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I recently edited an SE Travel question twice within 5 minutes. The first time I replaced links to passport images with the actual passport image and gave the edit reason as

imported the full image

The main details had already been obscured by OP, but I then noticed the visa page shown contained the passport number, so I blurred it, replaced the picture and edited the change reason to be

imported the full image, redacted passport number

But the reason wasn't updated. Is this a bug?

I have googled and searched in the search box at the top and found no results. It's not in the "Related" box on the right either.

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  • I fixed the edit reason in the SE Travel question by editing the question again, after 5 minutes.. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 18:53
  • This is what I see: i.sstatic.net/4oi1D.png. There are two revisions with the latest revision having your updated reason. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:25
  • @CaveJohnson I explained that I was able to correct the reason, by making a subsequent edit after 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes, only one historical version is available: the one with the redacted passport image, but without that in the reason. The latest one edited the title, but does not mention it. The earlier one does not mention 'redacted', even though that was where I made the change. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:30
  • ah I see. I could not reproduce in the formatting sandbox. See: meta.stackexchange.com/posts/392068/revisions. I made one edit with the reason "edit 1", and then another edit within 5 minutes appending "edit 2" to the reason. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:33
  • @WeatherVane I could not find a bug report that the person was talking about. And it seems to be working correctly. Looks like a "Heisenbug" Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:42
  • @CaveJohnson one nature of a software bug is that it isn't always reproducible. That does not mean it's a phantom bug. A bug might appear correct sometimes, misbehave at others, and cause horrible at other times. The last, is obviously more urgent to fix. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:46
  • @CaveJohnson you mentioned that you could not reproduce in a sandbox. I posted an edit, and then made another edit within five minutes. It wasn't the same session. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:00
  • Did that second edit cause the reason to be updated? I just tried it again on the same sandbox answer: meta.stackexchange.com/posts/392068/revisions. First time (edit 3) was from my mobile device, second edit (edit 4) is from my desktop pc. The edit reason reflects the reason from my most recent edit (edit 4) Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:17
  • @CaveJohnson it was not an imaginary fault. Perhaps you can't reproduce because you are not making the same changes. First I imported the image and gave that as the reason, posted the edit. Within five minutes I replaced the image and said why in the reason, and posted it, and the only thing changed was the image (and the reason). Five minutes later I edited the title and repeated my previous reason. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:53
  • It is a (very obvious and very irritating) usability problem that they are probably never going to fix. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:58
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    Definitely didn't mean to imply anything was imaginary. Just trying to narrow down the factors which could have led to this bug. Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:59

1 Answer 1

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I will say that this is something I have experienced myself, long ago, so I do think it's likely there has been a bug report about it in the past... but the only things I can find (in a quick search) are the following:

First I found this:

Editing within grace period no longer remembers previous edit reason?

This was asked by current staff member and former mod animuson, prior to being staff. In this situation it seems that the bug was actually that the edit reason was getting longer every time there was a new grace period edit, which was bad. I agree that was bad and that fixing it was a good thing. That post led me to the original Feature Request that likely created the existing behavior:

Bring up original edit summary when editing your prior edit

Essentially, someone editing a multiple times within five minutes presented the editor with a blank field, which replaced the prior edit summary presumably with the default edit text such as "added 520 characters in body; edited tags; edited title", so we changed the system to retain the edit reason from the prior version of the edit:

The previous edit comment will now be retained when:

  • an error has been detected during an edit submission
  • the current user is quick editing within the 5 minute threshold
  • anyone is editing a pending suggested edit

This will be deployed tonight or tomorrow.

This feature change also makes sense... overriding what might have been a really clear edit reason with the generic character count can be detrimental to understanding the edit histories. That said, it seems that testing indicates that this doesn't prevent the editor from overriding the edit history and there's nothing in Jarrod's answer (quoted) that indicates that editing the reason isn't possible or won't be updated.

Unfortunately, even in cases where there aren't actual grace period edits, this seems to have some negative impacts - Auto-generated edit reason being propagated from earlier revisions

Assuming Martijn's answer there is correct, it seems like pulling the existing edit text if the edit button is clicked within the grace period can mean that the edit reason is actually kinda useless if the edit is submitted after the grace period window, but this variation of the bug would be difficult to address and not really related here.

A possible explanation I found was this post, which was from 2013: Take most recent (or concatenate) edit comments when editing during grace period

In this case, the user made a grace period edit and only updated the edit reason (and not the post itself), which caused the edit to be discarded by the system. I think that when I've experienced this, it's likely for this same reason. The answer there recommends allowing edits to the edit comment to be saved if submitted in the grace period. This seems like a reasonable idea.

Now, you might be saying "but I did edit the post, I changed an image"... well... yeah... but what I'm seeing from your first edit (revision 8) is that it didn't seem to actually change the image URL - which leaves me wondering whether the edit actually went through or not.

If you know for certain that the updated image was added to revision 8 rather than only in revision 9, which is what I'm seeing, I'm not sure what's going on. That said, it does appear that the edit history has been redacted (appropriately) by the mods to remove the PII, which includes your revision 8. Your revision wouldn't have (shouldn't have) been included in the redaction if it didn't contain the image with the PII, which leads me to guess that it did still contain the original version of the image when the redaction occurred - which would imply that your grace period edit to update to the redacted image didn't go through properly.

Considering we can't reproduce the issue, I'm going to say this is my best guess of what happened but it'll be really difficult to know for certain and there's a lot of oddness involved. If you can reproduce this in a situation where an edit to the post goes through and the changed edit reason does not, let us know.

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  • Thanks for the informative answer. In my case, the second edit (within the grace period) only changed the image which was added in the first edit (and of course attempted to change the reason, which is why I posted the question). I wondered if the editor only compares the text in the body, and not the text of the image link. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 10:19
  • I had drafted a paragraph mentioning that as a possibility because I've seen weird stuff like that in the past where edits to the MD or HTML don't actually count as edits but I decided to test it to see before I posted the answer. I used the same post Cave did on the sandbox and was able to see a changed edit history after an image only grace period edit... that said, I'm a CM so I have free access to editing the histories, so I guess that could be part of it, so I'd invite a non-diamond to test it to see if that's the case. :)
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 14:13
  • Thanks, I presume you made two edits to Cave's post, the first added an image and a reason, the second changed the image and the reason within the grace period. As a mod, do you have access to every distinct edit posted within the grace period, which users do not normally see? BTW thanks to you and @CaveJohnson for the knowledge of the sandbox. I wonder why posts there get downvoted! Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 18:26
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    Yes, that describes the edits I made. No, the UI doesn't allow me to view grace period edits. I'm not sure if we even save them separately in the DB... we may just edit the existing entry and delete the prior version.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 18:55

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