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Late yesterday I noticed several similar suggested edits by this user when reviewing the edit queue. Then again this morning I noticed a few more in the queue by the same user, so I started digging into his editing behavior a little bit more:

  • It looks like he is massively editing (and bumping) old questions by just adding code tags to method names and class names under the tag (and maybe others, I haven't checked everything)
  • He rarely makes any other edits to the questions other than the code markup
  • He has gained over 200 rep in just a week doing this and while I have only spot checked the questions, everything I have looked at is over a year old.

So I guess I am asking:

  1. Is this appropriate behavior? I have rejected several of his edits that have come up while I was reviewing as "too minor", but if it is considered appropriate, I might not be as quick to reject
  2. If it is not appropriate, other than letting him go until he hits the edit rep max of 1000, is there something that should be done?
share|improve this question
Does he systematically leave other problems unfixed? If so, that's not appropriate. However, it's exactly why we have the review process. That should catch inappropriate edits. If it doesn't, it's this process that needs to be fixed, thereby informing the user. – Bart Oct 25 '12 at 18:14
In my spot checking, he only is adding the code mark-up and skipped some minor infractions like "Thanks" and Tags in titles. While that might be all that is wrong with the few posts, the law of averages tells me that he is leaving other errors. – psubsee2003 Oct 25 '12 at 18:18
Yep, saw the same. I've made it into an answer. – Bart Oct 25 '12 at 18:19
@psubsee2003 Personally I don't remove "Thanks" at the end of the sentence or tags in title because I don't mind them, but I do edit code syntax or spacing because it drives me crazy to try and read code that is not formatted correctly, and it actually interferes with the readability of the question – Rachel Oct 25 '12 at 18:44
@Rachel code spacing and lack of code block drives me nuts as well and I generally approve. In this case, I was specifically referring to edits that only change stuff like IEnumerable<String> to IEnumerable<String> within paragraphs in the post. – psubsee2003 Oct 25 '12 at 18:49
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Is this appropriate behavior? I have rejected several of his edits that have some up while I was reviewing as "too minor", but if it is considered appropriate, I might note be as quick to reject

Looking at several of his edits, it seems he is indeed focused on "fixing" single aspects of a question, not taking into account any other problems there might be. If there are such other problems, feel free to reject the edits as too minor.

If there are no further problems (or just something which might have been realistically missed) and the edits do contribute to an improved question or answer, by all means accept it.

If it is not appropriate, other than letting him go until he hits the edit rep max of 1000, is there something that should be done?

Well, the thing that "should be done" is a proper review process. Having the majority of your edits rejected as too minor will ultimately send a message. If this does not happen because of faulty review decisions, it's the review process that needs to be fixed.

There have been various discussions on the current review process and especially the awarding of badges for it (and the gaming that might be at play), so I won't rehash that here. But I personally do think the current review process might deserve a good looking at.

