Sorry if this has been asked before and has some ranting in it, but I'm beginning to feel fed off by robo-approvers.

This week happened at least ten times to me: I carefully reviewed an edit on a long or contrived post and then decided to reject the edit for various reasons (usually "too minor" or "invalid edit"). When I clicked on the "reject" button the dreaded red box appeared, telling me that the edit had already been approved! The annoying thing is that, while we may have different thresholds for what is "too minor", blatantly invalid edits passing reviews are really a bad thing (did you ever see an edit with a "fixed gramar" comment and lots of unresolved spelling and grammar errors – even in the edited parts – being approved!?!).

The problem for SO is evident, but the problem for me as a reviewer is that I wasted at least 5 minutes on a review checking for wrong changes, missed editing opportunities (i.e. the editor didn't correct all spelling mistakes, etc.) coherence in overall formatting, etc. Multiply by ten and this week I wasted almost an hour for absolutely nothing, so I find it ever less rewarding to do exhaustive, high quality, reviews.

Moreover this is slowly turning me into a robo-rejecter: if I spot even the slightest hint of a problem in an edit, I feel the urge to click on reject for fear that some robo-approver enters into play. And this, again, is bad for SO because I risk of rejecting an edit which could have been good if examined in detail, or could have been easily improved. Net result: me doing a bad thing and the editor wasting his effort – quality editing loses, robo-approvers and lousy editors win!

The easy solution for my personal case is clear: stop doing reviews and let the robo-approvers lead the field. Of course the problem is for SO overall quality: robo-approved edits means more user gaining rep by only doing bad edits, and these users will probably become robo-approvers as well when they gain the privilege: even if in good faith, they never learned how to judge whether an edit is good, so they will likely be approving the same things they were allowed to do in their past.

I think some sort of short-term locking should be implemented. For example remove from the review queue a post that's being reviewed. If the reviewer doesn't make a call in reasonable time (10 minutes?), put the post on the queue again. Of course this would slow down the reviewing process, but this doesn't appear to be a problem, except for the close vote queue. Another mechanism could be to disable all buttons (except "skip") – or only the "approve" button – until some time has passed, and the time should be proportional to both the post length and the amount of changes (how can we trust a reviewer pressing "approve" after only a couple of seconds when he is faced with a 100 line post which has been heavily edited?!?).

Mine is not a clear-cut proposal, so I didn't tag it as a feature request. Devs or long term users know better what mechanisms could/should be implemented.

My point is that if there are many reviewers sharing my feeling on this, then some mechanism should be implemented!

  • I wouldn't object to locking suggested edits so that only 3 people can review at the same time to assure that your effort to review properly is not wasted, but it won't solve the robo reviewer problem much because they will still speed through the queue and prevent good reviewers from reviewing Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:12
  • It's normally "fixed grammer" for me...
    – Kerrek SB
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:23
  • @psubsee2003 Yes, I understand that robo-reviewers won't be deterred much and low quality material will keep getting posted and accepted. The main problem is not avoiding that (which is a lost battle, IMO. That's probably a side effect of how SO works, so we must live with it), the main problem is discouraging good behavior. If good edits and reviews are encouraged/supported/rewarded we may hope that on the average this will balance the metric tons of crap that are dumped daily on SO. If people providing good "janitorial services" gets pissed off we are in trouble! Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:38
  • @LorenzoDonati the problem is I don't think locking will actually improve the review queues in any great quantity. All it will do is ensure that if you start reviewing, your review is assured to be counted, but if the robo reviewers get to them first, all it means is you won't be allowed to review at all. Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:48
  • @Bart It appears I hit a problem already discussed - sorry for the duplication then. Today I was really in a bad mood, I should have checked the archives better :-) Now that you pointed it to me I just skimmed through those posts and indeed I found many people complaining as I did. Of course I didn't have the time to read all the posts thoroughly, but it seems that it is an old problem and little has been done to address them, at least on the side of helping the more committed reviewers, or I'm missing something? Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:50
  • @psubsee2003 Yes, I see this. It's better than nothing. Of course actual experimental data should be used to decide if it is a useful mechanism. Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:53
  • @psubsee2003 Now that I read it, I wonder why this mechanism hasn't been implemented also for suggested edits. Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:56
  • 1
    @LorenzoDonati It's a continuing source of frustration, yes. But it's also a difficult one to really tackle. I'm sure SO/SE is trying to address the issue as best they can, but it's far from trivial
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 12:56
  • @KerrekSB All the atrocities in the world! :-) I agree that many users are not native English speakers (me too) and may sometimes blunder (I always shudder when I find a typo or an error in my old posts), but it's amazing how many people feel to be able to fix grammar errors in another people's post and make the problem worse! Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 13:05
  • 1
    It might actually be worse for native speakers. Foreigners usually learn the language in systematic fashion at some point. But natives may just go by what they hear, which is why you get things like "could of" and "sence", which don't make any sense to a foreigner, but are actually phonetically close to how some people speak.
    – Kerrek SB
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 13:44


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