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I just attempted to fix a typo on a question on cooking.stackexchange.com and saw this

Oops! Your edit couldn't be submitted because:

  • Your edit summary must be at least 10 characters
  • This edit is less than 6 characters; surely more can be improved with your edit?

So, misspelled words have to just be left misspelled? That could prevent the post from being found in a search.

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(See also the screen captures as How does peer review for edits work?.) –  Arjan Jan 31 '11 at 14:32
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Agreed - I ran into that limit when trying to make a small bug fix to code (3 chars). Since the the warning encouraged that "surely more can be improved with your edit", I took the time to also add a variation of the code someone had asked about in the comments. Later, I noticed the post had the bug fix, but not the code variant. –  Bert F Jan 31 '11 at 14:32
    
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/74430/…. Though that one talks less about the actual implemented limit. –  Grace Note Jan 31 '11 at 14:33
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What is with all these stupid policies on Stack Exchange sites? No voting more than once every 5 seconds, no changing votes, no making minor edits. I'm trying to fix a one-character typo in someone's code that would prevent it from working correctly, and the page has refused my edit 3 times in a row. "Edit summary too short." "Edit too small." Fine, I won't bother! Why waste my time working around all these stupid restrictions? These seem to be implemented as band-aids with little forethought and do more harm than good. –  endolith Feb 1 '11 at 16:11
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@endolith, many restrictions were introduced after some folks managed to abuse the freedom. –  Arjan Feb 2 '11 at 11:43
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@Arjan: And many commenters agree that the "solution" does more harm than good. Is the goal of the site still to provide and identify good answers to questions? –  endolith Feb 2 '11 at 19:14
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@endolith a civilized society requires laws; remember that we allow anonymous internet users to participate, too. The idea that the time you spent on a trivial edit is more important than the two (2) editors' time who must look at, review, and approve your trivial edit.. well, it's a common misconception. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 6 '11 at 4:01
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When I cannot edit a post because of this annoying 6 characters limit, I usually just link one of the words to Wikipedia. I think it's pointless and it actually takes more time for moderators to review the edit, but that's often the only way a post can be edited. –  this.lau_ Feb 4 '12 at 1:56
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The length of an edit is a poor correlator to the substantiality of the edit in a field where a single character is the difference between code that compiles or not, works or not, bugs out or not. –  Core Xii May 20 '12 at 13:47
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@CoreXii - you're wasting your time. As someone else pointed out, nothing will change Jeff's mind on certain topics. –  Dan Dascalescu Mar 21 '13 at 8:00
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You are encouraged to clutter the page with a comment, so someone with enough rep can then come and fix the issue –  ufotds Aug 23 '13 at 2:11

5 Answers 5

up vote 85 down vote accepted

This rule only applies for peer-edits. If you have enough rep to edit you can make a single character change.

However, I would suggest this rule should be eliminated. Many times there is only a single change that is needed.

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(The first sentence is correct.) –  Arjan Jan 31 '11 at 14:35
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The first sentence is correct, but please, please leave this in place. Such minor changes are overwhelming the moderators and high level users. –  C. Ross Jan 31 '11 at 14:49
    
@Arjan, thanks for the confirmation. I have now updated the answer. –  jzd Jan 31 '11 at 14:53
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@c.Ross, Just so I can understand better, how do the peer edits overwhelm the moderators or high level users. I have accepted a couple of peer edits and they save me time because they are changes I would have made myself. (Some where very small). –  jzd Jan 31 '11 at 14:55
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@C.: Is it less overwhelming if the high rep users have to do all those edits themselves? Or do you want to say we'd be better off without having those errors fixed? –  sth Jan 31 '11 at 15:02
    
@jzd It shows up at my top bar with a large number of proposed edits I have to wade through. @sth I would say that the typos are not worth barraging your moderators with. I'm not sure what it will be like with High Rep users included. –  C. Ross Jan 31 '11 at 17:39
    
@C. Ross, that is strange I don't see it. However I only have 3000 rep. –  jzd Jan 31 '11 at 17:53
    