share|improve this answer
Thanks Bart. This pretty much validated my initial feeling, but I recall doing a similar edit (where that I think was the only thing wrong) to an old post several months ago and got my hand slapped by a reviewer (via a custom reject message) about not making minor changes to old posts. So I've been a little gun-shy abut editing old posts since. – psubsee2003 Oct 25 '12 at 18:28
By all means edit old posts. Improvement of the content we have is always welcome. But simply do so substantially. When reviewing, I don't look at how old a post is. I look at how much you've improved it. – Bart Oct 25 '12 at 18:30
That's what I'm coming to learn. As I said in my comment on Servy's post, I think "minor edit" and "edits should be substantial" are not well enough defined. Too many people take it to mean "small changes should be rejected", whereas it should be "any good edit that fixed everything in the post should be accepted" - and by good I mean, something that actually needs fixing. – psubsee2003 Oct 25 '12 at 18:34
Yep, it's difficult to educate users on how to appropriately handle review tasks. But believe me, having been editorial assistant for an academic journal for several years, we're not the only place with sometimes problematic reviews. It's a tricky thing to solve. – Bart Oct 25 '12 at 18:36
I don't understand why minor edits can get rejected ? Can you guys explain a bit the main issue with them ? I mean, I have already edited posts with just a couple formatting issue, not for the +2 rep, but just because I really have trouble focusing on the content when the post is all "messed up". So I think to myself, "well, let's tidy that up so maybe the ones who can help won't run away seeing this post".. Even if it's a two-lines question and it's just missing a code tag (as said in this question), I think it can change the way you understand the question, so I might edit it.. – rdurand Oct 26 '12 at 12:41
@rdurand If that is all there is to fix, no problem at all. Go right ahead and I'll accept it. If you however only fix the code tag (for example) but leave plenty of other glaringly obvious problems in place, either I won't accept it, or I will improve it myself and unselect your contribution as being helpful. "Too minor" does not necessarily mean "Not a whole lot of edits". If your tiny edits fixes all, good for you and thank you for doing so. – Bart Oct 26 '12 at 12:46
@Bart Oh ok, I get it. In fact, I always make sure when I send an edit that it's "perfect" (meaning, nobody can ever improve the post again, lol), and if I can't, I'd post a comment asking the user to clarify/tidy the post. So I think I'm good to go :). Coming back to the original question, maybe there's something to do with the rep earned when submitting suggestions ? I don't mean take out the +2, because obviously editors help improving the site's quality, but maybe it "encourages" people to send any kind of edits, including useless ones.. – rdurand Oct 26 '12 at 12:55
@rdurand Well, ideally that's why we have the review in place. The rep is great in motivating new users to help us edit and discover the process. The review should prevent useless edits from getting through, and at the same time teach editors what is appropriate and what is not. Unfortunately, at the moment, the review process is failing somewhat in that regard. A lot has been said about that already on Meta, so I won't rehash that, but it's a problem. – Bart Oct 26 '12 at 13:00

It is perfectly acceptable to edit old posts. They deserve editing just as much as new posts. That has no bearing on whether or not the edits are valid.

Adding code tags (backticks) to method names referenced in posts is a perfectly valid edit to make, adding them when they really should be there (rather than just putting them in randomly) is acceptable.

Making the same edit to a lot of posts, while often a warning sign, isn't technically wrong. If you see someone making the same type of edit over and over again you should scrutinize their posts a bit more, but that is not, in and of itself, a reason for rejection.

What is likely a problem on at least some of the posts, and the reason you should scrutinize them more, is that they may very well be "too minor". If the editor is leaving out other glaring edits, such as obvious misspellings, major formatting errors, tags in titles, salutations/signatures, poor capitalization, etc. then, on a case by case basis, consider rejecting the post as too minor.

In general, if I can just glance at a post and find several things really obviously wrong, and the change made aren't dramatically improving the post I'll reject as too minor, or edit and improve as not helpful. If I have to look really hard to find something they miss, or if they missed a lot but also edited a lot then I'll edit and improve as helpful, or just approve.

If, for a particular post, there aren't any major problems other than missing backticks around method calls, it would be an acceptable edit to add them in.

You also need to be careful with serial minor upvoters; it can be a problem if you just start rejecting all of their suggestions as soon as you see their name. Usually they will (sometimes by accident) come across posts where the only error is the one they're fixing, in which case it should still be approved, not denied.

share|improve this answer
Ditto my comment on Bart's answer. I think the root part of my concern is the definitions of "too minor" and "edits should be substantial" do not genuinely reflect what they mean as far as editing. What I am slowly learning is a minor edit could be considered substantial if it corrects every error, and I think too many reviewers interpret it is mean "small changes" should be rejected. – psubsee2003 Oct 25 '12 at 18:32
@psubsee2003 In my eyes it's a bit of both. You should only reject as too minor if the post both makes a small change, without a major impact, and doesn't have other obvious errors. If there is either a substantial improvement (even if there are some errors missing) or nothing else that clearly needs to be improved, then you should accept the edit. – Servy Oct 25 '12 at 18:34
Oddly enough, in spite of our discussion in my answer, I generally agree with you. :-) – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:45

I submit that even minor cleanups (removing "Hi, all", fixing grammar and punctuation, and other nitpicks) in addition to formatting cleanup are essential to the health of this community. Further, if this is inappropriate, why are tag changes considered appropriate? Why curate structure if you ignore problem content?

