The difference between a poor or meh question and a stellar question can often simply be someone understanding it and providing it a great answer. I can't begin to count the number of times I've justified re-opening a question as a moderator by saying:

Look at the answer it got, though. This isn't something we want deleted, this is something we want fixed, because it's obviously valuable. Someone with domain knowledge can easily edit that question based on the answer it received.

This doesn't only apply to borderline-poor or poor questions – sometimes a good edit means the difference between 100 and 10,000 people finding something through typing things into Google. Good titles are hard.

We think we've come up with a way to provide incentive for good, opportunistic edits to happen more often, ideally without questions needing to go through closure or collecting a centimeter of dust before they do. What if we simply rewarded folks that answered and edited questions with a special, relatively difficult to earn badge?

Let's say that you answer something, and:

  • You edit the question 12 hours before or after answering it. This allows you to edit now, answer later — or answer now and edit later, when you have the time.

  • Your edit isn't rolled back, or outright rejected if it was a suggested edit

  • The question is not closed for any reason, even simply being a duplicate

  • Your answer has a score of 1 or higher

… then you've done something that we probably want to recognize. You understood something, you provided the knowledge that you have, and then you provided an edit to make sure that more people in need of this knowledge can find it, while raising the overall quality of the site.

Here's the proposed tiers for the badge (within the above stated criteria):

  • Explainer (Bronze): Answered & edited 10 questions
  • Refiner (Silver): Answered & edited 50 questions
  • Illuminator (Gold): Answered & edited 500 questions

We think this is going to be pretty hard to game. You can't go leaving streaks of terse snark all over the place on questions you know are going to be closed anyway, and junk edits aren't going to fly.

We're talking about rewarding folks that take a tiny bit more time out of their day just to write a more descriptive title so that folks can find the awesome answer that they wrote. Just doing that alone can make a big difference. Sure, it's a tad hard to get at the gold level, but it's supposed to be. If you routinely edit questions that you answer and have done so for some time, you'd probably get it the day we roll it out.

While this is technically something that we came up with on the quality initiative (more on MSE | more on MSO) — this badge could be earned on all of our sites.

What do you think? What did we miss? What could be better about the idea?

  • 93
    Could you please roll out the stats on the numbers of people who'd get the badges at feature intoduction? Are we talking about dozens or hundreds Keeper badges? – Deer Hunter Sep 24 '14 at 7:31
  • 6
    This . is . superb! – Awal Garg Sep 24 '14 at 7:37
  • 5
    @Harry Yes. But the same editing norms apply, try to fix as much as you possibly can in your edit. If it's just missing a language tag, that's fine - add the tag. But please don't leave 'error in listview' as the title. Remember, the edit has to stick. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 7:42
  • 50
    For: One of the most frustrating things about SO is seeing perfectly viable questions closed by people who don't understand them. Against: everyone who answers a question will then attempt to "polish" the question in silly little ways. – S List Sep 24 '14 at 7:51
  • 31
    Will there be an "quality controls" on the edits beyond just "not rolled back or rejected"? If I just answer and then immediately edit <!--html comments--> or zero​width​spaces into the question, will I still be eligible for the badge? (I tend to believe that such invisible edits won't be rolled back, or even really noticed.) – user642796 Sep 24 '14 at 8:00
  • 12
    I think this is a fantastic idea, but I, too, share the concern that it will lead to numerous inconsequential edits for the sole purpose of achieving the badges. – Alexis King Sep 24 '14 at 8:08
  • 5
    @TimPost: Since this badge is different from the Copy Editor and is introduced with more emphasis on increasing the usefulness/searchability of the question, wouldn't adding a parameter for the no. of views (total/post edit) make sense? I think that could be a better (not the best) indicator of the usefullness of the edit. – Harry Sep 24 '14 at 8:09
  • 21
    I suggest a stronger condition: The question needs to go from negative votes to positive after the edit. – Mysticial Sep 24 '14 at 8:11
  • 26
    People rarely up-vote questions, as a general rule. People certainly don't tend to upvote questions with a negative score, even if they are now "stellar". So I'm in favour of merely the edit being enough. – Duncan Jones Sep 24 '14 at 8:19
  • 17
    I do not understand the "12 hour" criteria. Does it matter if a Q&A are both improved within one hour or whether the improvements are one week apart? Both improve the overall quality of the site. – AdrianHHH Sep 24 '14 at 8:40
  • 8
    I think the edit should be substantial, editing a tag or a title is not enough. Also, I think the answer should be accepted. – Sklivvz Sep 24 '14 at 8:41
  • 17
    @Sklivvz Sometimes a title edit is substantial, if you completely rewrite the title based on your answer. And yeah, we're saying - normal editing guidelines apply. However, I don't want to do anything that starts up the accpet-my-answer-grrr badgering again ;) – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 10:08
  • 12
    Do we really want to award users for editing a question to match an answer, let alone their own? Sure, there are some cases where this is beneficial, e.g., if the asker only clarified something by accepting an answer or the asker vanished without clarifying. But many unclear questions can only be clarified by the asker and clarifying them without the asker’s consent can lead to more confusion and even disgruntle the asker, if it was against their intent. Such edits are very rare as far as I can tell and I would prefer it to stay that way. – Wrzlprmft Sep 24 '14 at 11:18
  • 19
    My suggestion is similar to Mysticial's, but less restrictive: add the requirement Question upvoted at least once after the edit, by someone other than the answerer. This would make badges better correlate with tangible improvement of questions, rather than with editing for the sake of the badge. – user259867 Sep 24 '14 at 11:33
  • 7
    I want to thank everyone so far that has provided feedback, you folks are just amazing. So far, I'm pretty convinced that we'd have to drop the bronze requirements down a bit, those need to be a bit easier to earn. I need to think about concerns regarding folks gaming to get the badge (and the annoyance that can create), as well as the time window being a bit too narrow. Thank you, everyone for making this as productive as its been today - and please keep at it for any ideas or concerns that have not come up yet. I think most like the idea, I'm going to take another look at the mechanics. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 16:15

16 Answers 16

It's an interesting suggestion, but as per the comments, what this would do is incentivise answerers to always edit every question they answered, with some edit, however minor. And that would encourage more bad behaviour than good behaviour.

