152

I just attempted to fix a typo on a question on cooking.stackexchange.com and saw this

Oops! Your edit couldn't be submitted because:

  • Your edit summary must be at least 10 characters
  • This edit is less than 6 characters; surely more can be improved with your edit?

So, misspelled words have to just be left misspelled? That could prevent the post from being found in a search.

  • 1
    (See also the screen captures as How does peer review for edits work?.) – Arjan Jan 31 '11 at 14:32
  • 4
    Agreed - I ran into that limit when trying to make a small bug fix to code (3 chars). Since the the warning encouraged that "surely more can be improved with your edit", I took the time to also add a variation of the code someone had asked about in the comments. Later, I noticed the post had the bug fix, but not the code variant. – Bert F Jan 31 '11 at 14:32
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/74430/…. Though that one talks less about the actual implemented limit. – Grace Note Jan 31 '11 at 14:33
  • 69
    What is with all these stupid policies on Stack Exchange sites? No voting more than once every 5 seconds, no changing votes, no making minor edits. I'm trying to fix a one-character typo in someone's code that would prevent it from working correctly, and the page has refused my edit 3 times in a row. "Edit summary too short." "Edit too small." Fine, I won't bother! Why waste my time working around all these stupid restrictions? These seem to be implemented as band-aids with little forethought and do more harm than good. – endolith Feb 1 '11 at 16:11
  • 5
    @endolith, many restrictions were introduced after some folks managed to abuse the freedom. – Arjan Feb 2 '11 at 11:43
  • 10
    @Arjan: And many commenters agree that the "solution" does more harm than good. Is the goal of the site still to provide and identify good answers to questions? – endolith Feb 2 '11 at 19:14
  • 7
    @endolith a civilized society requires laws; remember that we allow anonymous internet users to participate, too. The idea that the time you spent on a trivial edit is more important than the two (2) editors' time who must look at, review, and approve your trivial edit.. well, it's a common misconception. – Jeff Atwood Feb 6 '11 at 4:01
  • 9
    When I cannot edit a post because of this annoying 6 characters limit, I usually just link one of the words to Wikipedia. I think it's pointless and it actually takes more time for moderators to review the edit, but that's often the only way a post can be edited. – laurent Feb 4 '12 at 1:56
  • 19
    The length of an edit is a poor correlator to the substantiality of the edit in a field where a single character is the difference between code that compiles or not, works or not, bugs out or not. – Core Xii May 20 '12 at 13:47
  • 4
    @CoreXii - you're wasting your time. As someone else pointed out, nothing will change Jeff's mind on certain topics. – Dan Dascalescu Mar 21 '13 at 8:00
  • 2
    You are encouraged to clutter the page with a comment, so someone with enough rep can then come and fix the issue – user148312 Aug 23 '13 at 2:11
  • 2
    This is the quintessential example of punishing the majority because of a few bad apples. There's always a better way. I'm amazed this hasn't changed in the last 5 years. Incredible. – Aaron Mahan Jan 10 '17 at 9:23
  • @JeffAtwood "The idea that the time you spent on a trivial edit is more important than the two (2) editors' time who must look at, review, and approve your trivial edit.. well, it's a common misconception." What a bizarre way to look at this issue. What about the future readers who come across the question or answer? Do you think they're "important" enough to warrant editors' time? – user76284 Oct 22 at 21:10
129

This rule only applies for peer-edits. If you have enough rep to edit you can make a single character change.

However, I would suggest this rule should be eliminated. Many times there is only a single change that is needed.

