# Don't throw the baby out with the bath water when rejecting suggested edits.

Several hours ago I suggested eight edits to posts that I thought could use a little bit of improvement. A few hours later I came back to find that all eight of them had been rejected by the same user and for the same reason.

This edit is too minor; suggested edits should be substantive improvements addressing multiple issues in the post.

Now I've lost the ability to suggest edits on other people's posts. Here are the eight suggested edits.

I understand that these edits aren't absolutely essential to understanding the posts, but I do think each one is an improvement. I don't see any reason that all of them should have been rejected.

I also understand that "bumping" old posts is an issue on some smaller sites (as discussed on Approving Suggested Edits). With over 50,000 questions now, I don't think this should be a concern any longer for Math.SE. Regardless, I kept the number of edits low, and I suggested them on Sunday morning when traffic on all SE sites is low. Bumping a few posts at this time of the week really shouldn't be an issue.

• Have you lost all editing powers or just for a while? How does that work? (Suggested edits didn't came effective until I was well able to edit on my own, so I am unfamiliar with the process from that side) – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 20:59
• @AsafKaragila I'm sure it's only temporary. I'm not sure how long it lasts though... a week to 10 days? – user489 May 20 '12 at 21:11
• I suspect that many of our readers would be irked if 8 very old posts on pi approximations were simultaneously bumped to prime locations on the front page due to very minor nonmathematical edits (in a 15 minute interval). If many users did likewise, we've have serious problems getting proper front-page exposure where it is deserved (e.g. new questions and answers, and nontrivial edits). – Bill Dubuque May 20 '12 at 21:18
• @BillDubuque That's a slippery-slope argument, but I already pointed out that I made these edits during what should have been the lowest traffic time of the week. Regardless, it's duly noted that these edits are too trivial. – user489 May 20 '12 at 21:24
• @user489 My point is that if all of those edits were approved then, seeing that, other users might infer that en masse typo fixing is ok (or encouraged). This could lead to said problems (and it has occasionally in the past). – Bill Dubuque May 20 '12 at 21:52
• Make one edit a day, instead of 8 in one morning, and the problem goes away. By the way, you do realize that when it's Sunday morning for you, it may not be Sunday morning for me, right? – Gerry Myerson May 20 '12 at 23:52
• BtL, you haven't spent much time here, and I don't know you from a hole in the wall. Maybe you actually know that when it's Sunday morning at some location known to you but otherwise unspecified, traffic on all SE sites is low, or maybe you're just making stuff up as you go along. I'll take your word for it that it's the former, not the latter, and that your answer to my question is, "yes". But what do you think of my main point, the one about making one edit a day, instead of 8 in a brief span? – Gerry Myerson May 21 '12 at 5:22
• I should add, that when it's Sunday morning for you guys - the good folks of Israel are going to work and start their week. – Asaf Karagila May 21 '12 at 6:37
• All in all, this strikes me as very strange. BtL is a mod over at SO and happens to be the person who wrote one of my favorite gag questions (Skeet facts). I didn't realize that the communities were so different. – davidlowryduda May 21 '12 at 17:29
• @mixedmath, are you saying that if I went over to SO, whatever that is, and made a large number of trivial edits on old posts on a Sunday morning, whenever that is, that my edits would be welcomed, and not rejected? – Gerry Myerson May 22 '12 at 1:12
• @Gerry: I would be surprised if any community welcomed trivial edits. But I also have come to expect that moderators have a good hold on the community. And I mean stackoverflow (SO), another SE site. Although he changed his name, his info there indicates that he is an avid user and moderator. But I don't want to get away from the fact that I do not support trivial edits. – davidlowryduda May 22 '12 at 4:09
• Interestingly enough, Bill decided to delete his MSE account after this discussion... – Asaf Karagila May 22 '12 at 21:58
• Is it feasible for there there be a "minor edit" option that doesn't bump the edited question? – Hurkyl Sep 8 '12 at 8:33
• @Asaf Karagila: thanks for pointing out the thing I’ve been going to ask. It is sad and astonishing, given that this guy got a respectful reception and substantive discussion, not “shut up or get out of our site, you, impoverished loiter” approach they could face at many, if not most, SE sites. – Incnis Mrsi Dec 8 '14 at 17:47
• Alright, here's my issue with this whole thing. Who even reads the front page? I personally prefer to search for questions and rarely care about front page exposure. Honestly, I think that shouldn't be a good reason to reject edits. Edits should only be rejected if they ignore blatant issues in the post, or if they actually damage the post. Otherwise, rejecting them only serves to hurt the editor and discourage improvement. – The Great Duck Jan 28 '17 at 0:41

For what it's worth, I would have rejected all but one of the edits too. The most common thing that I saw in the edits was changing pi or Pi to $\pi$ and changing n to $n$. While in general I like the look of $\TeX$, I think that the purpose of texing things is to improve readability. It's a big pain to decide whether int_0^1 |sin(2x)|dx = cos(2x)|_0^1 is true or false simply because it's a pain to parse. But reading pi or n instead of $\pi$ or $n$ is no easier.

