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In most situations, fixing a broken link is a good thing. But a couple of times in the last month I've been unsure whether to approve an edit in the Suggested Edits Queue where the only change was to repair a link in an old, low-quality, low-vote post. Since an approved edit immediately bumps the question to the top of our site's Home page, there's good reason to be a bit selective. But the available guidance isn't much help when it comes to selectivity on link-only edits.

Our EL&U Help Centre says:

Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged - try to make the post significantly better when you edit, correcting all problems that you observe.

Well, that's no help in this situation. Fixing a broken link is not so clearcut: in most cases I'd say it's useful to have a functional link, but not always - so what's our tolerance? Is there any guidance on how we should value a functional link in an old low-quality answer we might normally prefer to downvote or delete?

On what basis would you reject the suggested edit? None of the available options to select from really suit this kind of edit. It's certainly not "spam or vandalism", or "no improvement whatsoever", or "clearly conflicts with author's intent", or "attempt to reply", or "irrelevant tags". That just leaves "causes harm (enter a custom reason)", and I find it a bit awkward to argue that bumping a LQ post to Home page "causes harm".

This EL&U Meta post offers the views of some of our highest-rep users, but mostly focuses on whether to approve edits that remove "thanks" messages (etc). Mari-Lou's comment seems instructive:

The comment which explains the rejection says: "This edit is too minor; suggested edits should be substantive improvements addressing multiple issues in the post." I think that basically covers it...

This comment from J.R. also offers some intuitive guidance:

I remember seeing a comment some time ago that said, essentially, @user - stop fixing quotes. (Evidently, that particular user had gotten into the habit of changing quotes "quotes" into smart quotes “quotes”, a purely cosmetic change.) I can see why someone would shrug, think to themselves, "Why not?", and click approve after the first few instances. But when the practice persisted for three or four days in a row, one might get tired of it.

I also like MrHen's ranking of edit types, which certainly puts hyperlink improvements in the "worth approving" group.

However, none of these address the question of whether we should discriminate against link repairs on old, low-quality posts.

Two actual examples to consider:

This April 2018 answer has zero votes, is a low-quality cut&paste, and answers a question with only 154 views that's been closed as a duplicate. The post's author approved the edit, which is understandable, but I would probably have rejected the suggested edit if I'd seen it, on the principle that sending this post up to the Home page actually does cause a degree of harm.

This Dec 2016 answer has just 2 upvotes, it's mostly cut&paste, and there was no attempt in the edit to improve the capitalisation, punctuation or formatting. There's also no author to come to the rescue and approve the edit, so it was approved by 2 active users. This one is tougher to decide, especially as the question is popular (viewed 10k times), but there's an accepted answer with 12 votes and a 200-pt bonus, so my feeling is that fixing the link in this LQ answer is probably more on the side of trivial than useful.

I would really appreciate some guidance, especially from our diamond mods and high-rep users!


Just to make it abundantly clear, I'm not saying there's a particular problem with the suggested edits or the review queue process. I think it works well! I'm asking about the specific situation of a suggested edit that fixes a broken link – but nothing else – in an old, low-quality, low-vote, low-views post. Should we approve such an edit, even if the question has been closed as a dupe? What if the edited post has a negative vote score? Is there some point at which you'd draw the line?

I've looked through my own activity on the Suggested Edits review queue. In the last 6 weeks I've reviewed 24 edits. I approved 15 of those, of which 8 were hyperlink-only amendments; one of the latter edits was rejected by the votes of 2 other users. I rejected 9, of which 2 were for "causing harm" (link-only edit to old LQ post); those 2 rejections failed due to approvals from other users. My vote was consistent with other users in 21 of the 24 reviews, but the 3 in which I was "outvoted" all involved broken-link-only edits. I think it's reasonable to ask for Meta guidance on how to approach this particular minority category of edits, given my own approach seems to diverge from others.

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    I find it hard to reject an edit that is simply a fixed link even if it is a single character that fixes it, even if there are text problems (but check that the fox works). A single character fix of text that has a lot more text fixes desirable seems frivolous. – Mitch Sep 21 at 11:27
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    Several links in my posts have been fixed by this user, and I've always given the green light. Fixing a corrupt link is nearly always a good thing, regardless of the post or author's status. I don't think the edits have got out of hand. – Mari-Lou A Sep 21 at 11:56
  • @Mitch you've focused on the minor issue (number of characters) but not the bigger issue: would you be comfortable approving a repaired hyperlink and in doing so excavate a long-forgotten LQ post and send it to the top of the Home page? Is there no point at which you'd say that the edit isn't worth it? What if the post was a dupe and had -3 votes? I'd be interested to know where (or if) you draw the line. :-) – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Sep 21 at 12:27
  • @Mari-LouA I didn't say that suggested edits had got out of hand, I was asking for advice about handling the exceptions. I'll edit my question to make this even clearer. – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Sep 21 at 13:09
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    @Mari-LouA I've removed reference to that user since I appreciate the work they're doing and I want to focus on the link-repair issue rather than the person. Of the 10 suggested edits of theirs I've reviewed in the last 6 wks, all being broken-link fixes, I actually voted to approve 8: it's the 2 I voted against that I feel uncomfortable about. While both were ultimately approved, maybe I shouldn't have voted to reject them. I dunno: that's why I've posted here. – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Sep 21 at 13:58
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    Why did you feel uncomfortable about them? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 21 at 17:34
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    Edits are supposed to make a post significantly better, and correcting a bad link is one type of "making better" that I think we can all agree isn't subjective or presumptuous or disrespectful of the original poster's Stack Exchange–given right to fail to meet the site's criteria for an acceptable post or to express him- or herself badly. In view of that fact, I think Mari-Lou A's point is exactly right: "Fixing a corrupt link is nearly always a good thing, regardless of the post or author's status." – Sven Yargs Sep 21 at 18:30
  • Sometimes the original links look really weird with lots of %20s (spaces) and text in them. – marcellothearcane Sep 21 at 19:19
  • @Sven , Mari-Lou See wiki answer below (and edit, if you wish) – Araucaria Sep 22 at 15:44
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@Mari-Lou A wrote:

Several links in my posts have been fixed by this user, and I've always given the green light. Fixing a corrupt link is nearly always a good thing, regardless of the post or author's status. I don't think the edits have got out of hand.

@Sven wrote:

Edits are supposed to make a post significantly better, and correcting a bad link is one type of "making better" that I think we can all agree isn't subjective or presumptuous or disrespectful of the original poster's Stack Exchange–given right to fail to meet the site's criteria for an acceptable post or to express him- or herself badly. In view of that fact, I think Mari-Lou A's point is exactly right: "Fixing a corrupt link is nearly always a good thing, regardless of the post or author's status."

@Araucaria clarified:

The only situations in which one would not want to fix a link would be if the link is clearly inappropriate or spam.

  • Could we be given an example of a situation that doesn't fall into "nearly always"? – aparente001 Sep 28 at 2:46
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    @aparente001 One might imagine if it's a link to an inappropriate page, for example, or if it's a link in a question that's essentially spam? – Araucaria Sep 28 at 12:26

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