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Today, I tried something new when editing on Stack Overflow. I tried searching for "Thank you in advanced". I found several hundred posts, and got rid of quite a few - anything posted this month, as a matter of fact.

I then tried "Thanks you in advance", and again, got rid the phrase from posts created in December.

I tried "Thank you in advance", and found over 10,000. I got rid of all that I found from today, but they keep coming back.

I tried "Thanks", and was horrified to find millions of them! And there's no way I can even edit the ones created in the past hour!

So, I'd be thankful for your help if you would help me edit some more of these. I'll even "allow" you to use the same ad-hoc comment I use:

Unlike forum sites, we don't use "Thanks", or "Any help appreciated", or signatures on [so]. See [Should 'Hi', 'thanks,' taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?](Should 'Hi', 'thanks,' taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?).

Warning: I have also been asked if I'm grumpy today1. I'd like some help before they get around to asking me who peed in my cornflakes.

John Saunders

1.Hell no, I'm not grumpy!

Note: I have been improving the whole question. I never make targeted edits only. I always fix all typos, tags in titles, etc. that I see.

Note carefully: I am not advocating a mass campaign to remove only the salutations. I, personally, never do that, unless the salutation is the only thing wrong with the post.

I am trying to point out that we're leaving a lot of these minor "broken windows" and "litter" hanging around, and I'd like us to start doing better at cleaning them up. That is, cleaning them up, in addition to whatever else is wrong with the post.

I'm also advocating leaving a comment telling the OP why the edit is done. I believe that will not only be good for the OP, but for others who will read the comment and decide not to leave a salutation to begin with.

P.S. The "Thanks" in this post is meant to be facetious. Editors, kindly leave it alone.

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Feel free to do that but there really isn't a point - waste of energy. It's not like these salutations are actively degrading the site. Clean them up when other stuff needs to be cleaned up, but going on a crusade like that is a bit pointless (IMO). –  Mat Dec 22 '13 at 18:48
And even if you go on a crusade, please don't just blindly remove the lines your searching for. Give the whole post a once over. Correct everything you see. You're causing a bump. That's fine, but please bump content that doesn't require other users to jump in and fix other obvious issues. (P.s. not saying that is what you did) –  Bart Dec 22 '13 at 18:50
@Mat: Well, MHO differs, of course. I think it's part of making it clear to newer users that they're not posting in a discussion forum, or in fact, anywhere like places they've used before. It's part of making it clear that they're somewhere new, with different rules. Because if they follow those roles, then it works. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 18:50
@Bart: I'm also fixing typos and such, but I'm limited by the fact that I don't know all of the languages of these questions. I don't want to accidentally damage a Python question, for instance, by "fixing" the indentation. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 18:52
Sure, and that's not what I'm referring to. But many of these requests end up in blind removals of the offending lines pointed out. Not the overall cleanup necessary. –  Bart Dec 22 '13 at 18:54
The thing I have been doing is marking any suggested edit that fails to take care of the thanks---which is most of them---as not helpful after I improve it. The goal is to train the up and coming editors to look for this as they go. –  dmckee Dec 22 '13 at 18:55
IIRC, There is an implementation of a standard filter that comes between the writing and the actual posting. It does a "good" job at deleting opening salutations but, as stated in [wherever I read it here], as closing phrases are a little more tricky, it usually isn't filtered. –  Doktoro Reichard Dec 22 '13 at 19:02
@MartijnPieters: I think I'll put it back. It was kind of a punchline. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 19:26
In any case, I think that are many other more worthy causes to focus the community's attention on than "Thanks". I think way too much time and effort is wasted in removing just the signature –  Lorem Ipsum Dec 22 '13 at 19:45
@yoda: That's what I had assumed, until I saw the numbers. And I'm a believer in fixing broken windows, though I'll admit this may be more like litter than broken windows. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 19:47
I only started removing salutations/thanks messages after I noticed a large portion of my proposed edits were being "improved" by the reviewer to delete them. –  Tim Seguine Dec 22 '13 at 21:46
@Pëkka: I don't understand - in what way do my edits affect the review queue? And I hope that, by reading this discussion, anybody else who starts looking for these will also edit the entire question. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 23:42
@JohnSaunders well, we set examples by the edits we make. While I have no doubt you make great edits, outspoken crusades may give new users the impression that they can earn 2000 rep by simply searching for something that's technically wrong with a post, and remove the technicality. It happens all the time. I don't have a problem with the practice, but I do have one with large-scale campaigns –  Pëkka Dec 22 '13 at 23:46
I'd help you hunt down posts with "thanks" at the bottom, but I have more significant things to accomplish, such as playing video games –  Sam I am Dec 23 '13 at 6:33
@SamIam: everyone has to have priorities –  John Saunders Dec 23 '13 at 7:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

John, I would love to help out some more. I have already done a lot of that while editing new posts that I see come in that need other edits.

I think that there should be a permanent text stating (Do NOT write useless text like: "thanks", "thanks in advance", "please help", etc). This text should be placed as a div over the question input field and should not be removed until the user clicks an "Ok, I won't button". Once they've asked 5 questions and clicked "Ok, I won't button" those 5 times, then it shouldn't appear anymore for that user.

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That seems a little extreme for a problem with such a small impact. I think that if some overlay were to exist at all, it should only appear when it detects something that looks like one of those phrases at the bottom. –  icktoofay Dec 22 '13 at 22:03

If you only remove salutations then theses are unnecessary minor edits.

Every post you edit gets pushed in the active questions queue. So mass edits should have a good reason and removing just thank you without improving the whole post is not really helpful.

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That's good, since I have been improving the whole question. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 19:05
@John still, you find them by actively looking for something that doesn't need super-urgent fixing. It should be the other way round - you fix a post and when you see a salutation, you remove it while you're at it –  Pëkka Dec 22 '13 at 23:35
@Pëkka: I guess my underlying point is, in order for there to be so many of these, many people must either not editing those posts at all, or else ignoring the salutations. I have to admit that in general, I'm mostly editing for "tags in title", bad titles, or else some question that I actually open in the hopes of answering. If I don't edit it, I will often miss the salutation at the end. Consider all those users who think that the salutation is a good thing because nobody is telling them otherwise. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 23:39
@Pëkka: It seems to me that the number of "tags in title" went down after I started looking for them. It can't be just because of me, but because, little by little, by making people aware of it (I leave a comment), I helped change the culture. –  John Saunders Dec 22 '13 at 23:40
@John I don't disagree with that, I'm just very reserved about large-scale calls to action. (See comment above) –  Pëkka Dec 22 '13 at 23:47

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