a lot of questions that user dropped, nobody responded and user vanished (more than two years, more than one year). Maybe such posts could be deleted? Nobody answered, the only interested person is long gone, and from time to time "Community bot" highlights it.

Is it possible to close questions due to lack of interest or accept it if there are good answers and no indication that there are not satisfying?

I was digging by tag to find some questions that are in my field of expertise, but did not answered because probably nobody would care (correct me if I should answer them anyway).

Sorry to bash in, but it is matter of days when I will also be able to make reviews, so better to be prepared in advance

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  • $\begingroup$ As I know, this cleanup should be the job of the mods and the 10k+ users. $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 6 '15 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ And as far I see review option, and participate, I am on board. And since it is community based site, everybody is allowed to suggest something. So if there is something I can do, I will. And about topic - I see difference between improving typos / grammar and other things in "hot" posts and digging up long gone ones to improve several letters. I agree with you that every improvement is good, but it would require huge amount of manhours, so it should be narrowed only to beneficial ones. $\endgroup$ – Evil Sep 6 '15 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ Question cleanup is indeed a thing. See also previous threads here: one, two, three. Bottom line: if the question can be made answerable by an edit, edit; if it should be closed, vote thus; if it can be answered, answer. Otherwise, leave it alone. (We have some unanswered questions that are well-posed but just hard.) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 8 '15 at 12:39
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I don't think we should discourage any kind of constructive edit because of some presentation side-effect. I think we should leave the worrying about what appears on the various front pages of these web sites to the people who have actual control over them--- the Stack Exchange staff. If we were supposed to manage whether minor edits bump a post to the front page or not, Stack Exchange would have given us something to control that, something like a "This is a minor edit" button, or a way for reviewers to approve and edit, but prevent bumping.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, we have near total control over what appears on the front page: on a low-volume site like this, I could go make trivial edits to my favourite 20 posts and they'd all magically be on the front page. And I don't understand the attitude of "Leave it to the all-knowing gods." If people don't make feature requests, the staff can't know what features people want. They're not omniscient and the absence of some feature should not be interpreted as meaning that they thought about it and rejected it. We should discourage any edit whose side-effects we feel to be worse than its benefits. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 17 '15 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ SE staff have thought about this, realized there is no one-size-fits-all implementation, and have created a policy of "do not perform minor edits". This reflects in, for instance, the reasons for rejection the edit queue offers. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 17 '15 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ That is not to say that I don't sometimes wish for a "silent edit" feature (maybe only for 10k or even mods?) that would, for example, allow non-destructive retagging sprees. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 17 '15 at 15:42

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