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Sometimes (eg. this question) more than one user will simultaneously attempt to edit a post, particularly to fix poor formatting by the OP. It looks like in that case, I finished 30 seconds sooner than @marcog, but I don't know who might have clicked "edit" first.

Anyway, a useful usability enhancement would be to keep track of who is (or might be) editing a post at any given time. With this enhancement, the second user to click "edit" might see something like:

The following users may currently be editing this post:

  • marcog (21 seconds ago)

If a message like that were available, I would immediately choose not to edit at that time, and maybe come back later if the formatting still needed fixing. This saves effort, frustration, and duplicate "hey I fixed your formatting" comments.

It is important to note that this feature would not attempt to prevent multiple editors, everything else would work just the same as it does now.

Implementation idea

This feature could be implemented by adding a new table, say "editors", with the columns (post_id, edit_start, user_id). When a user clicks "edit" on a post:

  • Check the editors table for old entries for this post, say > 5 minutes. Delete them.
  • If there are any current editors, show the list as above.
  • Insert a row for the current post and the current user with the current time.

When a user submits changes to a post:

  • Delete the user's record from the editors table for that post.

Periodically:

  • Scrub old entries from this table (if a user clicked "edit" but never submitted a change for that post).

Optionally:

  • Provide a "Cancel" button on the edit page. Cancelling would remove the current user's record for the current post, but obviously not submit any changes.

Update: After saying in the comments that I've never seen the edit notification, I actually did just get it today editing this question. However, it showed the orange bar at the top (1 other users edited!) for a brief time just after I pressed "Save". What good is that?

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The system already warns you if someone completes an edit while you are still editing. Isn't that enough? –  ChrisF Jan 4 '11 at 21:42
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Do you notify all editors? If so, won't they all hold back their edits? (Sorry about the edit clash though! Although no-one can be blamed, I always feel bad when it happens.) –  marcog Jan 4 '11 at 21:44
    
@ChrisF What happens if both of us were doing non-trivial edits? –  marcog Jan 4 '11 at 21:45
    
@ChrisF: I've never seen that warning. I've seen the one where you get notified as more answers appear while you're writing an answer, but not for editing. –  Greg Hewgill Jan 4 '11 at 21:45
    
@marcog - if you get the notification you can abandon your edit, check the current state of the post and re-edit if there's still something wrong. –  ChrisF Jan 4 '11 at 21:46
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@ChrisF The case here: A starts editing 12:00, B starts editing 12:01, A finishes editing 12:06, B finishes editing 12:06:30. a) no warnings, and b) even if the warning were to appear, B has wasted 5 minutes. –  marcog Jan 4 '11 at 21:49
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@Greg I've seen it, but it only checks every 45 seconds and since there were 30 seconds between us finishing our edits it never triggered. –  marcog Jan 4 '11 at 21:50
    
Indeed, my formatting cleanup edits rarely take as long as 45 seconds. –  Greg Hewgill Jan 4 '11 at 21:51
    
@marcog - unless it checks constantly you are always going to get clashes. I don't know what the answer is. –  ChrisF Jan 4 '11 at 21:52
    
@ChrisF: Some edits could take time, and alerts when finishing are too late. Maybe it could check and emit alerts when saving a draft... but I don't if question editions have drafts. –  user150068 Jan 4 '11 at 21:54
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@ChrisF Ideally the concurrent edit heartbeat would be more frequent for the first minute of editing, but informing people up front of multiple editors seems like a more reliable way to reduce this issue anyway. –  Tim Stone Jan 4 '11 at 21:57
    
@Tim Ideally there would be some sort of collision merging interface, but I don't have high hopes for that :) –  Michael Mrozek Jan 4 '11 at 22:03
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@Michael Mrozek: When Wikipedia/MediaWiki can't do a 3-way merge, it allows the editor involved in an "edit conflict", who attempted to save later, the option to retry his edit, but not in an elegant fashion. He gets the new version, his version, and the diff between them back, but no more. However, our current system is just plain broken: it alerts an editor via AJAX to others who saved edits while he was editing but does not even show the changes made. –  PleaseStand Jan 5 '11 at 2:18
    
It's rare, but some edits take more than five minutes to complete. (see revision 16) –  Pops Jan 5 '11 at 18:36
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I like this, we track this info already with the drafts feature ... however I think Jeff did not feel that strongly about it –  waffles May 3 '11 at 6:37

1 Answer 1

I am not in favor of this, because it will create a chilling effect on edits.

That is, just because someone else is editing, doesn't mean

  • their edit will be any good
  • their edit will be more substantive than yours

.. and, besides, we already have multiple mechanisms in place to deal with this.

The risk of even less editing is far more dangerous than any minor infoporn benefit this would have.

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(I might just be very slow on the uptake, but) Could you define "infoporn"? Or is that just a typo? –  jadarnel27 Jan 13 '12 at 16:34
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Fair enough, but wouldn't that be a decision the second user (the potential editor) could/should make? Sure, the other edit could be less substantive. But "our" time has its value/cost too? "We" could be spending that time on answering/editing another post, while the first editor might very well be making the same edits "we" want to do. (Besides: I think the current mechanisms are simply not as good as they used to be!) –  Arjan Jan 13 '12 at 18:05
    
(Another aside: it seems I can award the bounty to the deleted answer from Balaswamy. I could try, if you want me, if you promise me I can revert it...) –  Arjan Jan 13 '12 at 18:08
    
(Just to be sure: it seems you refunded the bounty, but I did NOT try to award it to Balaswamy answer. I don't mind "spoiling" a bounty, I just didn't want to award to some random post.) –  Arjan Jan 13 '12 at 19:58
    
@arjan right I assumed you didn't want to award it to this post, so.. :) –  Jeff Atwood Jan 13 '12 at 20:20
    
(I would happily have awarded it, as the community seems to agree with you, and even [status-declined] is an answer! ;-)) –  Arjan Jan 13 '12 at 20:30
    
Jeff. I see the following as a perfect analogy. If you sat down to write something on your computer and was sometimes met with a message saying that there is 50% risk of you loosing everything you write for the next 5 minutes. Would getting this message make you use your computer less for typing in general, compared with a user who never gets this message, but occasionally looses something he wrote. I think it is obvious that the latter would always think twice before typing something on the computer. –  David Feb 13 '12 at 2:50

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