First this question is not a dupe of:

Mark a user as not being able to edit your question

Though the upvotes show it's an issue: I'm not seeing things.

My question concerns specifically someone with 20K+ rep being eligible for the "moderator" status (you could vote for him on SO as a moderator, which I didn't).

I've seen post where that person changed the entire question so that it fits an answer "because then it adds value". The logic behind the edit being "so it gets referenced in Google (and is searchable directly in SO) and if someone search for the question that fits the answer, then we have an answer".

I don't disagree that from that standpoint it seems to make some sense. But the problem is that it makes the original poster very uncomfortable: why would such a poster come back to SO if it's to see his question completely distorted? Also, why would people answering then getting zero votes or downvoted be motivated to answer more questions when they know the question may get completely modified?

In another case, and this has been the subject of a post here on meta that generated some heat, same 20K+ rep person simply didn't understand the question. So he modified it to a question where he portrayed the user as making something illegal or questionable and the user got downvoted to oblivion. The user left SO and went ballistic on Usenet and on blogs about SO.

This is not good in my opinion because, sure, you completely rewrite questions to make it fit your own view of the world but it's detrimental to existing SO users.

Both to the original poster who asked the question and to people answering the correct question (with the correct meaning, before the crazy edit took place completely changing the question) and to commenters, which often go crazy in comments because they dislike the edit.

That user never edited one of my question, but I was reading a weird series of 20 comments and understood that obviously there was an issue at work and when I saw the name of the editor I thought "oh no, it's him once again".

So my question is simple: what do I do when I think that a user with 20K+ rep is acting in an unacceptable manner, frequently entering into arguments in comments with various SO users and often re-inventing questions?

In other words: what has been put in place in the SO platform to prevent people at the very top (being eligible for meta-moderator status, I don't know how you call this) from subverting the platform?

We could push the logic a bit further: why not write random question, random answers, random upvotes and then after a few days rewrite the question so that it matches the answer with the most vote?

Isn't there really a very serious issue here?

Once again, it's obviously not the first time the subject comes up, the problem is so obvious that it has prompted question here like "mark a user as not being able to edit your question" that I linked to above and it also prompted several blog entries criticizing SO.

I don't dare to flag his comments defending his own crazy edits because I'm thinking "maybe he's meta-moderator now, so he'll see my flag and start editing my own questions to make me look a stupid poster".

It's even worse than that: right now I'm thinking "but why ask question as to how to deal with this and make stackexchange a better platform, because my post may be edited anyway to completely distort my question?".

That is how bad it is. I found it (and it's just an opinion) a bit disgusting.

To make a bad analogy, it's a bit like when you give to much power to someone who turns out to be a bad cop. This is an issue. It has to be dealt with. But it is very difficult to deal with a bad cop once he's near the top of its sphere of influence.

