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As far as I can tell, we have no consistent stance or policy on this one.

  • Per our proposed/staged review guidelines:

    Edits that change an answer's explanation or code, with a supposedly "better" alternative. Even if the proposed solution is better, it should be added as a comment, or a separate answer. Reject as "radical change" or "invalid edit". If the edit summary specifically mentions that these changes are from a comment by the author of the post, the edit can be accepted.

  • Regarding edits that change the author's point of view, Shog9 argues that it's okay to make technical corrections if the author generally got it right. (Less so on questions because it's much harder to tell whether the correction in question is part of the OP's problem.) But wrong answers should not be rewritten.

  • In a similar but slightly differently colored question, Shog9 takes a more conservative stance and argues to consider the author's inadvertency v. intention. In both of Shog9's answers the message seems to be if the author was wrong (in editor's view), let it be and downvote and comment. But the vast middle ground of the author was partly right but perhaps didn't consider this new viewpoint that may improve an answer - see my answer on which this happened today - is unaddressed.

  • Per some random question here, it's okay to approve substantive changes.

  • We edit the shiznit out of questions because they're often really bad until we do so. Usually everyone's okay with this, since the edit is a one-way improvement that only increases the question's chance of receiving support.

  • Per the FAQ, of course, other people can, in fact, edit your posts.

  • It's been discussed in this thread, but I can't seriously consider it authoritative since it's > 4 years old and we've had a lot of movement on this topic since then.

Normally I would propose a solution here but... I've seen both cultures multiply on meta.SO. I lean toward answers are wikis and should be improved and it's better to have fewer cohesive answers than many split ones, when people are willing to act reputation-blindly. And when reviewing edits I've just skipped many of these, and given that I'm 5k on meta and 10k on SO, you'd think I'd be more informed of our policy. So I at least need guidance and I'd to ensure there's a consistent policy laid out.

For reference, here's a discussion on the question-side of things, although in practice we seem to be on the same page that questions can be rewritten until they are of quality, probably just because everyone wins so there's no need for theoretical discussion and justification.

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    I say if you're introducing considerable changes, then I want neither the credit nor the blame. Take my name off of it. Beyond that, do what you will. – Anthony Pegram Jun 4 '13 at 17:55
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    Despite downvotes on meta.SO being more commonplace, I'm inclined to ask why - I'm not proposing anything, don't know the stance, and think I've stayed uncontroversial so could use the note. – djechlin Jun 4 '13 at 19:33
  • A primary problem here is the category against question molestation in the Suggested Edit Review. – JoshDM Jun 4 '13 at 19:36
  • Aren't downvotes on meta.SO questions intended to be something like 'I don't think this is very important'? – Joe Jun 4 '13 at 20:27
  • Correct, though I think disagreement should require justification (and shouldn't detract from reputation, but that's a whole other UNRELATED thing that's been discussed to death over here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/181652/… ) – JoshDM Jun 4 '13 at 21:04
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My two cents: I think we should allow edits to answers that change the formatting or fix obvious typos, but not edits that change wrong answers or improve them unless they're the result of a discussion in comments. It seems to me that this is where community wiki comes in - if it's a useful enough answer but needs to include elements of multiple answers, then make it community wiki and include them.

If this really were intended to be a wiki, we wouldn't have names and reputation - and that's not really SO's niche, is it? Wikis exist for that purpose. SO allows you to see multiple different viewpoints, and I think that's good. If you have a modification to a current answer, either discuss it in comments, or write your own answer if it's sufficiently different; there's no problem with borrowing from other answers as long as you're adding some of your own ideas to them.

  • "unless they're the result of a discussion in comments." - The problem inherent there with edits under review is we aren't able to view the comments while reviewing without extra effort, and during that time, the speed-reviewers have already determined the edit's destination. – JoshDM Jun 4 '13 at 20:37
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    Sure, and that's a problem of the SE Review page (which I agree with you fully on). However, I took this question to be more than just discussing reviews, but also our own approach to editing as a 3k+ member. – Joe Jun 4 '13 at 20:38
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Part of the problem here is the Suggested Edit review.

The review does not show the reviewer the original question or the comments, so the (presumably lazy) editor has to take the extra investigation step to enter the question and confirm the edit is valid or not. By this time, the robo-reviewers have parsed the review and rejected it as "Changing too much" or "Adding a Comment to the Question".

Certainly this doesn't affect those 2K users who aren't under review, but the majority of users are likely intercepted and unnecessarily rejected.

Even if we give a Yes or a No to the overall question (I say, "Yes, improve!"), the review process needs to be changed so the policy isn't shot in the foot.

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    I've definitely felt < 2k editors just need to be more conservative, since their reviewers are likely not in their domain expertise. – djechlin Jun 4 '13 at 19:43
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    I completely agree here - I have to skip a lot of suggested edits for that very reason (I don't know the subject matter well enough to know if it's a minor edit or a substantive one). – Joe Jun 4 '13 at 20:26

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