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When users reach 1000 rep they gain the Edit questions and answers privilege. Before that, users can suggest edits, but these need to be approved by higher-rep users via the review queues (or by the OP of the post).

Now, improving the quality of questions is generally a good thing. I would argue that improving question quality adds value to the site as a whole. However, the guidelines in our Help Centre also state that:

Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged - try to make the post significantly better when you edit, correcting all problems that you observe.

and that:

Editing a post also bumps the question to the top of the homepage. Please be mindful of this and make your edits count, so that the new attention is brought to something substantial.

However, this guidance is a little vague and given that we get relatively few new questions per day, it is still possible for these edits to flood the homepage and drown out these new questions.

(In my opinion, this can be a particular problem with tag edits, where re-tagging a batch of questions can easily flood the homepage, and where tags may often be being added (again IMO) incorrectly. Tags should be used to define the topic of the question. A place, person or other entity is not necessarily the topic of a question simply because they are mentioned in it.)


So, do we need to establish more explicit guidance around editing?

We are not the first site to experience this problem. For example Aviation:SE has established some guidance to avoid similar problems recurring there. I believe that other sites have also created guidance on their meta sites.


Some questions that occur to me are:

  • Should we set an explicit upper limit on the number of edits a user should be allowed to make in a row?
  • Should there be an explicit upper limit on the number of edits a user should be allowed to make in a day?
  • Should we set a higher bar for edits to closed questions?
  • Perhaps we should require that edits to closed questions should actually address the problem that caused the question to be closed in the first place? (For example, correcting minor spelling or grammar problems in a question that was closed for being 'Too basic' probably doesn't add much value to the site)
  • Should we require that all new tags should be first discussed on meta?

This list isn't meant to be exhaustive. The community may want to include other issues relating to edits in any policy that we agree.

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    Yes. I know I got carried away today. I apologize. Once I noticed the front page was only displaying my edits, I had no incentive to stop. I made an effort to bump any new questions, to prevent their drowning in a flood of edits. But, I only noticed one new question. – Rodrigo de Azevedo May 2 at 17:44
  • @RodrigodeAzevedo I think there have been about half-a-dozen new questions in the last 24 hours, although several of them have since been closed. But that is exactly the problem I was talking about when I said we get relatively few new questions per day. It is all-too-easy for those questions to be lost when there are a lot of question edits. I have to say that I think this is the first time I have seen quite so many edits in one day! Anyway, let's see what the community thinks. – sempaiscuba May 2 at 17:55
  • It seems to me that the questions I edited turned yellow. All except one or two. Hence, a quick look at the front page should tell me if I am about to drown a new question. If I am, the new question can easily be bumped because there are always tags that can be added to make the question more searchable. In any case, binge-editing is not something that I find enjoyable on a regular basis. You may disagree. – Rodrigo de Azevedo May 2 at 18:00
  • @RodrigodeAzevedo See my point above about tag edits. And this issue has already been raised in chat – sempaiscuba May 2 at 18:02
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    SFF.SE uses a "5 in 15" policy which is that one user should only have 5 edits out of the top 15 posts on the homepage at any one time. I've never seen a mod enforce it but then, it never seems to be an issue. – creative-username May 3 at 3:59
  • These bullets should be discussed&ruled separately for (rep-farming) suggestions and/or +1k-edits (otherwise the intro para would be pretty irrelevant). As 'on hold' is gone or invisible now: is the auto-bump to RO-queue still active? Then that should also be dealt with here. Plus: suggestion reviewers (+mod) 'guidance' or stricter 'rules' (ie with 'enforcement' methods/channels)? – LаngLаngС May 3 at 7:55
  • @creative-username I think for the most part people don't really go and edit old posts en masse, it's just that occassionally someone who don't realize the negative bumping effect may come around, and the probnlem I suppose is that there's no way to notify them unless someone happens to see it while it's in progress and stops them. – Semaphore May 3 at 7:59
  • @LаngLаngС Those are pretty much the kind of things I'm looking for in an answer. I really don't know what the community view is here. I don't know what questions we should be asking, or how they should be asked. IMO, this isn't something that should just be decided on by mods. But given that there have been a few comments in chat about this recently, and given yesterday's deluge of edits I think we probably need some form of policy. The community may disagree, but we have to start somewhere. That is what this question is about. – sempaiscuba May 4 at 0:22
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    I am visiting HSE for the first time in quite a few days. Its really difficult with all these old questions, its just too many. – Stew May 6 at 8:58
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    @Stew you may prefer to browse from the /questions page with "newest" sort instead. – Andrew T. May 9 at 13:45
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    @AndrewT. Thank you, I know that option but it helps only with questions, it's hard to find new answers. – Stew May 11 at 11:41
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In answer to:

