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Although a long-time reader of various SE sites, I'm new to active participation and still learning the rules and conventions. My question here is about the possible stock reasons for rejecting edits to closed questions in general, not about the specific question I'm using as an example.

Background:
While traversing the Internets unrelated to ELU, I stumbled across a question here about the capitalization of Ethernet. After reviewing the reasons for closing questions, I noticed some debate in the comments about the closing of this particular question. That led to more internet searches, after which I was of the opinion that the Ethernet question was not as straightforward and easily answerable by other sources as appears to have been suggested by its closers. Genuinely convinced this question was both relevant and significant (and, I admit, lured by the possibility of reputation points), I edited the closed question. My edits were rejected with what I assume is a stock response that "This edit was intended to address the author of the post and makes no sense as an edit. It should have been written as a comment or an answer."

Question:
My meta question is, if closed questions can't be answered, why is one of the choices for rejecting edits to a closed question that the edits should have been a comment or an answer? Is it simply to prevent low-rep users, who cannot comment, from attempting to reopen questions?


Additional note which may actually be a separate question but that I don't want to risk asking a low-quality question about:
Admittedly, my suggested edits were a complete overhaul of the Ethernet question rather than edits for clarification, but they were responding to comments in reference to the question's closing and guided by the advice on reopening questions. So perhaps I have a meta-question to the above meta question: should I ask a separate meta question if I wanted community feedback as to how to appropriately reopen the Ethernet question specifically, given that I genuinely think there's an underlying question there, which hasn't been answered in other sources and is appropriate for ELU?

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    The ethernet/Ethernet question has just been reopened, by a 4–2 vote of review queue reviewers. If you have information that might yield a more nuanced answer than the one that currently stands alone in response to that question, this might be a good time to write it up. – Sven Yargs Feb 10 at 7:47
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    One relevant usage note on the capitalization question is this one from the Wiktionary entry for Ethernet: "Originally a trademark of Xerox, and hence capitalised, but this was relinquished during the standardisation process, and it may now be written in lower case." – Sven Yargs Feb 10 at 7:58
  • Thanks for the heads up @SvenYargs. I added an answer; haven't yet located a source confirming the Wiktionary entry re the trademark being relinquished as a part of standardization, although that seems entirely plausible. – cpit Feb 12 at 19:56
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A one line, low effort question should not be reopened. Even if the author was still engaged with the site, they shouldn't be rewarded for the extensive rewrite needed to salvage it unless they did the salvaging. If the question only needed a slight shift in focus to bring it on-topic, that would be different.

It would be better to write a new question that meets EL&U's quality standards and incorporates the feedback from the comments, then link to the closed question for context. Looking at your suggested edit, I think you probably should also answer the new question and share your research that way. (Can I answer my own question, even if I knew the answer before asking?)

If the new question is well-received attracts good answers, I think it might be worthwhile to close the old question as a duplicate of the new.

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  • Thanks! As I was writing this question about the Ethernet question, I was thinking the latter might be a good candidate for self-answering since by now I have a few ideas for a potential explanation. – cpit Feb 4 at 21:48
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A question somewhat similar to the ethernet vs. Ethernet question that piqued your interest popped up ages ago in connection with the World Wide Web words internet/Internet and web/Web. See Should the words "internet" and "web" be capitalized? A later question that asked only about internet/Internet was closed as a duplicate. See Capitalization of "Internet". Neither question was accompanied by significant research—as was often the case in the earliest years of this site—and the first of the two questions remains open.

Strikingly, the answers given to these two questions are very nearly obsolete, as, over the past decade, the world of publishing has shifted strongly toward lowercasing both internet and the web (and webpage). A carefully considered, up-to-date answer citing current reference works and formatting preferences would be quite useful to EL&U on the internet/Internet and web/Web questions, in my opinion.

I suspect that ethernet/Ethernet is a similar case—but it's difficult to gain a hearing for it because of EL&U's one-two punch of (1) don't ask a question like this without showing your research, and (2) if the reference work you consulted answers the question, why shouldn't we close the question as general reference?