So it's a nice idea, but doesn't quite achieve what it sets out to. Perhaps delving a bit more into what is trying to be achieved, will help.

I think the observed phenomenon that has prompted the question is this:

A badly-phrased question can be salvaged by a well-phrased answer.

AIUI, the suggestion is to reward the rephrasing of the question, so that it does justice to the answer.

Symptoms of positive behaviour:

  • a question with an answer is closed, edited, then reopened.
  • that question goes from being a bad question to a good question; to put that in a way that can be tested for automatically, it would go from having a net negative score to a net positive score.

Should it make any difference whether the edit was done by the answerer or not? I don't think so. Isn't it the quality of the edit that counts?

So, there are a couple of criteria there, that don't appear in the suggestion in the question - the edit that leads to a reopening, and/or leads to the question's net score going from negative to positive.

But what if there are several editors active between closure and reopening, and/or between negative and positive net scores? Who among the editors gets the credit towards the badges? If I see a really good edit that turns a bad question into a good one, am I being incentivised to do an irrelevant minor edit on that question in order to share the credit for turning the question around? (if you're tied to the concept of these badges only applying to people who'd answered the question, then imagine this happening on a question where more than one person had answered it, and the question-editors, substantive and trivial, are among the answerers).

Can the relative substantiveness of edits be established automatically (not easily, I'd wager - it just wouldn't be worth the programming effort). Could there be community voting on the usefulness of individual edits in such cases (again this sounds like more hassle than it's worth)?

  • 5
    I don't think it would encourage junk edits. Remember, the edit has to be accepted, or at least built upon in order for it to count - and the question has to remain open. This means, if you're editing something that really needs it, you need to be thorough. Sure, there's going to be folks that get caught up in the mechanics rather than intent, and annoy people with a bunch of minor edits but I'm sure that's going to be a very small minority, and mods can have a side bar with users doing this as needed. A lot of questions could (at the least) use a better title, I think we're okay. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 12:19
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    @TimPost: Even if you are right, a lot of those edits won’t turn those questions from closeworthy to keepworthy. I would probably earn the silver version of that badge on German Language, but I cannot remember a single edit that came close to having that impact. It’s not that those edits were useless, but we already have badges for that – so there is no need to tie it to answering that question. – Wrzlprmft Sep 24 '14 at 12:57
  • Calm the system tell if the exit is done by a reviewer? – Pureferret Sep 24 '14 at 13:34
  • 1
    @TimPost I'm absolutely with the answer and Wrzlprmft here. I do millions of edits (but I'm more from the school of "there's rarely a too minor edit at all" anyway) and it is rather rarely that I would say they significantly improved the question from closable to reopnable. This isn't done for malicious reasons or to game the system, but I still don't think I should get a badge for that (other than the existing edit-based ones) when deciding to answer them, too. There has to be any criteria, like an edit done after closing and before reopening (or after close-voting and before retracting). – Christian Rau Sep 24 '14 at 14:50
  • 4
    Thinking about it, that last idea edit after closing and before reopening (without the answer necessity) might make for a great badge proposal on its own. This would be much more strict and rare, but it's something that might deserve more motivation, too. Maybe I'll ask that as a separate question, since it is quite different from the approach presented here. – Christian Rau Sep 24 '14 at 14:56
  • 1
    Folks, don't forget - not all questions in need of a little love are closeable questions. This also helps questions that are okay, but not .. well .. easy for folks to find in the future. While this can help questions that could be great get even better, it will also help questions that are pretty much great get seen by people likely to benefit from reading them. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 14:56
  • 2
    @TimPost Sure, but in this case it somehow loses the whole "improved as far as to be answerable" aspect and the connection to gaining an answer. It would in this case simply be one of the generally improving edits for which there already exist other badges. – Christian Rau Sep 24 '14 at 15:24
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    @TimPost Sometimes people have formatting/style preferences which they'll try to apply to every post they edit. This would encourage them to apply them to posts they wouldn't otherwise edit, resulting in trivial edits. These kinds of things aren't usually controversial enough to warrant rollbacks (or debates or edit wars) but they're also not necessarily improvements, so I'm not sure we'd want to encourage them. And I'm not sure it's a small thing - I've seen cases where even without this kind of encouragement, it was annoying other users on the site. – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 15:26
  • 4
    Uh, yeah - that's exactly what we're trying to encourage. If you're taking the time to answer a question without even considering an edit, you're potentially wasting your time; if you put in a useless edit to the question, it's still mostly your effort that will go to waste if no one else finds your answer. We're hoping the badges wake a few folks up to this - if some folks are determined to get a badge for trivial edits while letting their comparatively major efforts answering go to waste, it's their loss. That said, note the score requirement for the answer... – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 18:28
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    @Shog9 I'm not talking about encouraging people to fix teeny mistakes they would otherwise have left in place - I agree, that's great. I'm talking about encouraging people to make edits that don't actually improve the post at all, but also don't harm it (so they won't get rolled back). – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 20:24
  • See my answer @Jefromi. – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 20:46
  • Is there any way to prove the first paragraph? – jfs Sep 25 '14 at 8:33
  • 2
    We now accept every minor edit that improve even so slightly a question or answer, so yes this will be easily abused. – Jonathan Drapeau Sep 25 '14 at 18:24

I started writing the SQL to determine what posts would be eligible for this badge; it's horrible:

select p.id, p.owneruserid
  from posts p
  join posts q
    on p.parentid = q.id
   and p.owneruserid <> q.owneruserid
  join posthistory ph
    on p.parentid = ph.postid
   and p.owneruserid = ph.userid
   and p.creationdate between dateadd(hour, -12, ph.creationdate)
                          and dateadd(hour,  12, ph.creationdate)
  join votes v
    on p.id = v.postid
   and p.creationdate between dateadd(hour, -12, v.creationdate)
                          and dateadd(hour,  12, v.creationdate)
 where p.posttypeid = 2
   and ph.posthistorytypeid in (4, 5)
   and q.posttypeid = 1
   and q.closeddate is null
   and v.votetypeid in (2, 3)
   and not exists ( select 1 
                      from votes 
                     where postid = p.id
                       and v.votetypeid = 6
                       and v.creationdate <= dateadd(hour, 12, p.creationdate)
                           )
 group by p.id, p.owneruserid
having sum(case when v.votetypeid = 2 then 1 else -1 end) >= 1

This probably means that the conditions are overly complex... as currently described the following badges would be granted:

badges count
------ ---- 
bronze 1764 
silver 280  
gold   6    

This is pretty low, but I guess the badge is to incentivize behaviour which isn't might not be happening currently - low isn't necessarily a bad thing.

