Most of this is a copy from my meta post here at Open Source:

I recently made a review that you can find here (Note that the "Emacs" spelling changes were made after I had done the review). Also note that the author subsequently approved of the edit.

The edit made the sole change: open source to free software. If you're wondering why, I rejected the edit, here's my stance:

I rejected the edit on the grounds that as the reviewer of posts, I should strive to make sure that edits fix the issues with the post: concerning formatting, quoting, attributions, grammar, punctuation... making the post look pretty. I'm not there to verify information - I believe that is the responsibility of the author. If information is incorrect, that's fine. If you're wondering how we deal with that, we have a largely sophisticated system: voting. If something is wrong, down vote. In essence, if you have something that is right, leave a comment with a source to back up your claim, and let the author make that edit. Otherwise, you could be deviating from the author's intent in that you may be changing the meaning of something the author has to > say.

Thinking that this applied to all sites, I've brought it here in the ultimate meta of metas. On Open Source, it seems that if you're not going to go out and find a link yourself to verify the terms that are being changed, or the new information that is being added, then you shouldn't be reviewing at all.

I also want to make a note that I raised that (and this) meta post out of concern for other reviewers, many of which may not be necessarily completely knowledgable, and to help set a guideline for whether changing small words/terms should be allowed, or rejected.

I just want to ask: If I were to extend this thinking to the other communities in which I participate, should I do this work as a reviewer? And is this the expected behaviour of reviewers in general?

  • Well, for a week or more on other community, simply notice (if you have review queue privileges) how reviewers review the questions/answers on that community. See what kind of edits are getting edited, approved or rejected by reviewers, how many of the reviewers are actually active, and are they making custom comments as a reject reason so that the unprivileged editor could lean from rejected edit? If would give you a very good idea since the active reviewers are also those users who cares for the site. That's just my opinion.
    – 286110
    Jul 14, 2015 at 21:53
  • @Firelord Those are some good points. I've been looking at a few things, but only having been a few days in public beta, it's hard to tell. I would welcome that as an answer :)
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 14, 2015 at 23:15
  • +1 for asking a good question, but I disagree with rejecting the edit. I concur with D.W.
    – MTL
    Jul 31, 2015 at 14:57

3 Answers 3


Reviewers are expected to verify that the edit improves the post. If you can't tell or you're not sure, you should click "Skip" rather than "Reject".

If you cannot judge the review because you don't know whether the information is factually correct, and you don't have a feeling whether the edit improves the post, you should not review that post -- you should click "Skip". Rejecting an edit because you weren't able to judge the correctness of the change was the wrong thing to do.

If I had been reviewing that suggested edit, I personally would have rejected it -- not for the reason you list, but because the edit is too minor and changes from the intent of the author. In particular, the edit is extremely small: it capitalizes emacs, and changes "Stallman's open source efforts" to "Stallman's free software efforts". That sounds to me like some kind of activist change, where a member of the Free Software Foundation doesn't like seeing the word "open source" associated with work done by the FSF. Let's not go there; that just opens up edit wars and hard feelings. If you know that a choice is potentially controversial, don't depart from the author's original intent -- and certainly don't do it for essentially no good reason. In this case, the edit did absolutely nothing to contribute to the substance of the answer nor to help it better answer it the specific question being asked here. So, if it were me, I would have rejected the edit. But not for the reason you mention -- not because "reviewers aren't fact-checkers" -- instead, because the edit is both too minor and needlessly deviates from the author's original intent.

But that's just my take. Others might have a different perspective, and that's fine. In this case, I see entirely sensible discussion happening over on Open Source Meta about this kind of situation, and that discussion seems very healthy and appropriate.

if you're not going to go out and find a link yourself to verify the terms that are being changed, or the new information that is being added, then you shouldn't be reviewing at all.

This is not an accurate description of reviewers' duties, at least on Stack Exchange in general. The correct answer is: if you aren't able to judge a specific suggested edit, you should click "Skip" and let someone else review it. But that doesn't mean you should not be doing any reviewing at all. It's entirely expected that any one person might be able to evaluate some suggested edits and not others, and that's fine. That's why we have an entire community of reviewers. So, please don't give up reviewing suggested edits just because you run into one that you weren't able to evaluate!

  • 1
    Thank you for such an amazing answer. I raised that post because I was concerned that if people kept changing these back and forth, that we could run into incorrect information and edit wars and such. I don't mind allowing making sure the facts are right, but if more people go into the queues and allow potentially incorrect changes like this, it just worried me a little. But just to make sure, I'll always review suggested edits :)
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 13, 2015 at 13:38

In cases where there could be any real doubt over whether an edit is correct, I have a simple rule for the editor to follow: comment it out first. Work out what the actual facts are in comments before suggesting an edit! And, as a reviewer, I will at times Reject edits that a) I cannot, personally, verify (per D.W.'s post) and b) have no corresponding comments on the post to try to work things out in an actual discussion.

On the other hand, if I can personally vouch for the correctness of the edit, great! I'll do just that. Or, if I can't vouch for it but it seems likely that other reviewers would be able to using the information on the post and their own knowledge, I'll Skip it.

So to answer your question, yes, reviewers are (in my mind) expected to ensure that edits are pretty nearly up to the quality they themselves would be happy performing, in every respect. That's what Approve means.

This method has been developed in the rather dismally-inaccurate review environment of SO, and seems to work pretty well, even when other reviewers aren't putting much effort into researching factual correctness.

  • A wonderful answer. However, when you say quality, do you mean quality in formatting, or quality in accuracy of information?
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 15, 2015 at 0:27
  • @Zizouz212: Both; I've clarified. Jul 15, 2015 at 0:52

There is no rule stating what an editor must do to improve a post, only guidance that edits should improve the post. Likewise, someone with the privilege may accept or reject a suggested-edit. They (probably) should accept an edit that improves the post, and reject one that does not, but they are not required to.

This extends to verifying the correctness of edits. Citing an authoritative reference will usually be a plus, but it is not an obligation. If someone questions the correctness of an edit, that's just something they are entitled to do. (for better or for worse)

How do suggested edits work? is worth a read, in this case.

So, in simple terms...

...should I do this work as a reviewer?

Yes... if it makes the difference between improving the post or not, and bearing in mind that should does not mean must.

...And is this the expected behaviour of reviewers in general?

Best effort is expected of reviewers, bearing in mind that they are volunteers.

  • 5
    This does nearly nothing to answer my question...
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 13, 2015 at 4:36

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