@jzd It's either 10k or 20k. –  C. Ross Jan 31 '11 at 18:03
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@C.Ross, I think the real problem is that not enough people are able to see the list of pending edits, and that the list is getting in your way - not that there are too many pending edits. –  Ian Ringrose Feb 4 '11 at 16:34
    
@sth, Regarding letting <2k rep users make spelling edits: it is often faster to just fix those yourself (if you have >2k rep) than to read someone else's proposal and then accept. However, this may not be the case for more significant edits, and that's where the real value of this peer review system comes in. –  Box9 Feb 7 '11 at 7:44
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@Box9 - Yes, it's faster for the >2k users to fix an issue themselves. But, that presumes that they notice it and care enough in the first place. Allowing <2k users to suggest these edits helps bring them to light where they might otherwise go unaddressed. –  Iszi Feb 11 '11 at 21:41
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Can peer-edit privileges carry over among the various sites? Surely if I have enough reputation on SO to access all privileges (20k-plus) I can be trusted to not make improper edits on other SE sites where I might be new. –  matt b Jun 17 '11 at 0:45
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I understand that they don't carry over today. I was suggesting that perhaps they could/should. –  matt b Jun 17 '11 at 15:38
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Since I don't have enough reputation to upvote, I need to express my support for the suggestion to eliminate the "minimum 6 character change" rule in a comment. See? –  kynan Sep 13 '11 at 11:52
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This rule is just nuts. In a programming question it's easy to make a 1 char mistake, or misspell a mentor's name or an acronym. That is essential to fix, but all else shall be left alone –  Balog Pal Jun 6 '13 at 12:34

I dislike Jeff's expecting only 'significant' edits (for his definition of significant), i.e., he encourages us by saying 'if it's a trivial [in his view] fix, have a look and fix more stuff, etc.' for various reasons.

I usually only want to fix the substantive errors. I've worked in translation, for instance, and when correcting there, I always did my best to avoid changing the sense/meaning and personal style, while correcting real mistakes. I don't like over-editing someone else's question; I think it's rude.

However, 'trivial' is very subjective, as has been pointed out. Errors in the code blocks can be trivial, but irritating. For instance, I wanted to edit a code block, where the closing-brace was mis-formatted and not inside that actual code-block, so any copy-pastes would be syntactically wrong.

Sure, it's not much to fix once copied (assuming you can figure that out yourself; after all this site is about helping people who don't know things), but if it's copied dozens of times, the added-up waste of time is significant.

Anyway, overall, I just don't like the attitude that a site full of minor errors, spelling mistakes, accidental type-misnamings, so that the whole answer makes no sense, etc., etc. is acceptable. To me is just makes the overall quality crap.

Obviously Jeff disagrees, but it seems to me a bit of what his personal view is, rather than (in my view) what benefits the site. Everyone's different; personally I enjoy going around fixing minor errors, spelling mistakes, etc. Eventually, hopefully I'll get the rep and can just go around doing it to my heart's content.

I would have thought, as people have said, there is a way to fix the problem, not just say 'I don't think it's a problem, therefore it isn't'. There are plenty of options; maybe allow edits and everyone else can vote on whether to apply them (then they won't need to 'waste' the mod's time.) And maybe that's not trivial (sic.) to develop, but various ideas have been put forward and it seems it's more that Jeff doesn't want 'pointless edits'.

I don't mean anything against Jeff; it's a fabulous site on the whole. It's just something that happens to bug me a lot as it suggests an undertone of 'look, do something useful, or just f**-off, ok?', which isn't in the spirit of collaboration, to me. I gave up editing Wikipedia a long time ago...