However, I also think this disencentivizes positive behaviour. If the question was closed when the badge script was run but was subsequently reopened, for instance, then why should the editor/answerer who may have got the post into this state be penalised? Surely, this is an excellent outcome for both the questioner and future viewers?

In short, I think that the time restrictions actively work against this proposal; as others have said. Removing these time restrictions changes the number of awarded badges to the following:

badges count
------ ---- 
bronze 3500 
silver 830  
gold   24   

I'd also argue that changing the score to 2 or greater would be more beneficial than having time restrictions on the order of hours. SE's currently trying to improve the visibility of potentially high quality questions, which is going to mean that the lower quality questions are theoretically going to disappear even faster. If one gets a good answer and becomes higher quality due to the efforts of the answerer then it may be some time before the answer gets the upvotes necessary. It makes little sense to disincentivize people from improving less visible questions.

  • 13
    Your SQL is perfectly wonderful in my opinion. ;-) The results of the counts present a strong argument for removing the time restrictions. But doesn't removing the time restrictions also open up the possibility of going back and making trivial edits to all the questions you've ever answered to get a silver and gold badge? That would be pretty irritating. – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '14 at 15:38
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    @JonEricson The whole idea that ridiculous edits can bring yet another series of badges to people is disturbing. No offence towards Tim, but this simply isn't a good design. – yo' Sep 24 '14 at 15:42
  • I agree Jon; I make the point but not necessarily as well as I could have. I think maybe keep the time restrictions on edits and remove them elsewhere. If someone gets an upvote a week later or a question is opened after 13/25/whatever hours then everyone has a satisfactory outcome, the OP the answerer and the community. This is behaviour we should be incentivising and if the chance of it happening is lessened by other (good) initiatives underway then there's a risk that this incentivises little. Even the script run time will cause issues/complaints for little reason. – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 24 '14 at 15:42
  • Perhaps I'm missing or misunderstanding something, but I'm not sure why you have a date restriction in your query based on the date of the votes. I read it to say that only the date of the edit had to be in the 12 hour window. – James Montagne Sep 24 '14 at 15:48
  • That's how I read the question and educated guesses about the scripts to award the badges @James; implementation details may be different 😀. – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 24 '14 at 15:52
  • Weird. When I try to load your first query, the tab freezes in Chrome. – nhinkle Sep 24 '14 at 16:12
  • 3
    @tohecz: The time restriction greatly reduces the odds that people will make trivial edits to question for the sake of the badge. Furthermore, edits within a narrow time window of the question being answered are not inherently disruptive. Edits on years-old questions that have already been answered might be disruptive. We are literally trying to encourage people to improve questions that they are answering, so this badge is purposely focused on those two actions occurring in short succession. Note: truly ridiculous edits risk getting the question closed or deleted which don't count. – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '14 at 16:28
  • @JonEricson Can you weigh in on whether or not there is a restriction on when the answer receives votes? If the votes can be cast at any time then the results of the two queries move much closer together, considering only the edit is restricted at that point. – James Montagne Sep 24 '14 at 17:03
  • @benisuǝqbackwards your query breaks my browser :( – Avinash Raj Sep 24 '14 at 18:00
  • 1
    @JamesMontagne: Actually, I get a slightly different result when I write a query from scratch. I don't think we need to join the Votes table since the criteria is actually total answer Score (net +/- votes) which is denormalized in Posts. My version does not account for rollbacks, however, since I don't immediately know how to do that. – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '14 at 18:13
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    If you answered a question without fixing it and it gets closed, then going back and editing fixing it later is... Good. But I don't want to reward that; you had a chance to fix it before it got closed, and if you'd done that you'd have saved a whole heap of people a lot of time and effort... So that's the behavior we're looking to reward here. – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 18:34
  • @benisuǝqbackwards When you have v.votetypeid = 6, you haven't aliased the inner votes table to v so you are doing this filter on the original votes table which is already restricted to only values of 2 or 3. So I think this not exists is always true. – James Montagne Sep 24 '14 at 19:01
  • Yup, thanks @James. But it doesn't seem to make any difference, which is very strange... – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 24 '14 at 19:44
  • @benisuǝqbackwards postid = p.id is p the answer? Maybe this should be q as the answer can't be closed. – James Montagne Sep 24 '14 at 19:58
  • 1
    For comparison, on cooking there are just 7 bronze badges, with counts ranging from 12 to 29. I suspect this is partially because we're a much smaller site but also partially because there are a lot of willing editors (who don't mind editing things they won't answer) so there's not always as much need for fixing up questions as you answer. – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 20:05

A few quick notes, since there's some good discussion buried in comments here:

  • The primary goal here is to reward folks for doing something that benefits themselves as well as others, but which isn't immediately obvious. Think of any question you answer as being effectively the introduction to an instructional blog post you're writing: would spend time writing a great explanation only to hide it behind a broken English introduction and a nondescript title? Even in cases where the question wouldn't be closed, by failing to edit you're potentially making it harder for your work to be found - and that's a shame.

  • I disagree that tag-only edits should count toward this. Not that tag edits aren't useful - but if you're only touching the tags, you're missing a huge opportunity. Also, our existing editing badges (Editor, Strunk & White, Copy Editor, Excavator and Archaeologist) don't count tag edits, so we should be consistent there.

  • You do actually have to write a useful answer. Hence the score requirement on the answer - this is probably the biggest potential for abuse here, and it's entirely possible for the community to mitigate this by downvoting useless answers.

