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My question is simple: how can we get more people to edit postings so they look better? There are badges, but it doesn’t seem to work:

Awarded  Badge Name          Type
=======  ==================  =======
     19  Copy Editor         gold
      0  Illuminator         gold
     14  Refiner             silver
      4  Research Assistant  silver

Currently, most of the edits on ELU are done by a very, very few people. Watch how fast the number of edits per user drops by a full order of magnitude from that of our top editor:

top editors

So there are only 5 of us between Reg and Mari-Lou, by which point we’ve lost an entire order of magnitude.

We currently only have 19 users who have earned the gold Copy Editor badge, and only 14 who have earned the silver Refiner badge. No one has yet earned the gold Illuminator badge — in fact, nobody is even close to Illuminator!

The silver Research Assistant badge for editing 50 tag wikis is also extremely rare, having been so far awarded to only 4 members in all of ELU history.

The top 25 editors collectively account for more than three quarters of the edits (64043/83599). However, even within that group of the top 25, as you can see from the numbers above, it drops off precipitously after the first few rows. Here’s another way to look at that data, using a slightly different counting metric:

# 1. 22200 / 83599 26.6% of  26.6% RegDwigнt
# 2. 19556 / 83599 23.4% of  49.9% (Everybody Else Combined!)
# 3.  9459 / 83599 11.3% of  61.3% tchrist
# 4.  3773 / 83599  4.5% of  65.8% waiwai93
# 5.  2934 / 83599  3.5% of  69.3% kiamlaluno
# 6.  2872 / 83599  3.4% of  72.7% JSBձոգչ
# 7.  2304 / 83599  2.8% of  75.5% Daniel
# 8.  2173 / 83599  2.6% of  78.1% Matt E. Эллен
# 9.  1894 / 83599  2.3% of  80.3% Mari-Lou A
#10.  1646 / 83599  2.0% of  82.3% Andrew Leach
#11.  1372 / 83599  1.6% of  84.0% Kris
#12.  1249 / 83599  1.5% of  85.4% simchona
#13.  1176 / 83599  1.4% of  86.9% Kit Z. Fox
#14.  1087 / 83599  1.3% of  88.2% Hugo
#15.  1005 / 83599  1.2% of  89.4% jwpat7
#16.   978 / 83599  1.2% of  90.5% coleopterist
#17.   971 / 83599  1.2% of  91.7% MετάEd
#18.   943 / 83599  1.1% of  92.8% medica
#19.   902 / 83599  1.1% of  93.9% Uticensis
#20.   869 / 83599  1.0% of  94.9% Jimi Oke
#21.   823 / 83599  1.0% of  95.9% J.R.
#22.   748 / 83599  0.9% of  96.8% Thursagen
#23.   747 / 83599  0.9% of  97.7% Mahnax
#24.   713 / 83599  0.9% of  98.6% Robusto
#25.   620 / 83599  0.7% of  99.3% FumbleFingers
#26.   585 / 83599  0.7% of 100.0% Marthaª

Yes, that’s right: in the SEDE ranking above, just between Reg and me we two alone account for 3 out of every 8 edits overall, or about half of those done by the top 25 put together!

Is there anything that the ELU Community can do to get more folks to help out the few of us who are currently doing the bulk of the work (read: the top n people listed above) to put an attractive fresh coat of whitewash on our nice picket-fence so Aunt Polly doesn’t scold us?

It will make our site look better, and it really needs more hands at the task.

Please help.

  • I'm doing what I can to help out, but (a) I only have so much free time in a day, and (b) you guys are too fast, apparently. :-) – Hellion Mar 16 '15 at 18:31
  • 3
    I suppose I'm one of the "worst" on this front, in terms of the disparity between my rep and the number of edits I've performed. But I often take the view that errors in question text are indicative of the OP's lack of competence in English. I tend to correct such errors on English Language Learners - partly to help the OP, but mainly to prevent other users from innocently assuming they're looking at "valid" English. For most purposes I don't care about that on ELU, because the people who would be misled probably shouldn't be here in the first place. – FumbleFingers Mar 16 '15 at 18:43
  • I really don't like edits which make superficial changes to old questions. All they really do is create "zombies" which other readers must weed through and recognize before responding to a 3-year-old thread with stuff that is no longer applicable. – Hot Licks Mar 25 '15 at 3:30
  • 1
    @hotlICKs Not sure just what you're thinking of, but if you've got a good new answer for an older question, whyever wouldn't you give it? Necromanzophobia? :) – tchrist Mar 25 '15 at 3:44
5

The (possibly overlapping) reasons I can think of that might discourage people to edit less-than-optimally phrased questions are as follows:

1) The question is not interesting enough, or seems too parochial or restricted in its scope, to stimulate much desire to improve it.