  • 36
    Link or it didn't happen
    – juan
    Feb 24, 2010 at 12:56
  • 5
    Link! ---------
    – Pekka
    Feb 24, 2010 at 12:59
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    "My question concerns specifically someone with 20K+ rep being eligible for the "moderator" status (you could vote for him on SO as a moderator, which I didn't)." There's a difference between being a moderator and having some moderation privileges. Only diamond moderators can see flags. I think it's irrelevant that the user is 20k+. Any user with 2k rep can edit posts and this is a good thing. The number of good edits are orders of magnitude greater than the number of bad ones.
    – mmx
    Feb 24, 2010 at 13:30
  • 1
    @Downvoter: I think we should presume that there is an edit that led to this complaint, even if we are open about whether the edit is being correctly characterised. Feb 24, 2010 at 13:42
  • 8
    You have The Mighty Power Of Rollback over your own questions. Don't be afraid to use it. Feb 24, 2010 at 13:45
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    @Charles: The particular formulation of that comment is getting to be a meme around here. I suppose it is meant to be reminiscent of of "Pic or it didn't happen!" And we really do need a link before we can say much at all... Feb 24, 2010 at 13:47
  • @Old It Happened for me that too for my highest voted question...
    – ACP
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:18
  • 1
    "Isn't there really a very serious issue here?" There's no way to judge without seeing the actual instance.
    – beska
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:40
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    @Chendur - stackoverflow.com/posts/1950577/revisions - appears to have valid edits. However, if you disagree please roll back to your preferred version - Jeff has repeatedly stated that the original poster should be allowed to keep their post exactly how they like it if they assert that priviledge. However, editors will (and should, in general) modify questions to be more concise, easily understandable, and have a narrow focus. "hi" and verbose sentences are regularly removed. The core meaning of your question has not changed. Roll back or edit it if you don't like it, though.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:54
  • By my count there are 5 people who qualify for the description (I'm assuming the voting referred to is the last election). Anyone of them want to chime in and give us their side.
    – tvanfosson
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:54
  • @Chendur - but keep in mind that if you don't meet community standards (no "hi, thanks, best regards" etc and concise english) and you refuse/rollback editor help to improve your question, you may receive downvotes. If, however, you believe the meaning of the question has changed, please explain the differences in comments after you rollback or edit so others can understand you, and you can understand the reasoning of others.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:57
  • @tvan, without a link for us to review, I don't see why they should... for all we know right now, it could all be a lie
    – juan
    Feb 24, 2010 at 15:00
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    HA... Member for 27 days, one post, no associated accounts... Anyone else remember what happened here a few weeks back involving an "old enthusiast"? ;-)
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2010 at 15:19
  • @Downvoter -- presumably those 5 people would know whether they participated in a comment thread of 20 or so comments on a question they edited. All they'd need to do is say -- "here's what I think happened" or "no idea what he's talking about".
    – tvanfosson
    Feb 24, 2010 at 15:22
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    @Lance: I understand his reluctance to name names, but his claim is "this person changed the meaning of my post", and which we can no doubt get wide agreement is bad manners. But editing is fair. By design, so we have to know what incident is referred to to give specific advise. Maybe the OP is being too sensitive. Maybe the original was a little ambiguous and the editor guessed wrong. Maybe some high rep user was widely out of control and needs to be chided by his peers. No way of knowing, and each case calls for a different response. Feb 24, 2010 at 17:08

6 Answers 6


Please provide a link for us to see what you are referencing.
I doubt a moderator would act as you say, you may be misinterpreting his/her actions.

As we (mostly Jeff) always say: If you can't handle other people editing your stuff, this is not the place for you

From the FAQ

Other people can edit my stuff?!

Like Wikipedia, this site is collaboratively edited, and all edits are tracked. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your questions and answers being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

  • 12
    However, there's a difference between edits to correct spelling and grammar and edits that completely change the meaning of a post. But yes we need a link to be able to comment properly.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Feb 24, 2010 at 13:03
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    Yes, link, we need a link!
    – juan
    Feb 24, 2010 at 13:07
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    Link? I would call it evidence. We need evidence! :)
    – o.k.w
    Feb 24, 2010 at 13:59
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    @Downvoter: The fact that this very question already got +9 votes on meta and that ChrisF's comment alone got +7 vote (not including mine) shows the issue can be concerning. Basically it comes down to "what could be done vs wiki-vandalism of those with high rep". Thinking that SO cannot be enhanced is not a good answer. I think the other person asking to prevent "at most x poster from editing" is a very reasonable request. SO as a whole wouldn't be affected and you could still flag post as uneditable by people that altough have high rep you consider are not qualified to edit your posts. Feb 24, 2010 at 16:45
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    @OldEnthusiast - Jeff has repeatedly declined any feature requests that target particular users, so unless you have a better implementation this issue is dead in the water.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 22:32
  • @Old: "the fact that ChrisF's comment alone got +7 vote" is probably due to him asking for a link rather than the edit thing if you ask me.
    – fretje
    Feb 25, 2010 at 7:53

If you suspect that a question has been wrongly edited, you may use the "Flag" function, and select "Requires Moderator attention". Then you can write whatever you want about what the issue is. If a user does a lot of wrongful editing, it will be noticed by other moderators, and possible action can be taken against this user.

