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I have noticed that there are members that edit their posts over and over and over again just to add small and petty things for example to italicize a single word or to add a comma or a full stop etc. and it bumps the question to the top again and again which is somewhat annoying.

I really didn't want to mention someone in particular, but just to prove my point, see this question: A better word than 'cathouse' for an outside shelter for 1 cat

If you go to its Edit history, you will see that it has been edited 17 times.

And most of the edits are trivial (probably intended to bump the question), for instance, the recent edit made was just to embolden a single word (I suspect it was done to emphasize the word which was already emphasized/italicized)

I apologize and I should not have brought it up, but it is not a single time. I have noticed this many times...

How do we handle this? Should I just move on?

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    I’m voting to close this question because it is a rant. Jun 20 at 21:46
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    Nobody wants to edit their own post. They want the 3 users who understand it, somewhat, to just answer (or "answer" in comments) and the 20,000 who don't to just scroll. Just scroll, people! But that's not how it works out, not ever. And BTW, some old people buy their reading glasses at Marshalls (3 for $10) b/c they spent all their disposable income on Frankenstein shoes. You can see well and totter along, or you can crush everything in your path. Moving on works, but not the same for everybody.
    – KannE
    Jun 21 at 1:57
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    You can select Questions/Newest instead of Questions/Active.
    – Xanne
    Jun 21 at 3:01
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    As a rule in life, don’t assume you know anything about people’s motives. Jun 21 at 10:57
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    I don't see why even editing format cannot be acceptable. How does this decrease the quality of the site? If it is meant to improve the aesthetics of the post, I am for it. And let's say that someone wishes to bump the question to the top, which I don't believe was the case here. I don't see it as an issue to be discussed here. It can happen from time to time, and it doesn't block your sight from seeing the other posts.
    – fev
    Jun 23 at 9:40
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    Uh... why did people vote to close this? This is a very important meta question. Yes, please downvote it because you disagree with the direction of it. But don't -close- it. Those are two very different things. One is for agreement, the other is for not having people even be aware of it. Very good for people to see it and have answers for it. Vote to reopen
    – Mitch
    Jun 24 at 12:21
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    @Mitch I just went to cast the 3rd vote to re-open, and to my surprise the new 3-vote rule still does not work here...
    – Cascabel
    Jun 24 at 18:21
  • There are a non-trivial number of upvotes to this, but I don't see an answer that attempts to address why multiple edits might be undesirable or why intentional bumping is undesirable (not the same thing).
    – Mitch
    Jun 25 at 11:52
  • @Mitch, I think the upvotes to a question are meant to indicate only that the question is worthy of being asked and answered; they need not indicate an agreement with the assumptions behind the question. In fact, one may upvote a question precisely because one thinks that the assumptions that it embodies need to be explicitly refuted in an answer. There seems to be a wide agreement that multiple edits are not undesirable. Intentional bumping (particularly if repeated) could be thought to be undesirable because it draws to the question more than its fair share of attention.
    – jsw29
    Jun 25 at 15:56
  • @jsw29 correlation not causation - I only figure that with a good number (currently 5) of upvotes, that that would imply some strength of conviction that multiple bumps is undesirable and that strength might be correlated with someone being able to articulate why (namely in an answer). To spurn those (possibly nonexistent) people on, I think that's petty to think that someone is only editing to get attention. Maybe they're indecisive or perfectionist. I'm not sure one can be so petty as to think they're doing it for mercenary reasons (garnering upvotes).
    – Mitch
    Jun 25 at 16:13
  • @Mitch People will have different levels of tolerance, I will admit that when I see someone editing their post for the 40th time (I think 60 edits is the highest number I can recall) I will begin to feel a twinge of exasperation. I'm getting better now because I don't visit the site as often as I used to!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 25 at 17:23
  • @Mari-LouA Sure...exasperation that they can't just edit it a whole bunch and submit once or twice. This meta question seems to assume some motivated selfish behavior rather than an unintended consequence of the design of the system ("every edit puts an item at the top"). Im extremely annoyed when someone retags a whole slew of questions... but that's not the editor's fault.
    – Mitch
    Jun 25 at 17:51
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    The editor can retag 10 posts at a time, I think that's a reasonable number. And who's to tell if an author doesn't abuse the site's trust and begins defacing their post because it accrued downvotes or it was closed or someone commented something negative. Bumping a post, which can be annoying after a week, does make sure that someone, anyone, will catch the illegitimate/rebellious edit regardless if it is the author themself or a high rep user.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 25 at 18:14
  • @Mitch, let me make it clear that the point of the last sentence of my comment was merely that if intentional bumping took place, it could be regarded as unfair. Unlike the OP, I see no reason to think that it does take place, and certainly not that it takes place at a sufficiently large scale to pose a significant problem.
    – jsw29
    Jun 25 at 21:43
  • Guys, please note that I have recused myself from down-voting and close-voting. That said, I have voted to re-open. Although I have been named and shamed, I refuse to get into a war over this.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 27 at 19:48
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I probably edit my own old posts more frequently than anyone else at this site does theirs. Before posting a new question or answer, I read it over for obvious mistakes—but in my experience it is almost impossible to perform a high-quality edit of my own writing immediately after having written it. I don't know whether the problem is mental fatigue, overfamiliarity with the material, or the difference between reading something as a writer and reading it as an editor. But in any case, I don't see everything that is wrong with the post when I first put it up. I leave out links; I mess up the punctuation; I say something not just inelegantly but semi-illiterately. And that's quite aside from my often coming across information later that I didn't have when I submitted the original post.

