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As a new answerer on StackOverflow, I found the Edit Summary field misleading. A commenter asked for an update to my answer, so I updated the answer, and explained the update in the Edit Summary, assuming it would show up below my answer, but it doesn't show up anywhere on the page. So I had to update my answer again, including the summary of the edits in the answer itself.

If it's only meant for explaining spelling, grammar, and formatting type updates, it could be made more explicit.

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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Edit summaries are shown when clicking the "edited ... ago" link.

I feel that always making them visible (without clicking) would just create noise. Also, though some others use the same "pattern" of describing updates in a post, I actually think that such descriptions are often noise too. This includes the following:

Update: now [...]

Keep in mind that Stack Exchange sites are not forums (in which some people interact and might get to some conclusion in the last post). Instead, they are Q&A sites, which intend to provide a source of many questions with answers for future viewers as well. Future visitors are not interested in the edit history at all, but just want the definitive answer.

(In fact, sometimes I cannot even tell if the text above such line is updated, or only the stuff below it. In such cases: is the text above the "update/edit" line still valid? To know, one now must go into the revision history to understand.)

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I agree that the Edit Summary doesn't belong in the answer. I put it there because I couldn't find it on the page. Maybe some kind of small icon indicating revision history next to the "edited ...ago" text would be helpful. –  cwarden Mar 25 '11 at 0:59
    
@cwarden, as long as there's no such indicator: there are many more hidden links, hidden features and hidden new features. –  Arjan Mar 25 '11 at 1:05
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Others have mentioned how to see the edit summary, so I won't go into that.

An edit summary is supposed to be meta-information about how the post was changed.

I think if the reasoning behind why the information was added to the post is very important -- so important that you feel it needs to be seen -- then it probably belongs as part of the post itself.

Where you draw that line is up to you, of course, though a summary is generally short and to the point.

I think the existing prompt, "briefly describe your changes (corrected spelling, fixed grammar, improved formatting)," is a pretty good description of what should go into that box. (If you don't see that prompt, that's a separate issue.)

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Edit summaries are shown on the revision history page of the post, but not on the post itself. You can find this page by appending "/revision" to the post's URL following the post ID number. For example, here is the revision history page for the answer I think you referred to.

When you edit a post, it should be clear to anyone reading it that you changed something, due to the prominent "edited" box that appears at the bottom of the post (this also links to the revision history page). If you feel it is necessary, you can notify them via comment that you have revised your post.

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Simply click the "edited" indicator:

edited 3 hours ago

clicking it will take you to the revisions for the post.

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