It seems a fair number of suggested edits are being generated from people "reviewing" first posts and late answers. In many cases, the original posts have two salient features: 1) egregious formatting or grammar issues 2) the content is completely useless anyway.

I've repeatedly encountered suggested edits that significantly improve such posts by addressing the first of those features, but doing nothing for the second. In some cases there isn't even any salvageable content at all, such as non-answers or rotted link-only posts. Several times I've seen a single post in the queues for all of low quality, suggested edits, and first posts or late answers.

I can't entirely say these edits are "too minor", because I'd approve them under other circumstances as being a worthwhile improvement--but if the end result is a nicely formatted, perfectly readable post that clearly still warrants deletion, what's even the point? It's just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, not contributing anything useful.

What's the best way to respond to these?

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    I like it. The user needs to learn to spend their time improving posts worth improving, and not just seeking the +2 or whatever reputation gain they're getting. – Anthony Pegram Nov 17 '12 at 1:29
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    @AnthonyPegram: That's exactly my gut reaction, but it's about the user, not the edit itself, which seems wrong. I think such edits should be rejected but I can't seem to articulate why, other than "don't polish turds". :T – McCannot Nov 17 '12 at 1:40

There is no point. Ultimately, if a user wants to waste their item editing a post which is going to get deleted anyways, I don't see any particular reason to approve or reject them. Sure, they get a +2 reputation for editing the post, which is going to get retracted when the post is deleted. Oh well.

The way I see it:

  • If the post is on the verge of deletion, then I tend to reject them so as not to get their hopes up for the reputation gain. It's a crap post, needs a couple delete votes to go away.

  • If the post is otherwise unseen, approve it. It will bump the post to the top so others can see it and go "why is this post even here?" and hopefully get rid of it in short time.

In the end, though, it really doesn't matter what you do. A deleted post is a deleted post, whether a user edited it beforehand or not. They won't have their +2 or badge progress.

The only exception to this is for tag wikis. Reputation gained from tag wiki edits isn't retracted when the tag gets destroyed (because the wiki itself doesn't actually get deleted). So if someone suggests a stupid edit like "this is a misspelling of tag x, don't use it" - please oh please reject it. If someone is dumb enough to mistype the tag, chances are they're dumb enough not to pay attention to that worthless excerpt they're trying to suggest there.

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    Hm, I suppose it seems to me that having no particular reason to approve an edit is itself a reason to reject. But maybe that's just me? – McCannot Nov 17 '12 at 1:48
  • +1 for correctly noting the problem with tag wikis. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 5 '15 at 23:37

Actually, I'm going to take a different approach to this issue. It's easy to look at a seemingly low quality post, littered with formatting problems, and write it off as content that should be deleted. The problem with this is that when a post is littered with distractions, it's actually more difficult to evaluate it as something that could potentially be salvaged.

As an example, before I close a question, I first edit it to be absolutely sure that my judgement about the utility of the post isn't biased by sloppiness, something that can be fixed by a motivated editor. Once I've edited, I can then be sure that the content is indeed close or delete-worthy, without my personal opinion about grammar, spelling, formatting, and whitespace making me act on impulse.

There have been some occasions where, after editing, either myself or another user suddenly sees the hidden value in the post. In these cases, we might have lost something of value if we didn't edit first.

If this means someone gains some reputation for suggesting some edits on something that ultimately gets removed, so be it. After all, it's not about the rep; it's about good Q&A. The first tool of any community moderation action, when judging content, should always be the editing tools.

  • That's a fair point, and perhaps I'm being too hasty to judge in some cases. But in many cases it's cut and dried--a complete non-answer can't be salvaged without inventing an answer, at which you're going beyond what edits are for. I wish I'd collected links to some examples before posting the question, but oh well. :T – McCannot Nov 17 '12 at 1:56
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    Sure @McCannot, some cases may be obvious, but maybe not to everyone. Also, if we respond to every low quality flagged post without attempting to prove the flag wrong, then we may be shooting ourselves in the foot. Posts should only be deleted if they cannot be improved, and editing them is a sure way to tell whether or not they can be improved. I can say that there were cases where I was sure content was "bad", but edited it anyway; surprisingly, I've turned bad content into something at least somewhat helpful to future visitors using this approach. – jmort253 Nov 17 '12 at 1:57

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