Update 1 - Enhanced with visual indicator

After further consideration including my comment to @Jason and @Pekka's same sentiment, it would not make sense to technically lock out the community from editing the initial question for a grace period. However a visual flag can be displayed to warn other users, during the grace period, that the author is still editing the question. This visual indicator would give pause to anybody who immediately wanted to start editing, or to anybody who didn't look at the time stamp to realize the author might still be in there. It would be a friendly reminder without changing any functionality, and would still trust the discretion of the members.

So instead of of putting up a fence, I'm suggesting a simple "Keep off the lawn" sign.

For an example, here's one taken from my comments:

Part of the reason I'm making this proposal is I jumped on a question [somebody else's] 42 secs into the making to correct a title, but hesitated when I noticed the short time. I caught myself about to compete with the author on edits. Indeed the question was corrected by the author seconds later.

Original - Grace period
Sometimes authors immediately have to compete against community members on their own new questions, during the initial process of creating the text and following up with some quick edits. The SO system doesn't have real-time change conflict resolution so we end up overwriting each other's changes a few times, rolling back, adding a few comments in the process, etc. before getting in sync - a bit messy and slightly frustrating at times.

Sometimes other people immediately jump into the question content for other reasons: e.g. to modify the tags, with a similar outcome.

I think it worthwhile to allow the author a moment or two of peace and quiet with their new question before other community members are allowed to jump in.

Do you think it useful to put a sliding timeout on a brand new question (e.g. 2 minutes) to allow only the author to edit its content during that time? that is evidenced to other potential editors by a visual indicator that the question is still being updated? After the first 2 minute period of inactivity by the author occurs (just on the initial question edits) that question would then be opened up to editing season forevermore no longer display the warning flag.

  • 2
    Wouldn't that increase the problem because everybody would jump in immediately and exactly after the 2 minute limit has passed?
    – Pekka
    Feb 12, 2011 at 5:47
  • @Pekka, I think it would defer the problem and not make it more pronounced, in fact diminish the issue: the author will have time to clean it up enough to his or her own taste, and that likely means less problems to pounce on by community members. It would reduce the knee-jerk reaction often caused by initial assumptions about the question, title and tags. Overall the edit trail would be cleaner in these situations.
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 5:48
  • I have seen people adding a line in the question itself saying it is being edited/a comment to the question...
    – Aryabhatta
    Feb 12, 2011 at 8:58
  • 3
    You already have the preview on the edit screen: during that time you do have your baby all to yourself. The trick is to read the preview aloud before submitting. Feb 12, 2011 at 16:14
  • 1
    I usually wait until questions are 5 minutes old and thus out of the grace period before suggesting edits. Still, if you need to revise your questions as much/often as you say, then I think you should spend more time reading over your post on the preview page, as dmckee suggested. If you have to make edits within the first 2 minutes, you probably could have made them before you posted at all. Feb 12, 2011 at 18:06
  • 1
    @Jason, the "grace period" you mentioned is exactly what I'm talking about, but enforced at a technical level. However the one big problem that would result is if the author wrote a question with malicious or controversial intent (e.g. put a swear word in the title) and nobody could edit it until the grace period ended.
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:20
  • 2
    There is already an alert. If you are editing a question and someone else submits a new revision, it pops up a note at the top that the post was modified while you were editing it.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:32
  • It might help if you provide an example or two of questions you had that had conflicting edits.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:33
  • 2
    Also, going through your question history, most of your questions have 3-4 edits done by you, and they are spaced apart by more than 5 minutes in each case. First, your usage of the site is not typical. It's not bad, but unless you can show that this feature would help a lot of people it's unlikely to be implemented. Second, a 2 minute window wouldn't change your particular usage of the site since most of your first edits take many times longer than that.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:38
  • @Pollyanna, I'd have to trace through edit histories and can come up with examples but I don't think it worthwhile here because the issue is a general one and people who frequently interact in the SE sites understand the issue and can qualify it from their own experience. My personal experiences would only add more text and noise to the general discussion because we know how the situation works. Instead I'll trust the attention paid to this question will be proportional to the communities own experience with the issue, and the question will live or die by that.
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:47
  • I've also added an example from personal experience to the question.
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 19:07
  • 1
    @Pollyanna, good point about the existing overwrite notification, and how its purpose is to work after the fact. Comparatively my request is to add an additional notification to any incoming editors that the author is still editing the question (inside the unenforced grace period) to proactively mitigate overwrites. However your comment is the best point I've seen yet as to why my proposed feature might not be necessary.
    – John K
    Feb 14, 2011 at 0:31
  • @John probably the biggest problem is the additional overhead that would be involved with the server keeping track of all the open edit windows, dealing with timeouts, people leaving windows open for hours, etc. Not terrible, but non trivial.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 14, 2011 at 2:31

2 Answers 2


It's a fair proposal, but I tend to think that if you don't want the community editing your question right away, you need to work on it until you are reasonably sure there is nothing that needs editing. I very rarely see really destructive edits from users within the first two minutes (but of course, I'll acknowledge evidence to the contrary if any exists).

There are so many questions every day that need immediate first aid that a two minute block would be very obstructing towards the flow in which content is edited, categorized, and improved.

My 2 cents

  • I thought about that too, and then I thought about how people actually tend to use the system. Maybe I'm an anomaly but I usually make style and layout edits to my question after it's posted, review it, tweak it, save it a few times in the process. Importantly I often modify it based on immediate feedback that comes in through comments, in order to clarify it.
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 6:01
  • @John absolutely, I work the same way. I sometimes apply 5-10 edits in the first few minutes. But when I do that, I have to live with the community reacting to it - if I don't want that, I need to wait until it's finished
    – Pekka
    Feb 12, 2011 at 6:04
  • @John You get comments and add clarifications in the first two minutes? Feb 12, 2011 at 6:05
  • @Michael: Two minutes is an example for illustration purposes. Although I've never measured I do find feedback arrives very quickly on SO. Part of the reason I'm making this proposal is I jumped on a question 42 secs into the making to correct a title, but hesitated when I noticed the short time. I caught myself about to compete with the author on edits. Indeed the question was corrected by the author seconds later. You wouldn't believe how fast this system is at times! Feels a bit like a first-person shooter video game. :)
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 6:06

If someone overwrites your edits, click on the "Rollback" link just below the question. Given that fixing the problem is trivial for the person asking the question there is little need for this feature.

The wiki nature of the site allows other to edit your post immediately after you post it as a feature - those first several minutes are critical for getting eyeballs on your problem, and if someone else can clarify it then you stand a better chance at getting the answer you need.

Given that few questions last more than a few minutes on the front page, people aren't going to wait around and fix questions that are written poorly if they have to delay for 2 minutes. They'll move on, the bad question will persist. In fact since they can't fix it, many will choose to downvote or close it, since that's the only action the system would allow for the first few minutes.

This feature would encourage downvoting and closing and discourage editing.

  • I agree with your points. I just updated the question to propose a visual indicator rather than strict enforcement.
    – John K
    Feb 12, 2011 at 18:34

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