  • 5
    (The first sentence is correct.) – Arjan Jan 31 '11 at 14:35
  • 14
    The first sentence is correct, but please, please leave this in place. Such minor changes are overwhelming the moderators and high level users. – C. Ross Jan 31 '11 at 14:49
  • @Arjan, thanks for the confirmation. I have now updated the answer. – jzd Jan 31 '11 at 14:53
  • 3
    @c.Ross, Just so I can understand better, how do the peer edits overwhelm the moderators or high level users. I have accepted a couple of peer edits and they save me time because they are changes I would have made myself. (Some where very small). – jzd Jan 31 '11 at 14:55
  • 23
    @C.: Is it less overwhelming if the high rep users have to do all those edits themselves? Or do you want to say we'd be better off without having those errors fixed? – sth Jan 31 '11 at 15:02
  • @jzd It shows up at my top bar with a large number of proposed edits I have to wade through. @sth I would say that the typos are not worth barraging your moderators with. I'm not sure what it will be like with High Rep users included. – C. Ross Jan 31 '11 at 17:39
  • @C. Ross, that is strange I don't see it. However I only have 3000 rep. – jzd Jan 31 '11 at 17:53
  • @jzd It's either 10k or 20k. – C. Ross Jan 31 '11 at 18:03
  • 11
    @C.Ross, I think the real problem is that not enough people are able to see the list of pending edits, and that the list is getting in your way - not that there are too many pending edits. – Ian Ringrose Feb 4 '11 at 16:34
  • 7
    @Box9 - Yes, it's faster for the >2k users to fix an issue themselves. But, that presumes that they notice it and care enough in the first place. Allowing <2k users to suggest these edits helps bring them to light where they might otherwise go unaddressed. – Iszi Feb 11 '11 at 21:41
  • 2
    Can peer-edit privileges carry over among the various sites? Surely if I have enough reputation on SO to access all privileges (20k-plus) I can be trusted to not make improper edits on other SE sites where I might be new. – matt b Jun 17 '11 at 0:45
  • 2
    I understand that they don't carry over today. I was suggesting that perhaps they could/should. – matt b Jun 17 '11 at 15:38
  • 2
    Since I don't have enough reputation to upvote, I need to express my support for the suggestion to eliminate the "minimum 6 character change" rule in a comment. See? – kynan Sep 13 '11 at 11:52
  • 3
    This rule is just nuts. In a programming question it's easy to make a 1 char mistake, or misspell a mentor's name or an acronym. That is essential to fix, but all else shall be left alone – Balog Pal Jun 6 '13 at 12:34
  • 3
    I'd suggest changing this restriction for code blocks. I just lost ten minutes googling for a "cone" function which should have been "cond". I'm not allowed to fix this so that the (otherwise very good) code example given would compile, which unfortunately makes an excellent answer much less useful. – Conan Mar 10 '14 at 11:41
57

As a < 2k rep user, you should make reasonably substantive edits. The approval cost for your edit is not free, as it costs the attention of one or more users who have to look at your edit and think about it. This cost is high for extremely trivial edits.

This will not be changing.

If you want to make single-character trivial edits, earn 2k rep.

35

If it's so important for moderators to look at large edit suggestions as a priority then show the suggested edits sorted by size. Then they will be reviewed whenever there are no larger edits to review.

If it's important to review edits made by non-anonymous first, then sort them by reputation and put the anonymous at the very end. Can't you fix the actual problem you are trying to fix rather than blow away the whole leg?

When I can't make such an edit I just find myself saying "f*ck this" and go do something that's actually fun and rewarding.