  • He says he doesn't want to do that for fear of revenge. (not that I think it's a rational fear)
    – juan
    Feb 24, 2010 at 13:28
  • 2
    @Downvoter If he feels he can't trust the diamond mods not to take revenge on him for suggesting something, then the community is probably a loss to him at this point.
    – C. Ross
    Feb 24, 2010 at 13:41
  • @C. Ross: I didn't know about diamond before reading Bill the Lizard's answer and your comment and said nothing about it. I've got 1500 rep on SO and I'm helping people there more than I ask question... I know what a community is but I also know that wiki-vandalism is an issue. Feb 24, 2010 at 16:54
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    @OldEnthusiast: except so far as anyone knows, it isn't an issue. Out of the countless edits that happen on SO every day, there have been only a tiny handful of complaints - and the vast majority of those have come down personal issues between editors, not anything malicious about the changes themselves.
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2010 at 17:16
  • @Old: you ain't gonna get anywhere without a link.
    – fretje
    Feb 25, 2010 at 7:54

If the person doesn't have a ♦ next to their name (like mine, but it will be blue on SO) then they can not see who has flagged their posts. They can't even see that they have been flagged unless we tell them. If the person you're talking about doesn't have ♦ moderator status (and I'm pretty confident they don't) then please flag the post so we can take a look at it. There isn't a lot we can do without looking at the specific post.

  • 6
    i know you're talking about flags for moderator attention, but i should qualify that 10k users can see how many spam and offensive flags a post has (but not who casts them)
    – Kip
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:58

I've seen post where that person changed the entire question so that it fits an answer "because then it adds value".

I've done that. The key factor is the original question not adding value by being too vague or containing contradictory information. If there are two possible and incompatible interpretations, then either the original author needs to clarify it... or someone else does. Otherwise, it might as well just be deleted: questions without answers aren't useful.

In another case, and this has been the subject of a post here on meta that generated some heat, same 20K+ rep person simply didn't understand the question. So he modified it to a question where he portrayed the user as making something illegal or questionable and the user got downvoted to oblivion. The user left SO and went ballistic on Usenet and on blogs about SO.

Heh... Ok, I think I know what you're talking about. Funny thing about that... This user decided he wanted to drag another user's name through the mud, alleging abuse on SO itself, on Meta, and elsewhere... While the revision history on the question itself tells a much different story.

Which just goes to show how big a fool you can make of yourself if you fly off the handle instead of learning to read.

the problem is so obvious that it has prompted question here like "mark a user as not being able to edit your question" that I linked to above and it also prompted several blog entries criticizing SO.

Plenty of stupid things get suggested here every day, and a good many collect far more up-votes. And ranting on random blog posts is hardly indicative of anything... Blogs are soapboxes for their authors, a place where they can spew whatever idiocy appeals to them without worrying about someone contradicting them with annoying "evidence".

Isn't there really a very serious issue here?

No, it's not. There's always a revision history, if the author has a problem with an edit he's free to quietly and with a single click revert the post to its previous state. If that's not enough, he can flag the post for review by moderators (real moderators, not the normal users you appear to have confused with moderators).

To stretch a bad analogy... It's as though cops have to perform all of their work in front of video cameras. Cameras they can't turn off or otherwise avoid. Cameras that when rewound can revert portions of the world itself to the state it was in when originally filmed.

Yeah. It's that awesome. You're livin' in the future, man...

