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A question and its answer should be applicable to a wide audience, and not be limited to small section in time. At the same time, duplicate questions are discouraged.

Both of these lend themselves to the notion that answers should be maintained and updated, preventing the need for the question being asked again. In an ideal world, this would be done by the community, but most of the time, aside from the odd error correction, answers are largely maintained by their author -- they have the most to gain from an upvoted answer, after all.

At the same time, if an author edits their post 12 or more times, it is automatically turned into a "Community Wiki", and they lose any reputation they've earned (or will earn), which (in turn) surely discourages authors from maintaining their answers for future readers.

Hence the dichotomy I wish to flag for attention. If we want authors to take an active interest in maintaining their answers, isn't this sending a mixed signal?

Community Wiki posts clearly have their place, but are we discouraging maintenance? And if so, is that what we want?

Unfortunately I don't have a proposal, I'm merely floating this for discussion.

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6  
If the edits are all substantial, flagging for un-wikification will likely succeed. Somewhat inconvenient, but a way out. –  Daniel Fischer May 10 '13 at 19:37
    
A problem I see is that over time and across different versions of different software, the best answer can change significantly. Does it make sense to radically alter an old answer to ensure that it caters to a new version that supports a new, more efficient way to solve the same problem? I'm not sure where to draw the line there. –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 19:37
    
@AaronBertrand Yep, that's a great point. Assuming the question is (more or less) the same, though, wouldn't an attempt at getting a new answer automatically result in a close for duplication? :-/ –  Django Reinhardt May 10 '13 at 19:39
    
@Django when I see that, I bring it up as a comment (but usually it's not enough to stop the herd). I only do so when the proposed duplicate offers a solution that was good when it was answered but when a better answer exists now (and when the OP is clearly using a newer version that supports the better solution). –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 19:39
    
As to the wikification, that's a lot of version changes it will take to go through that many revisions. Even assuming say 3 or so per language version, 8 versions of a programming language is going to take quite some time. If an answer is staying useful and relevant for the (let's say) 10 years it took to get 25 revisions I think you can be confident that the site will work to ensure it is both rewarded and able to continue to be maintained. So far the site simply hasn't been around long enough to need to address that issue. –  Servy May 10 '13 at 19:40
    
If substantial maintenance by the OP has caused a post to be converted into a Community Wiki, a moderator flag is all it takes to have this undone. –  Bart May 10 '13 at 19:41
    
Perhaps the implied suggestion is that an author's own edits should not contribute to the count, and maybe the "edited by others" threshold that would trigger CW should be a lot lower. Or perhaps some hybrid, like > n edits per x weeks/months. –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 19:43
3  
To clarify better, the OP is clearly asking for something, people to take better care of their questions. IMHO, this is completely impossible to incentivise, though obviously highly desirable. The OP specified a disincentive to do so, namely CW. I doubt very much that most people pay the slightest attention to this and the OP has not even suggested removing CW (just as well it'd be a dupe). As such, this is just a vague (sorry again) "shouldn't people take better care/be nicer", which is kinda pointless... –  ben is uǝq backwards May 10 '13 at 20:04
    
Regarding your update: If a moderator has determined that you're not abusively bumping your question through trivial edits, but are clearly substantially editing the content, then undoing CW seems fair enough and the scenario that you would abuse it unlikely, wouldn't it? So what is the problem/confusion there? I don't really follow. –  Bart May 10 '13 at 20:25
    
@Bart how many existing SO users do you think understand that if their post gets pushed to CW they can undo it by seeking out a moderator's help? Why keep that as a more likely option than if we don't penalize so heavy for self-editing? –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 20:28
2  
@Bart It just seems random to me that, no matter what your rep, you cannot be trusted -- until a mod comes along and gives you immunity. It just seems a confusing system. –  Django Reinhardt May 10 '13 at 20:31
    
@AaronBertrand I really couldn't give you figures on how or what or how often, but I would not be surprised that in the rare occasion this happens, users come to Meta to figure out what is going on. But I might be slightly naive there. Adjusting the threshold for self-edits might be an option. But then again you might run into trivial edit bumps. Perhaps a notification might be an alternative. I.e. "Your post has been converted to CW. See here (on Meta) why and what that means". –  Bart May 10 '13 at 20:31
    
