I'm presenting this in numbered sections so that people can respond specifically to what they agree or disagree with (please leave a comment such as "Disagree with Proposal 2" or "Agree with Proposal 4"). I'm not going to defend or justify Assumption 1 now since I suspect it is not highly contentious and want to focus on an idea for a solution.

Assumption 1. EL&U currently has a lot of questions that deserve to be improved. The main content and meaning of these questions is appropriate for this site, but the questions are presented poorly and could possibly also benefit from added context or detail.

Conjecture 1. It would benefit the EL&U site and community if more of its members could edit posts that deserve to be edited. Such posts include posts whose core content has merit. Such edits include fixing disruptive spelling and grammar mistakes; adding links and references; and adding context, supporting evidence, or details to make a question more complete.

Conjecture 2. Lowering the reputation required for all users to edit posts could have lots of bad consequences, such as lots of bad edits happening.

Conjecture 3. EL&U already does and should have a team of editors because SE sites are a mixture of Q&A and wiki.

Proposal 1. The leaders of EL&U should be able to selectively allow some EL&U members who are not automatically members of its editing team due to insufficient reputation to make edits. These members should be selected based on a demonstration that they understand what makes a post on EL&U bad, good, and great.

For example, I have been on EL&U for only a few days and only have ~450 rep (101 of that from the SE network). I would gladly edit questions here to make them better because I enjoy it and think it is very useful. But I don't have many questions to ask on this site, and since I generally spend a lot of time on my answers, I don't have time to answer lots of questions. Once classes start next week, I won't have much time to answer questions at all. So I am unlikely to earn enough reputation to be able to edit questions here. (I know I can suggest edits and will be doing this more often now. See Proposal 0 below.)

Proposal 1.5 In order to focus the manually-promoted editors and avoid problems, there should be a restriction on their editing privileges, such as to editing questions only or editing posts by people whose reputation is under a certain high amount.

Proposal 0. The ability of users to suggest edits is already sufficient for handling the editing needs of EL&U.

Proposal 2. EL&U should add a type of flagging mechanism so that every post that deserves improvement by editing can be flagged so that the editing team can find them easily, e.g., by flagged posts appearing in a list somewhere.

Proposal 3. The proposed flagging mechanism should not affect the vote of the post or reputation of the poster in anyway.

Proposal 4. The proposed flagging mechanism should increase the reputation of the flagging user by some amount, provided that the post is not already flagged. Suggested amount: +1.

Proposal 5. The proposed flagging mechanism should not increase the current workload of the moderators.

Proposal 6. The editing team and ability to edit posts should be highlighted occasionally to make users aware of its existence and benefit.

Proposal 7. Make the edit button on a post more prominent, possibly with a tooltip saying that editing to improve posts is encouraged. [Broken out into a separate question. Please vote there.]

Summary. I have three main, unrelated suggestions: (A) selectively let more people edit, (B) add a feature to flag posts that deserve editing so they can be more easily found and improved by others, and (C) encourage people to edit things that deserve editing; the only sign that I see that questions even can be edited is the small, low-contrast, text link at the bottom of the question.

[Note: the two threads (1, 2) that I found related to relaxing the editing requirements were generally in favor of it.]