  • I don't think additional quality controls for the edits are necessary here. In fact, I don't think we even need to take rollbacks into account - if your edit was approved / applied, and the question it was applied to stays open (and visible - deleted questions shouldn't count either!), then it counts. Anyone abusing this on a regular basis will be exposing both the question and their answers to a fair bit of extra scrutiny; that's probably not something you want to do frivolously. At the end of the day, it's your answer, your work that's on the line here: if you're not making the most of your edits, you're selling yourself short. Checking for rollbacks is expensive, so if we must do so we should limit the check to rollbacks within a few hours of the edit - but if at all possible, that criteria should be discarded entirely.

  • The 12-hour window exists to both discourage abuse and encourage good behavior - fixing a question a week later is never bad if you actually fix it, but fixing it while the topic is fresh in your mind is what we're hoping to encourage here. Strictly-speaking, we could count any edit up to 12 hours after the answer is posted and still accomplish this, but "within 12 hours" seems easier to explain.

  • By the same token, we do not want to encourage folks to answer and then wait around to see if their answer gets traction before editing - at the point you've posted an answer, you've already invested a fair bit of work into the post; you're not gonna know if it was worthwhile unless people see it... And the best way to make sure the right folks see your answer is to make the question look good.

  • I tend to agree that 10 is too high for a bronze badge - it should be 1, to encourage "just in time learning" - the first time you edit a question you've answered, you'll be informed that this is behavior we explicitly encourage! Silver and gold badge levels should be a lot harder.

And to address some of the comments on this answer now... The purpose of these badges is not to encourage higher-quality edits; rather, it is to encourage some of the people best able to make high-quality edits - those who actually purport to understand the questions they're answering - to at least consider doing so on a regular basis. If you want a badge that rewards heroic editing, that's an awesome idea - but the criteria are gonna look very different, so post a separate proposal.

  • 1
    it would look terribly unfair to count edits removed during grace period, as well as edits after which question score decreases. You better either discard these, or add an explanation of why discarding would do more harm than good (something similar to explanation given for edits that are rolled back)... – gnat Sep 25 '14 at 8:58
  • 4
    ...Answer score 1 sucks, single upvote is almost guaranteed as a gratitude from asker. Even score 2 is shaky, single random upvote from someone (coupled with one from asker) doesn't look a sufficiently reliable indication of answer quality. Score 3 sounds about right; after all there was a reason why it was decided to guarantee keeping rep from deleted posts. As for giving bronze for a single action to encourage "just in time learning", it makes so much sense! thanks for catching this – gnat Sep 25 '14 at 8:59
  • @gnat Answers with +1 count toward tag badges, which now have some real consequences, unlike the badges proposed here. And edits that are accompanied by no answer at all count toward a gold badge [Copy Editor] already. I don't see why this particular badge should have such stringent upvote requirement on answers. Waiting for 3 upvotes would disconnects award from action, making its effect weaker. If I understand correctly, the idea of the proposal is to get more users into the habit of editing questions as they answer them, not to identify the greatest contributors. – user259867 Sep 25 '14 at 13:07
  • @CareBear raising requirement to score 3 should be of course accompanied with lowering numbers, like 10(20) for silver badge and 50(100) for gold (note how tag and Copy Editor badge require 1000 upvotes / edits). But even then, you make good point, my original position is too rigid, it would better be spelled as "either raise score requirement from to 3, or provide a compelling explanation why doing so would cause more harm than good" (FWIW your comment seems to make a good starting point to build such an explanation) – gnat Sep 25 '14 at 13:26
  • On SO there's too many robo-reviewers and we now accept any minor edits that improve a question regardless of the rest that could use improvements, quality control on edits should be required and needed. Too easy to just edit a little thing that will be approved (easy to know what will). – Jonathan Drapeau Sep 25 '14 at 18:33
  • 3
    That's really a separate issue, @Jonathan. The numbers ben cooked up should tell you, the behavior that would be encouraged by these proposed badges is... Pretty rare currently. I know it's too much to expect everyone to start immediately making awesome edits to the crappy questions they're answering, but if nothing else it should be a little reminder to pull the beam from your own eye... – Shog9 Sep 25 '14 at 20:21
  • 1
    oh, missed this @gnat - but gratitude is hardly guaranteed (if only...) That said, if even just the asker likes your answer, you've at least made one person happy - given how incredibly rare these edits are thus far, we really just need the score high enough to prevent blatant abuse of the answering system, we don't need this to double as an answering badge. – Shog9 Sep 26 '14 at 18:23
  • @Shog9 that makes a good sense, thanks for explaining. Overall, the more I ponder possible vulnerabilities in these badges, the more it looks like good enough, even with original action counts (including your correction) 1-50-500. You will probably have to explain that gold version will be very hard to attain at smaller sites, but IIRC something like this was already clarified for gold tag bages / dupehammer – gnat Sep 26 '14 at 18:35
  • A note about tag-only edits; usually if I do a tag edit, there's almost always something substantially wrong with the question. Good question askers usually know which tags to use/not use (and how to read tag wikis!) – Qix Sep 26 '14 at 22:35
  • @Qix I think that might be site-dependent. Certainly on the TeX site there are lots of questions where the tags get tidied up but there is little else required in terms of editing. – Joseph Wright Sep 27 '14 at 6:29
  • Something that just came up for me (and then went back down after my answer was upvoted), am I correct in assuming this does not include zero-score accepted answers? I've earned rep from it but not score, technically, so my score is not > 0 as the requirements state, however it is a good answer if it helps the OP such that they accept the answer. – TylerH Nov 10 '15 at 21:53
  • Acceptance is irrelevant to this, @TylerH. – Shog9 Nov 11 '15 at 23:43

This is quite similar to the Editor (1 edit) / Strunk & White (80 edit) /Copy Editor badges in the sense that all curators will have the copy editor badge, all archivists will have the Strunk & White badge and all keepers will have the Editor badge.

In any case, I would avoid mixing "answerer" and "editor" rewards. Why would an "editor" receive more reward if he/she is also one of the "answerers" of the question? This is not fair for those who did not answer.

As for the "good answer salvage bad question" aspect, there is the gold "reversal" badge for this (provided answer of +20 score to a question of -5 score). Adding silver and bronze badges to this group could help reward answerers to spend time even if the question is not well rated, but this counteracts the motivation of the answerer to edit the question.