@Bart I think a notification is probably a good idea. –  Django Reinhardt May 10 '13 at 20:32
2  
@Bart if this is all out of fear of trivial edit bumps, then maybe the trivial edit bump algorithm should be fixed, so the rest of the system can work as it should instead of as it needs to in order to avoid trivial edit bumps. –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 20:32
3  
@Bart well there must be some code somewhere that says put this post on top because it was edited and that code must have the ability to be improved upon. –  Aaron Bertrand May 10 '13 at 20:36

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I agree with Bart that the number of high-quality posts that have been converted to CW is probably very low. Still, perhaps it is low because authors have been afraid of putting too much effort into maintaining their posts. I think it will be impossible to speculate with any confidence about users' motivations. We could go check the data on DataExplorer but even with the numbers it would be hard to tell if it was chicken or egg : did the answer only become high quality after it was made CW (e.g. the edits were required), or was an already high-quality answer maintained over the threshold? I up-voted a CW post today because the author unselfishly introduced it that way.

I thought that the purpose of CW was to prevent an author from benefitting from a post that has largely been edited/maintained by other members of the community. If that is the case, then it makes little sense to penalize authors for editing the post themselves - even if it can be undone by bothering a moderator (and this requires the knowledge that a moderator can even make this can happen - which I doubt is common knowledge among the SO population).

So my suggestion is twofold, and I am going to leave out specifics intentionally:

  1. Do not make an author's own edits count toward CW status (or make them count less). To offset the potential gamification of editing posts to push them to the top of the front page (which, given the speed the front page moves in tags where it is likely to make a difference), put a limit on this (such as one substantial edit per <some time frame>). It should be easy to have a reset counter of some kind per post.

  2. Lower the threshold of other users' edits that push a post to CW.

Yes, this is slightly more complicated than the current system, and involves that four-letter word (change) we all seem to be so afraid of, but I think this offers a better overall system that doesn't take away anything from what's in place now.

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3  
The historical reason for auto-CW is that it can be abused to push a Q&A pair to the top of the active list. Any solution would have to provide an alternative for editing abuse. (I prefer abolishing CW entirely, I don't think it serves any purpose.) –  Andomar May 12 '13 at 14:57
2  
@Andomar so maybe self-edits simply shouldn't push posts. –  Aaron Bertrand May 12 '13 at 15:03
    
Re-listing after an edit seems like a good thing, for voting and correction. Especially if it's an edit for the worse. –  Andomar May 12 '13 at 15:06
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@Andomar how often do authors edit their own posts and make them worse? Usually they're fixing things, not breaking them. –  Aaron Bertrand May 12 '13 at 15:25
    
I've hit this edit wall yet again: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/3301/… –  Django Reinhardt Jan 12 at 22:17

We aren't discouraging maintenance by turning a post into community wiki after 12 edits. 12 edits by one person is a lot. It is to prevent people from making lots of small changes. Once you edit the post, it goes to the top of the question list. So they are trying to prevent people from constantly editing and gaining rep. So I think this is reasonable.

It has also been mentioned that you can flag for unwikification if you have been being responsible

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I was previously not aware that editing caused bumping, am I being irresponsible when making a series of minor edits (that do improve the post) –  Richard Tingle May 12 '13 at 16:19

Authors should absolutely be encouraged to maintain their posts. If posts can be improved over time, or kept in a good and relevant condition through substantial edits, they should not hesitate to do so. Any extra rep they get out of it is well deserved.

Of course care has to be taken that these updates do not stray away from the original question asked. You don't want to end up invalidating answers by changing the actual question.

At the same time, if an author edits their post 12 or more times, it is automatically turned into a "Community Wiki", and they lose any reputation they've earned (or will earn), which (in turn) surely discourages authors from maintaining their answers for future readers.

That is indeed the case. Now keep in mind that 12 substantial updates to a question is quite a lot. I don't know how often authors hit that limit, but I would be surprised if this is the case for a significant amount of posts. But you're right, if the author is considerably improving the content over time and keeping it relevant, reputation should not be taken away.

And it's not. That is to say, moderators will be very likely to undo the Community Wiki status, if asked to do so, in case of self-edits to a post. But you have to ask. Perhaps a solution to this inconvenience would be to explicitly state that one can ask for this situation to be undone within the appropriate community FAQ here on Meta. Additionally, an explicit notification could be considered. For example:

Your post [title] has been converted into a Community Wiki. To find out what this means and why this happened, please visit What are "Community Wiki" posts?

Together with the previous option that might substantially clarify the situation.