  • 1
    @simchona: I have never flagged anything myself and can't find info on how flagging works or what the options are. What is the Review queue? Is there a page about it somewhere?
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 2:35
  • 4
    You do know that any user can suggest an edit, right? So even if a user is under 2k rep, they can suggest an edit and it will likely be reviewed quite quickly.
    – user11550
    Aug 27, 2012 at 2:51
  • 3
    So is this a set of feature requests just for ELU? You know that the 'editing team' is everybody.
    – Mitch
    Aug 27, 2012 at 2:54
  • 5
    I think that in cases where a question could "benefit from added context or detail," the onus rests on the askers to provide that, not the community at large.
    – J.R.
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:05
  • 1
    @Mahnax: Yes, I accounted for this in Proposal 0. Do you agree with Proposal 0?
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:19
  • 3
    @Rachel Yes. I don't think anything needs to change, as far as the system and privileges go. (Sorry, I must not have seen Proposal 0 for some reason).
    – user11550
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:20
  • 1
    @Mitch: Well, not everyone can make edits. Everyone can suggest edits, but I would think that letting some select people make edits would be better than them just suggesting them since this not only requires other users to review them but I would think leads to more wasted effort from multiple people suggesting the same edits to a post because none have yet been accepted.
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:23
  • 2
    Your cited questions at the end don't actually support your point. The first relates to tag wikis, not posts. The second refers to the Beta stage of the site, which has been over for a while.
    – simchona
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:23
  • 2
    @Rachel In case you don't know, downvotes on Meta are tantamount to disagreement.
    – user11550
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:26
  • 7
    @Rachel How are we supposed to pick and choose who can, and cannot, edit, if not by reputation? Rep is a sign of trust on the site. Handpicking people is subject to bias.
    – simchona
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:27
  • 1
    @Rachel I like your way of thinking, but, as Shog says, there aren't many suggested edits: I eagerly click the counter if I see any edits to review, which is not very often. So it would be fine if many more people suggested edits. As to any double work by suggesters, I believe you can't suggest an edit if one is already under review. Am I right? If so, then that isn't a problem. I think people are just not motivated enough to edit. I know it is sometimes hard to motivate oneself when seeing a terribly formatted question... Aug 27, 2012 at 3:31
  • 1
    We already have 190 people who can edit and approve edits. That’s quite a few, really. There is never anything in the edit queue because of how rarely people without direct edit privileges suggest edits.
    – tchrist Mod
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:35
  • 4
    @Rachel If you see things that could be improved, edit them. You'll get 2 rep for each one approved, and eventually you'll be able to make edits without needing them reviewed.
    – simchona
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:37
  • 2
    @Rachel: Math.SE has a very... Unique attitude towards editing, compared to most of the rest of the network. We've put a lot of work into making editing as easy as possible - please, please if you see the opportunity for improvement, take it!
    – Shog9
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:40
  • 3
    @Rachel Instead of so many proposals, conjectures, sub-conjectures, etc., do you think you could create a pointed question asking for that feature?
    – simchona
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:44

4 Answers 4


Explaining my downvote:

I disagree with Assumption #1 (there are many questions that can be saved). I have no statistics to back up my feeling, but it seems to me that most of the bad questions I see are general reference, off-topic, or just flat-out unintelligible. Editing won't fix those, unless you start inventing context or guessing at what the OP might have meant. I'm not in favor of that.

Regarding the other proposals:

  • I routinely check the 'suggested edits' queue and presumably others do as well. Seems the current system works just fine if people would just use it.

  • I don't object to encouraging folks to edit, but the FAQ does so already and the "edit" button is pretty prominently visible. I'm not convinced that any more reminders would be worth the programming effort.

  • The current 'flag' system has an "other" reason, so I don't see any reason to invent another kind of flagging. However, I do think there are other, better ways to handle questions in need of editing - suggest the edit yourself, downvote&comment (putting it into the 'low-quality' review bucket) or just comment and leave it to the OP to edit.


I applaud the goal of more editing, and I'm always happy to see suggestions for how we can encourage improvement over rejection - however I feel your suggestion is just adding bureaucracy with little hope for an increase in actual editing.

Consider two common scenarios that cry out for editing:

  1. Correctable by readers: this includes ambiguous, poorly-formatted, or otherwise poorly-written questions. A savvy reader may jump in and provide corrections (which may then be vetted by the original author) at any time.

  2. Correctable by the author: This includes everything in #1, with the addition of questions that are missing critical details or context, without which they cannot be reliably interpreted. A reader might guess and then supply this guess as an edit - but without this leap of faith, only the original author can correct its deficiencies.

Properly flagging #1 would require the flagger to accurately identify the problems with the post prior to flagging. At this point, the flagger possesses the bulk of the knowledge needed to correct the post. He could, I suppose, be provided with a place to record this information so as to make the work of the eventual editor lighter - however, it would be far better if he simply made the corrections himself rather than introducing an additional delay between his raising the flag and the eventual edit. With the availability of suggested edits, this is both quick and easy.

Flagging #2 would accomplish little or nothing over simply leaving a comment on the post itself.

