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I think you Jeff should really fix this: When you are such a noob user (as i am) and you cannot edit directly other people questions, you can provide an edit that will be moderated(?). Now, your edits will be minimum 6 characters long. In fact you could also edit this:

$php = "Something

into

$php = "Something";

adding just 2 characters edits. How? Where are we getting other 4 characters for the edit? Here:

$php = "Something";    

You could probably think : "What? Are you stupid or what? Nothing changed!". Indeed we just added 4 spaces to that code that will make the edits character count up to 6.

Hypothetically one user could just add a (;) to the text and get that one precious reputation point.

Should we check the real edits?

PS: I have to admit i used this hack today, but it was for a serious purpose, please don't ban me :(

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4  
Besides the question whether this should be "fixed" at all -- why do you think that Jeff should do it? :) –  balpha Mar 6 '11 at 18:10
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@balpha, because it's my Hero –  Sofffia Mar 6 '11 at 18:20
    
I covered this here, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/80836/… ... see my answer. Bottom line, if you start cheating, your peers will reject you AND you will be banned from edits. –  waffles Mar 7 '11 at 0:42
    
@waffles, well, i thought i was the smartest here or at least the only one that could have found such a cool hack. It disappoints me. Anyway, ok. I'll never do it again. –  Sofffia Mar 7 '11 at 1:04
    
@CharliePigarelli I am pretty sure Jeff Atwood is a he... Then again, I always suspected there was something fishy going on with Area51. –  muntoo Jan 27 '12 at 1:52

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Should we check the real edits?

First off, there's no way for the system to be certain that whitespace isn't important. Especially in a code block.

Second, you can actually see whitespace in the diff, if you opt to compare the Markdown. So it's not really all that hidden.

But most importantly... The 6-char minimum edit restriction is in place to discourage you (the editor) from doing something stupid: submitting an incomplete or pointless edit. But ultimately, that's just a guideline - there's certainly nothing preventing you from doing something stupid in >= 6 characters, and you may find on occasion that you can make a useful and important edit in < 6 characters. Making the system (which cannot itself judge the quality of any given edit) strictly enforce such a guideline doesn't necessarily solve any real problem. Since all suggested edits are reviewed, any user abusing this to post worthless edits will quickly find them rejected, just like a user adding 6+ characters of gibberish would.

BTW: if I look at a tiny edit and see 10 other changes that need to be made to bring the post up to an acceptable quality level, there's a decent chance I'll reject the edit - the editor just wasted our time by failing to be thorough.


On a related note, your edit could be an appropriate and useful change to an answer, but probably shouldn't be made to a question... unless you can be absolutely certain that it wasn't part of the actual problem.

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Stupid spaces after the end of a code line should be detected. If you add spaces before a code line it will be shown o everyone that you did something wrong, while adding them after will be just invisible and will seems fine to the user. Anyway good ethic point. –  Sofffia Mar 6 '11 at 18:46
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@Charlie: my point is, end-of-line whitespace is irrelevant in every programming language I can think of... But that doesn't mean it's irrelevant in every language. For instance, two spaces at the end of a line in Markdown actually changes the meaning of the newline that follows... Putting a restriction like that in the system should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Especially since someone actively trying to get around the restriction can do so in numerous other ways. –  Shog9 Mar 6 '11 at 18:51

Note: You don't have to use whitespace to defeat the 6-character limit. HTML comments also work and don't show up in the rendered text:

<!-- blah -->

As for your question:

Should we check the real edits?

I don't think it's worth discouraging this kind of character limit circumvention. If someone abuses it, it can be dealt with by moderators on a case-by-case basis.

Sub-2k users do occasionally need to make legitimate 2-character edits, as you mentioned you did above. Suppressing this kind of edit would just be preventing those people from improving our content.

So in summary, mods should check edit source to be thorough, but I don't think we should automate checking the edit source, for the reasons I mentioned above.

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Thanks for your contribute –  Sofffia Mar 6 '11 at 21:09
    
sure, you could do that but keep in mind, your peers are likely to notice it in the markdown diff and reject your edits, if enough edits are rejected your will be banned from suggested edits for a certain amount of time. –  waffles Mar 7 '11 at 0:29
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@waffles I see your point, but is using extra whitespace any better or worse than simply inserting <!-- fulfilling the 6-char min, please ignore -->? Provided that the post can't be improved in any other way, I think circumventing the limit is preferable to flagging the post for moderator attention. –  Jason Plank Mar 7 '11 at 0:49
    
posts that can only do with 6 chars of improvement are incredibly rare. This is a total edge case. I am totally against inserting hidden comments, personally I would reject those edits even if they were otherwise good. –  waffles Mar 7 '11 at 0:51
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@wafles: "posts that can only do with 6 chars of improvement are incredibly rare." No, they're not, as evidenced by all the posts complaining about it. Anyway, a small edit is better than no edit at all, which is the ultimate result of this rule. –  endolith Feb 1 '12 at 15:49

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