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Your suggestion is probably a good one. –  Django Reinhardt May 10 '13 at 20:25
    
Big emphasis on "considerably improving" –  LittleBobbyTables May 10 '13 at 20:25
    
@LBT Absolutely. And I would not hold it against a moderator to not undo CW status if this is not the case. –  Bart May 10 '13 at 20:26
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@Bart I expect a lot of new users to be unaware of the CW penalty, making many minor edits to their own posts wouldn't even occur to them as a bad thing (as no one needs to review them). I think if one of my big answers had had this happen to it before I discovered this issue I think that would have been it for me and SO. I wonder how many good people we've lost through this issue –  Richard Tingle May 12 '13 at 17:17
    
@RichardTingle So I can expect an upvote for my solution to this issue? ;) Kidding aside, I'm not sure how big of an issue it is. But some information might arguably go a long way. And as said, it's often easily reversed. –  Bart May 12 '13 at 17:27
    
@Bart actually yes you can, you already have my +1 in fact. I agree with everything in your answer, I just think that 12 minor but constructive edits should allow reversion at least the first time inorder to avoid punishing people acting in good faith –  Richard Tingle May 12 '13 at 18:23

Might I add a suggestion, to the auto-CW topic

I posted an answer to a niche question roughly 6 months ago. I answered because I had an interest in this unique area of programming. As time passed and I learned more I updated my answer with new information, and occasionally restructured it to make it look more appealing. Admittedly some oft he edits were purely cosmetic, but I was unaware of auto-CW and didn't think editing could have punitive consequences. I was proud of my answer and my maintenance of it. I edited my post 12 times and it auto-CW without my knowledge. My answer was the only answer during all my edits. I could not have been editing to maliciously bump my answer to the top of the list, because the list had a length of one. When the question received a bounty I did not receive any additional reputation from the upvotes because it had been auto-CW without my knowledge.

My suggestion is that an edit should only count toward the auto-CW limit of 12 int the number of answers to the question is greater then one at the time of the edit. Surely this conditional isn't difficult to add to the tabulation and it would have spared me the feeling being punished for the maintenance of my answer.

autoWikiLimit = 12;
editCount     = 0;
bumpingEdits  = 0;

onEdit() {
  ++editCount;
 bumpingEdits += (question.getAnswers().size() > 1) ? 1 : 0;
 if(bumpingedits >= autoWikiLimit)
   makeWikiIfNotAlreadyWiki();
}
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1  
"Bumping" usually refers to bringing your question to the site's front page. Not to the front of the answers below a question. That said, flag your answer for moderator attention and ask for it to be un-wiki-fied. If they were only self-edits, a moderator is likely to do so. –  Bart May 12 '13 at 16:25
    
in case like your, I cleared CW by flagging to mod, explaining the issue. Try it, with flag message like "please take a look at revisions made to this post (stackoverflow.com/posts/11814102/revisions) to consider whether automatic CW status is fair in this case" –  gnat May 12 '13 at 22:17

Maintaining old answers results in Q&A pairs where

  • only one of the answers is updated to today's knowledge
  • the updated answer refers to newer technology than the question
  • the state of votes reflects the pre-update answer

Authors should not be encouraged to maintain old answers.

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1  
If the question refered explicitley to older technology than the answer then the answer would be wrong, thats a completely seperate issue. Equally if the question asker should now be using updated technology then this is information that a person seaching for the question should be made aware of. –  Richard Tingle May 12 '13 at 16:15
    
@RichardTingle: When you edit an old answer, the questioner is no longer there to judge it. There are no other answerers to compete with. You're just talking to yourself, corrupting an old Question & Answer flow. –  Andomar May 12 '13 at 20:34

If the only reason for the punitive use of community wiki is the prevention of malicious bumping surely the obvious answer is to allow people the option of making an edit without bumping the question. It should be made clear that you can make X edits that bump the question with the suggestion that they be used for major edits.

Or simpler still; just stop bumping the question if certain conditions are met (probably after X edits it stops the bumping process); so, rather than allowing an undesired behaviour and then punishing it, you stop it directly

Both of these solve the problem of malicious bumping directly, rather than discouraging answer maintenance as a significant side effect

The fear of community wikification has discouraged me from updating an answer that had long term relevance at least once.

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1  
Bumping also helps prevent malicious edits. Not bumping would hide some of those. Do authors inappropriately edit their own content? Yep, unfortunately that happens from time to time. –  Bart May 12 '13 at 16:58
    
+1 for stop bumbing the question. That would be a real solution. I would bump only if new answer appear. For edits I would rather notify the users who interacted with that particular question or answer (voted on it, commented it, answered it). –  Calmarius Aug 15 '13 at 20:44

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