You might not think so from looking at a randomly selected answer of mine, but I'm a pretty good editor. The trouble is that editing and writing require very different approaches to written content. I often tell writers that their great disadvantage as the writer—and my great advantage as the editor—is that they know what they're trying to say, whereas all I've got to work with is what actually appears on the page. (That, of course, is all that every subsequent reader will have to go by, too.) Given enough distance from something I've written, I can read it as an editor and see faults in it that I couldn't see immediately after I first wrote it.

I realize that the fact that an edited post moves to the top of the question or answer queue (unless you filter the queue to show only the most newly submitted questions) invites suspicions about my motives. But my conscience on this point is clear: I would behave in exactly the same way toward my old posts if the Stack Exchange system left those posts right where they were before I edited them. My interest is in making the posts clearer and more accurate, not in gaming the system to score more points.

The upshot is that I'm guilty of the conduct that the poster here complains about, but I'm not remorseful. The best I can do is regret that anyone who doesn't want to see my posts more than once—if that—has to endure repeat engagements of the same old (but marginally improved) content.

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    Indeed. Any fule kno that the worst possible proofreader is the person who actually wrote the words. But as with coming back to an unfinished crossword much later, "rested & refreshed" eyes will often see things that were missed before. And so far as I'm concerned, if your edit bumps an old answer so get to see it - if I hadn't upvoted it when it was first asked, that was probably because I never saw it at all (most of your answers are worth upvoting, imho, including this one! :) Jun 21 at 11:56
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    Absolutely yes..."But my conscience on this point is clear: I would behave in exactly the same way toward my old posts if the Stack Exchange system left those posts right where they were before I edited them." Why don't other folks get that?
    – Cascabel
    Jun 22 at 19:47
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I am the author of A better word than 'cathouse' for an outside shelter for 1 cat.

I am a writer, but I have also worked as an editor on a few publications.

As a regular participant here on EL&U, I often need to switch hats to provide good posts. Production is a creative process, while 'Editing' is almost always a post-production effort. Anyone that writes for a living will understand that the creative process is stifled if the writer is editing mid-stream.

In this particular case, I made many edits. Serious comments are always helpful, and on this post there were many. I try to respond to constructive criticism because our purpose here is not to gain reputation; rather it is to prepare an authoritative resource of English Language & Usage.


Comments:

(I actually do pretty much the same thing on other user's posts that I 'adopt'. In fact, I think I have edited almost as many other user posts as my own posts, please see my actual [edit] history, and stop cherry-picking)

There is nothing wrong with refining a question or old answer. This is actually on-topic on meta at this moment...

I actually cringe when some of my posts get bumped...but as an old guy sometimes my eyesight is not so good, and I make typos, but out of OCD I just can't let them go unfixed...

In fact, if you check the history of this very answer, you might see that I edited like a dozen times.


*...and KannE is right about the glasses (they only cost 2 dollars), actually, I buy mine at Dollar. I'm kind of stingy that way.

