On Stack Exchange sites, being able to edit a post requires a certain amount of reputation points (depending on the site and the kind of post). Users below the reputation threshold can only submit edit proposals for review; the review process discourages making trivial edits, and there is generally a strong culture of preserving authorial intent when editing. Also, the reputation system incentivises writing a new answer rather than editing. It’s hardly bulletproof, but nevertheless this does a reasonably good job of ensuring edits, when made at all, are usually high-quality rather than low. There is rarely a good reason to revert an edit on Stack Exchange.

So if reversions are made, they are more likely to be made for bad reasons, especially by inexperienced users. In particular, the Cleanup badge is more likely to be awarded to, shall we say, conceited users starting their first ever revert war. Stack Exchange is no stranger to perverse incentives, but this particular mechanic seems especially prone to those.

(This was raised on Retrocomputing Meta, but isn’t particularly specific to that site.)

  • @Glorfindel: It takes all my willpower not to revert your edit just for the sake of irony. Mar 8 at 18:35
  • As with a lot of things, the question to first ask is - is this a problem? Because if it isn't, then maybe you're overthinking it. Every gamification award can lead to bad behaviour. We kind of have a case against rep. But if the Cleanup badge doesn't cause (huge) problems, then trying to "protect" it seems a bit harsh.
    – VLAZ
    Mar 8 at 18:43
  • 1
    Are you sure this particular bad behavior is worth focusing on: data.stackexchange.com/retrocomputing/query/1383005 ?
    – rene
    Mar 8 at 18:46
  • @user3840170 I wouldn't mind, I love that kind of humor. And my edit isn't that important.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Mar 8 at 18:55
  • user3840170 Not only was this discussed on RC's meta (as you pointed out) but the person preceding the one awarded the Cleanup badge may be awarded the Editor badge; yet you don't suggest that is undeserved (in the event of a Rollback) nor subject to abuse or awarded for a poor effort. - The solution can't be to simply raise privilege levels or have no rewards. If you hadn't been awarded your Teacher Badge for a B&W answer you'd have been eligible for it here.
    – Rob
    Mar 8 at 20:02
  • A better question would have been to make a Feature Request to restore the previous behavior, but now that you have answers it's unfair to alter the question and invalidate any answers - resulting in a Rollback. --- Also note that 2 Rollbacks by the same user on the same post generates a Flag for the moderators; and any resulting penalties.
    – Rob
    Mar 8 at 21:23

Bronze badges have a specific purpose:

Bronze badges encourage users to try out new features on the site.

This includes rolling back other users' edits which fail to improve or even cause harm to a post you've written. I have no data to support it, but I think such a scenario is far more likely to happen than the situation you describe. For instance, I've seen many edits just changing British English to American English, or introducing code formatting for emphasis.

Since it's just a single bronze badge which does not bestow any privileges, I'm not really concerned about a few users being awarded the badge for wrong behaviour. In the same spirit, we should retire the Autobiographer badge because spammers get it for posting promotional content in their profile.


While having this badge awarded for "bad" behaviour is annoying to see, it's just that. The whole goal of having bronze badges is to introduce basic site functionality to users, and much of that is open to 'abuse':

Bronze badges are awarded for basic use of the Stack Overflow site; they encourage people to use all the typical, routine functions of the site: posting questions, answering questions, voting up or down, tagging posts, editing, filling out your user profile, and so forth. Bronze badges are relatively easy to get and provide immediate positive feedback to new users.

Adding all sorts of edge cases, like you propose in your answer will probably only complicate matters and confuse users. One example of a badge that has a 'condition' is the curious badge: It requires having a 'positive question record', to avoid people spamming 5 questions on 5 days and getting the badge. But it regularly leads to confusion.

Also, ruling out rollbacks on your own posts may lead to even more misbehaviour: rolling back useful edits on other people's post just to get the badge is just as bad or maybe even more annoying than reverting an edit on your own post.


My suggestion is that the Cleanup badge should be retired or at least narrowed down to situations like:

  • when you’re reverting your own edits only, or
  • when you’re reverting edits on someone else’s post, or
  • when you’re reverting an edit to a community wiki.
  • Fixing something that isn't broken....
    – Luuklag
    Mar 8 at 20:03

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