It's worth noting that EL&U does not have a very high volume of suggested edits at present, and could probably handle a significantly larger volume with ease. I suspect the true solution here is simply education: encouraging folks currently decrying the down-votes or closures meeting new questions to step up and improve them rather than sitting by in frustration.

  • 1
    If you guys think that suggesting edits is the way to go, I will surely suggest edits more often. However, I think the message should not be "step up if you dislike downvoting"; rather, everyone should be encouraged to edit instead of downvoting. Is it a good practice to downvote something that could easily be fixed by editing instead of editing it?
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:51
  • @Rachel I think you're asking more of a discussion question at this point, which isn't as related to the current question.
    – simchona
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:53
  • 1
    @Rachel: as I mentioned in a previous thread, everyone has different abilities. What might be an easy edit to one could be impenetrable to another. Each wields the tools they have as they can. Beyond that, as sim notes this topic could easily be its own question.
    – Shog9
    Aug 27, 2012 at 3:58
  • @simchona: I was only responding to Shog9's mention of people decrying downvoting. I was asking Shog9. Sorry, I thought that was clear since it was in a comment to his answer.
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 4:14
  • @Rachel Comments on a post are for clarification, not really to open up discussion. I would suggest asking in chat, which is made for extended discussions.
    – simchona
    Aug 27, 2012 at 4:15
  • @simchona: I precisely wanted clarification and was expecting and would have been happy with a one-sentence or even one-word answer. He is a mod, and I want to know his opinion so I can act accordingly.
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 4:18
  • 2
    @Rachel: Is it a good practice to downvote something that could easily be fixed by editing instead of editing it? No, but I wonder what percentage of downvotes are prompted by something so trivial and easily fixed. It would be quite unlikely for me to downvote for that reason. This thread seems to be based on the supposition that a substantial percentage of downvotes could be fixed by a simple edit instead, and I'd be surprised if that were truly the case.
    – J.R.
    Aug 27, 2012 at 15:30

Disagree with the proposal at large.

I migrated to the Stack Exchange from other similar communities (such as Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com and AnswerBag) because the questions tended to be higher quality, less flippant, and more scholarly. I believe downvotes are one mechanism whereby the community can police itself, and retain a high degree of quality.

Is a simple edit better than a downvote? Of course. In fact, I'm the author of the maxim, if you have the credit, make the edit.

Does that mean every bad question can be fixed with an edit instead of a downvote? I think that's a naïve viewpoint. Anyone coming into this community to ask a question is responsible for following the FAQ. If they fall short, they risk getting downvoted. If that bothers them, I've already suggested three other places where they can probably get an answer to their question.

Might not that drive some people away from staying here? Perhaps; but, if they are that unwilling to improve their own work, I'd rather not have them here anyway. I come here to expand my intellect, not babysit a bunch of whining, insecure people who want us to spend 20 minutes explaining some trivial matter to them, after spending all of two minutes trying to figure it out on their own, who run off to meta in a huff as soon as the second downvote hits their reputation.

By the way, in case that sounded cold-hearted and curmudgeonly, here are my stats as of today:

550 Answers
318 Revisions
94 Closure Votes

With those numbers, I hardly think of myself as a serial downvoter with an off-with-their-head attitude.

  • I agree. I might quibble on the extent to which downvoting fixes a bad post, but it's not clear that this was even your meaning. I think that you have missed my biggest point, though. I don't care about offending the type of careless person that you describe. I don't want them around dirtying up things either. My concern is with the site, its contents, and its longterm, productive, and innocent users, current and future. I object to relying on downvoting as a replacement for other things such as editing, upvoting, closing, deleting, and suspending/kicking out miscreants.
    – Rachel
    Aug 27, 2012 at 10:43

I wholeheartedly disagree with your reasoning for Conjecture 2. While I don't mind the reputation payment for editing be high, I don't agree that lowering it will overall cause terrible editing. It seems to me you're implying that people with little experience with this site aren't capable of editing someone's question correctly, is that right? Everyone needs to start somewhere, even people with amazing editing skills!

If I took that the wrong way and you're just saying editing is a privilege that you need to earn, then I'm sorry. :) But please don't assume that just because someone joined today, they know nothing about grammar. Thanks!

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