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Every once in a while I get a notification that someone has voted on one of my old posts.

I click the notification, and I notice that the old post has some ... room for improvement. Some are so bad that if I saw it posted today I'd probably downvote it (fortunately there aren't any I've found which I'd VtD or flag for removal).

I'd like to edit these things into shape, over time. Problem is I personally loathe seeing old posts float to the top of the front page. To me, it feels like "completed business"; it's done, leave it be.

Do others feel the same? Would I be annoying you (yes, you) by creating noise on the front page? Is there a particular time or day when this would be less intrusive?

This would be an ongoing thing, not just once-off, and whatever policy we land on will likely apply to everyone else who wants to edit their old posts, so considered answers are probably called for.


Most of you know me well enough by now that I probably don't need to say this, but no, I am not thinking of editing old posts to get more attention or votes on them. Heck, you may feel free to downvote anything you see rise up just because you feel like it. I won't mind.

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    Leave them as they are, they reflect what you wanted to express at that time in line with the experience and understanding you had of the site as a more junior user. I doubt they are so bad, and if we all did that ELU would be an endless reediting of old posts. (Unless they contain wrong or inaccurate information) – user66974 Jun 8 '17 at 20:20
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    If that's how you want to spend your time, who am I to tell you not to? – aparente001 Jun 9 '17 at 6:10
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    I agree with your concern. A number of folks here go through old posts that are not even their own, "correcting" minor punctuation or spelling errors and the like, and these actions cause the questions to float to the top, even though there's nothing of interest to be seen. I find this very irritating. – Hot Licks Jun 10 '17 at 2:36
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    One counter-argument to the issue of front-page pollution is that EL&U has such high traffic that any noise gets pushed off the front page pretty quickly. On the other hand, when search hits or random churning brings your question to the fore, it's your name that will be associated with whichever end of the quality spectrum the post happens to occupy at the time. – Lawrence Jun 10 '17 at 9:07
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    + 1 just for the title – Helmar Jun 13 '17 at 20:59
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    It seems like the existence of the Archaelolgist badge would imply that SE overall encourages this behavior. – Davo Jun 23 '17 at 16:58
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I tried to think of what the risks and benefits of editing old answers would be.

Risks

  1. Someone might judge the modified answer and Downvote.
  2. Someone might believe the edit was self-promotional.
  3. Someone might be mildly and briefly annoyed by the activity.

Benefit

  1. The post is improved forever for everybody
  2. Hence, the site is improved forever for everybody.

It seems like all the risks are related to what individual users might believe, and are ephemeral, and all the benefits are related to improving the whole site and are lasting.

If this was a site primarily for catering to a group of frequent or elite users, maybe it would make sense to err on the side of not editing. But what makes SE unique is that it serves a broad audience of potential visitors and new users interested in learning, helping, and sharing knowledge. According to Jeff Atwood, the mission of Stack Exchange is:

to make the internet better

My conclusion, therefore, is edit away, in the spirit of making something better!

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    Wonderful answer, thank you. I've really enjoyed the way you've been conducting yourself since you joined here. I will note that in my case "downvotes" are not considered a "risk". They're as useful to me as upvotes. I want the community to express its few, in aggregate - that seems the point of voting to me. – Dan Bron Jun 8 '17 at 17:39
  • +1 This. Exactly. – NVZ Jun 8 '17 at 17:39
  • @DanBron thank you, I appreciate all the support and advice I've received from you and other users in my time here as well. – RaceYouAnytime Jun 8 '17 at 17:45
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It is not wrong to improve a post by editing it. Let the chips fall where they may.

  • It's not so much that it's bad (and I totally agree that the chips will fall where they may), but I worry ... is it annoying to see "old business" which is done and dusted reappear on the front page? For example when the community user bumps an old boring no-votes post up to the front page, it drives me bonkers. I just want to make sure I'm not making a nuisance of myself. – Dan Bron Jun 8 '17 at 15:33
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    If somebody is annoyed by an improved post reappearing on the front page, I'd class that as chips falling. – MetaEd Jun 8 '17 at 15:38
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    +1 I'll add that if the front page is bring attention to things it really shouldn't be, that's a problem with the way the front page works. We shouldn't let the flaws with one transient piece of functionality prevent us from doing good work on the site. – jpmc26 Jun 8 '17 at 22:22
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    @DanBron, if you are concerned about stealing oxygen from new posts, or appearances, just focus on the questions of lasting value; the ones that deal with timeless topics, of interest or help to a wide audience. – fixer1234 Jun 9 '17 at 3:04
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Old questions are going to end up on the front page occasionally just because of the "Late Answer" syndrome (new user posting on a question they don't realize, or don't care, was asked in 2012). If you're only doing these edits in a "onesy-twosy" fashion, you are not going to add significantly to the front page activity.

In short: Go for it.

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    Humorous anecdote: Last week somebody bumped an old post, I went and read the top-voted (old) answer, thought "that was a very concise and informative answer" and went to upvote it, only to be told "you can't upvote your own posts." – Hellion Jun 8 '17 at 16:24
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    I have to say, that bloke who was using my username some years ago was noticeably smarter than I am (and apparently had a better memory). I agree it's a pity I can't upvote him. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jun 8 '17 at 16:58
3

I do that all the time, and I'm not talking about just my old posts, I edit whatever comes to my notice, and so far nobody has complained "look at that NVZ guy, fishing for attention", at least, that's what I assume people would say given the chance, and I have full confidence that nobody will be disturbed with your efforts to improve some posts, and I say, go ahead, and don't stop, ... but do pause for a few hours before you edit another dozen. ;)

P.S. Edits should be substantial, which I'm sure is what you (and most users like us) do.

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As far as I'm concerned (since I ignore edits), more edits would be only a minor inconvenience for browsing new answers (as I usually use the front page, sorted by active to browse new answers). But I could always use search instead (as a bonus, it also has more signal and stuff). And I use the newest questions tab to browse new questions.

It's well worth it to improve posts, including for other reasons, such as grammar/tags.

2

Will you annoy me by bumping an old post to the front page? I'll be honest - quite often you probably will.

Although if it's a really interesting question/answer, then you wouldn't.

The site is set up to allow editing at any time. And I'll edit old posts occasionally. So I wouldn't want to stop you editing something that you think needs editing, as long as its a substantial edit. Bumping an old post for a few typos or formatting wouldn't be worthwhile, but from reading your question you're not suggesting that anyway.

So, in summary, it will sometimes annoy me but I see absolutely no reason for you not to do it, as long as the edits are substantial and occasional.

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