  • 6
    when it comes to suggesting edits, go big, or go home. That's my philosophy. Home is nice too. – Jeff Atwood May 9 '11 at 11:18
  • 24
    @Jeff: What steps have you undertaken to find out whether your philosophy does more good or more harm? – Timwi May 9 '11 at 13:54
  • 15
    @Jeff. A small number of characters can still be a big edit. Today I saw an are which should have been an or. That's big. It matters. It really hurts readability. It's three characters. – TRiG Aug 3 '11 at 0:44
  • @trig and everything else in the post was so perfect that it could not also be improved? – Jeff Atwood Aug 3 '11 at 1:15
  • 8
    @Jeff Speaking for myself here: while everything else may not be perfect, I do not wish to do that extra editing just to fix the are->or. So you get a "f*ck it" from me and the "are" remains. Which I'm sure you're perfectly happy with. – RomanSt Aug 3 '11 at 10:58
  • 4
    @rom if you want to make bit-twiddling pointless edits, earn 2k rep for the privilege to do so. Suggested edits take time from peers to review them, so they are held to a higher standard. – Jeff Atwood Aug 3 '11 at 11:02
  • 17
    @JeffAtwood: The problem with this philosophy is it encourages people to fix non-problems. If the sentence is "Do you prefer apples are oranges?" and the only real problem is s/are/or/, then someone will change it to "Do you like apples or oranges better?" Which isn't really an improvement (except for the s/are/or/), adds noise, and actually detracts from the statement. I know I'm guilty of fabricating "fixes" (after reading the entire post and coming up short on real ones) so that my real fix looks substantial enough to get through the silly filters. – Flimzy Sep 27 '11 at 15:15
  • 2
    @flim in my experience, it causes users to think about improving the whole post rather than getting tunnel vision about some tiny trivial thing. – Jeff Atwood Sep 27 '11 at 15:53
  • @JeffAtwood: I'm sure that is true more often than not. :) – Flimzy Sep 27 '11 at 15:55
  • 9
    @JeffAtwood: I've tried the "improve the whole post" method, but my edit was rejected because "it changed the original answer too much". As for asking people to get 2K rep to fix a typo - that will miss the vast majority of small edits made by the long tail of users with less than 2K rep. I'm sure you're familiar with the 1% rule. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 25 '13 at 4:09
  • 1
    I hate to review edits that miss some obvious formatting or other improvements for the sake of spelling mistakes. If you can't improve a whole answer/questions, don't edit it. I see too many of these on SO. – Jonathan Drapeau Jul 29 '14 at 13:29
22

I dislike Jeff's expecting only 'significant' edits (for his definition of significant), i.e., he encourages us by saying 'if it's a trivial [in his view] fix, have a look and fix more stuff, etc.' for various reasons.

I usually only want to fix the substantive errors. I've worked in translation, for instance, and when correcting there, I always did my best to avoid changing the sense/meaning and personal style, while correcting real mistakes. I don't like over-editing someone else's question; I think it's rude.

However, 'trivial' is very subjective, as has been pointed out. Errors in the code blocks can be trivial, but irritating. For instance, I wanted to edit a code block, where the closing-brace was mis-formatted and not inside that actual code-block, so any copy-pastes would be syntactically wrong.

Sure, it's not much to fix once copied (assuming you can figure that out yourself; after all this site is about helping people who don't know things), but if it's copied dozens of times, the added-up waste of time is significant.

Anyway, overall, I just don't like the attitude that a site full of minor errors, spelling mistakes, accidental type-misnamings, so that the whole answer makes no sense, etc., etc. is acceptable. To me is just makes the overall quality crap.

Obviously Jeff disagrees, but it seems to me a bit of what his personal view is, rather than (in my view) what benefits the site. Everyone's different; personally I enjoy going around fixing minor errors, spelling mistakes, etc. Eventually, hopefully I'll get the rep and can just go around doing it to my heart's content.

I would have thought, as people have said, there is a way to fix the problem, not just say 'I don't think it's a problem, therefore it isn't'. There are plenty of options; maybe allow edits and everyone else can vote on whether to apply them (then they won't need to 'waste' the mod's time.) And maybe that's not trivial (sic.) to develop, but various ideas have been put forward and it seems it's more that Jeff doesn't want 'pointless edits'.

I don't mean anything against Jeff; it's a fabulous site on the whole. It's just something that happens to bug me a lot as it suggests an undertone of 'look, do something useful, or just f**-off, ok?', which isn't in the spirit of collaboration, to me. I gave up editing Wikipedia a long time ago...

