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I occasionally see suggested edits only changing the image from a link to inline.

An edit where "picture of the question" as a link to i.stack.imgur.com/scbOP.png was changed to display i.stack.imgur.com/KzJje.png with ALT text "picture of the question". The content of the two images is identical.

I have rejected a couple as "This edit causes harm", but now I just click "No Improvement".

The line of thinking on the harm is wasting additional Imgur storage for a duplicate image when they could have just adjusted the markup. But it occurred to me that they might be able to detect and link them to one entry.

Should I care? Just approve these? Reject them and leave a comment?

In the case of this example, the images are identical. So they downloaded the file and uploaded again.

md5 scbOP.png KzJje.png
MD5 (scbOP.png) = 520c151187e8eb8358da363d025c95c6
MD5 (KzJje.png) = 520c151187e8eb8358da363d025c95c6
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    "rejected a couple as "This edit causes harm"". But it doesn't? "No Improvement" is a valid reasoning though. Oct 24 at 14:49
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    Yes those are useless edits, and if you see user who keeps suggesting such edits after several were rejected, flag one of their posts for mod attention, choose custom reason, and explain what's going on, asking to send official warning to that user. Eventually, they should be suspended if nothing else stops them. Oct 24 at 14:51
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    @SafdarFaisal At first, my reasoning is the wasted storage space. But in today's universe with 20TB drives that isn't an issue. ;-) Oct 24 at 14:52
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    Why do they go to the trouble of creating a new image (when the existing URL could be used)? Isn't the edit suggestion accepted otherwise? In any case, it could be yet another scheme to earn reputation points for the least amount of work. Oct 24 at 20:19
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    @This_is_NOT_a_forum Honestly, I think they right click copy, then paste. I doubt they know how to format it. Oct 24 at 20:34
  • It works properly with links. I’m suggesting they copy the binary image, so the uploader just sees an uploaded binary. However, I guess it could compare the binary to all existing binary images on the post? Oct 24 at 20:44
  • Was there a good reason for the author to use a "picture of the question" instead off quoting the text?
    – BSMP
    Oct 25 at 4:18
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    @BSMP If by author you mean me, I didn’t know how to simulate red/green highlight of a suggested edit in text. Oct 25 at 11:26
  • The edit would be less than 6 characters otherwise, so they made a pointless change by reuploading the image. (I do, however, also see this when there are other changes in the post, which I guess is double pointless.)
    – Laurel
    Oct 25 at 16:44
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    @JamesRisner No, I meant the person who wrote the question that was being edited in the screenshot. Sorry that was unclear.
    – BSMP
    Oct 25 at 18:30

4 Answers 4

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The line of thinking on the harm is wasting additional imgur storage for a duplicate image

Well, maybe they have some duplication detection algorithm? Anyway, on the scale of Stack Exchange, a 0.00001% increase is not going to matter for the fees the company pays to Imgur.

Sometimes, inlining an image significantly improves the post, by saving users a lot of clicks when trying to read all information in the post. Sometimes it doesn't, if the image only serves as a reference. Make your judgement on that basis alone. I guess you could leave a comment to the editor, to inform them of this quicker method of inlining.

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    "a post becomes much better by inlining an image" - how exactly? Can you elaborate on this? It's just markup semantics, with 0 effect on the post itself, unless I'm missing something here. For me, such edits are 100% useless and waste of our time as reviewers. Oct 24 at 14:57
  • @ShadowTheKidWizard I would love to, but I'm unable to do so right now ... fires up old editor
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Oct 24 at 14:59
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The line of thinking on the harm is wasting additional Imgur storage for a duplicate image when they could have just adjusted the markup.

The "harm" is already done; the image has been uploaded, and approving or rejecting the edit isn't going to change that. Stack Imgur doesn't automatically delete images that aren't linked anywhere (if they did, that would mess up a bunch of posts on Puzzling.SE). AFAIK, there's only one situation where Stack Imgur images are automatically deleted: red-flag deleted posts have their images removed from Imgur. This isn't that situation.

