I just had to roll back about a dozen incorrect suggested edits that were approved, because all they did was litter backticks all over random words and phrases and calling it improved formatting.

This is just one of the less exciting cleanup tasks I've taken it upon myself to do, as these edits are not only rampantly suggested, but also rampantly approved, obviously by the same people who think it is for whatever reason OK to mark keywords and other random things with backticks.

The fact that I'm rolling these edits back means that these edits shouldn't have been approved in the first place. Since rejecting a suggested edit denies the editor of the +2 rep bonus that would otherwise be awarded when the edit is approved, I propose that rolling such an edit back do two things:

  1. Mark the edit as rejected instead of approved, either by Community♦ or the user performing the rollback, preferably with the invalid edit reason if not one of the user's choosing.

  2. Revoke the +2 rep bonus that was awarded when the edit was approved, if applicable.

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My eyes hate you now, well done. –  Tim Stone Jun 26 '12 at 18:55
This is a great idea, and would make it much easier to get those users edit-banned –  Ben Brocka Jun 26 '12 at 18:56
I like this idea. –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Jun 26 '12 at 18:57
Frankly, I think those approving such crap are the actual problem. We've all made pointless edits at first, at least I know I did, and I had absolutely no clue I was doing something wrong while my edits were getting approved. –  Yannis Jun 26 '12 at 19:08
@jadarnel27 Yes, give more guns to the criminally insane, good plan ;) –  Yannis Jun 26 '12 at 19:23
While I agree with the vast majority of the corrections you made to those posts, I do think that putting backticks around programming language keywords, class names, and function names is okay. I'd approve edits where those were the only changes made. (That's not the case here, I'm just trying to find where the line is.) –  Bill the Lizard Jun 26 '12 at 19:39
@YannisRizos Right, this is just a symptom. The real issue is that apparently some people mindlessly accept edits, so let's work on stopping that from happening. –  Michael McGowan Jun 26 '12 at 19:47
And maybe: 3. Somehow notify the approvers too? –  Arjan Jun 26 '12 at 20:36
@Arjan: Which reminds me of meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/120624/… –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 26 '12 at 20:42
+1 and give the user who did the excess back ticks -2 rep for making me spend more money at the optometrist. –  user7116 Jun 26 '12 at 21:55
We needs this so badly. Still finding accounts that are farming rep by spamming the site with bad edits. –  meagar Aug 1 '12 at 17:34
I'm glad I'm not the only one seeing this, but for God's sake, make it stop! Maybe we need to raise the rep bar for people to approve edits. –  Brad Mace Aug 6 '12 at 5:59
@BradMace - I've seen people with 60K+ rep approve the most atrocious edits. It'd be a first for SO, but I think users should have to be able to pass a test to be able to approve edits. You can't identify bad edits? Then you don't get to approve them. –  LBT Nov 14 '12 at 18:25
As an aside almost all rep (except I think bounties). can be reversed via unaccepting, unvoting, post deletion, user deletion, or sock puppet detection. Why are suggested edits so unimpeachable. –  Some Helpful Commenter Dec 14 '12 at 18:34
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5 Answers

up vote 111 down vote

You make a very good point about edits getting

not only rampantly suggested, but also rampantly approved

but I think that your idea of

  1. Mark[ing] the edit as rejected [...]

  2. Revok[ing] the +2 rep bonus [...]

doesn't address

the real problem

which is not the low reputation users suggesting bad edits, but the high reputation users approving them.

This is why I came up with the following


which consists in

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The general idea on Stack Exchange is not sending notifications for something negative users did; notifications should always be for something positive. –  kiamlaluno Jun 28 '12 at 6:37
@kiamlaluno: That's true, but is that a good thing? This idea apart, if I'm doing something that will result in a suspension if repeated, I'd certainly prefer to be notified. –  Dennis Jun 29 '12 at 1:44
Another recent of blind approval: stackoverflow.com/review-beta/suggested-edits/763823 –  random Oct 6 '12 at 13:40
@random: Markdown syntax errors and lack of proper capitalization aside, helle all? Seriously??? That does it. This thing needs a bounty. –  Dennis Oct 6 '12 at 14:07
+1 I agree with your ideas –  Ankur Mittal Nov 17 '12 at 12:19
I see these at least once a week on the R tag. Just now I had to roll this one back: stackoverflow.com/review/suggested-edits/3896505 Everything it changes about the question is invalid: It reintroduces "R" in the title which is redundant, while also adding "Statistics" to the title of a question that has nothing to do with statistics. If that's not enough, it adds the "printing" tag, which doesn't seem to be helpful at all. How about revoking the +2 edit bonus if the question is rolled back within a certain period of time? –  Matthew Lundberg Jan 25 at 17:07
I just tried to reject an edit where someone removed alternative text to an image. Unfortunately it got approved out from under me in less than 30 seconds. Perhaps some folks aren't taking the time required to actually read what they're approving? –  ebyrob Mar 12 at 15:45
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Some caveats and other concerns:

  • As people blindly approve these edits, people may just as blindly roll them back. In a more serious case, one could also use one's edit privileges to serially roll back a user's suggested edits, thereby making it basically a different flavor of revenge downvoting — and one much harder to reverse. I don't like the sound of that...

