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Trivial and insufficient editing by others should be discouraged. At the very least, a mechanism should be in place to not count such unhelpful edits towards the OP's edit limit. The edit limit is the number of edits that can take place before a question or answer forfeits to community wiki status.

The question of discussion is this: "Should we prevent people who edit poorly from punishing those they edit?"

What are solutions to this issue? Here are two ideas I propose:

  • Add a "This is a minor edit" checkbox to the edit form for third-party editors. This allows editors to be socially moral and say, "Look, I contributed trivially to this question, and if there's something that I missed, no harm, no foul." If the editor checks this checkbox, no deduction is made to the edit limit for that edit.
  • Allow other editors to remove a previous edit's deduction to the edit limit. If another editor sees an insufficient edit, he or she should be able to right the wrong.
  • Provide a mechanism for reporting poor or abusive edits. (Oh, God! Meta-moderation...)
  • Use a diff to determine the percentage of the post edited If the percentage of difference in the previous version of the post exceeds a threshold, there is a deduction in the edit limit. If the percentage fails to exceed this threshold, no deduction to the edit limit is made.

The following case motivated this discussion:

In this case the original poster does not speak English as his or her primary language. We can all agree the post required a solid amount of editing to correct the grammar so that the question reads well.

The initial edit by Peter Mortenson in the above question, however, while likely in good will, were insufficient. Awkward or incorrect grammar remained throughout, and the link to the CPU added little to the context of the discussion. Mortenson left the question only trivially more readable, yet cost the poster half of his four permitted edits by other people (one by Mortenson, and one by the next, hopefully competent editor who will properly edit the question) before the question goes to the community wiki, and further up-votes no longer count to the original author's reputation.

EDIT 2009-11-17: Clarifying the exact question, since a large portion of users could not seem to distinguish "poor editing" from "editing in general". Provided potential solutions to the problem, so I'm not just whining, but contributing constructively.

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I had no idea that there was an edit limit now. I've always corrected what I could, figuring that the community over time would get it all. If we're under pressure to get it exactly right the first time, I won't be doing any more editing! – Brian Knoblauch Nov 16 '09 at 19:36
@Brian: in practice, the "limit" is rarely hit... and all hitting it does is flip the post into CW mode. Unless you're pushing the 6th (8th?) edit, don't even worry about it. – Shog9 Nov 16 '09 at 19:42
10th (yourself), 5th (others), I believe. It usually only happens on good questions or answers the people like to get well-written. I've had it with a very nice answer and then you're suddenly accused of "gaming the system" so they "push you to wiki" because "they" (computers, not humans!) think that good questions and answers are bad and should be discouraged. The reason? "we have to use some limit". I hope they someday reconsider "some". – Abel Nov 17 '09 at 12:59
@Abel, if you have a concrete example of this then post it. Otherwise, read the question you're responding to, and try to make your comments at least tangentially relevant. – Shog9 Nov 17 '09 at 15:30
"Poor editing should not punish the asker" - I agree, this will never help them get better. I recommend a swift kick to the groin. Implementation over TCP/IP is an exercise left up to the reader. – Adam Davis Nov 17 '09 at 17:25
I don't think it's trivial edits or even the forced-community-wiki feature which is problematic, but primarily the inability to distinguish edits as minor, which you suggested amongst a myriad of other options. If you made that more prominent in the post, I think you'd have somewhat more support. – Ocaasi Aug 6 '10 at 5:09

I'm going to disagree, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I follow the rule I learned at a daily newspaper for letters to the editor and online commenting: Don't let someone make him/herself look foolish. When I see a misspelling, or incorrect caps usage, a lack of punctuation, or even just bad formatting, I'm going to correct it. It's my duty as someone with edit privileges who wants as much of the site as possible to look clean and correct.

  2. Right in the FAQ, it states:

    If you are not comfortable with the idea of your questions and answers being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

  3. Any online community with user-generated content is only as good as the average quality of said content. If we do not edit bad questions, then our own reputation as a community goes down. No one wants this place to turn into Yahoo! Answers.

  4. Finally, I would argue that not editing a question for clarity, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., is punishing the user more than the edits are. Sure, there is a possibility that the automatic community wiki threshold might be crossed when performing said edits, but those edits:

    a. Bump the question to the home page, thus potentially getting it more attention.

    b. Clean up the question so as to make it more enticing for others to answer.

    c. Assuming the user is here more to get his/her questions answered than for our arbitrary Big Number System, this will work to his/her more direct advantage -- the question is more likely to get answered satisfactorily!

In conclusion, edit correctly and there are no issues.

