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As originally requested here and described in Diff is Hard, Let's Go Shopping!:

[The team is] planning to open the floodgates and allow everybody to submit content edits on posts

Am I the only one who sees this undesirable? In fact, the more I think about it the more I think it has the possibility to be a really bad idea.

I think that, to provide good edits, you must have a good idea of how the site works. I am very afraid that if you give everyone the power to edit, we'll get a lot of low quality edits. The /review link was just added to help weed out low quality questions and answers... if there's a need for such a facility for questions and answers, why do we believe that edits will be much different?

I understand that these edits will have to be approved by the community:

2 Users with N reputation will have to approve each edit. There may be a capped reputation incentive (at the moment we are thinking you can get up to 1000 points 2 at a time for good edits) – waffles♦ yesterday

But I think that this potentially doubles the work for people (like myself) who like to edit. Now, instead of just doing the edits ourselves, we have to review someone else's edits and it now takes two users to approve the edit another user made, so what could previously have been done with one user now takes three.

There's another consequence to this:

@Robert ... this helps fight information rot... so many old questions need TLC. pending edit will block further edits and be actionable inline. – waffles♦ 23 hours ago

So, if I understand that correctly, that means that if some low-rep user makes a bad edit, A higher rep user can't correct it until a second higher rep user concurs the first edit was bad?

Or even if a low rep user makes a small, good edit, a higher rep user can't make a second edit until the first one is approved? I foresee all sorts of problems here.

As it stands, reaching 2,000 reputation is a great milestone on the sites. It means you have proven yourself and, most likely, you know the flow of the sites and what's good and what needs work. Congratulations, you now have the power to edit and make these sites you clearly love a better place. I think that giving editing powers to everyone greatly diminishes the privilege of being able to edit at 2k, and I think that's a bad thing.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Is the new "everyone can edit" feature set in stone or do we, the community, have any say?

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I've said my piece. Feel free to downvote me to oblivion if you disagree! –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:02
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I'll admit I was very surprised when I saw waffles' question the other day. I remain to be convinced opening up editing is a good idea. –  ChrisF Jan 19 '11 at 23:10
    
10k's can see my deleted answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/49716/… -- I disagreed with the proposed mechanics. (I deleted the post because the question was simplified to just a concept.) –  Jon Seigel Jan 19 '11 at 23:11
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@josh i agree with you its a really bad idea because if i had that privilege i would delete half of what you wrote –  Yuck Jan 19 '11 at 23:19
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Originating feature request (I assume): Allow low-rep users to suggest edits. –  Arjan Jan 19 '11 at 23:23
    
@Arjan, yes, that was it, thanks! –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:32
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@every: see, this is why we so desperately need this feature. I'm way too lazy to edit this post, but I'd approve your hatchet-job in a heartbeat! –  Shogging through the snow Jan 19 '11 at 23:41
    
Ouch, @Shog9, ouch! ;-) –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:44
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I'd love to get some rep for editing. –  Lance Roberts Jan 20 '11 at 1:41
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To be honest, I was thinking some people were making unnecessary edits as it was :)P I've seen a fair number of edits that went too far beyond a simple 'fix up the poor grammar, spelling and formatting' scope for my taste. But I can certainly see why it would be helpful to allow more willing participants to edit. The Next Big Thing won't automatically kill us. Unless it does. Get off my lawn. –  RD1 Jan 20 '11 at 1:45

9 Answers 9

up vote 39 down vote accepted

Am I the only one who sees this undesirable? In fact, the more I think about it the more I think it has the possibility to be a really bad idea.

Theoretical problems are fantastic things. I have over 1000 theoretical problems with over 1000 theoretical features.


What I can talk about is the actual process we are following, and why I believe this will work.

  • We are turning on the floodgates for a few hours at a time, during the next few weeks and gathering proposed edits from anonymous and users without full edit rights.

  • During this process we are tweaking stuff so handling the proposed edits is super easy. We are also adding some more restrictions to edits, such as you must enter a substantive comment for any suggested edit, edits must not be no-ops, etc.

  • Edits can be approved inline (on the question/answer page) by 2 users with the pending edit approval privilege, earned at 1k rep.

  • The vast majority (like 95%) of edits are approved/rejected by the team during the test runs.

  • We are building analytics bits to see the effect of the test runs.

  • At the end of this process we will analyze the data, tweak algorithms and ensure that the feature has a general positive effect on the site, figuring out rep incentives caps and so on is a phase 2 thing.

  • Nothing is set in stone, everything depends on the quality and type of edits that are submitted in our real world trial runs.