I feel like there's too much of a push to "just let it go" when one of the things I read several years ago on SO was essentially "if you don't like to be edited, don't post". Is that not still true? If not, I'll certainly be less motivated to help curate SO because "what's the point?"

Adding from my comments: there are a number of badges that encourage editing as housekeeping. A silver one is even called "Strunk & White". How is it bad behavior if it's encouraged by a badge? "Minor serial edits" are edits; the badges make no distinction.

share|improve this answer
This is partly because every time you suggest an edit it adds a cost to the site. That suggestion needs to be reviewed by others, and no other edits can take place on the post while the suggestion is pending. When you have enough reputation to edit posts without needing review then there is a much lower cost associated with less comprehensive edits, so they aren't discouraged as actively. – Servy Oct 26 '12 at 15:22
So we're only talking about new users? I don't see this specified. Also, two down-votes and one comment. Would all the down-voters care to be a good citizen and explain? – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:23
We're talking about whether or not to approve a suggested edit in the review queue. Only users with less than 2k reputation can suggest edits; users with more rep will just have it approved immediately. Also note that downvoters are not obligated to explain their reasoning. The ability to downvote anonymously is an important feature on the site. – Servy Oct 26 '12 at 15:24
Ah. Have a (worthless) comment upvote. I see your point exactly but I stand by mine absolutely. :-) I was spurred into participating in Meta because of several years' investment in SO and my disagreement with some of the heavy-handed rules. I hope to add another voice but I'm still new to Meta. – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:27
... but isn't there a badge for Cleanup, Editor, Excavator, Proofreader, Organizer, Strunk & White ... blah blah? Why? – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:32
So which of those badges is for serial minor edits as opposed to more significant and comprehensive edits to posts? – Servy Oct 26 '12 at 15:34
All of them if you "achieve" enough of them. :-) (added quotes to clarify my meaning) – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:38
Also, I honestly thought I was doing good for the site when I invested HOURS scouring for questions that could use cleaning up. Many others do too in their eagerness to give back to a site that helped them. I know because it's how I felt and how I see others. My own answers have been edited and it's rare I object even a little. – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:39
Edits that are "too minor" by the site's definition shouldn't be approved, and so shouldn't contribute to those badges. Those badges were designed to be earned by performing significant and comprehensive edits of posts, not through serial minor edits. You seem to think that I'm telling you not to edit posts, if so you're very wrong about that. I'm saying that if you're going to edit posts, do it right. Rather than spending hours of your time performing small edits with a net value that is either low, or even negative, you should instead do more meaningful edits that add more value. – Servy Oct 26 '12 at 15:49
I do see your point and don't think you're not saying "don't edit". I just feel the badges encourage the very behavior everyone is discussing for new users as well as established. – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:51
@JoshuaNozzi Don't mistake "minor edits" with "too minor edits". "Too minor" means you've left a considerable amount of problems to fix. Minor edits are not necessarily too minor. – Bart Oct 26 '12 at 15:51
Bart, you hurt my head. :-) – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:52
Continuing, in spite of the "extended discussion warning": The appropriate action "should be" to accept an edit if it's valid. The distinction between "minor" and "too minor" ends there. Even if it's a minor formatting cleanup, it's not an invalid edit. ...and so on. – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:55
I read your answer. I'm responding to your "what about badges gives you the impression" question. I think we're arguing for much the same thing but from different perspectives. In terms of "much much more" I usually do a "while I'm at it" with edits (and yes, I don't "cost" approvals and haven't for a few years) and clean up anything else that looks like it needs it. BUT, I also clean up very minor details if they bug me. Whether I'm new or not is largely irrelevant to the validity of the edit ("cost"). – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 15:58
Just to clarify: I'm not arguing just to argue. I wanted to add my voice to the discussion because I believe there is value in nearly any "type" of edit (despite moderator cost), especially in the kinds the OP described. I think that's the key point on which we're missing one-another. – Joshua Nozzi Oct 26 '12 at 16:07

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