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Currently, if a user edits their answer more than a certain number of times, that answer is automatically converted by the system to community wiki status. This trips up many well-meaning and active contributors to the site, and I believe it no longer serves a useful purpose. Therefore, I propose that the system no longer automatically convert answers to community wiki due to a large number of edits.

I know we've had this discussion before, and this was declined at that time, but the site has changed since then. Suggested edits allow anyone to provide improvements to answers, making the lowering of the reputation threshold for edits on community wiki posts effectively meaningless.

We've also been able to observe the behavior of people in the years since then. We see a decent number of flags and Meta posts from people shocked that the system did this to answers that they've curated, and disappointed with the reputation they've lost as a result. Handling the flags on this and reversing wiki status takes up moderator time that could be better spent elsewhere.

I understand the argument that people should try to make more substantive edits, but is this really that big of a problem? Do we care if someone makes many small tweaks to their answer over time to keep it up to date? We want people to maintain their answers over a long period, and keep them from becoming outdated. Given that few people seem to be aware that the automatic conversion even takes place, it wouldn't even seem to be a good deterrent of this behavior anyway.

I know that only a very small number of people are affected by this, but the harm appears to outweigh any possible good that this feature provides, so I propose that it finally be removed.

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Is this enough of a problem to warrant fixing. Are there really that many moderator flags on such posts that require CW reversal? As it is, it's mostly preventative, in that people don't make lots of edits because they know it'd cause the post to be wikified, so they don't edit, so the feature doesn't get leveraged (much). If it wasn't there, people would actually have motivation to abuse edits in this manor. –  Servy Oct 30 '13 at 17:51
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@Servy - I've handled on average maybe one flag on this a week, but it does cause a lot of consternation when it happens (one recent example). While infrequent, if there's no upside to the feature, only problems, why leave it enabled? –  Brad Larson Oct 30 '13 at 17:56
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@Servy: Even I forget about this 'feature'; it just doesn't play when I consider editing an answer. It happens too rarely that I encounter it! That said, I'd love to see some numbers: number of answers converted to CW because of OP editing, number of such answers reverted back in the same period, etc. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 17:57
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@BradLarson The upside is preventing abuse/misuse in the form of repeated minor edits that constantly bump a post. The question comes down to whether those few minutes of moderator attention each week is worth that; I feel that it is. –  Servy Oct 30 '13 at 17:59
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Counter proposal: Instead of auto-CW, auto-flag for moderator attention. The moderator then checks to see if the edits are gaming the system, if so, lock the post and warn the OP. If all looks well, dismiss the flag and move on. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 17:59
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@MartijnPieters That would be nice, but as I said before, the real value is in the edits that aren't made at all because people know this feature exists, or all of the edits that are rolled into one edit rather than made incrementally over a bunch of edits. –  Servy Oct 30 '13 at 18:00
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@Servy: and I call bull on that notion. I have the strong impression most people do not know this feature exists at all. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:01
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@MPD That rarely ever happens. You'll never have time to do 10 edits before the "outcome of FGITW" has been determined. Don't forget the 5 min. grace period. –  Mysticial Oct 30 '13 at 18:03
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@Servy: We have no numbers to make such assertions. How often does this happen now? –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:03
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@MPD: note that grace-period edits do not factor into this. You can edit your post a lot in the first 5 minutes.. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:03
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@Servy - Anecdotally, I've only had to warn maybe two users about bumping posts with trivial edits in the last six months or so. None of those cases were at all impacted by community wiki status, as they became annoying far before that and were flagged by members of the community. On the flip side, we regularly get users upset that their great, well-maintained answers were made community wiki by the system. I've also restricted this proposal to answers, which I don't think I've ever seen a case of "bumping" occur with. –  Brad Larson Oct 30 '13 at 18:08
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In fact can't we just remove all edit related auto wikification full stop? Auto wikification of questions is even worse IMO as it penalises future answerers that had nothing to do with the bumping. –  Martin Smith Oct 30 '13 at 18:58
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@ShadowWizard: Clearly Chichiray / BalusC feels strongly about this issue and wants the community and SE developers to know this. He's got an excellent point (part of his first bounty notice): Stack Overflow is now over 5 years old and more and more older questions run the risk of being made CW just because the author is maintaining them. I imagine that many of his answers are affected. –  Martijn Pieters Jan 5 at 21:41
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@ShadowWizard It's unlikely he'll run out of reputation before some manner of update on this shows up. ♪ –  Grace Note Jan 9 at 12:43
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@GraceNote are you hinting that there is internal discussion about it? Because feature requests can go unresponded (i.e. official response from the team) for long long years. ☺ –  Shadow Wizard Jan 9 at 12:52

8 Answers 8

up vote 25 down vote accepted
+500

We have disabled all forms of community wiki automatic conversions, not just for answers but for questions as well. The feature was never really about encouraging substantive edits as much as it was about prevent abuse. And in fact it punished people who made not just substantive edits, but lots of substantive edits.