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    Why are you naming and shaming me? What is your issue? Why does this offend you?
    – Cascabel
    Jun 20 at 21:38
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    When I was active on the English site, I also edited a lot. I cringed at making repeated edits, but I edited because I cringed at the ambiguities of my question or answer, and their incompleteness, and at the valid points I had ignored that were pointed out in comments. I am OCD about my writing, partly because of the demands of my job before I retired. Cascabel improved his question. Maybe he could have done it in one or two superedits, instead of many smaller edits, but I could not have in my cases, and I am more than willing to believe that he was motivated by perfection, not points.
    – ab2
    Jun 21 at 1:06
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    continued from comment above: Moreover, although new contributors are always welcome, I think a very new contributor should adopt a policy of "I need to learn the customs and learn something about the people here" before atributing shameful motives to a contributor he or she does not know.
    – ab2
    Jun 21 at 1:14
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    @ab2: We don't actually know whether META is new to EL&U or is a more-established participant at this site who preferred to post this particular question under a new user name. Either way, I think it's a fair question to raise, although I don't think that calling out Cascabel's question was necessary or especially illuminating.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jun 21 at 2:17
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    @Sven Your point is a valid caveat. But this Q would have had more validity if it had come from a known person with a known history. If someone looks like a newbie and posts like a newbie, I assume he is a newbie. As an aside, that the "cat house" question attracted some of the biggest guns on the site amazes and cheers me!
    – ab2
    Jun 21 at 17:16
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    You keep editing this meta answer. Well done!
    – Mitch
    Jun 24 at 2:19
  • @Mitch I am unsure how to take the last comment. Was it meant in irony? Is it because my constant edits to this answer are popping the original OP from the stack? ;)
    – Cascabel
    Jun 27 at 19:46
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    @Cascabel Your editing behavior here should show META that that's just your style, it's not meant with some nefarious attention-grabbing vote-grubbing malintended otherwise ulterior motive.
    – Mitch
    Jun 27 at 21:05
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    @Mitch Thank you. I realized yesterday that part of the issue is due to the unavailability of the preview screen when doing edits. This option is available on all other sites I participate on, but for some reason not here. I have some visual issues, as well as OCD ones.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 27 at 21:13
  • @Cascabel Huh... there's the edit box, but below the edit box is the rendered version. Do you not get that on ELU but you do on other SO sites?
    – Mitch
    Jun 27 at 21:56
  • @Mitch Yes, sir. That's what I am saying.... No rendered version on updates on the main. Check it out. One of the reasons I make so many 'updated' edits. I cannot see the output in rendered version. The format changes are not visible, and I don't think in HTML.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 27 at 22:05
  • @Cascabel Go to main chat and post a screen shot. That's what I'm doing for your answer there of edit 12.
    – Mitch
    Jun 28 at 2:05
  • @Mitch I feel rather foolish...there is a toggle at the bottom of the page to hide/show preview...for some reason it was turned off but only on E&U. Thanks so much for your help.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 28 at 14:24
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    @Cascabel Oh wow, glad you found that... I wouldn't have even considered that would be a feature at all, much less talk you through it. But now we can lay that to rest and relax.
    – Mitch
    Jun 28 at 15:29
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Improving posts by editing is always regarded as desirable on Stack Exchange, regardless of whether the improvements are minor or substantial. A minor improvement is still an improvement.

If one finds it objectionable that every edit bumps the question to the top of the front page, one should criticise the feature of the Stack Exchange format that makes such bumping impossible to avoid; one shouldn't criticise the contributors who are trying to improve their posts.

Many regular contributors to this site, including those who frequently make minor edits to their posts, would probably welcome it if that feature were changed by, for example, giving the users an option to prevent their edits from bumping the question, or by making the automatic bumping take place only after the edits of, say, at least 100 characters.

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    But it's very debatable whether changing one word from being formatted in italics to bold is an improvement. The linked post had many legitimate edits, no one disputes that. But are all the edits really improvements? Jun 21 at 1:52
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    I do wonder, from time to time, if some people have a life outside Stack Exchange, and if they don't, whether they should perhaps get one. Jun 21 at 14:41
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    @MichaelHarvey why of course there's a life outside EL&U! There's ELL, and Literature.SE, and Writing.SE, and I've also ventured beyond the "words" sites to things like Physics.SE, Gardening.SE, etc. I even make regular pilgrimages to that holiest of sites, Meta.SE. What a wide and majestic world we inhabit! Jun 22 at 23:45
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    @MichaelHarvey Life outside SE is what I come to SE to forget.
    – ab2
    Jun 28 at 17:43

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