  • If we limit who can perform such rollbacks, who exactly do we limit it to? Users of a certain reputation level? Moderators? Someone else?

  • What about the users who are approving these edits? How do we address them?

In fact, now that I think about it, I should agree that the problem probably lies in these users who are blindly approving these edits in the first place, more so than the edits themselves which could have been rejected just as easily.

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Made this an answer so the question doesn't look like it's contradicting itself. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 26 '12 at 21:41
I'm confused. What's bad about undoing vandalism? –  Brad Mace Aug 6 '12 at 15:30
@bemace: If the +2 rep from approving an edit was docked, one could theoretically target someone's good edits by rolling them all back. In that case, the vandalism lies in rolling back the good edits. Not to mention lost rep that was actually gained fairly. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 6 '12 at 16:29
Ah, I see what you were saying. Hopefully the suspicious voting detector could be applied to this as well though. –  Brad Mace Aug 6 '12 at 17:10
Isn't this what flagging is for? I mean if a couple other high-rep mods notice what's happening, I would think it'd be curtains for the perpetrator... –  ebyrob Mar 12 at 15:47
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I disagree. The fact that 2 reviewers have voted to approve the edit should (note, should) indicate that the edit is acceptable.

It would be wrong for one user (note, I accept it's different for you as a moderator) to be able to override the decision of those two users, and to undermine them by rolling back the edit.

What I propose instead is;

  1. Rather than simply needing two approval votes to be approved, an edit is only accepted if the number of approval votes is at-least 2 greater than the number of rejection votes.

    e.g, if one user rejects the edit, the edit then needs 3 approval votes.

    This gets more pairs of eyes on the controversial edits to make sure the right decision is made.

  2. Better information to the editors about what should be accepted. This problem is not restricted to backticks, nor is it restricted to approvals-that-shouldn't-have-been. I see rejected edits that should have been approved and vice-versa all the time.

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Note that 2 reviewers is only true for Stack Overflow. –  Yannis Jun 26 '12 at 19:06
@YannisRizos: Indeed, but I'd be more than annoyed if someone started adding code-tags to random words on Bicycles. –  Matt Jun 26 '12 at 19:07
People who do it thinking it's a good way to emphasize, will do it regardless if they are on Bicycles, or, don't know, Biblical Hermeneutics, Gaming, etc. But I'm more thinking of Programmers, were edits are approved by one user and we have valid uses for code blocks. –  Yannis Jun 26 '12 at 19:10
@YannisRizos: I guess the easiest thing to do there would be to increase the number of votes needed for it to be approved? –  Matt Jun 26 '12 at 19:11
I agree that the approvers are a problem, but getting more eyes isn't realistic when we're struggling to keep up with the queue. –  Gilles Jun 26 '12 at 19:12
You all realize backticks were just an example of one kind of bad edit, right? –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 26 '12 at 19:13
@Gilles: If it's any consolation, controversial edits are only a small percentage (6.4%, based on last months #) of the total. –  Matt Jun 26 '12 at 19:15
@BoltClock'saUnicorn You realize that focusing on the tree and completely ignoring the forest is what MSO is about, right? ;P –  Yannis Jun 26 '12 at 19:16
@BoltClocksaUnicorn: Indeed. I was just re-enforcing the point. –  Matt Jun 26 '12 at 19:16
@Matt I wonder how many edits were unanimously wrongly rejected/approved. I should go through a statistical sample. When I have the time, in six to eight eons. –  Gilles Jun 26 '12 at 19:17
@Yannis Rizos: I knew that. I was just performing a counter-productive sanity check on the insane people of Meta. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 26 '12 at 19:19
"The fact that 2 reviewers have voted to approve the edit should (note, should) indicate that the edit is acceptable." Or it could indicate 2 reviewers have no clue what they're doing and/or are gaming for badges and should be banned from accepting edits. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 16 '12 at 18:07
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Instead of concentrating on rollbacks reversing the rep gains from edits that have already been made (which I agree pretty much needs to be done by diamond moderators; it would be silly to require 3 reject votes in the suggested edits queue by ordinary users to block an edit, but then allow a single non-mod to overrule the approve votes), the system should concentrate on weeding out the reviewers who approve these in the first place.

How? Audits. We've all seen audits designed to catch people who aren't paying attention at all and who won't notice blatant vandalism. We also need audits that are clearly under the "too minor" category. Throw purported edits where some backticks are placed around a couple of words into the audits. Include some fixes to a single misspelled word. These problems will disappear quite quickly.

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Instead of introducing a new feature, I think it is better to educate both the editor and the reviewer - for the first time they gain privilege to edit/review. I doubt people check meta frequently, and I doubt people know what to check for when they edit/review for the first time.

We can give specific example of how to transform a badly formatted post to a clean post. There are enough suggested edits on SO to pick out one example. Or we can just create an example on our own.

The guide for editor/reviewer should mention:

  • Salutation
  • Tagging
  • Various stuffs about formatting code (indentation, syntax highlighting, <pre>/4-space/back-tick)
  • Quoting
  • Do not overuse formatting
  • Substantial edit
  • (Esp. tag wiki) Do not copy content.
  • Visit meta site for changes in policy.

The guide should be paginated - something look like cartoon, so that reader will not be overwhelmed. Each of the page can contain a link to the relevant part in the FAQs or relevant meta question.

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