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This is a fantastic answer and assuages many of my concerns. Thanks! –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 20 '11 at 0:29
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"or extremely tiny in size" What about correcting spelling errors? Sometimes a tiny error is significant. –  Greg Hewgill Jan 20 '11 at 0:52
    
When someone makes an (approved?) edit to your post are you alerted in any way? similar to a comment directed toward you? –  RD1 Jan 20 '11 at 1:48
    
@Greg ... good point ... I think I do not thing I will introduce that then –  waffles Jan 20 '11 at 2:45
    
@RD01, once edits are approved you can see them in your inbox, they look exactly the same as edits done by 2k users. –  waffles Jan 20 '11 at 2:47
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Can 2k users approve edits on their own? –  The Anti-Santa Jan 20 '11 at 2:52
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@Kev ... we are starting out with requiring 2 approvers ... we may relax it ... we may introduce a single click approve for 20k users ... we may allow single click approval for content owners ... I don't know ... still to early to tell –  waffles Jan 20 '11 at 7:23
    
I'm sure you'll figure it out (or change things if it appears to be a real problem), but the combination of not limiting the length of the edits (good) with get up to 1000 points 2 at a time for good edits might introduce lots of edits. Floodgates, indeed! ;-) –  Arjan Jan 20 '11 at 12:56
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I guess you already figured that the original author should always be able to edit (or approve pending edits without a second vote, like you wrote above)? And any chance the edit link might not be shown during the 5 minute grace period? (That might actually also be nice for "normal" edits by >2k?) –  Arjan Jan 22 '11 at 17:52
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Requiring 2 approvers means I, >2k, can no longer edit a post because somebody else <2k has a pending edit. If they had not edited it, I would be able to. –  Stephen Denne Jan 24 '11 at 23:40
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I've got 99 theoretical problems, and an edit ain't one :) –  Jarrod Dixon Jan 25 '11 at 9:38
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I still don't know why you feel the need to do this. Is it that 2k+ users aren't doing enough editing? –  raven Feb 2 '11 at 19:53

The alternative is that the flawed questions/answers stay that way or that 2k-users have to correct them all by themselves. Just approving edits is less work than editing all those posts yourself, assuming most edits are constructive and useful.

I think it is at least worth trying out; it might be a very useful addition. And if it turns out that the low-rep users don't know how to edit constructively, it can always be turned off.

But I really think that the mere fact that you're trying to improve someone else's post shows an interest in the quality of the site. That is probably a good indicator of being able to edit constructively. Most bad quality posts I see are from users who don't care... they wouldn't spend the effort to edit other posts.

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IMHO the best way to show an interest in the quality of the site is to post constructive queestions and answers, which we already reward with reputation, which naturally results in the ability to make edits and other abilities –  Ether Jan 19 '11 at 23:25
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@Ether Getting to 2k takes quite some time, it makes a lot of sense on your first SE site to get comfortable with the whole concept. It gets pretty annoying when you are used to that power and visit a different SE site and can't even fix some annoying typos as you don't have enough rep there. I have some interest in many of the SE sites, but I don't have the time and knowledge to get to 2k in all of them. –  Mad Scientist Jan 19 '11 at 23:35
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"assuming most edits are constructive and useful". That's exactly what I am not assuming ;-) –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:36
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@Josh I still think that the people you are worried about are those least likely to edit other people's posts. The SE sites managed to get some pretty nice communities, I never thought I would see a gaming site where people write complete sentences, with grammar and everything ;-). –  Mad Scientist Jan 19 '11 at 23:41
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Maybe my years have just made me overly cynical... I hope I'm wrong @Fabian! :-) –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:43

Editing someone else's post used to be a privilege that you repped up your hard smoked EXP by. You craved for that sweet post that rained the magic and arbitrary points to level you up to a platform of casting edits on posts.

It was something to strive for, to add extra payback to the community in addition to the quality answers and questions you were posting.

The "everybody has a valid voice (pending)" edit feature proposed makes it seem more like a carnival where they hand everybody the keys to the ferris wheel just for turning up and kicking around some dust.

No, those pants you have to work your way up to wear. You can't wear daddy's pants. Even if he's asleep. When you climb over him and bury his body in that tracksuit you bought at the op shop, then you can.