To handle the cases spoken about the abuse cases the system was originally meant to prevent, flags are now raised for moderator attention in the event of several edits. However, even in this scenario, community wiki probably won't happen. In most cases nothing will happen. If things do happen, it'll most likely be the moderator commenting to consider the substance of edits, or sending a moderator message in the case of particularly high abuse. Answers and questions will be of equal interest in this situation, so no special treatment I feel is necessary in this case.

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Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy, does this put a shine on my day! You essentially implemented my proposal then; auto flag instead of auto-cw-conversion. About time! –  Martijn Pieters Apr 10 at 0:05
    
The moderators' dialog box still mentions automatic wiki conversions. –  200_success Sep 1 at 18:40

I agree that this feature is entirely undiscoverable for the normal user; no warnings are given that CW conversion takes place, nor is this highlighted anywhere in the editing help text.

Even worse, when this happens, you are not notified. I discovered one of my posts was converted because I saw an upvote in my reputation tab without a score before I had hit the reputation cap, the edit to the post itself carried no indication that a CW conversion was about to apply.

I'd like to see how many posts are converted this way; per month, how often does this happen? How many of these then lead to a request to revert? Can we see a sample of cases where the CW conversion was justified?

Depending on how often this happens, how viable would it be to remove the behaviour altogether, and instead auto-flag posts that see a lot of minor edits over time. Say, 10 edits below a threshold by the same author leads to an auto-flag for moderator attention.

If the moderator then finds abusive bump editing, the post can be locked, or manually converted to CW, or the user given a warning.

This should only be implemented if the number of posts that qualify for such auto-flagging is about the same or fewer than the current rate of 'please un-CW my post' requests.

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So, in a way, this could function in the same way auto-flagging occurs when a rollback war is in progress? I could see both introducing excessive bumping, which would alert others to take any necessary action. –  Jamal Oct 30 '13 at 18:30
    
@Jamal: Yes, this is very similar to the roll-back war auto-flag. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:30

Reading another, related question on meta made me wonder if we should be checking the time between edits. All this is also assuming that it's the author making all the edits.

For example:

  • 10 (or some reasonable number) of edits in a short time, they get the CW.
  • 10 (or some reasonable number) of edits over the last year, they don't assuming at least N days have passed between edit 1 and edit 10.

There may be a more nuanced way of doing this - hopefully it sparks an idea or two.

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Good point. What is a reasonable value for n? –  Josh Crozier Oct 30 '13 at 19:20
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@JoshC - I have no idea. :) –  AnonJr Oct 30 '13 at 19:22
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I really like this point. there's a huge difference between me editing my own question 10 times within a day; and Bob and Bill and Jill and Kareem and Deepak and Sal and Joe and Josh(plus his two grandpa's) all editing the question.. over the span of 3 years. –  Adel Oct 30 '13 at 20:25

We want to discourage minor edits for purposes of bumping, but at the same time we want to encourage users to maintain their answers over the years. Unfortunately, these 2 ideas are incompatible. What incentive does someone have to maintain their answer over the next edit is going to push them into CW world.

When the site was new, anyone needing to make 10 edits to the same post was extremely rare. In the first year of the site's existence that ended up being roughly 1 edit per month. But SO is now over 5 years old; that is only 2 edits per year, and eventually (hopefully), that number is going to drop to 1 edit per year in less than 5 years.

In my opinion 1-2 edits per year seems reasonable for someone keeping up with technology or finding a better way to accomplish the same goal.

So rather than removing the threshold completely, I suggest scaling the auto-conversion to CW based on edits vs time.

  • Keep the current 10 edits before auto CW conversion for the 12 months1.
  • After the post is 12 months old, the tracked edits (for purposes of CW auto-conversion) begin to age. 1 edit immediately ages at 12 months, and for every 6 months that passes, 1 edit is no longer tracked. This basically gives a user at least 1 free edit every 6 months to improve the post as the technology changes.
  • Edits never age below zero so a post that has never been edited will not have 11 edits before CW after year, it would still be 10.

A hypothetical example would be:

  1. A user creates an answer today (12/24/2013).
  2. That user edits the post 8 times over the next couple of months because they realized they made a number of typos.
  3. A number months later (let's say Nov 2014), the technology in which the answer is based has a new release that makes solving the initially problem easier, so he edits the answer to improve it.
  4. In January 2015 (more than 12 months later), the technology has another update to fix some bugs and the author realizes he needs to make a couple of minor corrections to the code.
    • Based on the current rules, this edit would push him into CW territory
    • Based on my proposed rules, since it is more than 12 months, 1 edit would have aged away so he would have a free edit to correct his post.