There are many, many, many, many images stored on the Stack Imgur servers of pure spam, duplicate images, random stuff posted to chat... I wouldn't worry too much about it. Just focus on whether or not the edit itself improves the post. Is it a useful edit, exact image link aside? That's the important part to consider.

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There are several aspects to the question. The question talks specifically about the case of creating the inline image by uploading a new copy, from the perspective of resource usage. But asking the question also implies a question about the inherent value of inline images, and the question asks about that, too; whether it's a sufficient improvement to justify accepting the edit.

Original link vs. new image

Other answers cover the fact that there are no substantive implications for system resources. I'll suggest that not only is it not a cost or harm, it's actually a worthwhile use of system resources.

If someone is familiar with markup language, they can modify the existing link, as suggested in the question. But it's easy to make mistakes or typos when you do that, and the process can end up eating a lot of time fixing it. The editor has a provision for quickly creating the inline image.

A small minority of users volunteer their time to curate site content. It's more important to make their time more productive and less frustrating than it is to save a few bytes on a server. The time they save not having to fiddle with markup could be used for other curation, or to save time and frustration so that curation is less of a chore. If we can reduce their frustration and wasted time even a little at the virtually non-existent cost of a little server space, that is a great trade-off.

Is it an improvement and does it justify an edit?

Assuming the image adds value, I generally see enough value in inlining an image and getting rid of a link that I approve those kinds of edits as a substantive improvement of the post.

A comment on Glorfindel's answer asks "how exactly" does that make a post much better? I'll take a stab at that. As a baseline, I'm assuming it's agreed that images can illustrate or clarify a point in a post and make a big difference in people understanding what is meant by the words. You're asking only about their being in the form of a link vs. inlined. A few thoughts:

  • Reading continuity. People can assimilate and process information, including different formats of information, quickly if they can take it in all together as a unit. It can all go into short-term memory together, but that needs to happen within the same short time and without distraction. Once it's in short-term memory, the brain processes it, making associations and links between the elements of what was taken in and things in long-term memory.

    Anything that isn't mentally-usable information (like the text of a URL), can't be incorporated. Instead, it's just noise that slows down the processing and then gets ignored, or it acts as a distraction because making a mental note of needing to go back and look at that interrupts processing of the rest. If you mentally deal with the URL, you're likely to have to reread the rest to refresh your memory. So if it's in the form of a link, it slows down and disrupts comprehension of the information. That's a long-winded way to say that it makes the post harder to read.

    An image is likely to distract you, too, because you will stop reading and focus on it. But the image is a very condensed form of information; it is the information ("a picture's worth a thousand words"). So focusing on that helps make the associations to comprehend the information.

  • Self-contained posts. We ask users not to post a link as an answer for a number of reasons. A big part of that is that links go stale (which isn't the issue here). But it's also because we want the posts self-contained. People can read the post and get the information, they don't have to read the post to get a link that they have to click on to get the information. There's some flavor of that with image links. You don't get the information when you read the post, you have to read the post to get the link, and click on the link to get the information. It's part of making it easier to get the information, which is one of the things that makes the platform valuable.

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If done properly, the imgur link shouldn't change.

See this .gif:

Reusing an imgur link by copying the original imgur link, deleting the link and the markdown text, and pasting the original link into the image upload widget

The problem is, I think users are creating new screenshots or images of the linked image, rather than simply reusing the already created imgur. In my opinion, I think embedding images are a valid edit, though they should be low on the list of priorities in terms of editing a post. As Glorfindel said:

Sometimes, inlining an image significantly improves the post, by saving users a lot of clicks when trying to read all information in the post. Sometimes it doesn't, if the image only serves as a reference. Make your judgement on that basis alone. I guess you could leave a comment to the editor, to inform them of this quicker method of inlining.

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    This is the proper way, but it requires a certain understanding of how things work. Not all users possess that knowledge. Oct 25 at 16:47

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