I came across a couple of dodgy edits in the review queue, both of which I rejected and both of which ended up being accepted. The two in question are here and here. (Edit: Actually, I only rejected one - the other had been accepted by the time I clicked reject.)

I rejected them for two reasons. Firstly, they are dubious with respect to validity, changing "$a\in S$" to "$a$ belongs to $S$" or making a "3" in the title a "$3$" (which means that the front page renders slower for some) are invalid in my book. Secondly, and most annoyingly, is the editing in of some generic "help me!" line. If someone added this to my post I would be pretty annoyed - you are putting words in my mouth! (This second point is the inverse of this meta question.)

So I dug a bit deeper into their editing history and it seems that there are too many such banalities to undo (my patience is short - I would much rather waste my time writing this than do something boring like that!). And so my question is this: what should be done in such circumstances? I flagged one of the edits for moderator attention, but really what can a moderator do? Should I make a comment on one of their posts telling them that this is annoying me? But that is just spamming...

• Sigh: that is why we have review audits. Some people just can't be bothered to think through whether a suggested edit is really worth approving. The ideal situation is that enough people astute like you reject those frivolous edits, and this will cause the offending user to be blocked from making further suggestions temporarily. But if the community is approving these edits, nothing much can be done. – Willie Wong Feb 13 '14 at 11:10
• I do not think that pinging an editor in order to explain why their edit was not good would be considered spamming. (In this particular case, you can also leave a link to this topic on meta - although the question you posted is about a general issue, not only about this specific case.) – Martin Sleziak Feb 13 '14 at 11:11
• @MartinSleziak It is and it isn't spamming. Perhaps I will do this and then delete the comment later. – user1729 Feb 13 '14 at 11:21
• It seems this was motivated by a hunt for Strunk& White (not that this would en-noble the act) – Hagen von Eitzen Feb 13 '14 at 18:40
• Interestingly, this user which you referred to the edits above, tried to do something similar to my questions too, he added the tag homework to my question when it was not, and even after a moderator told him what is wrong, I see he is continuing such attitude still now...perhaps such users should be banned from the website who only produce spam and do not try to contribute to the community but are only interested in personal achievements – Hawk Feb 14 '14 at 14:59
• I do get frustrated by people adding additional text such as help would be appreciated. However I can see from the link you posted that the philosophy here is different from stackoverflow which is the first site I used, so I won't edit such text out too aggressively -- thanks. – TooTone Feb 15 '14 at 15:04
• @WillieWong The flag I put on the post was declined. Should I not have flagged the post? – user1729 Feb 17 '14 at 13:08
• @user1729: I'm sorry. I was the one who declined your flag. I misinterpreted your flag. You wrote that a particular user made many useless edits, such as the examples you said in your post here. When I looked at the edit you flagged, I saw only one edit made 2 minutes after the question was asked. While useless (and surprising that someone else accepted the edit), it didn't offend. I now see that when you said they were making many useless edits, you meant to many different questions. I missed that, and declined your flag. You were right to flag the post. Keep up the good work! – davidlowryduda Feb 18 '14 at 2:51
• @mixedmath Thanks, just checking! (It was active for so long I had thought it was a deliberate decline as opposed to what you described. So I don't make the same assumption again, and because I am interested, what is the average turn over time for a flag?) – user1729 Feb 18 '14 at 9:33
• "Some people just can't be bothered to think through whether a suggested edit is really worth approving." I think that the system is partially responsible for this. I have had it happen often enough that I had to stop and think about a suggested edit or even follow the link and look at the rendered version and when I came back to reject the edit someone else had already accepted it. – Phira Feb 19 '14 at 7:19
• I will add that I think that it is very offensive to add in a "Please help" note. This fact is not at all contradictory with the tolerance for "Please help" notes here. Because the motivation for both is the respect for the author and not some strict rules how a post has to look. Also, if a user repeatedly makes bad edits, they should be permanently banned from making edits, not banned from the website. – Phira Feb 19 '14 at 7:26
• Adding the "help me" line is bad but the reason may be that edits must change a certain number of characters (six?). A perfectly valid, nay important, edit correcting a single-character, mathematically significant typo would be automatically rejected, so one has to make spurious changes to get past this check. (I add an HTML comment to the end of the post to achieve this.) – David Richerby Feb 22 '14 at 13:09

You have to pick your battles. I too am annoyed by the speed with which evidently some folks rush through the Edit Reviews. There's a threshold at which the approved edits are harmful enough (e.g. adding a "homework" tag as a favor to the OP, or removing a critical part of the presentation that expresses the OP's confusion) that I roll them back.

But many of the fairly decorative edits (that are not thorough even in that aspect) get approved before my Reject can click in, and my 2 cents explaining why the suggested edit is rejected is lost. In fact the delay writing up those explanations probably accounts for the speed with which Approve clicks go faster.

Particularly disappointing is the rare case that someone's legitimate Question gets auto-wikied because of the "help" shown by numerous incremental edits.

• I totally agree with the second paragraph, but I do not see how you get to the first sentence from it. It seems to imply that the system needs to change, not that "you have to pick your battles". – Phira Feb 19 '14 at 7:28
• @Phira: It's the daily cycle ("battles") versus campaigning for a change in the system, a "war" that appears unending. I've thought about a lock for some of the reviews, the Edit Reviews in particular, so that thoughtful Reviewers are not outgunned by a quickly clicking crowd. I can dream, can't I? – hardmath Feb 19 '14 at 10:23

Your first example looks a lot more understandable when compared with the revision history of the question; it's clear that Apurv and froggie stated editing from the same version, but froggie's edit got in first due to their having enough rep to bypass review. Thus, it looks as if Apurv had undone most of froggie's changes, when in fact those changes hadn't been present at all in the version they started editing from.

(In fact, looking at the timestamps, the two edits seem to have been submitted less than a second apart! Note that the edit history is a bit misleading here: the tooltip for the "suggested $x$ hours ago" line actually gives the approval time of the edit; you need to click through to the review page to see the time when it was proposed.)

Of course, that still doesn't excuse the apparent addition of a gratuitous "Please help!", but I suspect that line was also part of the original question, and was simply edited out by the OP during the grace period, hiding it from the revision history.

All in all, at least this specific example looks to me more like a technical / design failure of the SE editing system than than any personal failure by the editor (except maybe not editing the post enough to fix all issues, which is a problem, but alas, a very common one).

• I think you're being too charitable. The same user has added "Please help!"-style lines in other questions. I doubt that it was originally there in this case. – Potato Feb 13 '14 at 23:18
• I do not think that it is "charitable" to lay the fault at the OP's feet when there is nothing supporting this theory. Also, I hate, hate, hate the undocumented grace period, people use it to write offensive stuff and then hide all traces by changing it within 5 minutes. – Phira Feb 19 '14 at 7:32