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Currently edits to a question or answer within the first five minutes don't show up as separate edits. Once the question/answer has a comment (or possibly in the case of a question, count when it has an answer as well), future edits shouldn't be merged with the original post anymore. This is to avoid confusion when:

  • Person A posts a question
  • Person B comments on an error
  • Person A fixes the error within 5 minutes (no edit is displayed)
  • Persons C, D, and E ask person B what they're talking about, as they see no error

More annoyingly for person B:

  • Person A posts a question
  • Person B posts the correct answer
  • Person A realizes they didn't phrase their question well and changes it, invalidating Person B's answer
  • Persons C, D, and E see Person B's wrong answer on a question with no edits and downvote it before he has the chance to delete it

Nobody was technically wrong in the second scenario (B's answer was unhelpful, after all), but it's unlikely it would get downvoted if people saw that it was made on an old revision. Regardless, just avoiding confusion seems to be a decent use case

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3 Answers 3

Although this would solve a small issue relating to answers and comments that are posted immediately, you also remove a user's ability to fix their mistakes quickly. Oftentimes when I write a long answer, I will read it over once (mostly for spelling) and think it's okay. However, their is sometimes a problem that spell check didn't not catch. In those cases, I only notice it once it has been posted. I want to change it immediately and not have it count as an edit (because I'm not changing the content, and I don't want it to become community wiki faster).

Furthermore, we should never be doing anything to discourage people editing to improve their questions.

What the OP should do is comment on "person B's" answer in order to tell them that the question has been edited, but they won't necessarily do that. Regardless, we should allow people a grace period to fix their initial questions.

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1  
"you also remove a user's ability to fix their mistakes quickly". That's always brought up when people mention the 5 minute thing, and it's never challenged, so I'll do it -- how in the world does this remove the user's ability to do anything? People can still edit after 5 minutes; I do it all the time. They just can't do it secretly; does that really "discourage people editing to improve their questions"? If another person has had time to comment, odds are there was some critical mistake in the question, and their edit is going to be directly related to the comment; it's not going to be typos –  Michael Mrozek May 5 '10 at 7:16
    
@Michael "Odds are" is an interesting statement. Because I really don't know the odds. They are hidden from us "normals". As for preventing edits, there is an edit threshold before posts become community wiki, so the more edits I do the closer I come to losing all the rep I would gain. –  devinb May 5 '10 at 7:22
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I often make two or three edits in the first five minutes. Adding a line of context, editing typos and grammar, re-reading, responding to anyone who was kind enough to comment immediately. That first five minutes is a grace period or "conversation period". After that, I usually go back to work and let the question sit for an hour or two while I work on a different problem. If you deny this grace period, you are encouraging "fire and forget" behaviour. –  devinb May 5 '10 at 7:24

This is an edge case. I would rather that edits within 5 minutes be merged into one than to demerge them to satisfy this edge case. This is actually a new feature which I like.

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2  
I'm not sure if by edge case you mean it's rare, but if so it's definitely not, it happens pretty frequently. The top two answers on this question both have confusion in their comment trees because of post-answer editing of the question –  Michael Mrozek May 5 '10 at 7:19

It is better to have Questions and Answers with no Edit History. Without an Edit History people do not have to ensure that the Question has changed to interpret the comments and answers that have been given. However, people make mistakes and omit things, so we have the editing grace period to try to avoid having an Edit History.

I waste a lot more time reading Questions that have an inconsistent set of Answers and Comments than Questions with an Edit History (especially those that have minor fixes made within the 5 minute grace period).

As soon as a Comment or Answer is made on the Question its grace period should end. This would remove inconsistencies while avoiding an Edit History in the majority of quick edits.

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