2) Users might suspect that the question is so unsalvageable, or so off-topic, or so likely to be a duplicate of another question, that it will probably soon be closed or deleted. In such a case, most people will not want to expend time and effort on attempting to improve it. If they have enough reputation points they too may prefer to vote to close the question than get involved with it in some other way. (This is probably a good thing: at least they will be helping to prevent the accumulation of more dross.)

3) Some users (especially non-native speakers of English) may lack enough confidence regarding certain aspects of their command of the written language (such as correct comma usage) to want to risk having a go at editing other people's questions or answers. (Such lack of confidence may or may not be justified.)

4) Some questions are formulated so unclearly that users may be in doubt about what the questioner is actually trying to ask. Most such users will be likely to avoid any possibility of having to defend/amend their editing of such a question in response to feedback from the OP or other users of the site. They might be more willing to venture an answer to the question, if it interests them enough despite its lack of clarity, than to amend the question itself.

Overall, I think that motivating more people to edit more postings (especially defective questions) is not going to be very easy.

Finally, it should be pointed out that your summary of the editing stats only considers the total number of edits per person. It does not take account of the length of time that each person has been active on the EL&U site.

If you analyse the rate at which people edit postings, there is much less variance across the individuals in your table of 'most active editors' than the gross figures suggest.

  • 1
    It should also be mentioned that editing tags also count. Not that tagging a question correctly isn't helpful, it is, but anyway tagging is included in the total number of edits. (I think!?). My point being that a user may edit fifty questions at a time simply by changing or creating a new tag. I've performed this type of task myself in the past, so I'm not criticizing it. It's just for the record, and explains partially why the top editor is at the top of the heap. – Mari-Lou A Mar 16 '15 at 10:09
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    @Mari-LouA I believe (but am not 100% positive) that the ELU Top Editors page only counts things as an edit that would count towards the Copy Editor badge. Retaggings do not count as an edit for those purposes, only for purposes of popping a question to the front of the Active list. The SQL query isn’t tuned for type of edit, so returns a larger number. – tchrist Mar 16 '15 at 13:48
  • @tchrist Well I'm not 100% certain either, but isn't there a badge for editing tags? There is something connected to tags, I'm sure. – Mari-Lou A Mar 16 '15 at 13:52
  • @Mari-LouA You must be thinking of the bronze Tag Editor badge and the silver Research Assistant badge, which are given out for editing one’s first and fiftieth tag wiki respectively. The silver Research Assistant badge is one of the rarest ELU badges, having been granted to only four members in all of our history. I should probably add this to the question, or perhaps launch a different one, as tag wikis are something of a graveyard for other reasons. – tchrist Mar 16 '15 at 13:58
5

There's nothing wrong with encouraging folks to contribute to the site in new ways, but a lot of this question seems to be geared at highlighting that only a couple people are doing the bulk of the edits, as if that's somehow a bad thing.

Editing, deletion, tag cleanup, etc. - these are privileges that are earned and can be exercised when you choose to. This is reflected by the SE help and privileges explanation:

When should I edit posts? Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!

Nowhere in there do I see a statement that editing is required, that it's "our job" or responsibility as dutiful community members, or that Aunt Polly will come along and scold us if we don't.

Personally, I don't like editing. I'm not comfortable making substantive changes to other peoples' posts, and minor issues really don't bother me. No amount of badges, encouragement or scolding is going to get me to do it. But that's just me.

People contribute to the site in different ways - asking questions, answering them, flagging questions that should be closed, editing, managing tags, discussing things on meta, etc. It's ok to bring attention to tasks that might need a little love if folks are so inclined. It's not ok (IMHO) to imply that others are not doing enough to help the site just because they spend their time differently.