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...maybe allow edits and everyone else can vote on whether to apply them... This already exists. It was implemented early last year I believe. You don't need to be a mod to participate, but you do need 5000 rep. –  raven Apr 7 '12 at 15:00
    
Well, I'm too evil to even be allowed to see that page. It doesn't really even say what it's for, but appears to be about Wiki tags. Ah looking at it, general editing seems to have been tacked on the end of Wiki edits- not at all obvious. And anyway, you need even more rep to be allowed to do this, so that's no use. I was meaning that anyone might be able to vote on a page edit, and then, say, if 10/20/whatever people agree, it's added, or something. Hopefully would avoid gratuitous abuse, and avoiding bothering 'mods'. Ok, I'm using the term 'mod' in the looser sense of 'trusted'. –  nicodemus13 Apr 7 '12 at 15:13
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I wonder why Jeff is so unbelievably myopic on this particular issue. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 25 '13 at 4:10
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@DanDascalescu Because I respect other people's time. The right to make a 1 character change is earned at 2k rep. Otherwise, suggested edits absorb the time of three users: the person whose post you are editing, and the two reviewers. Trivial, tiny suggested edits are not respectful of other people's time. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 25 '13 at 22:45
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The downside is that there are a lot of 'trivial' errors, some of which can affect the meaning of what's written. Also, I personally find minor spelling/ grammar errors irritating. :) –  nicodemus13 Feb 26 '13 at 13:53
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@nicodemus13 - you're wasting your time. As someone else pointed out, nothing will change Jeff's mind on certain topics. –  Dan Dascalescu Mar 21 '13 at 8:02
    
I hate to review edits that miss some obvious formatting or other improvements for the sake of spelling mistakes. If you can't improve a whole answer/questions, don't edit it. –  Jonathan Drapeau Jul 29 at 13:27

Fine, so change the bloody help on the side. I'm staring at

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► clarify meaning without changing it

► correct minor mistakes

That direct encouragement of average users to contribute is a lie. Jeff Atwood, do you ever stop to think how much time and goodwill you burn through by leaving it at the side of the page for editors without "2k rep" as some kind of a cruel joke?!

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Folks with less than 2000 reputation can submit suggested edits that will be reviewed by other users. You just did this yourself a bit ago: stackoverflow.com/review/suggested-edits/4343111. –  Anna Lear Mar 14 at 23:33
    
Yeah, fixing two letters takes hours, right? Or maybe days? –  Shadow Wizard Mar 14 at 23:41
    
+2 rep isn't enough for such a minor edit? You're lucky it was still approved. –  Jamal Mar 14 at 23:45

If it's so important for moderators to look at large edit suggestions as a priority then show the suggested edits sorted by size. Then they will be reviewed whenever there are no larger edits to review.

If it's important to review edits made by non-anonymous first, then sort them by reputation and put the anonymous at the very end. Can't you fix the actual problem you are trying to fix rather than blow away the whole leg?

When I can't make such an edit I just find myself saying "f*ck this" and go do something that's actually fun and rewarding.

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when it comes to suggesting edits, go big, or go home. That's my philosophy. Home is nice too. –  Jeff Atwood May 9 '11 at 11:18
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@Jeff: What steps have you undertaken to find out whether your philosophy does more good or more harm? –  Timwi May 9 '11 at 13:54
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@Jeff. A small number of characters can still be a big edit. Today I saw an are which should have been an or. That's big. It matters. It really hurts readability. It's three characters. –  TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Aug 3 '11 at 0:44
    
@trig and everything else in the post was so perfect that it could not also be improved? –  Jeff Atwood Aug 3 '11 at 1:15
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@Jeff Speaking for myself here: while everything else may not be perfect, I do not wish to do that extra editing just to fix the are->or. So you get a "f*ck it" from me and the "are" remains. Which I'm sure you're perfectly happy with. –  romkyns Aug 3 '11 at 10:58
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@rom if you want to make bit-twiddling pointless edits, earn 2k rep for the privilege to do so. Suggested edits take time from peers to review them, so they are held to a higher standard. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 3 '11 at 11:02
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@JeffAtwood: The problem with this philosophy is it encourages people to fix non-problems. If the sentence is "Do you prefer apples are oranges?" and the only real problem is s/are/or/, then someone will change it to "Do you like apples or oranges better?" Which isn't really an improvement (except for the s/are/or/), adds noise, and actually detracts from the statement. I know I'm guilty of fabricating "fixes" (after reading the entire post and coming up short on real ones) so that my real fix looks substantial enough to get through the silly filters. –  Flimzy Sep 27 '11 at 15:15
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@flim in my experience, it causes users to think about improving the whole post rather than getting tunnel vision about some tiny trivial thing. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 27 '11 at 15:53
    
