While reviewing suggested edits, I recently ran across a user with a habit of formatting key phrases and non-code keywords as code. Very often, the poster's summary or question statement are highlighted as code as well. (Example)

Of course, a number of these have been rejected. Looking over the user's edit history we see that many of these edits have actually been approved (wrongly, in my opinion). Of those, most are either rolled back or edited to remove the formatting.

I'm a bit worried about what happens if this user makes it to 2000 and earns edit privileges without realizing that these edits amount to defacement. Even if his rejected suggestions eventually get his suggest privilege revoked, it won't be long before he doesn't need it.

Given that SO doesn't have any way to flag a user or flag suggested edits, can I assume that we don't care about this kind of activity and the self-correcting nature of the system will take care of it? Does the user get notified if his edit is rolled back or have any way to know, other than carefully reviewing his edit history, that these are unwelcome?

(Not that I would flag the user if I could. I made it up to 741 flag weight and then got declined on a couple of flags. Given that it takes 100 92 accepted flags to make up for any one decline at this level, the self-correcting nature of the system also guarantees that the most experienced reviewers wouldn't risk flagging a user or suggested edit for something like this anyway. But that's an issue for another post.)

  • The maximum number of helpful flags needed to recover from one declined flag is 92 (from 740 back to 750). Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 16:51
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    Thanks! I feel 8% better now. :-) But I was more interested in the defacement question. Do we care? Looking over the user's rep history I see a LOT of these have been approved. I just hope the lack of point incentive results in a cessation of activity once the user earns 2000.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 16:53
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    Do we need a suggested edit approvers approval process?
    – Oded
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:02
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    Sometimes when I'm in /review, I find myself thinking that many other reviewers are doing it wrong. Then I think, probably everyone thinks that. +1 @Oded!
    – AakashM
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:04
  • @Oded, I found some Meta posts where this was suggested but declined. The sentiment I took from that and agree with is that we flag content, not users. I think this case illustrates the unavoidable negative consequences of that and I'm on the fence as to what, if anything, is the appropriate response. If the capability existed, I'd PM the user. Of course, I can also see how that would result in flame wars and I'm guessing not having a PM function makes the site much more friendly to new or casual users.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:16
  • @AakashM agreed. I cringe when I see people substantially changing an answer in ways that break it or risk the poster's reputation and wonder how often these get approved. We don't have the structure and framework that something like Wikipedia has for systematically reviewing changes so I expect there's a lot more noise in this system that doesn't get filtered out.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:58
  • @T.Rob: a quick sanity check for large answer changes is to see if the editor - and approver - have significant past experience in the subject. What appears to be a major change could actually be an obvious correction for someone familiar with the topic - conversely, someone with no visible past experience making major edits should probably be treated with skepticism.
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:02
  • Yeah, I've recently discovered how to do that but it's a good tip. I have followed a policy that significant code revisions should be their own answer and may have rejected a few more than necessary. But to AkashM's point, many of the suggested edits out there clearly result in a net reduction of quality. I don't feel even a twinge of regret rejecting those.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:14

3 Answers 3

  1. If you see a bad edit approved, you can call out the editor in comments on the post using an @-reply. So if you haven't yet, talk to the guy - this is how you'd deal with it if he had editing rights!

  2. Leave specific comments when rejecting the edits. For instance, this one by Cody Gray is excellent: "Code formatting is for code, not to emphasize random phrases."

In other words, communicate. When bad stuff is happening in public, you want to call it out in public, so that folks understand what's going on. And if it all goes south and a moderator has to get involved, that makes it a lot easier to justify whatever action is required.

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    Ah, thanks. I didn't realize poster could see those.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:20
  • What if communicating does not help? It feels silly (and bad) to keep stalking the same user. (5 hours ago I flagged a user who keeps using the very same odd formatting, in their own posts. The user did not appreciate my various comments. Maybe my comments were wrong? But the flag was deemed useful, and some posts have gone now, even the ones I edited. I thought that solved it, but I just saw that their new posts still show the same behavior.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 16:19
  • Down-votes seem perfectly appropriate then, @Arjan - I doubt you'll be the only one. I'd say you've definitely done as much as possible to make him aware - if he continues, then it's not out of ignorance.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 16:26
  • Very well. That still feels a bit like stalking, as I'll probably not run into their posts by accident. Let's see if I can write some friendlier comments...
    – Arjan
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 16:29

Here is the guy with all sort of -ve publicity . I got it wrong, I started hight lighting main points in the question to improve the readability. I should have taken care that those are for code/keywords only , I am sorry to cause all the distress to reviewers.