The idea behind this idea is it still discourages frequent editing to posts so users do not try to abuse the editing system by bumping their posts for rep gain. But at the same time it encourages someone to maintain their posts by not letting a lot of editing early in the life of the post forever trap them right below the threshold for auto-CW conversion.

1 - As suggested in the comments, the editing threshold on a few sites might need adjusted as frequent editing is more common based on the scope of the site. For example, Gaming.SE apparently has more frequent editing due to do the frequency that patches are released. I'd say that this scenario is an exception and maybe there could be some site-specific customizations that can be done to adjust the rate in which the edits age.

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This is a good idea, but I think one edit should fade away in 7-14 days from the CW count. The rate you proposed would be fine for most answers, but on gaming some answers need updating every week or two because of very frequent patches to some games. –  3ventic Dec 24 '13 at 10:14
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Maybe a few sites would need special rules because on most sites, I can't imagine anyone needing to edit that many times. Gaming.SE could be something that gets a special rule or a different threshold. –  psubsee2003 Dec 24 '13 at 10:17
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The down-side of this approach is it increases the complexity immensely. We complain that users do not already realise the CW system exists. Trying to get them to understand this system would be equally challenging! –  Duncan Jan 16 at 11:08
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@Duncan agreed on the complexity. However my take on it is it would be virtually invisible to anyone using the system as intended. –  psubsee2003 Jan 16 at 12:22

Having just "discovered" this "feature", I completely agree with @MartijnPieters comments:

I agree that this feature is entirely undiscoverable for the normal user; no warnings are given that CW conversion takes place, nor is this highlighted anywhere in the editing help text.

Even worse, when this happens, you are not notified. I discovered one of my posts was converted because I saw an upvote in my reputation tab without a score before I had hit the reputation cap, the edit to the post itself carried no indication that a CW conversion was about to apply.

The answer with which I bumped into this - sure, I made repeated edits the morning that I posted it. I was not gaming anything, just moving quickly to fine tune an answer and make it more comprehensive for everyone's benefit.

To then eternally get no points for upvotes is silly I think.

Beyond the lack of SO help content to warn of this phenomenon, what I find particularly nutty is the apparent inconsistency with which it is handled when flagged for moderator attention by a first-time "offender".

Based on MSO comments I flagged my aforementioned answer for moderator attention thinking that the auto CW conversion would be removed as a first-time, didn't-know courtesy. My edits were clearly not intended to bump (which I didn't even know about until reading so much related commentary on MSO) but rather to improve; but my request was declined with "Too many minor bumping edits in a short period of time" to my surprise. The biggest deal in the world? No. Still lame? Yes.

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I'm checking with the moderator who declined that flag, because I usually don't on things like this. I rolled back the wiki status on that answer, because your edits didn't look like you were trying to game anything here. Maybe I'm acting on things differently than others. –  Brad Larson Jan 23 at 16:06
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+1. I too like to fine tune my answers (especially long ones) because I feel responsibility for my posts, plus English is not my native language, plus I have a little strive for perfectionism. For instance, today I edited one of my answers just because I noticed that XML syntax highlighting was not correct (although the <!-- language> tag was there, it needs a blank line above and below), and only today I discovered about bumping after edits. btw Special thanks to @BradLarson for removing wiki status from two of my answers, I wish some day your proposal will be implemented! –  informatik01 Mar 1 at 15:07

According to this answer, here is the reason the edit limit was implemented originally:

Somebody wrote a bot that would just revise posts every minute to keep it on the top of the stack. Actually there is a certain amount of people doing that still, which I'm trying to discourage.

I also noticed the emboldened part. Although this quote is from 2008, it is a small indication the CW edit limit may not work as a counter-measure.

How effective is a bump bot, really?

Should we actually care about this? How much rep can you actually accumulate by auto-bumping a post? If the post is not good people aren't going to upvote it just because it's at the top.

It seems like a better counter-measure would be to flag this behavior automatically and put the revision histories somewhere. Dollars to donuts plopping posts that have been edited a lot of times in a review queue would be much more effective at catching rep farming than passively discouraging it. A revision history like this would be obvious at a glance.

But I have doubts about how important this really is. My personal opinion is that I don't care. I would care if there were more than a few people doing this and they were farming lots of rep but I find that very unlikely.

10 edits is still a lot of bumps.

