There was a strange discussion today which I would like explained. I'm not emotional and I hope I don't appear emotional; I'm just mystified. I posted an answer. It appears it was first. Hank proposed edits which I could not understand, which removed most of the cited uses of the word oblivious, although I was told the edits would not do this. Another user (Hot Licks) claimed that I posted after him and copied his citations, although in fact I posted first and cited my source, Merriam-Webster, one of the most widely cited authorities on the English language. I don't even agree that the proposed edits were an improvement (although Hank has a reputation of 1976 and I have a reputation of 128). Who can explain what it going on?

  • P.S. I also don't understand why Hank thinks that Hot Licks' answer "was delivered in a much better way" [than mine, apparently], and why Hank thinks that his discarded answer is distinguished from mine by "definitions, proper formatting, and examples." What is so great about Hot Licks' unsupported feelings about poetic resonance and conscious ignorance and whatnot, and what's wrong in my remarks?
    – Chaim
    Jan 31 '17 at 22:53
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    I've just looked at the page. Your answer has many more upvotes, count yourself lucky. The edit was a good one because it included a link and your answer became visually more appealing (tricks of the trade). But you are under no obligation to agree, and you can rollback the edit, or edit your answer again and do what you want, it's your post.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1 '17 at 7:44
  • Why? Does your down-vote reflect that my original post was worse than you thought?
    – Chaim
    Feb 2 '17 at 12:44
  • Originally, I thought the post was mainly concerned with who came "first" and accusations of plagiarism, if you can call citing a dictionary that. But instead, from your comment beneath Hank's answer it seems you were mostly confused by the suggested edit, and you're still unconvinced that the edit was an improvement. Well, it was. A downvote on meta just means a disagreement, nothing more nor less.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 2 '17 at 12:48
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    Hank needs his editing authority removed. He has edited (and then re-edited) posts many times that (in the end) change what the original poster has asked. He adds tags that don't make sense and does small styling edits. Perhaps he is trying to pad his numbers through so many edits,. Feb 8 '17 at 13:25
  • 1976 is not very much reputation, btw.
    – jpmc26
    Feb 10 '17 at 1:31

It appears that Hank added a link to the relevant page of Merriam-Webster Online; if so, that was a significant improvement to your answer because it enables people reading your answer to jump directly to the source of the material you quote. Hank referred to it as improving the formatting, which is a reasonable way to express it. The important thing was adding the link (which as far as I can tell from looking at the edit history wasn't there before).

Hank also removed some examples from the MW entry for oblivious, which you had included in your block quote. I'm not sure why he did, but I imagine he was trying to make your answer more succinct. I would not have done that—partly because I'm long-winded myself, and partly because I think judgments about how much material to include from a quoted definition are properly the poster's to make. But of course you can still make that choice, simply by reinstating the examples that you had originally included.

When an edit makes useful improvements but exceeds what you approve of, you can put it right either by rolling it back to your original version and then reintroducing the useful points from the edit or by accepting the edit and then reediting the post to reintroduce the lost portions of your original wording that you feel were useful and worth preserving.

As for the dispute over who's on first, what's on second, and I don't know's on third, I share medica's disappointment that such a controversy blew up on one of your first efforts to contribute to the site. The problem, I believe, is largely with the popularity of single-word requests in situations like this one.

From the commentary here and the answers and comments on the page in question, it appears that four different participants suggested or were in the process of suggesting oblivious within a few minutes of each other. This happened because (not to be dismissive of anyone's efforts) it is a pretty obvious (and suitable) answer to the poster's question. The reality is that the answer doesn't belong to anyone. Four people saw the question at an opportune time to respond with oblivious as a suggested answer—one (Mark Hubbard) in a comment; two (you and Hot Licks) in formal answers, and one (Hank) in a formal answer that he declined to post because you two got there first.

