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I participated in a chat discussion that created some animosity about this:

  • User A posts an answer.
  • User B edits it with a radical change.
  • User A approves the change.
  • User C rollbacks it because it was a radical change.

I am not any of those users, but in this discussion, I became some sort of lawyer for user A. I was arguing the reason for the rollback with user C. Between a lot of chat messages, user C said in chat:

I am a member of the community. SE is run by the community. I will gladly rollback any invalid or incorrectly used edit, no matter who the approver may be.

I replied this:

Well if someone edited my answer in a way that I approved, it is my answer after all, isn't it? And by the way there is a good reason that SE is designed in a way that if the author of a post approves an edit, it does not needs further approval.

He replied this:

"it is my answer afterall" No, now it's licensed under Creative Commons. It is by no means your property anymore. And by the way there is a good reason that SO is designed in a way that allows rollbacks.

My reply:

I am still the author though. Being licensed under Creative Commons don't means that I am not the author and that I can't decide if I approve modifications to my work or not that are published with my name.

After some more talk:

By the way, I could argue that you are instead, censoring what the author approved as part of his work under the Creative Commons License.

Another guy (E) posted this:

Uh... do you want to read CC-BY-NA again? As an author of a post on SE, you licence your content to the community. Please read the editing help page again...

User A answered:

"radical changes ... are starting to be incentived to be censored" Good! That's how it's supposed to be. Edits are not, not, and NOT meant for radical changes. Anyway, I'm leaving now.

So, what is the correct way to handle this? Should the edit to the answer be rolled back just because it was substantive, even if the answer's author approved it?

What if user A reposts the content posted by user B? Or rolls back to B's revision?

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    This is the suggested edit in question, and this is the chat transcript of the discussion that followed. The question above is deceptive about the content of the edit. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 4:37
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Note: After reviewing the actual edit being discussed, my first answer was totally off-base. I am leaving my original answer at the bottom for posterity, but will give the correct answer in this case in context.

This is the suggested edit in question, and this is the chat transcript of the discussion that followed.

The actual situation is as follows.

On Programming Puzzles & Code Golf, a user posted a one-line answer on how to print everlasting smilies:

yes :\)

I know. It was too hard to resist.

A user with 21 rep (23 after the accepted edit) made an edit adding the following to the end of the answer:

(they say this is a duplicate; of what? hope you don't mind the addition)

This fork bomb is sad because it can never explode.

$ :(){ :|\)& };:

bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found
bash: ): command not found

It looks like the user had an answer removed elsewhere, and lacking the privilege to comment, did the only thing they could if an answer was removed and edited another answer to include what they wanted to say.

The edit definitely was not appropriate, and definitely should have been rolled back.

All edits need to improve the quality of SE as a resource. If I post something, and a spammer edits my answer to contain spam, it should be rolled back even if I accept it. Quality of SE comes before my personal beliefs about what should go in that space.


Note: Original answer below was based on the assumption that the edit was done in good faith to improve the quality of SE

If User A approves User B's edit, and then User C rolls it back, User A will get a notification telling him that it happened.

User A can then decide whether to make the same edit himself.

If User C continues to rollback the edit despite it having been made by the author of the post, then I would encourage User A to flag the answer with a custom message for the mods along the lines of:

User B made a helpful edit to my post, which I accepted. User C rolled back that edit, so I made the edit myself. User C has rolled it back again, and I do not want to engage in a rollback war. Could you please look in to it?

There is no way for users to resolve this so long as User C is of that opinion, and User A disagrees about the best content of the post. Rollback wars are counter-productive, so is arguing back and forth about it.