  • 9
    +1. Re your last paragraph: how about changing the "reversal" badge to three badges like this? Bronze "salvage" (answer +5 to question -1), silver "reversal" (answer +10 to question -3), gold "lead to gold" (answer +20 to question -5, the current gold "reversal" badge). – Stephan Kolassa Sep 24 '14 at 13:25
  • 2
    Maybe 'transmutation' instead of 'lead to gold'? – Jonathan Leffler Sep 24 '14 at 14:56
  • 4
    I don't think we need more badges that encourage answering horrible questions without improving them. This happens often enough already. – user259867 Sep 24 '14 at 15:08
  • 2
    Reversal is nice, but isn't it better if that +20 score answer ends up on a +5 score question thanks to editing? – Cascabel Sep 25 '14 at 2:38
  • @Jefromi No. You have many people almost never upvoting questions. 20/5 is quite typical, isn't it? – yo' Sep 25 '14 at 8:49
  • @Jefromi: A exceptionally good answer on a bad question doesn't necessarily make the question good. – Cerbrus Sep 25 '14 at 12:36
  • 1
    @tohecz The point is if you catch it before it's swung to -5, and you can edit it so that it'll get upvoted instead of downvoted, reversal encourages you not to do so. This badge encourages you to do the right thing. – Cascabel Sep 25 '14 at 14:09
  • 1
    @Cerbrus Yes, not every question can be saved, but assuming it can be, badges might as well encourage you to. – Cascabel Sep 25 '14 at 14:09
  • 1
    @JonathanLeffler Transmutation? There's only one possible name for "lead to gold": the Alchemist badge... – user241698 Oct 3 '14 at 18:39

Final requirements:

Edited n questions within 12 hours of posting an answer (that's 12 hours before or after answering), where:

  • The question was asked by someone other than the answerer
  • Neither the questions nor the answers are deleted
  • The questions are not closed
  • The answers score > 0
  • The question edits changed either body, titles, or both

If n >= 1, an Explainer badge (bronze) is awarded.

If n >= 50, a Refiner badge (silver) is awarded.

If n >= 500, an Illuminator badge (gold) is awarded.

Each badge can be awarded only once per person, per site.

If you're interested in the implementation, this SEDE query is roughly what's being run.

  • If the edit is updated (overruled) by someone else within the 12 hour window, is that post still eligible? I am not referring about rollbacks or rejections, but someone coming after and editing the question again. Tks. – Andre Silva Sep 30 '14 at 23:00
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    Doesn't matter what happens after you edit (as long as the post stays open and visible). If the edit was recorded, the edit counts. – Shog9 Sep 30 '14 at 23:06
  • What if the answer gets accepted but without any upvote? Wouldn't it be fair to be taken into consideration as well? – fedorqui Oct 1 '14 at 14:55
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    No, @fedorqui. If this happens to you a lot, consider editing the questions you're answering such that others with similar problems can find your answer... – Shog9 Oct 1 '14 at 18:39
  • I received Explainer on SO, but got no notification. Was that a deliberate change from previous "backdated" introduced badges? – Mark Hurd Oct 3 '14 at 3:25
  • Within the badge notification system, you're classified as a "veteran" user, @Mark - as a result, you don't get notified of a bunch of different bronze badges anymore, the assumption being that you're pretty familiar with how things work by now and don't need the constant inbox noise. Not a great assumption in cases where a new badge is introduced, but that's how it's set up. – Shog9 Oct 3 '14 at 3:35
  • Has that changed since the Yearling notifications on the new Meta Stackoverflow earlier this year? – Mark Hurd Oct 3 '14 at 3:48
  • No, @Mark - Yearling is one of the badges that don't get ignored, even for veteran users. – Shog9 Oct 3 '14 at 16:01
  • Shog, how do these badges coexist with Reversal? Recent discussion at MSO made me wonder if these are somewhat in conflict: "refinement badges encourage answerer to improve the question while Reversal makes answerer wish it sink down further..." – gnat Nov 22 '14 at 21:07
  • @Shog9, I reused several of the small conditions in my proposal for a gold version of Necromancer. – Nemo May 1 '15 at 21:09
  • @Shog9 So you have to answer 500 questions within 12 hours (for Illuminator)? Holy crap, and people have that badge... That's amazing. Even providing for the +/-12, that's an answer every 3m, isn't it? – Dave Newton Sep 5 '15 at 16:40
  • No, 500 for all time, @dave - but each question edited within 12 hours of answering. – Shog9 Sep 5 '15 at 16:59
  • @Shog9 Ah, OMG, I was freaking out trying to understand how it was even possible. lol Is there a progress query for this? I'm curious now. – Dave Newton Sep 5 '15 at 17:03

I think the best thing about this idea is its simplicity. You answer a question, you make some kind of change (presumably positive) to the question, you get rewarded. This is a behavioural pattern we should be encouraging - answer and edit.

It's inevitable some of these edits will be trivial, but even trivial edits are normally improvements. It will be interesting to see what happens to the edit queue if this is implemented - it may explode. If so, consider offering the badge only to those already with the edit privilege.

Some other users have suggested we need a net-negative to net-positive score swing in order to attain the badge. I don't think this is appropriate, since a question with a negative score rarely obtains a positive score, even after an astoundingly good edit.

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    "even trivial edits are normally improvements" - Sure, of course, but badge-worthy apart from the edit badges? – Christian Rau Sep 24 '14 at 14:54
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    @ChristianRau I think these badges will encourage a positive behaviour for all users of the site. Some people will try to game the system, but that's always the case. We have that already for the edit badges. But I'm convinced that the site will be a better place due to this kind of incentive. – Duncan Jones Sep 25 '14 at 6:25
  • It's not so much about gaming the system, but about the question if we need another pack of badges that basically reward and motivate exactly the same bevahiour as the existing edit badges already do (well, apart from posting an answer in addition to editing, which to me seems rather unconnected to editiing anyway) – Christian Rau Sep 25 '14 at 8:54

The thing is, while junk edits won't fly, really trivial ones will. You can fix a one-character typo in a question and no one will ever roll it back. And you can even make a change to suit your personal style that doesn't really improve the question; as long as it doesn't make it worse, it won't get rolled back. And encouraging people to go out and edit a bunch of questions while simply not making them worse... meh.