The most straightforward path forward would be to reopen the question as one of inherent interest (7,000 page views in five years) that isn't particularly well served by a rote application of the "show research" requirement (both Merriam-Webster and American Heritage treat Ethernet as referring to a particular proprietary protocol or family of protocols that, therefore, should be initial-capped; but even 20 years ago, the word lists at the computer magazines that I worked for distinguished between narrowly specific Ethernet and generic ethernet—and I doubt that the generic sense of the term has diminished in more recent years). But reopening the existing and keeping it open would require persuading any number of close voters NOT to apply their usual standards to a question and NOT to leave the factually dubious but appealingly forceful and concise one-line answer to the closed question in place as the only EL&U answer to the closed question. That would not be easy to do.

To pose a closure-resistant question such as ethernet vs. Ethernet on this site, you would have to cite multiple reference works that disagree about the answer, or you would have to cite reference works that say one thing and usage data that point in another direction. That's asking a lot of a typical question asker who may not know where to look to find the components of a detailed and reasonably comprehensive answer.

Regrettably, EL&U's institutional position is that the best way to distinguish a good question from a bad one is to require the question's poster to present a bunch of research to prove the question's worthiness. I don't think that this works, and I think that it causes a lot of perfectly reasonable questions to get closed for reasons that have nothing to do with their potential usefulness to future site visitors. But it's the world of English Language & Usage as we now know it, and I don't expect it to change anytime soon.


With regard to your specific questions:

1. My meta question is, if closed questions can't be answered, why is one of the choices for rejecting edits to a closed question that the edits should have been a comment or an answer? Is it simply to prevent low-rep users, who cannot comment, from attempting to reopen questions?

The canned argument asserting that you should have submitted a comment or answer instead of editing the question was almost certainly formulated without any thought that someone might use it to reject an edit of a closed question. Rather, the option was devised to thwart attempts by editors to mess with open questions rather than responding to them in a comment or with an answer. The fact that this particular canned rationale for rejecting an edit doesn't make sense as a practical matter when it is directed toward someone who can't respond to the question with a comment or an answer BECAUSE IT'S CLOSED is merely incidental fallout from the site's heavy dependence on prefab rejection reasons.

2. Should I ask a separate meta question if I wanted community feedback as to how to appropriately reopen the Ethernet question specifically, given that I genuinely think there's an underlying question there, which hasn't been answered in other sources and is appropriate for ELU?

I don't think you need to ask your second question in a separate posting. The issue of how much revising an editor should do to make a closed question reopenable has been contentious at EL&U. Some site participants vigorously oppose any effort to put words in the mouth of the original poster, which they consider presumptuous and disrespectful of the poster and of the integrity of the question that doesn't meet the site's guidelines for remaining open but by God does say what the original poster wrote down. Other site participants are more sympathetic to your inclination to see certain closed questions as imperfectly expressed but worthy of rehabilitation through clarification or refocusing.

My advice, however, is to start over with your own new question, marshaling enough visible evidence of research to avoid the closure Scylla and enough contrasting or conflicting data to avoid the closure Charybdis. What you (probably) don't need to worry about, if you do those two things, is that someone will come along and say, "Hey this is a duplicate of that old question about Ethernet vs. ethernet that we closed five years ago! Let's close it as a duplicate!" Logically, you shouldn't have to worry about that happening because, whereas the ethernet/Ethernet question from 2016 was closed for lack of research, you will have provided sufficient research to jump safely through that flaming hoop. But of course—as we saw with the Catch-22 recommendation that, instead of editing a question that you can't answer or comment on, you should answer or comment on it—logic doesn't always win the day. Good luck!

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    Thanks, this clarifies something I hadn't thought of, which is that reopening the question would be problematic given that it already has answers (which I also suspect are inaccurate in general, and particularly now that so much time has passed) when the intention behind reopening would be to generate better answers in the first place. – cpit Feb 4 at 22:02
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    An important advantage of editing and reopening the existing question (rather than starting anew) is that the new answers would then compete, on the same page, with the exiting answer, which would be helpful to future visitors. It is indeed regrettable that the strategy that is more likely to be successful (posting a new question) will produce something less helpful. – jsw29 Feb 9 at 16:48

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