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The text of one of my posts' titles was completely changed. From "Asking the wrong questions vs. asking at the wrong site" to "Why we don't accept shopping questions". (The latter could be a little different because I changed the title back and can't find the edits)

The meaning and purpose of the post was destroyed. I find this practice from a few users irresponsible, demeaning and immoral. While I did post my disappointment about the reasons one my posts was closed and the topic was related to shopping, I don't find a reason to change a stand alone post to correlate with something I previously mentioned. The post below was all about asking the right question. It had nothing to do with shopping.

What do you think of titles being completely replaced with no what the poster had intended? Regardless of some editor thinks.

Asking the wrong questions vs asking at the wrong site

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marked as duplicate by Shadow Wizard Dec 2 at 23:49

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I think that this can be answered by that post, but his question is not a duplicate. –  devinb May 31 '10 at 17:41
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@dev: It makes complete Meta-sense to close posts as dupes of FAQs when they can be completely answered as this one can be. –  Gnome May 31 '10 at 19:16
    
It's not a duplicate. This is case where the title was completely changed and it conveyed a completely different message. –  Tony_Henrich May 31 '10 at 20:25
    
It wasn't a question at all, but a thinly-disguised rant about a specific event masquerading as a question about a general practice. That you avoided linking to the questions you were complaining about and still managed to get answers addressing them specifically only indicates your utter failure at subtlety - you were soliciting opinions on a specific dispute regarding shopping questions, and the title should have reflected that. –  Shog9 Jun 1 '10 at 4:14

6 Answers 6

In your case, I don't think the title should have been changed and I support your rollback.

That said, it is sometimes OK to change a post title because:

  • the original title is unclear
  • the original title is unnecessarily detailed (belongs in body instead of question), or
  • the original title does not match the body of the question

Those are the only scenarios that I can think of right now, and your question did not meet any of those criteria.

Furthermore, editing guidelines are as follows and should bind everyone:

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors
► clarify meaning without changing it
► correct minor mistakes
► add related resources or links
always respect the original author

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(+1) Absolutely. Well written. –  devinb May 31 '10 at 16:35

When people post questions that exhibit hostility, some react by downvoting, some by voting to close, and some by editing to the nearest available reasonable question by their lights. Especially here on Meta, you might count yourself lucky to get door #3 rather than being shown door #1.

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Well, I disagree that the author posted the question in good faith; at that point it's more like a "hostile witness".

IMHO, the title, as edited, did correctly express the intent of the post -- the author was frustrated that his personal shopping questions can't be asked on Super User and Server Fault -- and the author was actively trying to mask his intent by coming up with a really generic title for a subsequent question and pretending that wasn't the root cause of his frustration.

That said, since the author objected so strongly to the edit, I let it be.

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When it happened, that edit struck me as coming from frustration. Even though that frustration is justified in this case, I felt the title change was vandalism and would have reverted it myself. (I saw it almost immediately when it happened, and was thinking it might be vandalism initially. You beat me to the revert by just a few minutes.)

That said, that's why rollbacks are possible in the first place. No need to make a big deal of it.

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well, if you look at the actual answers, both of them answer the title that I edited the question to. And not the fake title the author put in. –  Jeff Atwood May 31 '10 at 20:27
    
@Jeff: You completely miss the point. –  Gnome Jun 1 '10 at 0:22
    
@thecat shrug. My title change was correct; I changed the title after seeing both answers. But, since this user doesn't seem to understand much about how our sites work, I suppose this is par for the course. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 1 '10 at 3:25
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@Jeff, there are many cases where the answers are generalizable enough that you could arbitrarily change the title to any number of completely different questions, that doesn't mean it is acceptable to change what the title is asking. –  devinb Jun 1 '10 at 12:18

One thing that must be remembered is that the editors, moderators and administrators are people too. That means they will occasionally make mistakes. The correct response to something like this is to roll it back. If the person re-edits the title, then you may want to flag for a moderators attention. We'll temporarily disregard, of course, that in your case it was a moderator.

In general, question edits should be helpful, and this sometimes means dramatically modifying the text of the question or the title. In many cases, the users are asking questions because they don't know the terminology for what they need to accomplish, or they are non-native speakers who are unable to articulate themselves in the manner that they wish. In these cases, an editor may mistakenly change the meaning of your question.

At StackOverflow, (ServerFault, SuperUser) as with any social situation, the best practice is to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

When editing a question, this means that you should assume that the poster is bright and well-meaning, and that they may have been frustrated by something, so you should helpful out by trying (as best you can) to clarify anything that is unclear while maintaining their intent.

When you have been edited you should also assume that the editor was trying to help to the best of their abilities, and if they failed utterly and completely (or even partially) you should roll-back the parts you disagree with, and leave a note as to why.

In your case, you were subject to a bad edit, probably because Jeff was frustrated with your attitude (correctly or incorrectly doesn't matter), and so you should (as you did) just roll it back, and try not to take it personally.

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Other people can edit my stuff?!

Like Wikipedia, this site is collaboratively edited, and all edits are tracked. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your posts being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

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(-1) The OP is complaining that the title of his post was completely changed into a different question. He is not complaining about the concept of editing. Therefore, your answer is more snarky than it is helpful. –  devinb May 31 '10 at 16:34
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@devinb the OP is trying to game the system for his personal ends, to justify his shopping questions. OP is not acting in good faith. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 1 '10 at 3:26
    
@Jeff When a new user misunderstands the system (fairly normal) and then has his posts modified in what he considers an inscrutable way, it is normal (not acceptable) that he would be frustrated. You, being a moderator, are expected to be more unbiased and understanding. The correct response is to helpfully inform him of the correct manner, rather than wade into the fight slinging hostility right back. –  devinb Jun 1 '10 at 12:22
    
@devinb That's what edit comments are for. –  Josh K Jun 2 '10 at 12:18

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