I'm not sure how best to address this, but at the very least, what if the edits only counted toward the badge if they exceeded some number of changed characters, similar to suggested edits requiring 6 characters, except maybe a bit higher of a limit?

Yes, it would ignore some actually helpful tiny edits (little spell corrections and so on). But while those are good, they're not exactly the behavior the badge is trying to encourage. Surely any edit that really substantially helps the question is going to exceed whatever character limit you choose. And if someone has to work a little harder to get the badges, great.

See also Shokhet's answer with similar sentiments.

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    Some of my best edits have basically been adding single semicolons. See serverfault.com/posts/605661/revisions and superuser.com/posts/804496/revisions. – TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Sep 24 '14 at 17:51
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    You know what's worse than getting credit for a badge just for fixing a typo? Taking time to answer a question and then leaving an embarrassing typo in the title. I've seen people do this, repeatedly, and... It's just sad. Would you publish a blog post with "javasript" in the title? Of course not - but folks will cheerfully publish their work on SO under such embarrassments. – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 18:38
  • @Shog9 Fair enough, encouraging people to fix typos is good. (My first thought is to give tiny edits fractional credit for the badge, but still, yes, it should be encouraged.) It's really the latter case, changing the style just because you can, that drives me crazy and I'd rather not see further rewarded. I suppose it's a problem with the existing editing badges too, though, and most people aren't like that? – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 19:18
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    Not entirely sure what you're referring to by "personal style", @Jefromi - as long as you're respectful of the original author, I don't see an issue with (for instance) re-writing text plagued by unusual grammar or spelling (not to pick on anyone specifically, but in some countries English education tends to result in a fairly archaic style that can come off as strange or even insulting to other readers). – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 20:16
  • @Shog9 For example, I have seen people who felt the need to replace straight quotes with curly quotes. I've seen someone leave off the last period in every paragraph in their own writing and when editing. – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 20:18
  • Yeah, there are very good technical reasons to discourage the use of "curly quotes" @Jefromi - but in all cases, it's probably worth leaving a comment for folks making such edits informing them of the problem; even if they don't get "credit" for the edits, if they keep making them it becomes a burden. – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 20:45
  • @Shog9 I think it's maybe a somewhat separate issue from this badge, but problems like that are actually really hard to sort out - people will often genuinely believe that their edits are an improvement, or even just that they're not harming anything, and continue making them even if the problem is pointed out, unless things get fairly confrontational. Honestly, if someone really wants to make edits like that, they're going to until a mod gets involved. – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 22:46
  • Sometimes, that becomes necessary @Jefromi - it's unfortunate, but hardly a new problem. – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 23:04
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    @Shog9 & Jefromi: I suppose a counter-balance measure would be to encourage people to rollback or reject purely stylistic or idiosyncratic edits that don't improve readability and SEO. Right now my impression is that most people don't want to start an edit war, and so let it go. E.g., a recent post of mine was edited to turn "P.S." into "Moreover," and remove double spaces between sentences in the Markdown (which has zero impact on the rendered HTML). It bugged me, but not enough to rollback. – AmeliaBR Sep 25 '14 at 15:02

I can certainly see trivial edits being a concern with this. One way to combat that would be the requirement:

  • The question gets an upvote after your edit (from somebody other than yourself.)

This rule would:

  • Validate that the question is a good question (and presumably better now that it has been edited)
  • Eliminate the need for the time period that was being used to prevent everybody from going back and editing every question they had ever answered. Now editing old questions won't help much because old questions rarely get more up votes.
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    So the problem with "just an upvote", is that it's abusable on popular questions. You edit and answer it. Because it's popular, both the question and the new answer will get votes regardless. We already have a problem with people posting late answers on popular questions in an attempt to "farm" them for rep. And those answers are very difficult to moderate because they get upvoted by passerbys. (non-moderators can only delete answers that have a negative score, and moderators do not delete low-quality answers that are, nevertheless, legitimate answers) – Mysticial Sep 24 '14 at 22:05
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    @Mysticial A possible compromise: edit counts if the question had score <5 prior to edit and got an upvote (from someone else) after the edit. This would exclude edits on already-popular posts (that are probably already in good shape). – user259867 Sep 24 '14 at 22:37
  • @CareBear I'm in favor of that. My suggestion in the comments (negative score) is essentially the same but with a different threshold (-1 vs. 4). At the risk of making it too complicated, maybe the threshold should be relative instead of fixed. (I once answered and then did a fairly important edit on a +8 question which went to +400 by the end of the month. But that's still only one instance.) – Mysticial Sep 24 '14 at 22:52
  • Edits bump the question and make new views likely. – Matthew Read Sep 27 '14 at 17:10

If the end goal is to encourage edits that improve poor questions with good answers, to make those answers easier to find, why not explicitly make that the measure?

E.g., The badge would be awarded if you

  • edit a negative-scored question,
  • which has or later receives an answer that scores X or better, and
  • after your edit the question receives Y number of upvotes, or receives a popular/notable/famous question badge (since you want to encourage edits for SEO purposes).

X, Y, and the level of question popularity badge would change according to whether this is a bronze/silver/gold badge. No time limits, so you don't penalize the less visible tags (or questions which are less visible because they were so badly downvoted).

For rewarding good answers which have a similar impact, @radouxju's proposal for creating bronze and silver levels of the Reversal tag is solid.

Mixing the answer and edit incentives into one tag somewhat confounds the goals—as others have said—encouraging minor edits, or worse, editing the question to match the answer regardless of the OP's intent. There is nothing in the current badge definitions that actually measures an improvement to the question.

Although I have on occasion edited a question I'm answering to use more standard terminology or more clearly reflect the real problem discovered in their code, that is rare. Generally for substantive improvements to questions, I rely on comments to ask for more information and also suggest that the OP edit for clarity. More often, if I am editing a question it is for minor things like code formatting, typos, and embedding external-linked images or code. And while I wouldn't mind getting a badge for the above, I don't think it matches the goals described in this post.

