6

This popped up in my "Review Suggested Edits" Queue...

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The edit has only minor formatting improvements (the word "goodbye" has been bold-italicized) to the earlier edit. Incidentally, I had edited the question previously.

How should I handle such edits from anonymous users?

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    Why is hello in bold in any case? Personally, I would have thought emboldening the "action", meet made more sense. – Mari-Lou A Jan 31 '16 at 15:24
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    The six-character limit is (surprisingly) satisfied by the six asterisks used for the bold-italics formatting. It could be part of a scheme used by spamming bots (with the goal of getting 15 reputation points for being able to add comments) - the first step could be to probe as an anonymous user (perhaps to avoid having to drawing too much attention) if such edits have a good chance of being accepted (to find which Stack Exchange site is most likely to accept them and/or in which type of content it is most likely to be accepted). – Peter Mortensen Feb 3 '16 at 18:23
  • cont': With roboreviewers and the relatively innocent looking change they might succeed. – Peter Mortensen Feb 3 '16 at 18:23
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The "goodbye"-to-"goodbye" change you mention is indeed exceedingly minor, but given that it brings goodbye into parallel with the way hello is handled in the twin example immediately preceding it, I would have accepted the change. Minor as it is, a change to establish symmetry of this type removes any potential distraction that the asymmetry might cause a reader, so I think it's worth doing (on my questions and answers anyway). But I'm a copy editor.

The countervailing argument, I suppose, is that many minor edits that EL&U newcomers suggest aren't improvements of any kind: either they leave the post no better off than it was before or they make it significantly worse. If you feel that nuisance edits are a big enough problem at this site that we should discourage any edits that don't save the author from embarrassment, then you should probably reject minor edits whether they are marginally useful, neutral, or harmful.

I don't feel that way, and I'm okay with minor edits that makes a post slightly more consistent internally. I also don't begrudge the editor the reward of a point or two of reputation for a minor improvement—if it is indeed an improvement. When I edit other people's posts at this site, I try to limit myself to nontrivial things (though I consider adding block quote formatting and hiding URLs in links to be nontrivial for readability). I don't approve of changing one consistently handled style decision for another, however, because EL&U doesn't have a style guide for matters such as serial commas, single vs. double quotation marks, and punctuating inside vs. outside quotation marks.


Because it doesn't impose a minimum reputation requirement for editing posts, Stack Exchange invites everyone to participate in this task. I can imagine this becoming a burden if nuisance edits grow to epidemic proportions, but I don't see that happening. I've been participating regularly in Review queue vetting for about a year now, and I'm only at about 230 Suggested Edits reviewed— because there just aren't that many of them compared to items in the other Review categories.

Though I don't know what Stack Exchange's thinking was in putting question and answer editing within the reach of first-time site visitors, I imagine that the goal was to encourage participation in an easily reversible way that might also build up interest in the relevant SE site and reward efforts to make simple technical improvements as well as more-significant corrections.

Higher-rep site participants are essential in this process, to assess whether an edit is useful or not. But their reward for this rather tedious work is a series of copper, silver, and gold badges at various service milestones; anyone who seriously dislikes this kind of work doesn't have to participate.

As I write this, the Review page lists the following queues awaiting review: 116 Close Votes, 3 Reopen Votes, 1 First Posts, 1 Low Quality Posts, 0 Late Answers, and 0 Suggested Edits. This is typical except that First Posts and Low Quality Posts sometimes fluctuate upward into the very low double digits when traffic is light on the Review page. Given that the stream of suggested edits is so (seemingly) manageable, I don't see any reason not to assess each one on its own merits and to approve ones that introduce even minor improvements to a post.

