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There was a wave of automatic edits recently applied to old posts throughout the network, including one to remove salutations, and another to remove multiple punctuation marks.

Now, I don't want to start (yet another) discussion of whether or not this a good idea. But I have a very modest... policy suggestion: let's never ever edit old posts without adding edits to the revision history, so we can always understand what happened, at least.

That's the whole point of having a revision history. Even if you're sure that nothing can go wrong, something always can go wrong, as discussed in this question on Math.SE Meta.

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@Cody Thank you! –  Grigory M Aug 10 '11 at 10:51
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This makes some sense in my eyes. Considering we had CHAOS doing something which leaves revision history yet does not bump, I think it's consequently possible that we should be able to work on this kind of functionality. –  Grace Note Aug 10 '11 at 12:11
    
(One more example of something going wrong in non-trivial way: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/103855) –  Grigory M Aug 25 '11 at 14:46
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1 Answer

I suspect it would be troublesome: normally, the author has five minutes in which to make incidental edits after posting, during which time his modifications do not produce any new revision entries. Forcing a new revision during the salutation/punctuation-stripping could complicate this.

As an alternate solution, I would like to propose that these changes be made during the rendering stage, leaving the original source intact. This could help to reduce confusion and preserve the author's original text in the revision history, while still accomplishing the goal of reducing obvious noise.

I suspect that the solution in use right now (queries that modify the data directly) has the advantage of being fast and easy to implement. I'm not familiar with the details, but I'd wager it avoids the time/cost of having to re-render potentially hundreds of thousands of pages in response to the edits. Adding a revision would no doubt be even more costly, though implemented as a bot it could be feasible I suppose.

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(Re: second part) Well, instant auto-edits at post creation is a different matter, indeed (I don't really have an opinion on whether it should go to revision history). –  Grigory M Aug 10 '11 at 15:45
    
@Grigory: if the original source wasn't touched, the distinction between automatic modifications to old posts and new ones would mostly go away... –  Shog9 Aug 10 '11 at 15:46
    
@Grigory: sorry for the confusion edit - I was originally writing based on my own observations, which were... lacking. The current behavior appears to be old posts get the rendered copy edited, while new revisions get silently modified while saving. This doesn't match my expectations at all, but sorta makes sense (as explained in my previous comment, it's probably a lot faster). –  Shog9 Aug 10 '11 at 16:03
    
Frankly, I don't like the idea of filtering during the rendering stage — it has the same problem of not being transparent: with such hacks users have little chance to understand what's happening. Bot (with CHAOS-like superpowers) would be better, I think. –  Grigory M Aug 11 '11 at 6:33
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