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Thank you, @mmyers. Pobody's nerfect. :) – John Rudy Nov 16 '09 at 20:40
I don't believe the asker means "prevent editing", I think he means that the asker should not be punished by it (and the answerers in lieu). Why should minor edits move someone into the wiki-void? For good questions, there's absolutely no need to move them, regardless the amount of edits. – Abel Nov 17 '09 at 12:52
I ask why should the wiki void matter? Presumably the user is here for the question to get answered. How can the system know a "minor" edit from a "major" one? – John Rudy Nov 17 '09 at 14:27
"How can the system know a 'minor' edit from a 'major' one?" Simple: a character count of the diff. Breach a threshold, it counts as "major". Or how about a socially enforced notion of a minor edit? Kind of like Wikipedia, where a user has a little check box that says, "This is a minor edit". Crazy, I know. – gotgenes Nov 17 '09 at 16:51

All the OP needs to do to minimize edits is to edit the question himself, before posting it.

If that's too much trouble, then further editing is the price he must be willing to pay.

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If only I could super-ultra-mega-upvote this... – gnostradamus Nov 16 '09 at 17:58
@gnovice, feature-request-it – juanformoso Nov 16 '09 at 18:00
@Juan: I believe it's been done many times already. – gnostradamus Nov 16 '09 at 18:01
@gnovice, find one such a feature-request and super-ultra-mega-upvote it to have it implemented – juanformoso Nov 16 '09 at 18:01
@Juan: Did you just Catch-22 me? Now I wish I had super-ultra-mega-downvotes. ;) – gnostradamus Nov 16 '09 at 18:06
gnovice, use your powers:… – Ladybug Killer Nov 16 '09 at 19:14
If our native language is not English or if you're American or British I suggest a few years Cambridge. To them and everybody else, I suggest a typing course, a yet-to-be-invented flawless grammar and spelling checker, an internationally abode law on a universal English and world-wide spelling consensus (advice, advise, abode, abided) to prevent unnecessary well-meant editing. That's the price you must be willing to pay. – Abel Nov 16 '09 at 19:41
Of course, the above is not meant for us, super human beings, who never make a mistake and always post a question right the first time around. The humans are dead sings again. – Abel Nov 16 '09 at 19:44
@Abel: eh? Speak plainly, man! Are you for or against proof-reading? – Shog9 Nov 16 '09 at 19:47
I find it silly to suppose that nobody makes mistakes. Punish the non-unhumanly perfect asker by driving him into wiki-oblivion because too many editors helped him is just a pity. I'm for proof-reading, but it should not punish the asker that isn't perfect. If small edits would not count towards wiki-oblivionness then everybody'd be happy. – Abel Nov 17 '09 at 12:54
@Abel: Everybody but the programmers who have to write the code that determines a "minor" edit from a "major" one ... – John Rudy Nov 17 '09 at 14:29
@Abel, the question linked by the OP has been edited twice. Neither edit was made by the original author, who apparently scrawled out his question and then gave up. Nevertheless, the question hasn't been forced into CW-mode. So again, the "price" of apathy - and yes, I call it apathy, because there's no sign that the author was struggling; wallowing perhaps - the price of apathy here is that the author has fewer opportunities to edit the question himself without forcing CW-mode. Opportunities he has shown absolutely no desire to make use of. You're backing a straw-man, Abel... Stop it. – Shog9 Nov 17 '09 at 15:29
@Abel: I have about 500 posts on SO, of which I can only think of three or four that someone else edited. Just sayin'. – mmyers Nov 17 '09 at 18:09
@gotgenes: don't be dense. My answer is that your premise is flawed: editing doesn't "punish" anyone. And furthermore, all authors have more than enough editing opportunities, provided they take them before posting their question. As for ESL... I know plenty of people whose native language isn't English, and who nevertheless manage to write better than I do. It's a skill like any other, and your implication that ESL folk need our pity is ugly and distasteful. – Shog9 Nov 17 '09 at 18:25
@gotgenes: You fail to show how this is punishment. What, because the user doesn't get rep if the question happens to slip into CW mode? BFD. How many questions has that even happened to? Percentage-wise? It's a non-issue. Editing helps these users, it doesn't harm them. You cannot define "bad" edits, you have not shown that this is a real problem and you consider CW to be some kind of "punishment" for a user writing a (typically) bad question. Bah. I know not how to respond. – John Rudy Nov 17 '09 at 18:38

I in part agree with you. It's something I caught myself doing earlier on that I've since put more in check. That would be, just doing edits to fix one capitalization or something similar.

On the other hand, if the edits are not complete but still provide even marginal improvements in readability then I am still in favor of them.

We need to continue to encourage (new) users to craft their questions well. For a community who spends their spare time (or not so spare!) helping out it is well worth someone's time to make sure that the question they post is as good as they can make it.

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