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I've done a fair bit of editing on SO during my tenure here.* I've spent some time hanging out in /review to find things to improve. Most of my editing, though, has been done on a case-by-case basis, in the course of my normal usage of the site (either looking for answers, or hanging around reaping rep).

Once in a while, I see a user whose posts all need improvement, and usually the same kind of improvement. For example, one of the users I have in mind posts question titles in the form "Tagname - more or less vague title ???" -- aside from that, the questions generally need some retagging and always need grammatical and possibly formatting cleanup.

I'm wondering whether it's a good idea to edit a large chunk of this or any other user's posts in one go. Does that seem impolite? Does it seem likely to be perceived as impolite? Do I need to alert the person beforehand? Should I perhaps start with the old questions? Is this bad for the site in one way or another (one concern here is flooding the front page)?

Doing this in assembly-line fashion would in some ways be easier than doing it piecemeal. There are likely to be many of the same kinds of fixes needed across all posts by one person, and I could sit down, pour a tasty beverage, and spend half an hour cleaning up one little corner of the site.

To be clear, I'm talking only about editing questions that need improvement in more than one section of the post -- title, body, and tags. I'm not considering just editing out "Thanks", but on making substantial improvements. The catch is that these improvements would all be on one user's posts.

Possibly related (but mostly addressing mass retagging):
Etiquette for enormous hand-sorted retagging jobs
Retagging/Bumping Etiquette
Too much retagging
What to do with users making lots of pointless edits?
What to do if a user is editing tags in a lot of my questions? (This one is from the point of view of the editee, and objects that the tagging was incorrect.)
What is the etiquette for modifying posts? (General editing etiquette; does not address mass, serial edits.)

I haven't really found any discussion of mass editing on the entirety of questions. What are your thoughts?


*Got Copy Editor after about three months.

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8  
Good? Yes. Rude? No. A lot of work? Definitely, but if you don't mind doing it, it makes the internet a better place. –  Robert Harvey Jul 25 '11 at 19:25
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cf. an instance in which I serially edited –  Pops Jul 25 '11 at 19:41
    
{Tag-Cleanup} - You mean you've only seen one user in need??? –  M. Tibbits Jul 25 '11 at 20:13
    
@Robert: no more work than I've already done when earning Copy Editor. Poor grammar tends to make me itchy. –  Josh Caswell Jul 25 '11 at 20:20

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Yes, edit, edit, and edit some more. Get tired of that? Start finding really low quality or spam posts and flag them for attention. The only way this site gets better is through strict standards. If the user gets upset, oh well. They will eventually come to Meta and complain, then we'll set them straight. It's not rude and the subtle edits will help them get the hint eventually. Just don't put snide remarks in the edit block.

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Honestly, the only times I've seen users get upset over edits is when somebody made minor cosmetic edits to a post that wasn't really worth keeping in the first place. –  McCannot Jul 25 '11 at 19:19
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Too many users to let it bother you that one is mad over a cosmetic edit. Edit and move on. Better yet, tell them their post sucks and to fix it. Throw in a downvote too. –  staticx Jul 25 '11 at 19:20

Go forth and edit.

There are still dozens, if not hundreds, of my older questions which still have my "-Adam" signature on the bottom. Feel free to take care of them.

To those who feel this editing is an imposition on their contributions, I quote:

If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

(source)

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Huh? Why would you sign anything "-Adam," Polly? –  Pops Jul 25 '11 at 19:51
    
@Pop to throw them off my trail. –  Adam Davis Jul 26 '11 at 1:56

The only thing I'd add is to watch out for potential edit/rollback wars.

The user (if they are engaged in Stack Overflow) will spot that you are editing their posts so might simply try to roll back your edits - people can be quite protective of their posts (despite the cc-by-sa licence).

If that happens just walk away. Don't try to revert to your edits. Find some other posts to improve.

You might want to edit just one or two posts at first and see what reaction you get (if any) before doing any large scale work.

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I've run into this before, in fact. I came across a long-winded post that could have been written better, and edited for grammar and spelling. The OP rolled it back. I think I tried editing again but less extensively, and it was rolled back again, so I just left a downvote instead. –  Josh Caswell Jul 25 '11 at 21:11

There is a block that were once visible to every user editing somebody else's post, that reports:

  • fix grammatical or spelling errors
  • clarify meaning without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes
  • add related resources or links
  • always respect the original author

If you are making the post clearer, and you are following these suggestions, then you are not doing something wrong. The most important objective is make an SE site more usable not just from who is asking the question, but from everybody who could need the answer for the same question.

Some points are not covered from that text, which contains only suggestions for who is changing the content of a post.

  • If users keep using the wrong tags for their questions, such as when they use a tag and there is already a tag the community decided to use, you can edit them.
  • If the question is not clear, somebody ask what it means, and the OP answer, then what reported in the comment can be reported in the question itself, if it relevant for the question to be understood; this is especially true when that comment is preceded from other comments.

The content of any SE site is under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license that clearly allows modifies to the text.

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