Conceivably, I wouldn't be surprised if someone approved those edits (i.e. edits of pi to $\pi$) if the post were, say, one of the 5 most recent posts. But even then, I'd still reject them as too minor.

WRT some of the other edits: on one, you accidentally took n to \$\$, having forgotten the n inside the dollars. You took away the 'this isn't a crank' on one - which I would advise against. We edit for readability, not to change content. The link to Newton's method would have been a great comment.

There was one edit in which you corrected an it's to an its. That's a fine edit, and I would have approved that one.

• Most of the edits did start with changing pi to π, but I did make other improvements. I did notice later that I screwed up and left the n out of $n$. That was only one edit on that post and should have been improved, not rejected. Adding a link should be part of the post, not just a comment. That really shouldn't have been rejected either. The 'this isn't a crank' preamble is something that definitely should have been edited out. It adds nothing to the post. These posts are not as good as they could be because the edits were rejected. – user489 May 20 '12 at 22:12
• @user489: "This isn't a crank question" adds a bit, it tells me that while the question may sound crank the user honestly wants an answer. Some topics in mathematics are attractive for cranks (as a recent incidence on the site shows) which come to ask questions just to "stir up the conversation" or so. I suppose you would be in favor of removing "Thank you" from messages too? (There seem to be a consensus here, by the way, is that these can stay even if they add nothing.) – Asaf Karagila May 21 '12 at 22:00

Let me avoid the actual issue I read in the post, and give my opinion on what I think is the actual issue:

1. The fact that the main page has a short-lived period (e.g. at time of posting the last post on the front page is from two hours ago) means it is essential not to flood with edits.

2. Seven consecutive edits make a bad impression, and they sorta clog the front page for a bit. It would have been better to propose edits to two or three posts each time. This is worsen by the fact that some/most of these edits are of posts over six months old.

3. Mass editing, especially minor editing, of dead threads looks completely like an attempt to game an Archaeologist badge. Even if this is not the case here, this is how I'd look at it if I would have seen these edits (at least in first glance)

• I already addressed the perceived "flooding the main page" issue in the question. I only made a few edits at an extremely low-traffic time of the week for just this reason. Badges are there for a reason. If suggesting edits to old posts was something we wanted to discourage then the badge for it wouldn't be there. Regardless, I didn't make nearly enough edits for the badge, so this obviously wasn't my motivation. – user489 May 20 '12 at 21:09
• @user489, I acknowledge that and I far from point any finger towards you. I do have to say that "what SE admins want" need not coincide with "what local communities want". – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 21:11
• Threads are never "dead". When considering posting a question, one looks to see if it's appeared before, and if it appear 86 years ago and has a good answer, then one learns from reading the answer. And why shouldn't people pursue an "Archeologist" badge in that way, if it improves those old questions? – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 22:02
• @Michael, so you suggest that gaming the system for badges is a good thing? – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 22:24
• "Gaming the system" is not an appropriate term here. If you take calculus in order to put a high GPA on your resume and then forget about the subject, while being unwilling to understand anything in the subject except what you think will be on the test, that's gaming the system, and is immoral. But making contributions here, and getting badges that can't be deposited in the bank and probably won't help on anyone's CV is quite a different thing. – Michael Hardy May 20 '12 at 22:45
• @Michael: Gaming the system is when you have some sort of gain. Not all gain is materialistic. The point behind the reputation and badges system is to encourage us to get them. Some people only really care about feeling good when they get upvoted and when they get badges. Some people would go a long way to get the harder badges: Taxonomist, Archaeologist, Reviewer, etc. Why? Because it makes you feel good. If feeling good is not some sort of "gain" I don't know what is. – Asaf Karagila May 21 '12 at 6:39
• @Michael: I'm sorry, I know this is not the point, but "If you take calculus in order to put a high GPA on your resume": what's the color of the sky in the alternate reality in which this scenario is set?!? – Pete L. Clark May 21 '12 at 19:18
• @PeteL.Clark : Blue, last time I checked. Which reality do you live in? – Michael Hardy May 21 '12 at 21:25
• @Pete, at my university we have a lot of Business students who took Calculus in high school in China, and already know most of what's in our lowest level Calculus class. They take it anyway, just to improve their GPA. We can't stop them, and as it beefs up our enrolment figures we have some incentive for not trying to stop them even if we could. – Gerry Myerson May 22 '12 at 1:07
• @Gerry : If they know calculus, they're not the sort of person I was referring to. I meant those who angrily refuse to understand calculus on the grounds that they don't have to, in order to get an "A+" in the course. And that is true: they don't. If they're not there in order to understand calculus, they're not who I'm there for. That sort is often found among business majors (not that there aren't also good people among business majors; there are). – Michael Hardy May 22 '12 at 2:12
• @Michael, sorry to continue the off-topic discussion, but if you wish to discourage students from refusing to understand calculus, can't you write the exam in such a way that it's impossible to get that A+ without demonstrating some understanding? – Gerry Myerson May 22 '12 at 12:54
• @Gerry : Yes, one can do that. Your comment is naive and silly. – Michael Hardy May 22 '12 at 13:02
• @Gerry: Interesting. Perhaps then I should have asked "In which direction does the water spiral in your toilet bowl?" FYI, at every (North American) university I have ever been involved with, calculus is a notorious GPA-killer. (Also, most freshman calculus students I have taught have "taken calculus in high school", and it was a nontrivial matter to get them to realize that this was not going to give them some kind of inside track to a high grade.) – Pete L. Clark May 22 '12 at 17:22
• Gaming of badges isn't necessarily a bad thing, given that badges are gamification concepts to begin with. As long as there is not a detrimental impact on the site to begin with, it's ok. – casperOne Oct 20 '12 at 16:26
• @casperOne: Editing six-eight old posts and bumping them all at once is a bad thing. – Asaf Karagila Oct 20 '12 at 17:06