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    I'm not sure if this scheme would support Tim Post's recent edits/comments that he wants to encourage improvements from okay questions to great (not just bad to good). If you removed the requirement that the question was initially negatively-scored, then you would need some way of calculating whether the later upvotes/popularity were due to the edit or would have been earned anyway. – AmeliaBR Sep 24 '14 at 15:55
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    And since the calculation of "improved quality" is impossible, the whole original idea is built on water. – yo' Sep 25 '14 at 8:45

Sounds like a good idea but, as EnergyNumbers pointed out in his answer, these badges create the temptation to make a lot of "junk edits," just for the badges, which would "encourage more bad behaviour than good behaviour."

So, as a suggestion for his point that we need to figure out how a "question goes from being a bad question to a good question; to put that in a way that can be tested for automatically" -- what if these badges will only be awarded for questions that were flagged (by other people, to prevent abuse) as "Very Low Quality"?

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    I'm not dismissing that as a possibility. My problem with the VLQ flag is, while it's very helpful, it's often misused. We'd need to consider maybe 2 or more of them, raised after the edit. I need to think about it. I don't think abuse of this would be a major problem to begin with, people don't take kindly to crap edits - and mods routinely contact people (or more) for trying to game badges. Most people just try to follow the intent of the badge while earning it. Still, very seldom is defensive a bad thing. It comes down to a matter of complexity, mostly. I'll consider it. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 15:25
  • Related answer: meta.stackexchange.com/a/239924/266359 – Shokhet Sep 24 '14 at 16:43
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    On cooking, at least, there are tons of questions that really really need cleanup but aren't flagged as VLQ. I mean, look at the description - it says "This question is unlikely to be salvageable through editing". If people are using it responsibly, the kinds of things people can save via edit will never be flagged. – Cascabel Sep 24 '14 at 16:43
  • @Jefromi: See this question of mine on flagging questions as VLQ. – Wrzlprmft Sep 24 '14 at 19:19

I have to say that, after reading the first three paragraphs of the suggestion, I expected something completely different (no, not a Monty Pythonesque pun) than what it turned out to be after finishing reading it. I agree with most comments and answers suggesting it might end up with loads of badge-chasing trivial edits. It also seems like a great idea was lost to the simplicity of writing SQL queries for it. But I'm not writing this answer to reiterate those points, or to bash (or is is shellshock now?) the proposal with vague arguments.

What I want to describe is what I believe would be a better way of rewarding substantial improvements of the questions themselves;

  1. First of all, lose the requirement that these new badges can only be awarded to those editors that also answered the questions they edited. Such badges should be awarded regardless if editors can answer the questions they edited to substantially improve them, or indeed felt they require additional answers to those they might have already received.
  2. Award these badges for improved question's approval or visibility, i.e. that the question was indeed improved and it enjoys either substantial increase in site-wide visibility, or it clearly started gaining more up-votes / less down-votes per number of views by registered members.
  3. Also award these badges for edits that saved the question, so those questions that were already closed but were reopened due to / after the edit.
  4. Badges should be awarded solely by the quality of edits, not their quantity. So lose awarding them by number of edits and instead establish qualitative metric. That means you could gain them multiple times, but each time your edit should improve the question to some measurable effect. Bronze badges for helpful edits of questions that aren't yours, silver for great edits that made a substantial difference, and gold badges for those exemplary edits that moved the question from meh to fantastic on your qualitative scale.
  5. Whatever you decide qualitative metric should be, award these badges also retroactively. And yes, if the editor merely copy/pastes OP's comment to the question's body itself and that helped it along, that should do, too. It might even communicate to our members better what the purpose of comments under contributions is.

The increased visibility point might be a bit moot, since we already award badges (Announcer, Booster and Publicist as bronze, silver and gold, respectively) for sharing a link to a question that was visited by certain amount of unique IPs, but if we limited that to only track new views (even revisits) by registered members, it should create an altogether different incentive.

Now, writing SQL queries to support awarding of such badges might be a bit less trivial, and I'm not sure it's even possible, but that's for the dev team to answer. I just wanted to suggest one way (or a few of them actually, depending on your interpretation) of rewarding our editors for qualitatively and measurably better non-trivial edits substantially improving our questions. Thoughts?

  • 1
    Maybe you expected something like this related (but unfortunately far less noticed) proposal? This was at least what I expected from this proposal (and seems to match some of your ideas), but got enlightened later about its entirely different motivation by all the comments here. – Christian Rau Sep 29 '14 at 10:50
  • I would like to tie some quality metric to the editor badges. But the Keeper series is about something different: it is very much by design that this badge rewards a dual action, answering and curating. I see a rift between answerers and curators, especially on SO. Rewarding answerers who also participate in moderation would be a good thing. – Gilles Sep 29 '14 at 11:57

Why set the rates so high? 10 seems pretty high for bronze.

What about 5, 40, and 100?

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    The initial limits were based on some arbitrary numbers, part of the reason I'm tossing this out as a discussion instead of just announcing it after implementation. I'd like to wait for a few more folks to chime in on them before settling on a set. They're not carved in stone, just a starting point for discussion. The gold needs to be hard to earn, and part of the feedback I hope to get here is precisely about the perceived difficulty. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 7:45
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    Good point. 100 might then be a little low for gold. Maybe 5, 50, 250 is better. – Scimonster Sep 24 '14 at 7:47
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    Good point on lowering the count for the bronze badge but I think the gold badge should be left at 500. So 5, 50 and 500 would be my choice. – Harry Sep 24 '14 at 7:50
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    Lowering the threshold for bronze might not be a bad idea, especially since it's likely to fall out of grasp a few times for some folks due to duplicates being closed. I originally wanted to count questions if they were simply duplicates, but ... there could be a problem with providing incentive for a different type of behavior many frown upon, which unfortunately makes this a tad harder to earn. I'm eager to see what more folks think of it before I go crazy on running numbers, it first needs to be perceived as reasonably likely to be attainable at the levels it's offered. – Tim Post Sep 24 '14 at 7:58
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    @TimPost Is there a general expectation for attainment of badges within the populace? I.e. 5% of users typically obtain gold, 25% silver and 60% bronze or something? If so, can't you set the thresholds based (at least partly) on whichever values trigger that spread of users receiving the badges on day one? – Duncan Jones Sep 24 '14 at 8:21
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    Could do it like Mortarboard/Epic/Legendary and go with 1/50/150. – Rapptz Sep 24 '14 at 10:02
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    It doesn't make sense to speak about the precise values unless we have the statistics of how many people reached what number of answered&edited. – yo' Sep 24 '14 at 10:04
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    After sleeping on this a bit, I agree that bronze is too high - bronze badges are traditionally a way of saying, "you did something important for the first time - thanks!" - worrying about folks gaming bronze badges isn't really necessary. I suggest we set bronze at 1, leave the others as proposed. @Tim – Shog9 Sep 24 '14 at 18:25