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Just because we properly earned these rights doesn't mean it made sense to earn them in the first place. –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:26
    
Nobody said they were all properly earned. But what's the difference at 2k then? @bad –  random Jan 19 '11 at 23:28
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The API and the timeline deprived the 1k privilege of any value. /review devalued the 10k tools. Crowdsourcing is simply the trend here. –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:29
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the difference is that at 2k rep your edit of someone else's post doesn't have to be approved by two other 1k rep users.. you can edit without answering to anyone else. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 19 '11 at 23:37

Opening up editing is mostly a good thing.

A lot of times, I have seen a few posts on some SEs with basic errors like typoes or improper punctuation, or subpar formatting. It shouldn't take 2k rep to fix that.

I'm not sure it'll do much good for the intended purpose -- preventing information rot -- as edits aren't the end-all be-all solution for information rot.


<sidebar>

Expanding a bit on this point: there's so much more to editing than information rot. I usually edit typos, formatting; I rarely add a paragraph to complete an answer. Also, there's much more to information rot management than editing.

Basically I see more than one level of rot:

  1. The question is now completely meaningless. Say, a question about the App Store approval proces after it's closed. What would an edit solve here? Put a blockquote h1 at the top of the post screaming about the news? Close as localized instead.
  2. An answer is now plain wrong. Say, a person asked how to make minecarts go really fast and a user answered to exploit a glitch and make a so-called "booster". This glitch now gets fixed. What would an edit solve here? Put a blockquote h1 at the top of the post screaming about the news? Post a comment and downvote instead, and maybe comment on the question too so the asker may revoke the checkmark.
  3. Part of an answer now is plain wrong Cha-ching, I hear you say. Yes! Edit away! ...or use the awesome license we have and post a new answer, quoting the rest with attribution. Multipart questions aren't good questions anyway.
  4. An answer is now outdated in a detail. Say that, on Unix, you ask how to make a process a daemon, then the answerer posts some sample Python code which happens to use os.popen, which is being deprecated in favour of the more Pythonic but more complex subprocess module. Except, you know, it really isn't the point of the answer and subprocess adds additional complexity that would only risk making the post not as clear, and os.popen hasn't been removed yet anyway. Sure, an edit would be okay too, but personally I'd rather comment. The answer remains valid.

Yes! Editing can help. I just don't think it's the end-all be-all solution to information rot.

</sidebar>


In theory, I'd love having a mod-flags-like counter for edits pending review -- maybe only for those edits that already received an approval, just to speed the process up.

Yes, edit proposals acquiring a lock on the post is really a problem. A solved problem, too: just do merging. Maybe discard an anonymous edit that can't be automatically merged.

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+1 for the merge idea. -1 because I am still very concerned that the level of noise edits will overwhelm the reviewers... –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:24
    
@Josh It might on SO. I doubt it will on other sites. –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:25
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I think the most common users of that new feature will be experienced SE users on a site where they don't have enough rep. It is annoying to find errors and not being able to correct them like I'm used to. –  Mad Scientist Jan 19 '11 at 23:26
    
Ok, @Fabian, you make a great point. I would love to be able to edit on Gaming, where I will surely never have 2,000 rep. –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:31
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how are comments more appropriate for information rot than editing? –  Jeff Atwood Jan 19 '11 at 23:37
    
@Jeff Example: all the questions we have about a certain popular glitch in Minecraft (boosters) risk becoming irrelevant at any moment because someday Notch may or may not want to fix that. Edits just can't salvage this kind of rot: flagging or commenting would be more appropriate. Or: let's say Notch adds a new method to make carts go really fast; then you wouldn't edit, you would post a new answer. Editing is only useful for nitty gritty stuff like "cake will require 3 sugar, 3 milk and 3 bread" → "cake requires 3 sugar, 3 milk, 2 bread, 1 egg" -- nice, but hardly fixes the full picture. –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:45
    
@badp: So someone's written this impressive, comprehensive Minecraft answer, which - due to a change in the game - is now missing one tiny detail that simply didn't exist when the answer was written. You're gonna make readers jump out of context and read another answer to get this information rather than letting someone just patch it in where it fits? Also, it really depends on the cake... –  Shogging through the snow Jan 19 '11 at 23:49
    
@Jeff On StackOverflow this becomes even more dubious. Let's take spawning processes in Python, where subprocess is deprecating os.popen. Suggesting people to use subprocess instead should be a comment (if it's a nitty gritty detail), or a new answer (if it's the whole point), rather than an edit. –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:49
    
@badp: please say why? –  Shogging through the snow Jan 19 '11 at 23:50
    
@Shog9 That makes sense if the subject of the change is mentioned "en passant", not if it's the whole point of the question. –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:51
    
