Yesterday I got a Stack Overflow notification that someone edited a question of mine that had been idling since April. Looking at the edit (revision 5), it was made by a user with quite a respectable Stack Overflow reputation (11k+), it concerns four inserted back ticks ` and one added word "to".

Not only was this edit wrong (the backticked words were no code and the word "to" grammatically speaking didn't need to be there), but it was a completely useless edit imo, so I rolled it back.

Then I stumbled upon another edit of the same user, equally useless if you ask me. I know SO/SE wants to be factual, concise and canonical where possible, but going around removing "thanks" from posts and performing super minor copy changes clutters the whole question with the "EDITED BY XYZ" badge, meanwhile suggesting that the original poster needed help getting his question across.

I find this kind of editing quite annoying. Is this guy and possibly others with editing-powers using the editing system in ways it was not intended? Is this something of an edit-troll? Or am I just being childish?

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    Speculation: The user was going for the Archaeologist badge, and will cut the crap now that he got it. – yannis Nov 8 '12 at 11:36
  • There are definitely more substantial, useful edits to be made on SO. – Joachim Sauer Nov 8 '12 at 11:37
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    Me! I'm an edit troll. If there's something that needs to be fixed I fix it (unless I can't be bothered). It is normally new questions though... and I would have fixed more stuff in those if I came across them. – ben is uǝq backwards Nov 8 '12 at 11:37
  • @YannisRizos That edit was made after the badge was received. Ungrounded speculation, I guess. – Rob W Nov 8 '12 at 11:38
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    @YannisRizos User profile -> Activity -> Badges says "Oct 28 awarded Archaeologist" – Rob W Nov 8 '12 at 11:42
  • @RobW Oh, had no idea about that tab, good catch. – yannis Nov 8 '12 at 11:43
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    I'm an edit troll too! Though I mostly do this for the new answers that I'm also going to attempt answer. – SingerOfTheFall Nov 8 '12 at 12:13
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    I love the irony of calling an edit 'useless' but then rolling back the edit. If it is useless, then it is harmless, so why roll it back or care? – GEOCHET Nov 8 '12 at 13:25
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    @GEOCHET: Not sure if that's an appropriate dupe target; that one is about minimal standards for suggested edits. – Martijn Pieters Nov 8 '12 at 13:52
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    @MartijnPieters I'm sure it's not, to me it looks like he's just frustrated and trying to vent steam in original ways. – Shadow9 Nov 8 '12 at 14:03
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    Agree with @GEOCHET. The fact we're putting this many people's time into whether or not a harmless edit is trolling or not doesn't seem logical. And again I'm dissapointed that we had to point the finger directly at a user instead of abstracting the situation to where it can be judged on an even level. If you think a user is doing something wrong then report it to a mod - if it's a question of whether or not the behavior is acceptable: abstract the offenses to keep all parties anonymous and post your question. If you can't effectively communicate the latter then it means you're biased. – Mike B Nov 8 '12 at 17:46
  • @MikeB this was not about this one edit, but it was my wondering about whether edits like this are frowned upon or not. I have my answer and will act to my best knowledge and conscience in either letting the edits go, flagging the post or rolling them back. – epologee Nov 8 '12 at 17:49
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    @epologee I understand your situation and I'm glad you found your answer. My point still stands that this question could have easily been asked without proper nouns. Granted it wouldn't have been nearly as popular as it's become. People love a show and they need a star but it can only serve to skew judgement. Mods are the only ones with the appropriate power that should consider a specific user's action-history. Non-mods can do nothing positive by looking at a user except exacerbate the slander by coming up with armchar detective theories. – Mike B Nov 8 '12 at 17:54
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    Maybe the popularity also points to the fact that there is something to say about this kind of editing? No one was harmed, really (not taking the downvoted answer below in account). – epologee Nov 8 '12 at 18:04

I'm not sure whether or not I would describe them as edit-trolls. If the user has the badges and no rep to gain, I can only assume they are trying to address what they see as a "problem". No matter how minor.

Do I agree with the particular edits? No. Too minor and incorrect. But I see no evil motivation either. Editing is a bit of a personal thing anyway. Yesterday I encountered a moderator on one of the sites editing a question into shape, and at the same time highlighting sections in bold. Personally this ticks me off, because I see no need for the bold formatting. But whatever our preferences, we're all trying to improve content where we see a problem.

And exactly for the case where a user wrongly edits a question, we have a rollback. The problem with edits is that there's nobody really teaching us what good edits are and what are bad ones. There are no clear guidelines. There is no document outlining various scenarios and how to act upon them. Where your company might have a strictly adhered to code-style, there is no such thing for SO posts. (Nor do I see how that could be created really, besides some very basic rules. Don't format things as code when they are not, for example) Yes, we initially have the review system for newer users. But to some extent it seems to be flawed as a teaching tool when pretty poor edits are getting through. (Thereby validating the user in their edit).