A rep farming bot could just stop at 10 ... this is a very easy counter-measure to get around. Same thing for somebody doing it without a bot. And 10 bumps is enough to ensure visibility for a couple of hours.

It's also not actually a particularly high ceiling for legitimate edits. I've hit it once by accident and almost did another time (that I know of). Both times it really didn't seem like I had made that many edits. Not all answers happen immediately. Sometimes you've already edited it before you have that other good idea.

I would be more comfortable if edits could only bump something like once per two hours. This would reduce the effectiveness of abuse and frankly bumping all the time is something I find a little annoying when I'm editing legitimately.

Edits cause a bump so the solution is to discourage edits...?

If the problem is bump abuse, then discourage bump abuse.

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I'd just disable bumping for self-edits after the 10th edit. This will remove any benefit for the user to exploit this to gain more attention to their post. And I think the lack of review is an acceptable risk in this case. If a user rage-quits and vandalizes their own posts there is an automatic flag already, and that should catch this kind of abuse even in the absence of bumping those posts.

There are also additional safeguards that could be implemented, e.g. by still bumping if an edits changes 50% or more of a post.

The auto-CW after five different users edited a post also doesn't serve any useful purpose in my opinion and could also be disabled without any drawback.

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Then we won't see abusive edits at all after 10 edits. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:04
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@MartijnPieters How many abusive self-edits are there? And which of those are limited to only the 10+edited posts of a user? If a user self-edits a suspicious number of their old posts this is already flagged automatically, so a rage-quitting user will get caught by this even without bumping. –  Mad Scientist Oct 30 '13 at 18:05
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You are creating a loop hole here. It doesn't matter what abuse takes place now, it matters what abuse becomes possible once the loophole is there. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:07
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@MartijnPieters A rather small loophole, and I suspect that on a site like SO we already have not a sufficient amount of review through bumping due to the high volume. –  Mad Scientist Oct 30 '13 at 18:17
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Stack Overflow is not the only site we need to think about, of course. And on SO your bump still gains you visibility on the per tag pages, if not the homepage. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 18:20
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@MartijnPieters Small scale vandalism is easy enough right now, another very limited loophole won't do much there. Out of curiosity I tested this assumption and vandalized one of my own answers on SO an hour ago. The edit was not caught, nobody even looked at the bumped post. But if I had tried that with multiple old posts of mine I would have been caught by the automatic flag. –  Mad Scientist Oct 30 '13 at 19:24
    
We have enough trouble getting reviewers to validate links in suggested edits; your bump edit was hardly going to attract attention in any case. That is a separate problem however. –  Martijn Pieters Oct 30 '13 at 19:31
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@MartijnPieters I checked the view counter when I did that, nobody ever looked at the post. So the bumping doesn't really ensure review anymore on SO and the world hasn't ended yet. Exploiting the no-bumping after 10 edits mechanism would be more limited than what I did, so my point is simply that adding another small hole doesn't matter if there is a much bigger one there already. –  Mad Scientist Oct 30 '13 at 19:40
    
On what question? Vandalize an asp-classic question/answer and you might get a view or two - do the same for php or python and you'll likely see different results. –  AnonJr Oct 30 '13 at 20:29
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@AnonJr Android, which is quite a high-traffic tag –  Mad Scientist Oct 30 '13 at 20:30
    
Ok, fair enough… –  AnonJr Oct 30 '13 at 20:35

Leave the automatic wiki convertion but please don't count as edits:

  • minor edits, as currently defined (up to 6 characters changed)
  • typo fixes - edits that change only single letters in words, add/remove a/an/the etc. Can we say that anything that adds/removes up to 2-3 letters somewhere in text is typo fix?
  • edits that were reversed
  • edits by the OP that only adds something, but doesn't remove anything, for example adds a new link
  • edits from the OP that change hyperlinks
  • edits from the OP that change dates/numbers

That would enable actualization of posts, that in most cases would not trigger community wiki conversion.

To prevent unrestrained bumping, just don't bump such edits as well.

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Minor edits are pretty much the reason this exists. I mean, I agree that they shouldn't bump the post either, but as it is right now, that would be counter-productive. I'm also not sure "only adds something" is a good criterium - there are a lot of instances of the system mistakenly recognizing link formatting as removing a word, then adding it again - that would not work all too well here. –  user98085 Jan 23 at 10:19
    
@FEichinger could you explain how it would be counter-productive? –  РСТȢѸФХѾЦЧШЩЪЫЬѢѤЮѦѪѨѬѠѺѮѰѲѴ Jan 23 at 11:13
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Because you are penalising the people making substantive changes. Not the people making trivial changes just to bump their answer for attention (which is the motivation for this policy in the first place) –  Martin Smith Jan 23 at 12:02

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