@Shog9 Should we edit all Python answers to run on Python 3? Also can we move this discussion to chat? –  badp Jan 19 '11 at 23:51
    
@badp: ok, so you're talking about an edit that would make the answer incorrect? That's not exactly "information rot". And still, an edit could note that, as of Py3, subprocess is the preferred API and follow it up with an equivalent example - even if the edit wasn't strictly necessary, you're still providing potentially-useful information in a much more accessible way than hiding it away in a comment. –  Shogging through the snow Jan 19 '11 at 23:55
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Here's the transcript of the chat discussion with @Shog9: chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/rooms/89/conversation/… –  badp Jan 20 '11 at 0:15

I have a bunch of rep points on SO, waaay more than I have any need of. And I hate answering questions.

I have rep points on SO because I wanted to edit. When I first read about SO, six to eight weeks before the site even existed, I thought to myself, "A wiki Q&A site! Brilliant! Finally, a solution to this endless parade of crappy questions with their horrible formatting and broken ingrish."

And then I joined on, and... couldn't edit anything. It sucked. Every day, I'd check in, see something in need of editing, and... facepalm

I got over it, eventually, after posting far too many mediocre answers. But every day, there are users showing up on SO who can't use the site's single most important feature, the one that first set it apart from every other crappy Q&A site, the one that daily breathes new life into mediocre posts.

It means you have proven yourself and, most likely, you know the flow of the sites and what's good and what needs work.

It means you probably know how the site works. How Markdown works. What sorts of edits are appropriate and which ones aren't. A user just signing on probably wouldn't know this stuff. But that's ok, because under the proposed system their edits will need to be vetted first.

It doesn't mean you suddenly have the desire or ability to edit effectively. Nor does it mean that someone just joining the site doesn't have anything of value to add... Right now, we force them to post answers, even when what they're contributing would be better off as an addition to an existing answer. That sucks.

There's nothing anarchic about this. If anything, it strengthens the idea that new users need to spend time learning how the site works, and provides a way for them to do just that while keeping them under strict supervision until they've had some time to get the hang of things.

It's a learner's permit for editing. Perfectly appropriate for the single most powerful feature on SO!

Keep in mind, this feature is still under design, with the team open to suggestions as to how it works and how it looks. Figure out a good way to implement it, and we'll all benefit...

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I like your argument. But I am still unconvinced that the edits won't be largely low-quality and this will create more work... Maybe if it required 500 rep to edit? Or anything higher than 1? I mean, people can edit before they can comment? –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 19 '11 at 23:35
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@Josh: comments don't get vetted before they're posted. Heck, neither do questions or answers - those really are anarchic, and we're stuck cleaning up the mess afterwards. Given how much editing should be done, and how little does get done, I rather doubt we'll see a whelming flood of crap via that avenue... But if so, I'm sure we'll have no trouble convincing the SO team to rate-limit it or something. Personally, I'm not interested in trying to solve a problem I've never seen before I know it exists... –  Shogging through the snow Jan 19 '11 at 23:40
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"Personally, I'm not interested in trying to solve a problem I've never seen before I know it exists" that makes one of you. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 20 '11 at 0:15
    
@Jeff: yeah, I figured that'd set you off... –  Shogging through the snow Jan 20 '11 at 0:17
    
@Jeff and @Shog9 -- Please don't misunderstand. My only goal here is to make the sites more awesome. I just want to make sure we do things in the best way possible, and had concerns I wanted to voice about negative consequences I foresaw here. As I said to Fabian below, I hope I'm wrong! –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 20 '11 at 0:19
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@Josh: I hope you're wrong too. Because, obviously, I have no proof this wouldn't go horribly wrong. It's a feature that appeals to me, but honestly never expected to see seriously considered here. It's one of the things I immediately liked about Quora (but again, that proves nothing because they seem to have gotten a lot more wrong)... My take is that it's a moderate risk (vandalism would still require approval) with a big potential payoff (more editors); we'll see... –  Shogging through the snow Jan 20 '11 at 0:24
    
I just do want to add, that while it is still under development, Jeff has clearly shown that the team is not open to suggestions on how it works... –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 25 '11 at 13:29
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I agree with Shog. When I first joined, when I got to about 500 rep I started wanting to correct tons of mistakes I saw. A few months later I finally got up to edit privileges.... and then I started using meta and had to start all over (though, knowing most of the flow and such, so I knew most of what I needed for editing) before I could edit. I would have appreciated this feature a lot when I was a low rep user. I think the implementation might currently be wrong, but the idea is definitely a good one –  Earlz Feb 5 '11 at 3:30

I'm going to throw out a possible solution to some of the problems I see, having read some of the discussion in chat and the very insightful comments and answers here. I think Fabian made a great point:

It gets pretty annoying when you are used to that power and visit a different SE site and can't even fix some annoying typos as you don't have enough rep there.