  • ...maybe allow edits and everyone else can vote on whether to apply them... This already exists. It was implemented early last year I believe. You don't need to be a mod to participate, but you do need 5000 rep. – raven Apr 7 '12 at 15:00
  • Well, I'm too evil to even be allowed to see that page. It doesn't really even say what it's for, but appears to be about Wiki tags. Ah looking at it, general editing seems to have been tacked on the end of Wiki edits- not at all obvious. And anyway, you need even more rep to be allowed to do this, so that's no use. I was meaning that anyone might be able to vote on a page edit, and then, say, if 10/20/whatever people agree, it's added, or something. Hopefully would avoid gratuitous abuse, and avoiding bothering 'mods'. Ok, I'm using the term 'mod' in the looser sense of 'trusted'. – nicodemus13 Apr 7 '12 at 15:13
  • 3
    I wonder why Jeff is so unbelievably myopic on this particular issue. – Dan Dascalescu Feb 25 '13 at 4:10
  • 3
    @DanDascalescu Because I respect other people's time. The right to make a 1 character change is earned at 2k rep. Otherwise, suggested edits absorb the time of three users: the person whose post you are editing, and the two reviewers. Trivial, tiny suggested edits are not respectful of other people's time. – Jeff Atwood Feb 25 '13 at 22:45
  • 2
    The downside is that there are a lot of 'trivial' errors, some of which can affect the meaning of what's written. Also, I personally find minor spelling/ grammar errors irritating. :) – nicodemus13 Feb 26 '13 at 13:53
  • 3
    @nicodemus13 - you're wasting your time. As someone else pointed out, nothing will change Jeff's mind on certain topics. – Dan Dascalescu Mar 21 '13 at 8:02
  • I hate to review edits that miss some obvious formatting or other improvements for the sake of spelling mistakes. If you can't improve a whole answer/questions, don't edit it. – Jonathan Drapeau Jul 29 '14 at 13:27
  • 1
    @JeffAtwood "Because I respect other people's time." ... and therefore you waste the time of volunteer contributors who are trying to fix errors, and then waste the time of thousands of readers who encounter those uncorrected errors? – endolith Jun 24 '15 at 19:06
7

I'm going to agree with Jeff here. Perhaps a little explanation would show why allowing trivial edits is a bad idea.

  1. Currently, approved edits are rewarded with rep. Allowing 1-character edits will result in every spelling mistake being fixed separately, since you earn more rep that way. This will fill up the review queue and give undue privileges to people who know some English grammar, but nothing about the topic.

  2. Not giving rep for suggested edits won't help much: people will still be able to submit trivial edits (and have no incentive to do better), so the review queue would still get much more work than it does now.

  3. Not reviewing suggested edits (which would help with the review queue) is not an option because of spam. Actually, even current review mechanism is not always enough, and massive amounts of review material will only encourage people who are doing faux reviews in order to get their badges.

  4. Which leaves (among the options I can think of) the option of simply forbidding edits for users below 2K. Since current suggested edits system does bring in some improvements, that change would be a net negative.

I can understand how unpleasant the current system may be for users who want to contribute something but are told to go home. But you have to understand there's a price for everything: make rules more lax and you'll get 10 times more spelling mistakes fixed, but also 10 times more spam links, and 10 times more "experienced users" with upvote and review privileges, who will upvote crap for review badges.

So yes, sometimes misspelled words have to just be left misspelled, until someone comes up with a better way to separate good edits from bad edits.

1

There seems to be one strong point so far not being made in this thread. My apologies if I missed it in one of the comments.

A large bulk of the rejected edits due to sufficient reputation points are as stated many times, misspellings.

Why can't Stack Overflow implement an automated edit approval by algorithm as follows?:

  • Examine edit
  • Was it a single word edit?
  • Yes. Apply previous word form to a spell checker. Apply the corrected form to the spell checker.
  • Did the first word form fail the spell checker and the second form succeed?
  • Yes, approve the edit.
  • Bonus confidence points in the edit if the stated edit reason has the word in it along with the word "misspelling".

It is so disconcerting to attempt a single word edit, get it rejected, only to see the errant word highlighted as misspelled by the browser based edit window with a red underline!

We live in a world right now where advanced chat-bot driven auto-dial apps are calling people on the phone and having (annoying) conversations with them via speech recognition interfaces. Surely the mighty Stack Overflow site can implement this almost trivial algorithm? Especially since its implementation doesn't even require a paid API to implement, given the proliferation of open source spell checker packages for most of the major languages?

0

Fine, so change the bloody help on the side. I'm staring at

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► clarify meaning without changing it

► correct minor mistakes

That direct encouragement of average users to contribute is a lie. Jeff Atwood, do you ever stop to think how much time and goodwill you burn through by leaving it at the side of the page for editors without "2k rep" as some kind of a cruel joke?!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .