While reviewing "Suggested Edits" on Stack Overflow, I've noticed a lot of edits lately from the same user, and all of the edits consist of nothing but removing profanity. While I'm inclined to approve the edits, I'm wondering... should the editor instead be flagging these posts, as opposed to cleaning them up?

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    possibly related: An alert to serial minor edits, Gaming the edit system with tiny edits. – jscs Jan 31 '13 at 20:12
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    When I read the title, I thought Lance Roberts was at it again... – Mysticial Jan 31 '13 at 20:12
  • @Mysticial if they're just searching for profanity and removing it in 80 posts per day they're almost certainly not only removing directed profanity – Ben Brocka Jan 31 '13 at 20:17
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    What if I start serially editing profanity into posts? – MikeTheLiar Jan 31 '13 at 20:30
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    @mikeTheLiar The same thing that happens with basically any other type of edit; most get blindly approved, and a minority are evaluated on their merit. – Servy Jan 31 '13 at 20:56
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    ....Must....resist...urge. NO! Robo-reviewers are not to be abused for personal amusement! – MikeTheLiar Jan 31 '13 at 20:58
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    If they're flagged instead of edited, it would be the first time in awhile I've actually seen the "offensive" flag used correctly, as it is often used for all sorts of things that nobody would find offensive. That said, if a user is using blue language a lot, I'd prefer that a single post be flagged with the custom explanation: "This user likes using a lot of unprofessional language, can you review his account?" – user102937 Jan 31 '13 at 21:00
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    I hate when people do this so much. I have nothing against users editing out swearing when they naturally come across it (after all everyone is encouraged to edit, and swearing is against company policy), but systematically searching the site for places to fix what nobody cared about so far stinks. – Pekka Jan 31 '13 at 22:23
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    All those questions with code examples of how to set up or understand basic profanity filters look a whole lot more idiotic after the search and munge efforts of late – random Feb 1 '13 at 2:13

Do the edits fix all the errors in the post?

  • yes: approve
  • no: reject as too minor, or improve it yourself so that all the errors are fixed

If a lot of edits are rejected (for wasting reviewers' time) edit privileges will be lost (and a good thing too).

Should the user be flagging? No, if all that's needed is to edit away the offending word. They should be editing. But if they only have enough reputation points to suggest edits, then they must either edit properly or not bother.

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Anyone can suggest an edit, so there's really no need to flag for a moderator if that's all that's needed. If the editor is leaving behind a lot of other problems that should be fixed, feel free to reject their edit as too minor or improve upon it.

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  • What are you saying in regards to profanity-only edits? – Mike B Jan 31 '13 at 21:02
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    He's saying that a suggested edit that merely removes a single bad word, but leaves other problems in the post intact, can be legitimately rejected as too minor. – user102937 Jan 31 '13 at 21:03
  • @RobertHarvey So single-word edits in an otherwise pristine post aren't too minor? – Mike B Jan 31 '13 at 21:04
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    Minor edits don't respect reviewers' time. Single problems in a post are very rare; there's almost always at least one other problem that can be fixed. If there's genuinely only one problem with a post (like removal of a signature, for example), I generally approve the suggestion. – user102937 Jan 31 '13 at 21:07
  • Maybe an example would help stackoverflow.com/review/suggested-edits/1430750. How would you judge that? He could have performed additional formatting changes, like using real numbered lists, but as it stands its a single word edit- which would normally be viewed as too minor. But at some level the offensiveness of whats being edited as to come into consideration no? I guess I'm asking what does SO consider offensive-enough to warrant 1 word edits. – Mike B Jan 31 '13 at 21:10
  • I'd agree, but reject ONLY if the other issues left unfixed weren't technical issues with the post (i.e. issues that would require subject expertise to fix). – Ben Flynn Jan 31 '13 at 21:35
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    @mike; not only could that edit be more substantive but the user has also made the post less comprehensible. "Forgive my French absolutely doomed" doesn't make much sense; it's a colloquialism and should arguably have been removed in its entirety, if the change was going to be made, to make the post more comprehensible to users whose first language is not English. Though idiom has its place it can be confusing. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 31 '13 at 22:18
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    This isn't a case of suggested edits though, this is, IMO, a case of a user abusing full edit privileges: stackoverflow.com/users/127440/… he's editing crap out of code blocks. Seriously, this garbage is abuse. – Ben Brocka Jan 31 '13 at 22:27
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    @BenBrocka Haha look at stackoverflow.com/posts/11790303/revisions. He removed the keyword in his search but left a whole bunch of other badwords. Quality editor. – Mike B Jan 31 '13 at 23:18
  • @BenBrocka Be careful with that pitchfork. OP appears to be talking about bybe who's making the same questionable-value edits as Jason Evans, but also clogging the review queue with them because he doesn't have full edit privileges. Apparently today's international no-swearing day or something. – blahdiblah Jan 31 '13 at 23:47
  • I've had it. I'm leaving a (polite) comment pointing to this question to both users. – Pekka Feb 1 '13 at 0:25
  • @Pekka웃 Thank you for posting the link to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/110682/…, it answered all the questions I had for Bill and Robert. – Mike B Feb 1 '13 at 0:51
  • I notified the two editors: no. 1 no. 2 Feedback is welcome should anyone think I'm being too harsh (which I'm hoping I'm not) – Pekka Feb 1 '13 at 0:51
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    @Mike yeah. I like this one, too: Should I Edit Question Titles to Accomodate Users with Overzealous Nanny Automata? (although it's more a philosophical approach to the issue :) – Pekka Feb 1 '13 at 0:52
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    Yes, I want to echo that 'thank you' to @Pekka웃. I hadn't seen that post before, and it's good to know where the community stands on this. It's difficult to come up with a standard policy on stuff like this that will make everyone happy, particularly considering that this is truly a global audience. – Bill the Lizard Feb 1 '13 at 1:16


Since I've got your attention and header jokes aside I believe that I am the one or one of the ones in the past 24 hours aggressively removing profanity from stack. I'd like to thank Pekka for taking the time to point me to various threads on meta that I was unaware off and of course without this knowledge I wouldn't be replying to all you folks. At no point did I think that my behaviour was bad never-mind did I think my actions would contribute to sparking of a debate on Meta.

It's worth mentioning that while I have been removing swear words I have also been removing 'noticeable' grammar mistakes and any spelling mistakes that is picked up by Firefox. Not all posts require improving in terms of the answer or spelling for that matter but contain unnecessary frustration ranting with swear words. Now I enjoy a good rant but I believe you can get your point out without swearing which a lot of my edits include.

Additional when reviewing edits it's important to check the page and not just the post, a lot of edits that I've done are on answers and then the questions on the same page which consists of re-tagging and spelling if required. - While this could be unfavourable too and let me know if it is. Maybe I should be looking at Edit as improving the actual questions or answers themselves rather than peoples grammar / spelling, again let me know.

Now I'm not defending myself just pointing out that I was trying to help that's all while gaining rep and I know that's unfavourable now. So it's no problem.

I just wish a someone like Pekka notified me soon, or maybe if I had my thinking hat on I wouldn't of wasted a few hours editing them as now I feel its wasted my evening lol, never mind your time rejecting or approving them. While I wasn't trying to beat the system as I'm fully aware once you hit 1K rep points on edits you can't get any more either and the 200 rep per a day so the reasoning of me doing this as I honestly thought I was doing something good. I love the rep system and I just wanted to jump straight in and get involved any way possible. I now know this isn't the way forward if I want to join the community of which I apologise and you can consider this behaviour stopped from myself from now.

Again thanks to Pekka and letting me know that I should improve my edits as from now I'll be doing much more when I click the EDIT button. Game on!

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    If you're also fixing grammar and spelling, then... Good work - keep it up! – Shog9 Feb 1 '13 at 2:19
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    Another was in a quote from an external site. Don't f̶u̶c̶k̶ mess with quotes. – CodesInChaos Feb 1 '13 at 19:09

Reject or improve suggested edits which do not correct a substantial portion of the problems with the post. You can read my views on this at Too Minor rejection reason needs either to be reworded or removed

The minor nature of the edits aside, I believe that editing is the correct response here, over flagging. As long as the cursing in question is incidental -- i.e., not an insult or attack directed at another user -- the only thing that a mod would do would be to edit anyways.* Flags should be used when you yourself are incapable of taking the appropriate action.

If the usage seems to violate the "Be nice" rule, being directly addressed to another user, then a flag to alert a mod to review the poster's behavior might be warranted, on top of editing to remove the immediate eyesore.

*Also note that there is no firm community consensus on the editing/usage of curse words, (cf. Why was my comment edited?) (Meta-10k link only), depite management's stance.

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    There's the edict from Jeff, that is policy, meta.stackexchange.com/a/24206/13295 – Lance Roberts Jan 31 '13 at 20:36
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    @Lance, I've included and emphasized the word "community" to make the distinction between Jeff's unpopular answer and the views of more than a few users, some of whom disagree. I recognize that it's SE, Inc.'s website and that they can set what policies they like. I'm just saying that not all their users agree and may not assist in the enforcement. – jscs Jan 31 '13 at 20:40

They should also fix any other problems in the post, but it's good to have pro-active people keeping the site clean for corporate filters.

Editing is the correct response, unless they find a someone who is make a lot of posts with profanity in which case the moderators should be flagged, we've had problems with those types of posters before.

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    Corporate filters are a red herring. The possibly-Scandanavian-derived vulgar English word whose verbal form usually refers to enthusiastic copulation appears on this page and in various places around Meta, via links to the the question about whether a certain limited-instruction set language's name is obscene or not, not to mention all over SO itself, via the tag for that language. – jscs Jan 31 '13 at 20:34
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    I'm happy for you that you don't have to deal with corporate filters, I've seen it happen, it's reality, not a red herring. – Lance Roberts Jan 31 '13 at 20:38
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    Word filtering just doesn't work. I have seen corporate filters deny access to apple.se, because in Swedish the number six is spelled with an 'e'. Another Scandinavian problem. – Bo Persson Jan 31 '13 at 21:37
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    I'm currently blocked at work from chat on Stack Overflow, but not on the rest of the network. I'm also blocked from the comments sections of certain Reddit communities, but not their main pages. It really can be a mystery what will be blocked by corporate filters. – Bill the Lizard Feb 1 '13 at 1:21

I would like to state that all the edits I made were in the interest of removing offensive language and not to stir up any arguments (which unfortunately seems to be the case).

Due to Stack Overflow being a site that is open to anyone to view, I was just protecting against those users who may find the content very offensive. I realise, now, that I should have flagged the content rather than edited it. This is fair enough.

Personally, I don't really care about swearing, but I am considerate of other people who may not share my views.


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    No, editing is the right thing usually rather than flagging. Just a) when you edit, also fix other issues where present [general advice, I haven't looked whether any of your edits was lacking in that respect], and b) don't go a-hunting and editing out swear-words much. Edit them out when you happen across them. Oh, and using cunt as a verb might be considered offensive, it's a noun. – Daniel Fischer Feb 1 '13 at 13:38
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    There are way more important things to fix than the ever-changing subset of words that for some reason, no matter their context, have the incredible power to curdle the cream of a certain crowd -- stuff like misspellings, the sometimes amusing errors that non-Anglophones make, formatting, specificity of titles. These things actually improve the quality of the site; a program of curse-editing is a waste of time if it ignores other problems with the posts. – jscs Feb 1 '13 at 19:56
  • It would be nice if people gave a reason for their downvotes. My answer is an apology for the edits I made; so I end up being downvoted for apologising?! Is that how this works? – Jason Evans Feb 3 '13 at 19:00
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    I expect the downvoting is because people disagree with you (and agree with @DanielFischer), you bot flagging all swear words is not the solution. It would mean, rather than clogging Suggested Edits queue (a complaint above of users without edit rights doing this), you are clogging a Moderator (?) queue which is worse. If you think swear words should be auto-removed the correct thing to do is post this as a question on meta not DIY. – hayd Feb 8 '13 at 2:41

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