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I regularly review suggested edits on the review page. One common situation is that a user will propose a tiny edit, like capitalising a single letter, or removing only the salutation from a post. In many cases there are still multiple further improvements that could be made, but that editor hasn't seen them - or can't be bothered.

I feel uneasy accepting such edits. On the one hand, it reminds me of the army of 'twiddlers' on Wikipedia, who spend their time making tiny inconsequential edits when they could be doing something much more useful. It also feels lame to award someone any points at all for capitalising a single letter in a title. I sometimes feel that this may be a kind of gaming of the system on the part of some users - suggesting multiple small edits for point gain rather than just fixing the whole post. I also see this with tag wiki editing.

On the other hand, it is a valid edit, and it does objectively improve the post.

There has been a prior ruling on part of this. There was some substantial discussion about the aggressive removal of salutations during the Rich B era (remember that wonderful chap?). I seem to remember that the conclusion was that removal of "hi! / thanks!" on their own was not sufficient grounds for a post edit, although I can't find that now (this post is relevant, but inconclusive).

I have been erring on the side of 'this edit is pointless' and voting to reject, but I notice I am often overruled by other reviewers.

Perhaps one answer would be to provide a third option, after accept/reject:insufficient?

What behaviour are we intending to reward here?

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Might be related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/78288/… –  Shadow Wizard Mar 12 '11 at 15:29
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stackoverflow.com/questions/1729289/… If you look at that post, he refers to an OutOfMemoryExpection, rather than Exception. Overall the post is good, but that typo is driving me nuts, and I CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. –  mikeTheLiar Jun 19 '12 at 20:11
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See also: Typo edits in the title: to approve, or not to approve?. (Short answer: approve, because they aid in searchability. –  user2428118 Oct 9 '12 at 14:04

2 Answers 2

Edits should be accepted if they are correct or helpful, and rejected if they are incorrect or spam. The length of the edit is irrelevant. Who cares if the edit is tiny or major as long as it's improving the quality of the site's content? The reviewer's time has already been used in checking the edit, so nothing is lost in accepting it.

The How to Edit box next to the edit window encourages exactly these kinds of changes, so it would be pretty hypocritical and counterproductive to reject them:

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► correct minor mistakes

The only valid concern I see here is that people could use spell-checking bots to "game the system" and gain rep without doing any work. But that's not solved by preventing small edits. It's solved by not rewarding rep for small edits. That's a problem with the site's design, not with the person going out of their way to improve the quality of its content. If the edits are constructive and helpful, accept them.

(And the "army of 'twiddlers' on Wikipedia" are the people who wrote Wikipedia. The vast majority of edits are small changes, that, together, produce the articles you read. It's a collaborative effort.)

If we're discouraged from making small edits, and discouraged from making sweeping edits ("always respect the original author"), then what's the purpose of including a wiki function at all?

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Another concern is that 5 edits by other than the OP auto-converts the post to Community Wiki, which is a reasonably hard bar to reach but isn't really fair if four editors each correct one little spelling/capitalization/formatting mistake (or make bad edits, which I've seen!), and then one more person comes along and actually does all the rest of the grammatical/clarifying/whatever cleanup that needed to be done. –  Josh Caswell May 27 '11 at 23:48
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@Josh Hmm.. So the original author is sort of punished (loses potential rep) if other people make enough changes to their post? Seems like that could be abused. What's the reasoning behind that? –  endolith May 28 '11 at 3:54
    
I honestly don't know the reasoning. You may be able to find something about it here on Meta if you root around a bit. –  Josh Caswell May 28 '11 at 4:00
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@Josh Well if that's a problem, it seems it can be solved the same way: Minor edits don't get rep, and don't count towards community wiki status. –  endolith May 28 '11 at 4:08
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I think I've seen that proposed, yes. Possibly Jeff rejected it out of concern for complexity? Sorry I don't have details. My comment wasn't intended to argue with you, just point something out that it didn't seem you were aware of. –  Josh Caswell May 28 '11 at 4:10
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Agree completely. One character substantive edits are absolutely useful on a programming website. Worrying about how it affects rep on the site isn't useful; if you care, adjust the rep system (no credit for edits, maybe). –  James Moore Jul 12 '11 at 19:07
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Sometimes I see a spelling mistake and want to correct it, only to see my correction refused because it's a tiny edit. I'm not doing it for points (didn't even know I would get points actually). If the only issue is with the point system, why not reviewing the point system? Like endolith proposed, no point could be awarded for tiny edits. Also it wouldn't count either to auto-convert the post to Community Wiki. –  user276648 Jul 25 '11 at 2:16
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I'd even go so far as to auto-approve tiny edits from users who have submitted edits in the past and prove they can be trusted –  endolith Jul 25 '11 at 2:27
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Also it would be nice if 'tiny edits' did not bump the post in the frontpage. It's quite fast to review them, they could be included in the "review" list instead. –  Stéphane Gimenez Mar 15 '12 at 18:01
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@StéphaneGimenez: Yep. Tiny edits are implemented wrong, so instead of fixing the implementation, people try to ban them altogether. o_O –  endolith Mar 15 '12 at 20:53
    