To the extent that English Language & Usage is a trivia game where whoever presses the button first gets to claim a particular answer, there are liable to be occasional bad feelings when someone answers just ahead of someone else—particularly since answers are never of exactly equal quality. But if everyone takes a step back and doesn't worry about the rep points that are rightfully theirs, I think they will see that there is little reason to get excited about the fact that a fairly obvious answer occurred to multiple people at virtually the same time.

I hope that your future experiences at EL&U are more pleasant, Chaim. Welcome!

  • A far better answer than mine. Feb 1 '17 at 3:56
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    In addition, there's no rule prohibiting users from suggesting the same answer, but if there is a significant time difference (in the region of 30 minutes), and the most recent answer does not add anything "new" to the older one, then it should be deleted. In this case, the amount of detail is significantly different in both posts.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1 '17 at 7:56

It's easy to find out who posted when. You answered at 20:48:54Z; Hot Licks at 20:59:12Z. You answered first, by 10 minutes and a few seconds.** However, you had no links, no MW definition until your first edit at 21:07, 8 minutes after @Hot Licks. So the accusation.

However, this is a busy site and two people are often in the process of writing an answer simultaneously. These two answers were posted closely enough that assuming the worst on the other party's part is possibly unwise. If you see a pattern of such behavior, you can comment, or flag a moderator who might look at the user's pattern of answering.

I often use Merriam Webster and so do many others; it's a popular dictionary and this was probably a coincidence.

The edit actually was an improvement to your answer (in my opinion); it linked your definition and formatted it well, in a manner that is quite common on the site. The removal of several instances of the use of the word oblivious did not detract from your answer; the definition and a good example or two is usually enough.

However, if you feel anything untoward was done to your answer, you can always roll back to the original; that is always your right as the OP. But I would not take this edit personally at all. I'm certain it was kindly meant.

Welcome to the site. This kind of activity is not par for the course as far as I'm aware, though I haven't been following much for a few months. I'm sorry for your bad experience, and hope it doesn't get repeated. The last bit isn't really common behavior.

**Unless there's something about timestamps that I don't know; in that case, I'm out of line here and owe someone an apology big time.

Edited to add: I owe an apology to @Hot Licks, big time. I'm sorry for impugning your character. I was utterly wrong, and I stand corrected. @sumelic is correct.

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    Come back medica, all is forgiven :). No, seriously, the main site needs your contribution.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1 '17 at 7:46

I want to start by saying I hope none of my comments or actions offended you but I will gladly explain them all, along with all of my edits.

The reason I said Hot Lick's answer "was delivered in a much better way" is because he posted a link to the definition that he included, formatted his answer in a way that is more pleasing to the eyes, allowing for easier reading, and he added an explanation of his opinion on that word.

Your first draft, on the other hand, only included a mention of the word, used in a sentence to explain its usage very minimally, a quote of someone using the word, and two other word suggestions. It didn't provide enough structure and support for people who may be wanting to know more about the word. Some "definitions, proper formatting, and examples", once included in your post, improved the appearance and readability of the post.

As for the edit I suggested after your additional information, the information I deleted was over the top. You clearly copied and pasted the whole word entry and it had 5 different examples of usage; that many are not necessary. I also formatted it slightly, as to provide a better look to viewers.

My sole intention was to make edits to improve your answer and give you the best chance of receiving up-votes, not to cause any distress. Although this may be an opinion and not a rule of thumb, I personally prefer assisting someone who beat me to an answer over posting my own in a better way, even if it would have information the initial answer lacks. That is why I decided to discard my answer, instead of trying to outshine yours.

As everyone else suggested, regardless of my intentions or opinions, the final decision is always YOURS. Even if others agree there is nothing wrong with my edits or suggestions, YOU still have the final say. IF you want to revert back to having 5 example usages, then go for it. If you think my edits diminished the intended effect of your answer, then change it. We don't want you to get the impression that you are being bottle-necked, especially when nothing you posted was officially "wrong".