What can be done? Well, you could always @reply the user telling him that the edit really is too minor and incorrect, so you've rolled it back. Perhaps they'll pick it up. Don't let this spark off a long stream of "how to edit" debate in the comments though. Take it to Meta perhaps, or point to one of the many discussions on appropriate and inappropriate editing already here. Or just undo the edit and let it slide.

I don't think these users are necessary trolls. But editing is a tricky thing. As much as we have users asking good and bad question, we have users making good and bad edits. Or unnecessary ones. Or ones we even on an aesthetic level disagree with.

The only real "solution" I see is to lead by example. Try to make the best posts and best edits we can, hoping that some of the style will rub off on others. But luckily we already have the tools to deal with situations where this is not the case.

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    +1 for "there's nobody really teaching us what good edits are and what are bad ones" – SingerOfTheFall Nov 8 '12 at 12:23
  • But, but... the bold formatting helps you find important information if you're just skimming, and if I see a wall of text most of the time I'll just skim... Also it can make posts look more organized. If used properly, of course. – neeKo Nov 8 '12 at 14:06
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    Don't just skim. :) And whenever I write what could be a wall of text, I break it up in paragraphs. Though like I said, it's a bit of a personal thing. But too often it ends up being something like this which does not at all improve what I have just said. – Bart Nov 8 '12 at 14:10
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    Breaking up a wall of text? Those are just a few white spaces! Roll back the useless edit! – GEOCHET Nov 8 '12 at 14:20
  • @GEOCHET "whenever I write what could be a wall of text, I break it up in paragraphs"..."I write"...."I break it up"....but well, I guess the angle from which you're coming at this is clear to us all. – Bart Nov 8 '12 at 14:23
  • Puts things in perspective. Thanks @Bart for the elaborate writing. That answers this question for me. – epologee Nov 8 '12 at 15:39

Two things:

  • There are a lot of things to get worked up over on Stack Overflow. This really isn't one of them.
  • If you feel like the user is making inconsequential edits that do not improve the question (even a little bit), then flag the post for moderator review, and explain your reasons. We may agree, or we may disagree.

In this case, the user made an edit, whether it improved the question or not is up to someone who knows iOS development a little better than I do. If a textfield is an actual code-related (or UI related) item, then it could help to have it stand out. If it's named something other than a textfield, then the edit should be to give it the right name.

Don't engage in a Rollback war. They're unproductive, and they almost never make the participants look good.

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    Let's note though that a textfield might well be a textfield. That is, a field of text. Let's please not edit every use of a word which might be a code/API entity as well, as code. – Bart Nov 8 '12 at 13:48
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    If it were a field of text, it would be called a field of text or a text field. – GEOCHET Nov 8 '12 at 13:49

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Yes, this is your hang up and you need to get over it.

The edit may have been trivial, but your rollback was an abusive use of the system. If you felt that the edit was somehow abusive and especially if the user had a pattern of abuse, you should just flag the question for moderator's attention.

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    Respectfully disagree. Rolling back a minor, borderline incorrect edit cannot seriously be considered as an abuse of the system. – Frédéric Hamidi Nov 8 '12 at 13:34
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    That assertion defies logic. – GEOCHET Nov 8 '12 at 13:38
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    You defy logic. Rollbacks are just as valid as other edits. if the edit added nothing to the post (which it didn't) it should be rolled back. – The Unhandled Exception Nov 8 '12 at 13:41
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    If the edit added nothing to the post, then there is no harm in the edit. – GEOCHET Nov 8 '12 at 13:41
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    The edit marked parts as code which weren't really code and it added a "to" which also should not be there. The rollback therefore is fully justified. Saying "it didn't do much harm, so rolling back is inappropriate" is illogical. – Bart Nov 8 '12 at 13:42
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    I've edited your post. I added nothing to the post therefore "there is no harm in the edit". If you roll back the edit, that's an "abusive use of the system" – The Unhandled Exception Nov 8 '12 at 13:49
  • @TheUnhandledException, random syntax highlighting is less effective when the post's greyed out... – ben is uǝq backwards Nov 8 '12 at 13:50
  • I don't rollback abusive edits so you are in luck. – GEOCHET Nov 8 '12 at 13:50
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    @TheUnhandledException Don't make edits on another user's post to make a point, hash it out in the comments or point it out in your own answer if you disagree. – casperOne Nov 8 '12 at 13:52
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    You're right, that was inapprpriate of me. I was just trying to make a point, but it was abusive. My apologies @casperOne and GEOCHET. – The Unhandled Exception Nov 8 '12 at 13:53
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    It sure was funny though. :) – Steven Jeuris Nov 8 '12 at 14:10
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    I guess there's enough downvotes on this answer to just let it be. Thanks for your views on the subject though. – epologee Nov 8 '12 at 15:32
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    Wow. You actually went to my SO-question and rolled back my rollback... Didn't know this was such a heavy loaded topic. Thank goodness the post is closed now. – epologee Nov 8 '12 at 15:36
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    @casperOne I'm enjoying the irony of the fact that you rolled back a trivial,borderline abusive edit on a post asserting that trivial, borderline abusive edits shouldn't be rolled back. – Servy Nov 8 '12 at 17:38

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