I want to bring up again the suggestion to have pre-assigned "spring-cleaning" days where people answer/edit/close old questions in a concerted effort.

The "clogged first page" is understandable, but I think that it is overrated because it assumes that most first-time visitors come in at the front page and not at some old google-linked question with horrid typesetting.

Occasionally, I google something Latex-related and recently, I have started to notice that the good answers are more and more on the Tex.se site, and they are old.

I would also be rather hesitant to reject good-faith edits without trying to ping the editor. (For example, accept one and comment it with a link to this thread, say.) I think that it is a big problem that minor edits are not encouraged by the system and I don't see why a reviewed edit has to bump a post at all.

Spring-cleaning days would be a good compromise in my opinion.

• The problem with waiting is that the edit do not get "assigned". Other users can come and approve/reject while you wait for the answer; other users will come and do that. – Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 22:26
• A point worth emphasizing is that the suggested edit review process could be modified to vet a minor-edit-with-no-bump. Perhaps it would need to be approved by a few folks, to ensure against vandals working in collusion. Has anything like this been proposed on MSO? – Bill Dubuque May 20 '12 at 22:30

Here's my idea for how to minimize the problem of "flooding the front page with old questions": For each suggested edit that deserves to be approved, open a tab in the browser. Then approve the edits in quick succession, so that they get almost the same time stamp. Then on the front page one sees a group of questions with the same user card, and in my opinion it becomes obvious that some editing has happened here (as opposed to new content being added).

My experience on TeX.se with this approach is very good. (Of course the group of questions should be small; 8 may be too much.)

I agree with nearly all of the edits listed above by Bill the Lizard. I would have approved all but of them, and I'd have approved most of what he did in that one. "This edit is too minor" would be an inane reason to reject an edit even if the edits were too minor.

I would not have crossed out the part that begins by asking the reader not to dismiss the post as the act of a "crank". Rather I'd have commented on it in an answer. The question we were asked not to dismiss as that of a crank was in fact a good question.

If someone writes about the "compliment of a set" (with an "i"), I would change it to "complement" (with an "e") and point out that the "e" is the same letter that appears in that position in the word "complete", and the complement of something is that which makes it complete.

Is that "too minor"?

• I think you might be straddling a fence here. For example, you $were$ the last person to edit this question, and you did not do all the things that Bill the Lizard wanted to do. I think you showed the appropriate amount of editing when you first edited it. – davidlowryduda May 20 '12 at 22:08
• @mixedmath "I think you showed the appropriate amount of editing when you first edited it." That doesn't make any sense at all. If anything, my edits should have been included at the time of the earlier edit, not left out. – user489 May 20 '12 at 22:14