After reading this good answer by ben, I think the specifics definitely should be changed.

Here is what I think:

  • Answers that are eligible for this badge must have received at least 3 upvotes and 0 downvotes within the first 24 hours of being answered.

  • The edit to the question must happen between the 12 hour time period before the answer was posted and the 12 hour time period after the answer was posted.

Also, the badge structure/levels should change. With the currently proposed rules, it will have people editing each and every question that they answer. And a lot of questions receive more than 1 answer, so you'll have so many edits on the question that are probably not really needed, but only edited for the sake of trying to get the badge. To make it less likely for people to be abusing this, and better user experience for everyone, I suggest the badge structure should be as follows :

  • bronze badge: answered & edited 1 question
  • silver badge: answered & edited 10 questions
  • gold badge: answered & edited 50 questions.

The only issue I see with my suggestions, is the 3 upvotes, since some less popular tags may be at a greater disadvantage. But isn't that the case with many other badges, anyways? So instead of 3 upvotes, I'd be fine with 2, but I'd prefer 3.

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    Your upvote requirement is going to be nearly impossible to achieve on smaller sites. – Fish Below the Ice Sep 24 '14 at 20:15
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    @FishBelowtheIce well, it's either make it terribly easy on bigger sites like SO or make it terribly harder on smaller sites. If a good answer to a good question can't get 2 upvotes in the first 24 hours on a smaller site, then maybe it shouldn't be a site? – CRABOLO Sep 24 '14 at 23:37
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    @FishBelowtheIce: In my experience, it’s quite the opposite: On smaller sites, there are some enthusiastic users which will see every question and also are quite likely to vote on it if it deserves it. On bigger sites, perfectly good questions can easily get no attention at all. On certain small sites, the tumbleweed badge has not been awarded once. – Wrzlprmft Sep 25 '14 at 8:55
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    Not just smaller sites, the less busy tags on SO don't attract a lot of upvotes. – S List Sep 25 '14 at 12:54

I've gone in and edited a closed question so it's more understandable and was re-opened a number of times. I think that having the requirement that the question was closed and re-opened after your edit (and perhaps flag) should be part of the badge. Answering should be optional.

So basically: have a closed question re-opened because of your edit. To be fair, all editors to the question between being closed and re-opened (which I doubt would be many in the majority of cases) would be eligible.

  • 1
    this answer would be more appropriate in another recent request: Reopener (Edit) Badge Idea – gnat Sep 25 '14 at 18:20
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    A gnat said -- this may be a good idea, but it's a rather different idea. The proposal here is meant to get users to improve questions as they answer them. – user259867 Sep 25 '14 at 18:28
  • Thanks for heads up...I like that one because it's less likely to be abused. – Michael Brown Sep 25 '14 at 21:16

I have answered quite a few bad questions in the past, producing useful answers to questions that other users couldn't even understand the requirements to (I know this because of the comments). Yet, I cannot remember an instance where I have re-written the question. Personally I don't think it's right to change a user's question. Instead, we should encourage them to improve it. I have no problem with fixing formatting, spelling, tags, etc... I just don't agree with re-wording.

Anyway, that's just my opinion. The more important issue I foresee is as follows:

In this proposal, a 'good' answer is defined by at least one upvote, but on what grounds do users decide that an answer is worthy of an upvote when they don't even understand the question?

I believe in instances where a question is unclear, but a 'good' answer has been upvoted. It is down to a lot of voters thinking "oh... so that's what the question means".

Just because someone posts a seemingly good answer, who is to say that they actually did understand the question (as per the OP's requirements)? I think only the OP can truly be the one to say "yeah, that's what I meant". Until the OP confirms your presumptions, what gives you the right to reword a question?

So on that basis surely only accepted answers should be included? This would make it much harder to earn the badges (the limits could be lowered to account for this), but at the same time would make it much harder to cheat your way to the badges, and thus prevent a lot of non-useful question edits.

  1. Answer a question with less than 2 upvotes.
    Answer receives at least 2 upvotes.

  2. Edit question within 12 hours after answering.
    For the next 12 hours, further edits to the question are only minor.

  3. Question upvotes surpass 2.

(with "upvotes" the total score is meant)


Bronze: 1
Silver: 25
Gold: 250

Although the exact values for silver and gold should be ascertained statistically (so you don't have a thousand people getting a gold badge at once or - respectively - no one). I like the badge names very much btw.

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    +10 upvotes? Let's be realistic, most questions and answers will never get that many. (I would know: three of my answers have 10+ upvotes, out of 1045). It's still worthwhile to edit the question into shape. – user259867 Sep 25 '14 at 4:37
  • @CareBear What would you propose? The adjective stellar was used, after all. (Btw. My guess would be that your situation springs from the fact that questions on Math SE get buried instantly. I, for instance, have 3 out of 76 - on a beta site.) – 355durch113 Sep 25 '14 at 4:54
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    "stellar" was a bit of over-the-top rhetoric, in my opinion. The comment by Shog9 is closer to what the badges might actually achieve: more users looking at the question they just answered and fixing the misspelled "javasript" in the title. Nothing heroic, just something that should be a habit of answerers. – user259867 Sep 27 '14 at 23:18
  • I see (and agree). I changed it a bit in that direction. – 355durch113 Sep 28 '14 at 0:52

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