@JeffAtwood: I'm sure that is true more often than not. :) –  Flimzy Sep 27 '11 at 15:55
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@JeffAtwood: I've tried the "improve the whole post" method, but my edit was rejected because "it changed the original answer too much". As for asking people to get 2K rep to fix a typo - that will miss the vast majority of small edits made by the long tail of users with less than 2K rep. I'm sure you're familiar with the 1% rule. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 25 '13 at 4:09
    
I hate to review edits that miss some obvious formatting or other improvements for the sake of spelling mistakes. If you can't improve a whole answer/questions, don't edit it. I see too many of these on SO. –  Jonathan Drapeau Jul 29 at 13:29

As a < 2k rep user, you should make reasonably substantive edits. The approval cost for your edit is not free, as it costs the attention of one or more users who have to look at your edit and think about it. This cost is high for extremely trivial edits.

This will not be changing.

If you want to make single-character trivial edits, earn 2k rep.

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Not all edits are trivial, and we should consider cost of leaving typos alone. If you want an example, check this one. It took me 15 seconds to go "Wha...", read that sentence two or three time, before realizing what the mistake one (one character!). The answer has 30 upvotes, so let's assume it becomes a popular answer with 1000 views. The 1% Internet rule suggests that 10k to 100k users viewed it. That's 15k to 150k seconds wasted, or between 4 and 40 hours. Please, let people correct typos. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 25 '13 at 4:06
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@DanDascalescu I don't think anyone reading that was unable to process "at" as "fat". I'm actually more sympathetic to 1 character code changes which cause a program not to compile or be an actual error. If you're going to involve three users with a suggested edit -- the author, and two reviewers -- then it should be a reasonably substantive edit. Let's endeavor to be respectful of other people's time. 6 characters isn't a high bar. Otherwise, earn 2k rep and make all the 1 character changes you wish. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 25 '13 at 22:49
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Jeff, I have the deepest respect for you, and I've been reading and bookmarking your posts since 2005, but on this topic, I fail to grasp your logic. You want to respect 5 seconds per person, times 3 people, while not caring about hours wasted by thousands of viewers, plus not caring about the time of the person who spotted the error and submitted the change. I'm dumbfounded. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 27 '13 at 7:03
    
@DanDascalescu I care about substantive content updates, and I care deeply about sending the message that people should endeavor to contribute more than the barest minimum possible of effort. Was everything else in that post so perfect that nothing in it could be improved? –  Jeff Atwood Feb 27 '13 at 7:47
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There wasn't anything that I know how to improve, and the 6-character limit already forces non-trivial edits. I did have to make a gratuitous improvement to pass the 6-character limit, and as @Laurent mentioned, I added a link. Most users who read an answer are less familiar with it than the author (that's why they're reading it), so chances are they'll only spot the obvious errors. There should be a better mechanism to allow for fixing them. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 27 '13 at 11:47
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The 6-character limit doesn't force people to make non-trivial edits. It forces people to add trivialities to significant but short edits. This wastes much more of the author and reviewers' time than if the rule were not in place. –  jwg Apr 22 at 8:59
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I concur with jwg. A block of code can be broken by 1 misplaced character therefore 1 character edits are unequivocally no less trivial than 6 character edits. This isn't any way contestable. It's basic logic. In an attempt to circumvent an argument that's only of pertinence to semantics, let's instead identify the two different arguments on the table: 1) Jeff is arguing that his approach is optimal in terms of human resources. 2) Opposers of Jeff's approach are arguing that it is an imperfect and counter-intuitive solution. These are two disparate arguments. –  Clarus Dignus May 18 at 2:18

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