I have experienced this myself on the Unix, Gaming, and Apple StackExchange sites, and have even lamented about it in chat. So I can relate to that, especially since I doubt I will ever have 2,000 reputation on gaming.

Waffles has now answered authoritatively on what is actually happening and it is a big relief to me to know that this is happening in a much more controlled, measured manner than I originally thought. It's also good to know that tweaks are being made, so I don't know if these suggestions are even relevant, but here's my thinking:

  • I am still bothered by the zero barrier to editing. I'd really like to see some minimum rep required, even if it's 50, or maybe even 20. I think this will cut down on the potential for extremely low-quality edits

  • Tim Stone made a great suggestion in chat that, if a given user continually posts edits which are rejected, maybe they should be rate-limited from editing. Or maybe editing should be a privilege which can be lost if abused. Again, I am thinking about curtailing abuse here.

  • Also, I love badp's suggestion of a "merge" function, because having to wait for someone else to approve an edit just so I could make a second edit really bothers me.

share|improve this answer
    
On your first point: I'm reminded of the requests for a rep-limit for posting answers. If you consider a feature to be a core part of the site, then it should have a low barrier unless abused (again, I'm sure with a bit of arm-twisting the team would grudgingly implement some sort of rate-limiting. Oh wait, that was your second point...) On your third point, merging is hard, but it would help in some common scenarios - if you can come up with an effective UI, I'll bet waffles would like to see it... –  Shogging through the snow Jan 20 '11 at 0:42
    
"if you can come up with an effective UI, I'll bet waffles would like to see it..." That sounds like a fun challenge, I'll think on that :-) –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 20 '11 at 0:43

Wikipedia works without even requiring that users register and they cope just fine.

Personally I think that the Wiki part of the site is under emphasised - we need more edits!

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You and Shog9 agree then. I disagree, but, that's okay :-) –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 20 '11 at 2:37
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I agree, however I think Wikipedians have their pet subjects and tend to sit on the pages they're "fanatical" about and actively defend against vandalism. On SO questions tend to be a bit more disposable and have a high turnover. Yes people tend their favourite tags, but it's a seriously Canutian task to keep on top of tags such as C#, Java and PHP. I think editor training wheels such as this is a good compromise. –  The Anti-Santa Jan 20 '11 at 2:37
    
@Kev very valid points - I think it would be nice if questions weren't quite as disposable as they are at the moment. –  Justin Jan 20 '11 at 3:54

I think this is a great idea. There have been so many times I've hit the other sites and there's just no way to fix up a post.

My only concern would be that edits in a pending approval state shouldn't need two 2000+ rep editors to approve. After all we already have full edit rights. It would appear to be having an approval feature for the sake of adding a feature rather than streamlining edit workflow.

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+1 for not needing two 2kers to approve. -1 because you disagree with me ;-) –  The Unhandled Exception Jan 20 '11 at 2:36
    
@josh - :) - yes the 2k thing is retrograde. –  The Anti-Santa Jan 20 '11 at 2:40
    
Perhaps edits could require total approvers rep to get over 2k, so one 2k user, or multiple <2k users. –  Stephen Denne Jan 24 '11 at 23:54

I'm not liking the "review edits" feature at all. When I click the tab, I have to consider whether someone else's decision to reformat code, or make a content-neutral neutral stylistic edit to a title is worth approving or not. The decisions to be made here are just too trivial. For example

  • Someone edited the a question title so that it would be in the form of a question -- but didn't otherwise change the content. There are a lot of questions whose titles aren't in the form of a question here, so I hit reject.

  • Someone else edited a code sample to reformat the code just a little (move a bracket to somewhere more in line common coding conventions, and remove a linebreak from inside a parameter list). I think I hit the refresh button on this one and saw that someone else had already answered it.

I don't really care whether these changes were accepted or rejected. I think that someone who's accumulated 2000 rep will realize that that particular edit is unnecessary, and won't propose it. But if they've been around long enough to accumulate 2000 rep and decide to make that change, let them. Don't bother the rest of us with the details. It's just too trivial for me as a reviewer to actually care about.

(And there's a serious race condition for making a decision where you'll frequently be beat by someone else unless you make a split-second decision.)

Please go back to the old system where users under 2000 reputation just can't edit anything.

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