  • I really like your answer and I can't agree with you more. I was a little surprised to see your number of Close Votes in your queue. I always make sure it is zero because I think close-voting is very important to maintain the quality of this community. I would really appreciate it if you could participate in close-voting more actively as we have been swamped with low-quality questions recently. The more we participate in close-voting, the less low quality questions and answers we would see. – user140086 Jan 31 '16 at 17:59
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    @Rathony: That's one of the categories I struggle with. I understand why people nominate the various candidates for closure, but the only ones I feel 100% confident about closing are the proofreading requests and the true duplicates. Everything else to me is a balancing act—and I suspect that my judgment on many questions would be to leave open ones that many (and perhaps most) others would close. For example, though I do vote to close questions that could be answered by a simple dictionary look-up, I don't really believe in the "doesn't show research" close reason per se. ... – Sven Yargs Jan 31 '16 at 18:59
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    ...If someone asks an interesting question, I don’t care whether that person did any research before asking at EL&U. In part, the issue is philosophical: is EL&U primarily a site designed to enable experts and language enthusiasts to ask and answer advanced questions, or is it a site whose ultimate goal is to provide a well-informed answer to every legitimate question about English language and usage? And what does legitimate mean in this context? I have mixed feelings on this subject, but I’m much more an inclusionist than an exclusionist. ... – Sven Yargs Jan 31 '16 at 19:00
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    ...Also, unlike many other participants at this site, I don’t think that the quality of the questions and answers has gone downhill in recent times. In fact, to me, the most striking difference between a typical answer to a good question today versus one three years ago is how much more research goes into the one today. As for question quality, coming up with good questions that haven’t already been asked is harder after five years of EL&U than after two years—no surprise there. And yet I still think that quick-trigger closure is as much a problem on this site as unclosed junk is. – Sven Yargs Jan 31 '16 at 19:00
  • Quick-trigger closure could be prevented as we need 5 votes unless a moderator is involved. Exact duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/questions/303505/…. Asking what should follow after should: english.stackexchange.com/questions/303498/…. I had the same opinion until 2 months ago. But there is ELL on which a lot of questions belong. I know a lot of users share the same opinion as yours. But there are more questions like the ones linked above. – user140086 Jan 31 '16 at 19:04
  • I am not sure whether you are using moderator tools like this one, Tools|Review, You can see "Most Votes" of Close Votes. There are questions with 4 or 3 close-votes. If you are not sure about casting the first or second close-votes, please take a look at the questions with 4 or 3 close-votes. At least 3 or 4 users agreed to close those questions and I always visit this link and see if any of them needs my vote. I am not saying you have to agree with any of them. Your vote will be valuable when cast for those with 3 or 4. – user140086 Jan 31 '16 at 19:21
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I happened to be (again) the one who rejected the suggested edit in your question. I rejected it partly because there was no improvement and it was so trivial, but more importantly it was suggested by an anonymous user. The question was not wordy and short enough to be well understood.

One thing I found very strange when I started to review suggested edits was many of them were suggested by none other than anonymous users. I asked my self, "WTH?! Why is it even allowed?" Why are anonymous users allowed to edit questions?

And I found an answer to it. Anonymous users are permitted to make suggested edits. Because we have good users standing at the gates preventing the bad edits getting through...

Based on my rather short experience, edit suggestions by anonymous users were not very constructive nor helpful. Probably less than 10% were. Therefore, I always reject it. I have never approved a single suggestion made by them. Most of them were one of the followings:

  • Attempt to reply: They add their ideas briefly.
  • Spam or Vandalism: It is not difficult to detect and reject it.
  • Minor change for punctuation or typo: Sometimes helpful, but I would rather reject it and edit it myself than approve it because there is a chance that it could be rejected by other uses who don't approve any edit suggested by anonymous users.

How to edit a post largely depends on your personal style and preference. I do believe that we are allowed to review a suggested edit because we have sufficient reputation points to do that and the community trusts us. The decision on whether to approve it or not is entirely yours.

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    I'm surprised that you don't assess each suggested edit on its own merits. In my experience, Suggested Edits are far and away the easiest Review items to evaluate. I struggle with some of the other categories, but most Suggested Edits are a snap. I really hope that your thinking about anonymous users will evolve and that you will decide to judge each of them by their own works and not by their (cloaked) identity. – Sven Yargs Jan 31 '16 at 7:26
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    @SvenYargs I didn't mean I don't judge each of them. I do. I am not suggesting we should reject every edit suggested by anonymous users. – user140086 Jan 31 '16 at 7:31
  • This is confusing, given that "anonymous" is the name given to the system bots that "bump" unanswered questions. Something should be changed. – Hot Licks Jan 31 '16 at 21:15
  • Often it is the anther of the question from anther computer that has not login in for some reason. – Ian Feb 3 '16 at 14:55
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Reject them! Reject and then click on the reason that says something like "Does not improve the clarity of the post."

Do you want to stop your dog from begging for food at the table? Don't feed him! Same principle.

Reject any edit that seems like busy-work.

  • You are posting an excellent reason for rejecting minor edits but not for anonymous edits. – Chenmunka Feb 5 '16 at 12:57
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    @Chenmunka True. A trivial edit is a trivial edit no matter who does it. I hope I don't discriminate against anonymous edits, but I probably do. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Feb 5 '16 at 13:47
  • Very true, but so many of the anonymous edits that I have seen in the review queue have been far from trivial. – Chenmunka Feb 5 '16 at 13:57

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