  • 1
    If nobody edited any newcomer's, you might feel differently about the site. I agree that editing someone's post should be done tactfully, with discretion and keeping it as faithful to the original as possible, Some edits can actually harm the OP's intention, but those incidents are rare. Editing should be aimed at improving legibility and comprehension, and if only one new user edits just two or three posts a week that already would be helpful to the site and to everybody. – Mari-Lou A Mar 18 '15 at 10:43
  • Anyone can edit. – tchrist Mar 19 '15 at 4:47
  • @tchrist - Anyone can suggest edits. Editing directly is a privilege awarded at 2k rep. – Lynn Mar 19 '15 at 7:56
  • That's just splitting hairs. Anyone can edit, save alone for someone who has suggested so many rejected edits that they get edit-banned. – tchrist Mar 19 '15 at 18:30
  • I'd like a 'requests clarification from the author' tick box; an edit only approved by the OP. I could add a comment, hey, did you mean X for Y? or I could just do it, without worry that I have vandalized the post or veered from their intent, while they are away. – Mazura Mar 23 '15 at 7:01
  • 1
    I don't like editing, either. It's akin to censorship, which I disapprove of. I've never edited anything, or tried to -- probably never will. – Greg Lee Mar 27 '15 at 16:07
3

On English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, any correction of the English text is a relevant improvement and is therefore a justified edit. The term correction is generally defined as ‘action to eliminate a detected nonconformity’. Here, nonconformities may relate to orthography, grammar, punctuation, or typography.

Many posts contain only a few of these nonconformities. In many cases, users are prevented from making the necessary corrections by the annoying six-character limit.

enter image description here

Usually, most users just want to correct the characters that are clearly wrong. They do not want to add some arbitrary and unnecessary improvements of the text just to bypass this unjustified limit.

Hence, after some failed attempts, many frustrated users stop caring about making necessary corrections – even if six or more characters may be affected.

Therefore, in order to encourage more users to make relevant edits, the six-character limit shall be removed.

  • Do you think you might please provide some concrete examples of this? In my experience, there will usually be more than five characters that need changing. Thanks. – tchrist Mar 16 '15 at 19:30
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    @typos are the most obvious, sometimes it's only a letter that users may notice. However many many many posts have problems with titles, tags, formatting, typos and punctuation. If there's only a typo, I tend to leave a comment for the user. With experience you learn how posts are best formatted, what's a good question title, and what's not etc. – Mari-Lou A Mar 16 '15 at 21:20
  • @Mari-LouA I encourage you to expound on your technique. – Mazura Mar 22 '15 at 18:38
2

The fact that editing bumps a post probably stops 90% of my would-be edits. "Avoid trivial" is another 9%. -I would certainly love fix that spelt mestake for u, but they aksed me not too.


On a site with more than 2k, I'm very cautious about my instantaneously approved edits. On one with less rep I don't want to waste the time of an approver but I'm more apt to make larger changes knowing someone will check my work before it goes through.

Just some food for thought, I'm not sure what would change this behavior. Maybe it's something about being approved to get 2 rep and feeling appreciated when you get 10. Also, a rejected edit feels like one step above having a post get deleted.

Editing does not slake the thirst of altruists or rep-hounds; only pedants (who are somewhat discouraged for their "trivial edits") and users with an extreme devotion to this site.

For me, it becomes a toss up between not wanting to offend the OP with corrections to their work (while it's still a post being useful to them) and not caring anymore if they don't either. Greater recognition is required for something that's not so easily perceived; being helpful to maybe someone.


Add an extra tick box to the edit review: (Editor's Bounty)

() This edit provides substantial improvements to the post. The editor will receive additional reputation.

'Cuz 2 rep is so, meh. And it's not like you'll ever get a 'thanks, me too' out of it, verbally or numerically. Points given to you seemingly by the system don't count towards your stackhead fix.

But a 2 that became a 4 will... (through the recognition of that by another human being, beyond the 'yea, this'll do, +2') perhaps accompanied with a stock message:

Great work! We look forward to more contributions from you!

"Thanks for your edit, [maybe you'll get points]", doesn't seem like it'd work as well as:

{you just got some points, whoopee!}...
{reads about why they got (even more!) points}...
{eagerly does more; better edits}.

Alternative: allow "trivial edits" for a +2. Anything superior gets a +4.


Personally experienced reason why you have less noise have less edits to perform on my own posts and my increased ability to make more, and better edits: (Thank you) @Mari-Lou A:

"If there's only a typo, I tend to leave a comment for the user. With experience you learn how posts are best formatted, what's a good question title, and what's not etc."

Teach a man to fish.

  • Erm... users with a certain number of rep no longer earn the 2 rep. They can edit a post without waiting for it to be peer approved. There is no "prize", it's all done through the milk of human kindness. – Mari-Lou A Mar 22 '15 at 20:33
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    How we can get established users to do more edits, I haven't exactly wrapped my head around yet. I have my own reservations about self-posted edits, this exchanges itself with the conundrum of bothering people where I have <2k. My point exactly; there is no prize. I don't know how you "encourage more folks to be nice" but they sure like their fake internet points. – Mazura Mar 22 '15 at 20:53

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