In fact, many parts of Wikipedia are actually written by bots, because on Wikipedia, all that matters is the content; there's no rep system to be gamed. –  endolith May 24 '13 at 14:07

I feel uneasy accepting such edits. On the one hand, it reminds me of the army of 'twiddlers' on Wikipedia, who spend their time making tiny inconsequential edits when they could be doing something much more useful. It also feels lame to award someone any points at all for capitalising a single letter in a title. I sometimes feel that this may be a kind of gaming of the system on the part of some users - suggesting multiple small edits for point gain rather than just fixing the whole post. I also see this with tag wiki editing.

I completely agree -- reject them, with extreme prejudice.

This is why we limit edit suggestions to 6 characters; there are still some hacky ways of getting around that.

Sam was against making this stricter, but I am going to overrule him on this and implement more strict checking myself; I would rather be too strict and reject some edits than have to deal with a continal stream of character-twiddling edit suggesting users.

(yes, there is an exception when a single character like a semicolon makes code wrong, but again -- is everything else in that post so perfect it cannot be improved? I doubt it.)

edit: we now have stricter enforcement of "no using whitespace to bypass the 6 char editing minimum for edit suggestions."

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I agree. And re the counter-example of a semi-colon making the code wrong: surely in cases like that we should be pointing the mistake out to the OP rather than fixing it for them. –  Spudley Mar 12 '11 at 16:27
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Music to my ears. –  George Stocker Mar 12 '11 at 23:06
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Actually there can be (and there are, AFAIR) cases that modifying anything other than the offending character (e.g. semicolon) is not very useful and/or would be superficial. What about fixing spelling automatically (mostly) and limiting reps to bigger edits? –  Halil Özgür Mar 15 '11 at 8:51
    
The problem continues: Some users gaming the edit system by searching for misspelled words - the fix could be as simple as adding some text to the review page encouraging 10k's not to accept such edits. –  ire_and_curses Mar 17 '11 at 16:53
    
@ire that's a good idea, I will try to get that in there. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 17 '11 at 23:45
    
Any stand on (just) adding Prettify <!-- language: ... --> hints? I've seen some rejected. (And I guess this user didn't know that it might be considered too tiny. But that's another issue.) –  Arjan Apr 13 '11 at 10:49
    
@arjan generally it means the question tags are wrong first –  Jeff Atwood Apr 13 '11 at 10:52
    
In this case, @Jeff, the post included both HTML and CSS, and the highlighting of the code fragments was made more specific by the proposed edit. Another rejected proposal from the same editor was about a difference in two languages, and hence tagged both vb.net and java. The editor made the highlighting of the VB.Net code example more specific. (I kind of like that, just in case the OP takes a look at the changes and then learns about it...) –  Arjan Apr 13 '11 at 11:04
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For the record, I am very much against the no-whitespace rule as it has prevented me from putting code in a code block more than once. –  John Apr 19 '11 at 1:32
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@Spudley: What if the OP never fixes it? @ire: Why is it even possible to "game the system" by making edits? If you're going to reward rep for making edits, only reward it for substantial changes. –  endolith May 27 '11 at 21:41
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"continal stream of character-twiddling edit suggesting users" should be "continual stream of character-twiddling edit-suggesting users" –  endolith May 27 '11 at 21:45
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You're wrong. We're talking about a programming website. A one-character change can be the difference between a valid identifier and an invalid identifier. Forcing people to grovel around for another few characters to randomly change is wrong. –  James Moore Jul 12 '11 at 19:04
    
@james I believe in dreaming bigger. Is the post otherwise so perfect that nothing in it can be improved? Really? Or, y'know, just earn 2k rep to have the privilege of making single character edits. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 12 '11 at 19:17
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@Jeff: Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Who cares as long as the error is corrected? Encourage people to look for further changes that need to be made, sure, but don't mandate it. –  endolith Jul 12 '11 at 19:41
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So don't give rep for small edits, or for edits at all. In your company, do you have the same policy for bug fixes? "No, sorry. That fix is too small. Please improve some other code here, probably unrelated to your original bug, before submitting the change." –  James Moore Jul 12 '11 at 19:47

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