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I've had many occasions where it takes longer than 30 seconds to edit a post into shape; there's a decent question there but I'm spending a lot of time fixing horrible formatting and spelling and other things, especially if I'm taking the code sample(s) into another application for more efficient formatting capabilities. I think that currently a lot of effort can be wasted or duplicated by multiple people attempting to edit the same questions. One of the editors "wins" when the other one didn't realize it was being edited. It would be great if we could be prevented from editing a question if someone else is already editing, kind of like a "do not disturb" sign.

So I have two proposals that could make this process better:

  1. Allow users with sufficient rep (say, 10k/trusted user level) to "lock" a post for editing. This prevents other users from editing until the lock is released, maybe with the exception of the post owner (but maybe not). Of course the lock would need to have a time limit, otherwise someone could lock a bunch of questions, go on vacation, and StackExchange implodes. I'm not sure what the limit should be, but the grace period (5 minutes) is probably a reasonable start.

  2. Barring 1., at least present me with a warning that someone else has currently clicked the [edit] link and is probably editing the question. Like the [edit(0)] nomenclature, this lets me know before I even try that someone else is editing.

I think these can improve the process in two ways:

  1. Less duplicated effort.
  2. Less rush to get edits in.
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I guess the down-voter likes to have their edits trumped by someone else's? Chaos! Sweet! –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 19:49
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You could simply precede your longer edits by a short edit inserting a "editor at work" notice. –  Martin Schröder Aug 1 '12 at 17:44
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@Martin I don't think that's visible enough and, unlike my proposal, it wouldn't automatically be removed if the more substantial edit were abandoned. –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 1 '12 at 22:08

3 Answers 3

I completely agree with number 2 in your request.

As someone spends time editing and considering that we have a lack of tools to edit quickly unless you copy and paste over to another system (Notepad, SQL Server Management Studio) I fully support some sort of warning that the post is in the process of being edited.

If you go to edit a poorly formatted post it would be helpful to know that someone else is already performing an edit.

It is incredibly frustrating to start to edit something and you try to save only to get the message:

'User' already edited this post; your edit must be more substantive....

It would be great to get a notification when you click the edit link. Something as simple as this I think might be sufficient*:

enter image description here

*Of course prettier and maybe with more unicorns or waffles?

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I would like something like this. Maybe "3 users started editing in the last 5 min" - because that is the kind of information the site can give. The site can't tell whether the post is actually still being edited. –  Erwin Brandstetter Jul 26 '12 at 19:41
    
@ErwinBrandstetter anything would be better than having conflicting edits happening at the same time –  bluefeet Jul 26 '12 at 19:42
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The problem with this is what if both people see that someone else is editing and both stop editing. Then the edit never happens. This information can be just as detrimental to the process as helpful. –  animuson Jul 26 '12 at 19:46
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@animuson true that is a possible problem but the first person editing the post should not see the message, it will only be shown to subsequent editors. –  bluefeet Jul 26 '12 at 19:49

(2) would be an excellent start and should be quite easy to implement. Not too much else to be said there (I'm sure SE staff can figure out something simple and useful). Just knowing that someone's started editing before I start would be helpful (and possibly deterring some mid-edit changes to the post while editing).

Also, adding a bit to (1)...

  • Rep: Not sure whether as much as 10k rep is needed, definitely 2k (edit without approval) or more, as long as...
  • Edit Trust Level: Each user should have a trust level specifically for performing edits (a simple number of edits completed versus abandoned, possibly have age factor - only consider recent posts (or weighted by date)), which possibly completely disables locking for them. It's not so much about useful edits, more about actually following through with edits rather than just locking posts all over the place without doing anything.

I've seen some crazy edit wars where a low rep poster keeps overwriting formatting changes by edit timing, so:

  • Leaning towards the post owner also being locked out.
  • Possibly let the post owner have automatic edit locking privileges, regardless of reputation (maybe a bad idea).

  • Timeout: 5 minutes sounds about right, I would say definitely not more, maybe even less would be better.

  • Exclusivity: In my opinion, an absolute must - users may only lock one post on the site at a time. In what possible scenario would you need to edit multiple posts at the exact same time?

There is a possibility that malicious users may be able to misuse this, but, looking at the current quality of the site and high-ish rep users, it seems improbable.

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  1. This seems completely unfair to anyone who wouldn't have that privilege. Since they can't "lock" the post, any user with the privilege can still start editing. Are they still allowed to lock it and kick out whoever was already editing? I've many times seen higher rep users still make basic edits and miss other things. They shouldn't be allowed to simply block out other users; they're not that special.

  2. I really don't understand why people think this would ever be helpful. The notification will achieve absolutely nothing. If people see the notification that someone else is already editing, what exactly is the thought process you're going to follow?

    • Speed up your editing and potentially miss things that could have been edited but didn't get edited because you were worried about being first?

    • Stop editing altogether because you don't think it'll be worth it?

    • Continue editing anyways in hopes yours will be more substantive?

    Seems like option #3 is the only viable one that we'd want to encourage, and you can already do that without seeing any notification. I'm especially afraid of #2. Seeing that someone is already editing something will demotivate users from trying to edit in the first place, when the previous user may not even be editing anymore. Then the post goes unedited.

Sure it can be annoying, but it doesn't happen that often. I make tons of edits and rarely ever have an issue with other people editing before me. I've even been so frustrated by one of these scenarios that I posted a feature-request of my own. The solution is to let it go.

The bottom line is we should never discourage a user from attempting to edit for any reason, no matter what the circumstances are.

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Well, maybe the "sufficient rep" was an artificial barrier I thought about simply to prevent everyone from locking every post. I suppose the ability to edit should really be all that is required. Your first bullet under #2 doesn't make sense. If I get a notification that someone is already editing, I'm going to hold off and wait for them to finish. I haven't started yet, I've only clicked the Edit link. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 20:06
    
The first bullet point goes off the idea that the notification gets live-updated while editing, since this type of notification has been discussed before and I was trying to incorporate ideas from other discussions I've seen. –  animuson Jul 26 '12 at 20:07
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I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting you're warned when you go to edit but someone has already locked it for editing. If you decide to go ahead and try to edit anyway, let the system decide who wins (e.g. you can ignore the warning and everything works the way it does now). –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 20:09
    
So then you're back to your original issue. If that user does edit and submits it before you finish, then you're irritated again if yours doesn't qualify as "more substantive" by the system. –  animuson Jul 26 '12 at 20:10
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but with a warning at least it isn't done unknowingly. What is your objection to the warning? I think it will reduce irritation and I have no idea what harm it will cause. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 20:11
    
It doesn't help anything. Your complaint is about the first person who starts editing not having to worry about other people editing. If the second person still edits, and the first's edit (who was never warned) gets rejected, then you still have the same scenario. The notification also may not be accurate. I've plenty of times clicked the edit link and then decided not to edit. Should users be notified that I'm "editing" the post when I'm not? –  animuson Jul 26 '12 at 20:14
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No, I think you misunderstood my complaint. The second user comes along, tries to edit, then is told another user is already editing. Do you really think the same number of users are going to continue editing and try to win? I don't. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 20:16
    
And no, if you click cancel, obviously the warning should not appear. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 20:17
    
I'm saying it could be misleading. I don't believe we should discourage users from attempting to make edits just because someone else is already "editing" the post. Who knows what the other person is actually doing. People could just sit on the edit screen to deter people from editing their stuff. –  animuson Jul 26 '12 at 20:19
    
I don't think it's misleading at all, but Ok. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 26 '12 at 20:21

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