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".
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.