  • Nothing offended me. But I'm just having trouble picturing the improvement. I received an image green on the left and red on the right, with stuff crossed out and symbols that look like the old Word Star formatting codes. It took me some time to understand where you added the link; I thought you meant that I I would see the URL, but in fact you had made a link of the word "oblivious." Anyhow, it seems that numeric scores are supposed to show us what we're doing right (or wrong), but I rarely see it. After your edits my little thoughts were somehow a home run, so I'm glad you edited. But...
    – Chaim
    Feb 1 '17 at 15:46
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    @Chaim But... you have difficulty picturing the improvement? The edited version is the one on display on the main page, compare that to the original, or to your second 2nd edit, and tell us that there was no improvement. The edit was a very significant improvement.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 2 '17 at 11:56
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    The answer oblivious is emphasised, place in bold, and linked, that alone makes it visible. In the game of SWRs, clever formatting is an essential element when a question hits the Hot Question Network. Best study how to format your answers from now on :) The stylings and explanations (click on the tiny question mark icon) are all on the toolbox. Here's the page with instructions: english.stackexchange.com/editing-help
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 2 '17 at 12:05
  • Well your words "compare that to the original, or to your second 2nd edit" contain links to images of the earlier post; I actually still don't know how I could have viewed those images if you had not linked me to them. Maybe I should stop commenting if my comments lead you to lower my score still further, but I meant to say that I don't know how the omission of almost all the citations made the post better. But more on that question under separate cover.
    – Chaim
    Feb 2 '17 at 12:50
  • Hello @Chaim, if you want to notify a user, place @ followed by their username. So, a downvote on meta does not effect your reputation points, just check your profile page. Secondly, the images of the edits are there if you click on the edit history button: You should see this: english.stackexchange.com/posts/371202/revisions, click where it says link and you'll see the post untouched as it appeared on the site. Hope this helps.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 2 '17 at 14:17
  • @Chaim: Are you still struggling to view previous versions of a post?  You know how to get into the Revision History, right? (That’s the presentation with the red and green in two columns, that you access through the “edited date time” legend.) In that page, click on the word “link” in the heading for a revision, like this.
    – Scott
    Feb 9 '17 at 5:04

Here is what I see in the edit history.

As far as I can tell, none of the other edits that were made were relevant (edit: Sven Yargs pointed out that Hank added a MW link to Chaim's answer, which was useful).

Chaim, if I'm reading these correctly, your answer was first, but Hot Licks' answer was the first to link to and quote Merriam-Webster.

The site "be nice" policy requires users to assume good intentions. So it would not be right to accuse Chaim of improper behaviour. However, this assumption of good intentions must also be applied to Hot Licks' comment. It seems to be factually true that Hot Licks provided the MW definition first, and while saying that Chaim copied this might be interpreted as an accusation, I don't think it needs to be. Personally, I've never considered it wrong to edit one's answer to incorporate useful information from other answers. Hot Licks may have assumed that is what Chaim did, and this assumption may have been mistaken. So I think it's quite possible that nobody did anything wrong, and it's just a misunderstanding. That is what I will assume.

Hank's edits changed an introductory sentence before the quotation, and removed some examples. The edit summary may have been misleading: "Formatting for better reading". Chaim, you should keep in mind that you can look at the actual edit as well, in addition to the summary. Hopefully that will help you avoid approving edits that you don't agree with in the future. As medica said, I don't think Hank did anything malicious, and in my opinion removing some of the examples did in fact improve the answer.

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    I appreciate and agree with everything said in all responses. I never resented what happened, and I am sorry if I lowered the tone. It just seemed a bit like a group of friends sitting around praising each other. Perhaps with a bit more reflection and time on the site I will see the criteria that recommend one correct response over another. My feeling is that few people, once offered the synonyms in all responses, would be so oblivious, clueless and dense as to require guidance to Webster's Dictionary. But perhaps the oblivious, clueless and dense one is me. Or I.
    – Chaim
    Feb 1 '17 at 12:51

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