  • Anyway, was user C behaviour correct? – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 3:56
  • @Victor, personally I think it isn't. User C had the tools to create his own answer if he felt strongly it was of more value than the revised version suggested by User B. User A posting two answers, one which he agrees with, one which he doesn't won't improve the quality of the answers either. Since User C is the one with the issue, and he has the tools to solve it, User C should do that rather than trying to force his will on User A. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 4:01
  • In reality User C had no wish to answer the question, he robot-rollback'd it with the sole reason that it was a substantial edit, no matter the content. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 4:03
  • @Victor, that is an issue with User C then and would be handled by the mods. If User C can solve the issue but refuses to, and User A cannot use the tools at his disposal to solve it, then the only solution is to involve the mods. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 4:09
  • @Victor, I totally lied. Looking at the specific edit it would seem to be a bit more complex than you've painted it here, and you may want to add the appropriate context next time so as to allow people to properly judge. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 4:16
  • I did not wanted to expose the names of the involved people to not bring trouble to them, nor to me. But now that you found the edit, so be it. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 4:17
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    I believe that User C was correct. That should not have been posted. Also, User C did not leave in a fit, he had other things that needed to be done. – Hosch250 Mar 4 '14 at 4:35
  • @hosch, you are right, of course. I have updated the answer to reflect the actual situation rather than the rather...questionable...representation in the question itself. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 4:36
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    I know you are looking for more general (and concrete) responses, but I do think it's worth mentioning that CodeGolf in particular, because of its nature, is not a good place for radical edits of any type, whether they improve the content or not, and whether they are accepted by user A or not. Formatting edits are reasonable there, but edits that change content are highly against the spirit and purpose of that site. Also, one-line answers are sometimes OK there (but generally not ideal). – Jason C Mar 4 '14 at 4:47
  • Ok, so thank you for everybody and sorry for all of this. I was really trying to not expose anyone and do not show any names. Unfortunately this didn't worked. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 4:59
  • @Victor, you were asking about a discussion you were involved in (but said you weren't in the original revision of your question). You clearly had skin in the game. You then failed to mention very pertinent facts that made your argument weaker. I have trouble believing that the lack of detail was solely to not show names here. As a takeaway, you may want to refrain from making meta posts where your point is to try to prove someone wrong. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 5:04
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    Well, my argument was that if I accept somebody edits to my content, it is almost the same as if I did the edits myself, just that. But anyway, I should not have anything to do with this. I did not edited it, did not approved, did not rollback'd and in reality should not care with any of those things. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 5:07
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    I am not saying that we should make the site a worse place. I am just saying that "if I accept somebody edits to my content, it is almost the same as if I did the edits myself". If I think that the content is good and agree with it I will accept, if I disagree I don't. In fact, in the case of that particular edit, if it was done to one of my posts, I would surely reject, but if the answerer thought that it was somehow improving his answer, he should have the autorithy to say that, even if I disagree with that particular approval. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 5:19
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    @Victor, you own the right to content you produce, SE has the right to determine how/if that content is displayed. It is in the TOS at the bottom of the page in the legal section. If you think that editors should have ultimate decision over the content of their posts, then you are advocating making the quality of the site worse. The goal is good quality. That trumps the rights of editors over what their content ends up as, and that is why the terms of use are written as they are. – jmac Mar 4 '14 at 5:28
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    I am not advocating to make the site worse. In fact, for me that edit made the answer become more interesting, but still I would not approve if it was done to one of my posts. If the user himself did that edit, no one would complain or care about that, and few people would even notice. But just because somebody else did, even with the approval of the answerer, it was rollback'd. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 5:42
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I am the one who rolled back the edit.

First, sorry for my limited elaboration; I was juggling about seven tasks at once. :)

So, let's have a hypothetical situation. That suggested edit instead changed the entire content of the answer to the word "potato." And the author approved it.

So, roll it back? In fact, I proposed this same situation in chat, and was answered with "no"!

You're saying you'd ignore vandalism? You'd ignore things that degrade the quality of the site, just because one other random user agreed to it?

What if the potato edit was done by a user with edit privileges? I hope everyone answers "rollback" to this one. Just because the author agreed to vandalize his post, you ignore it? You are intentionally ignoring vandalism to the site, just because one user thinks it's ok? (Also, I hope you'd roll back self-vandalism, so you should also roll back this, right?)

Anyway, the edit added a completely different and unrelated answer to the post. That's not what edits are for. I saw an inappropriate edit, so I rolled it back. There's really no more that needs to be said.

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    You got thin fingers, no typos in your answer! – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Mar 4 '14 at 14:46
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    That "potato" thing is just red-herring. The edit in fact was not that. – Victor Stafusa Mar 4 '14 at 15:20
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    The potato analogy is for where something completely and obviously wrong is added in. This was not a case of vandalism but an excessive change. The difference is shown because if the OP themselves had vandalised their post you would still roll it back whereas if the OP had substatially changed their answer you would not have rolled it back – Richard Tingle Mar 4 '14 at 15:45

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