I decided to post this as answer because formatting of comments are next to none. So that every one can see my apology.

I would also like to thanks to T.Rob ,Nine Shogs Shogging♦ and NullPointerException to bring this up.


I think I am victim of 'nonrepeatable read and phantoms by system' if you carefully look at the post and compare my edit with the original question , https://stackoverflow.com/posts/8544415/revisions

My changes were in (Revision 3)

1) Removed spaces

2) Corrected spellings for problem.

Here is what might had happen

1) Akrem posted at 10.30

2) Ikke and I both looked at post and started editing around 10.35.

3) As Ikke edit is approved at same time so that is latest copy at 10.35

4) My edit went into review process with older copy

5) My edit got approved , which in turn overwrites Ikke is update at 10.36

6) I am sinner

Hence it looks like I broken the grammar.

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    The effort is MUCH appreciated and I'd encourage you to continue working to improve the site. But please review your edits and see how they have been corrected and rolled back. This will give you an idea of what worked and what didn't. I found one case where you even took a sentence with correct grammar and "improved" it with broken English and another reviewer subsequently put it back to the original. Your earliest efforts seemed to be the most consistently useful.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:45
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    Found it. It was stackoverflow.com/posts/8544415/revisions. Note that "Is there a way to know what part of my application is using that image?", which is correct English grammar, became "There's a way to know how part of my application use that image?" which is incorrect English grammar and changes the nature of the question. There's a BIG difference between "which part of my app..." and "how part of my app...". Thankfully, someone else came along and reverted it.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:51
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    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:59
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    OK, 9, now you are just gloating. :-)
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:05
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    No, no, no! You have invested this much time in learning to edit better do you actually think the right solution is to give up and let the next new user pick up where you left off but without the benefit of experience? The fact is you learn so much from careful study of the other posts that arguably it's even more useful to you than it is for Stack Overflow. Please do NOT stop editing and contributing! If I know one thing after 30 years as a programmer it is that the only way to survive long term is to learn how to accept constructive criticism and use it to improve your skills.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:20
  • Surjit, there was a comment there a second ago about you maybe retiring from editing. I guess you deleted it. I'm leaving my follow-up comment posted though in hopes you'll read it and continue participating.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:22
  • Feeling much better so deleted my last comment :), This is what I like about SO, People who have spent so much time in industry and share their experience , Before joining SO I was getting frustrated as most of experienced programmers are moving to management and no senior developer to talk to in short I am getting old and grumpy. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:27
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    You edit, Surjit. Edit like the wind! (This is my favorite recent thread.)
    – mdahlman
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 20:22
  • @T.Rob see my edit for the explanation for the broken english Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 1:09
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    Wow...nice bit of research there, Surjit! Considering your other edits, I though that was out of character for you and had wondered about it. Knowing that the Stack Overflow attribution system is as loose as it is might explain some other anomalies I've seen. So glad you stuck around!
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 2:15

If it aids readability, I don't mind what formatting style is used. But the caveat is 'if it aids readability'

In the examples you give, I think it makes reading much more difficult, so I'd decline such an edit, but to be honest, others may find it helps readability.

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    Considering how many have been rolled back or edited to remove the "improvements" I'm guessing most would agree that these are less readable. I'm sympathetic to those for whom English is not their native language but the site is for programmers, a group who should understand better than most that parsing syntax requires precision. Highlighting can radically change the poster's intent and using code blocks to highlight concepts rather than code dilutes the value of having code block formatting in the first place. The net of these is surely negative.
    – T.Rob
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:10
  • Thanks Jacob, My intentions were to only improve the readability. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:05

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