  • 3
    It's not the future until I have a flying car, rocket backpack, automatic kitchen, and robot chauffeur.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 15:33
  • 2
    Would you settle for an automatic car, robot backpack, rocket kitchen and flying chauffeur?
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2010 at 16:00
  • Love the part about the camera but my posted has been edited... It's not mine. Feb 24, 2010 at 16:33
  • 1
    @OldEnthusiast: Goodbye. Too bad you don't like SO. I hope you find a new place to post questions - one that is not collaboratively edited. You should have read the FAQ before investing so heavily in the site. You'd have realized that your posts may be edited, and you'd have decided to post somewhere else. Feb 24, 2010 at 16:43
  • @John, wow you really don't understand what's going on here. This is an issue that has come up with some editors in the past, and needs to be addressed. Do you really think that you can have thousands of editors and not have a problem? Do some research on meta first please, and don't attack the guy for bringing up a real issue. Feb 24, 2010 at 21:06
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    @Lance: I hope you realize you're defending a troll here... ;-)
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2010 at 21:19
  • troll's don't usually put that much work into a post, but he could be one for all I know. I'm not really trying to defend him as much as attack attacking behaviour. Feb 24, 2010 at 21:38
  • Heh, well... I'll admit, this appears to be someone with time on his hands.
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2010 at 21:41
  • yeh, it's a little disconcerting that he's not associated with accounts on the other sites. Feb 24, 2010 at 21:43
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    @Lance - "troll's don't usually put that much work into a post" ROFLMAO!!! Do you, dear sir have any idea in this galaxy what a real troll is? Yeah, we bandy about the term "troll" for every little infraction, but real trolls... well, until you lock horns with one you truly won't understand how dedicated a troll can become to their 'cause'. The OP may or may not be trolling, but the effort he has put into his post is nothing in terms of how much time, energy and other resources a real troll will use to engage his prey.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 22:37
  • @Lance: I'll wait a couple of days for your apology. Feb 24, 2010 at 22:53
  • @Pollyanna, ok, I will modify my internally-kept defining characteristics of trolls for future analysis. I've only seen in the past hit-and-run type of trolling, but I'll take your word for it that there are worse. Feb 24, 2010 at 22:54
  • @John, I'm not sure why you'd wait for that, your comment is still way out of line. The OP is innocent until proven otherwise and you don't need to treat him or the very real problem he addresses as inconsequential crap. People should always be treated with respect until it's proven that they shouldn't be. Feb 24, 2010 at 22:58
  • 2
    @Lance - Stackoverflow is still fairly young. Trolls stew and get 'better' as the community ages. Further, we haven't let many really good trolls set up shop here. They start trolling pretty quickly after joining a new community, and it's easy to detect since it's so adversarial for a new member. But trolls that grow inside the community are not only harder to detect (frog in boiling water effect) but they "walk the walk and talk the talk" so they can troll in much more subtle and insidious ways.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 23:11
  • 1
    In fact, I might be a troll! ( thunder crashes in the background as lead actors look at each other in terror )
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2010 at 23:13

For what it's worth, I've often considered (but never followed through with, though I'm tempted) the editing titles of questions to more accurately reflect the underlying nature of the question.

While a title like "Why doesn't my variable change?" may be an accurate description of what the OP is really looking for, in the long term it's useless on the site. No one will ever go to that question for an answer, while a title change to "Does C# handle ++ differently than other languages?" might. (This is just a made up example.)

Of course, care must be taken, and doubtless mistakes will be made, but I think a title or content changes to make things clearer often can result in better answers and higher ratings.

Of course, it's enough of a potential flashpoint that I also generally don't do it...I stick to grammar cleanup and the like. But I could understand someone having very good intentions (and results) doing it.

  • 1
    I do this (title changes) all the time - as you say, generic titles are worthless. I've not encountered much resistance to it, and frankly wouldn't expect to - anyone who has a problem can rollback or re-edit...
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2010 at 14:49
  • @Shog9: Excellent. Thanks for the feedback. I'll be a bit more bold in my willingness to improve title meanings.
    – beska
    Feb 24, 2010 at 21:57
  • @Shog9: I expect few would even notice if you change a worthless title to a useful one...
    – SamB
    Dec 19, 2010 at 4:13

I've seen post where that person changed the entire question so that it fits an answer "because then it adds value".

As downvoter points out, the site is, by design, community collaboratively edited. If you are uncomfortable with people editing your question, this may not be the best site for your contribution.

As awe points out, the flagging system is the most appropriate way to get community elected moderators to look into the issue.

What to do when people with very high rep are completely changing the meaning of a question?

If you are worried about lashback, or don't trust the moderators, then you have two more options:

  • Post here on Meta and request broad community consensus on the action (ie, hold the moderators accountable by engaging the community)
  • Email [email protected] to bring the matter to the attention of the site owners and developers. This isn't the best option, because they do trust their moderators - if they didn't, they would have no time for development, instead spending all their time moderating petty issues.

Note that posting on meta about the specific issue will likely come to the attention of the Team, but they may not intervene until they see the community process has failed.

Generally the community process gets good (if not great) results.

You can safely post a link to the relevant questions. If there's a lashback, the community will see it.

However, be prepared for the community to disagree with your assessment. Come with an open mind.

Either way, you should not be penalized, and if you are, bring that up here.

  • 'Course, the "Post here" option won't actually work if you don't provide a link (or leave a enough of a trail for inquisitive (not to say nosy) people to find it). Feb 24, 2010 at 17:33

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