Since the comment edit ability was added, the window has always been 5 minutes. The main reason for the pencil icon was to protect Obama. But I really don't think people are so trolly as to abuse comments in this way. It's just such a silly thing to do (change your comment so it looks like some one else has an angle on something that they do not), that I don't think it's ever happened.

So the pencil icon is just, there. I don't think it displays useful information though. The only problem with the pen icon is, you might not want to fix that typo because of the pen.

  • Should I edit it, and have the pen?
  • Or just let the typo stand, and not have it?

enter image description here

More points:

1) The comment editing window is short enough that most edits happen before a response occurs. I've never had to edit a comment after someone responded to it, nor have I really wanted to.

2) If I ever edit a comment, it's to further refine what I was originally saying or fix a typo, not radically alter my stance.

3) It's slightly inconsistent to not record any indication of an edit history for quick edits to questions and answers that occur immediately after posting (which also potentially have the Obama problem, but that doesn't ever seem to appear), but to have a pen indicator for comments.

I just don't think any users try to change their stance very radically in a 5 minute window. If that ever occurs, I'm pretty much the second participant in the conversation will call the first person out on it -- the window is 5 minutes after all.

  • 3
    Actually, I'd love a similar indicator for edits of regular posts, though maybe only in the revision history.
    – Arjan
    Sep 23 '12 at 13:09
  • I disagree about your "most edits happen before a response occurs". I feel quick responses to comments (often by the author or @mentioned other commenter) quite often coincide with quick edits. And sure, you're right: most often such edits are not foul play. But I still think such edits can be quite confusing. The pencil icon then at least indicates that the comments might have been changed after some response was posted.
    – Arjan
    Sep 23 '12 at 18:46
  • Still, the implication is, "Hey, he changed it"
    – bobobobo
    Sep 23 '12 at 18:53
  • Indeed. And that is exactly what I like!
    – Arjan
    Sep 23 '12 at 18:53
  • As for "I don't think it displays useful information though. The only problem with the pen icon is, you might not want to fix that typo because of the pen." — are you only bothered by the visual appearance? Then, though I guess that hiding it into some hover text might make it hard to find to learn about it "by accident", maybe you'd like that better?
    – Arjan
    Sep 23 '12 at 20:32
  • No man, I just think the callout of "oh he edited" is unnecessary
    – bobobobo
    Sep 23 '12 at 21:43

The pen icon not only shows a comment was edited, but also displays how many times it was edited (in its tooltip).

This can be useful information, not only to protect Obama, but to get an idea on how representative of its original incarnation the comment currently is.

  • 6
    ̶H̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶e̶d̶i̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ As an example :)
    – Lix
    Sep 23 '12 at 13:07
  • 1
    I'm not sure how one would get an idea of how representative of previous versions something is when information is lost - radically changing a comment n times and correcting typos n times still only shows n, right? All you've learned is that it was edited that many times, and lost comparative substance needed to examine its alignment with the previous or original. Sep 23 '12 at 13:18
  • True. As n gets larger, though, one can deduce maybe the comment wasn't that clear in the poster's mind before he hit the keyboard. Depending on the comment's length and the context around it, it might give a better idea of the reasons behind further comments or flags. But you're right that information is lost anyway (unless moderators can see the edit history of comments in addition to deleted ones, and I don't think they can). Sep 23 '12 at 13:25
  • 3
    +1 for the "how many times it was edited" - I never noticed this! Guess one never stop learning. :-) I wonder though, is there a limit? Can one edit his comment 100 times? On second thought, if editing is possible once every 5 seconds it means (60/5)*5 which is maximum of 60 edits... Sep 23 '12 at 13:52
  • @Sha, and I think you can also get the captcha when editing a comment several times in quick succession. That would definitely kill your rhythm. Sep 23 '12 at 13:57
  • I just don't think people abuse comment editing enough to make this feature useful. So it was edited 4 times. 100% of my edits are before someone else responds to my comment (it's never happened that I needed to edit a comment after someone has already responded to it), and a good most of my edits are just to further refine what I was originally saying or fix a typo, not radically alter my stance.
    – bobobobo
    Sep 23 '12 at 14:10
  • @ShaWizDowArd Let's try it edit 2 edit 3 edit 4 edit 5 edit 6 edit 7 edit 8 edit 9 wo this is boring edit 11 ok i'm stopping
    – bobobobo
    Sep 23 '12 at 14:19
  • 1
    @bobobobo only 11? I expected more from you! ;) Seriously now, can't see what bothers you so much in this small icon - it's not like this is critical information just something useful. IMO we don't really need this but it's one of those things that are just "nice to have". Sep 23 '12 at 14:28
  • @Frédéric I did about four edits in a row for my first comment here and no captcha got me - can't see how it can fit too.. Sep 23 '12 at 14:29
  • @Sha, I seem to remember it happening to me once, but the only correlating information I could find is this answer on Meta Server Fault. Sep 23 '12 at 14:38
  • +1 for references to the presidential election!
    – animuson StaffMod
    Sep 23 '12 at 16:13
  • The number of times edited doesn't really tell you how much the comment changed
    – bobobobo
    Nov 9 '19 at 23:38
  • ^^ What would you give for comment history now?
    – bobobobo
    Nov 9 '19 at 23:40

Here's another proposition, (which incidently might encourage the comment window to be expanded) (but not necessarily)

enter image description here

Edited comments get that gray bar at the left. The bar is actually lighter gray and subtler than I've shown here. When you click it, it loads the previous version of the comment.

  • 2
    I've thought about this quite a bit, and I think it just puts more emphasis on comments, which is sort of contrary to the Stack Exchange goals and could take away from the answers. What I like about comments is that they're subtle, and in the end, they're 2nd class citizens and really not that important.
    – jmort253
    Sep 23 '12 at 22:24
  • 1
    Says the guy making the comment :). But I get what you're saying, that a comment history isn't necessary -- I proposed comment history here to address the Obama problem. I don't really believe comment history is necessary, but it's a nice to have. In addition, comment history allows the possibility of expanding the edit window.
    – bobobobo
    Sep 24 '12 at 0:00
  • Ah look, I meant to say "expanding the allotted time of the edit window"
    – bobobobo
    Sep 24 '12 at 2:09

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