Should we require that all new tags should be first discussed on meta?

Yes, I think we should.

It's sometimes a fine line between what is useful and what isn't so I think input / thoughts from several members of the community is the best option.

My suggestion is EITHER:

(1) proposals for new tags can be made in a meta question with TWO answers (YES and NO). If the YES answer has a higher number of votes than the NO answer, the tag is approved (all downvotes should be discarded, people should simply upvote the answer they agree with),

OR

(2) proposals for new tags can be made in a meta question with ONE answer. The answer should simply say something like 'Upvote this answer if you think the tag should be approved / added, Downvote if you think the tag should not be approved / added'

If the result is a tie, then we should probably accept / add the tag if at least 5 people voted in favour of it.


Again, any comments / suggestions on modifications to this answer are welcome!

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    Good points. I believe a complete definition of the purpose of the tag system is in also order, and have made a first stab at it below. – Pieter Geerkens May 6 at 6:16
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    I think I'd add the requirement that the proposal should define the scope of the tag, and include the proposed entry for the tag wiki. That way no new tags should be created without a supporting rag wiki & usage guidance. – sempaiscuba Jun 5 at 21:38
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I'm going break this down in to different answers: (1) edit limits, and (2) discussing new tags (see my other answer).

First, in answer to:

Should we set an explicit upper limit on the number of edits a user should be allowed to make in a row?

and

Should there be an explicit upper limit on the number of edits a user should be allowed to make in a day?

YES, definitely, to both of the above.


I would propose a maximum of 10 edits in a day and a maximum of 5 in a row for posts which are more than a week old, this to apply to both questions and answers.

The above limit should not apply to or include:

  • moderators, as circumstances may make it desirable (for good of the site) for them to exceed these limits at times.
  • the editing of questions (asked within the previous seven days) by the original post author.
  • the editing of an answer (posted within the previous seven days) by its author.

Proposed penalty for violators:

  • warning message (through a comment perhaps?) for a first offence where the number of edits exceeds the limit by one.
  • one-day account suspension for other first offences (moderators could, at their discretion, increase this if the violation greatly exceeds the limit).
  • subsequent offences would incur longer periods of suspension, to be determined by the moderators.

Note:

The above edits to this post were largely prompted by LangLangC's comment below. While a case can be made for further distinctions concerning limits on editing, such as the type of edit (major text edit, adding tags, correcting minor typos), I think there would be too many grey areas for the moderators to agonize over.


Any comments / suggestions on modifications to this answer are welcome!

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    This needs differentiation, as its mainly informed by 'recent events': please be more specific about what kind of edits this means and on what type of posts (questions/answers, old/new/active). Impression: not just the two of us pretty often exceeded the number of edits per day, mainly on active anyway posts of course. So, if the above is for a rep-farming edits (ie 'suggestions')), and/or excavating old posts (&esp with minor edits, like re-tags, etc) then yes, reasonable limit (but also: what follows from violation of it?) – LаngLаngС May 7 at 14:57
  • @LаngLаngС Some good points here which I've tried to deal with in my edit. On the point what kind of edits, I think we have to leave that as it would (I think) cause the mods too many headaches (but if they think differently, their comments would be welcome). – Lars Bosteen May 9 at 11:57
  • I've been thinking about this and as long as substantial edits are done to one's own questions and answers (however "substantial" is defined) it doesn't make sense to only measure this in days. I'm sure many people only have a day a week they can come here to do things, so if they want to go over their old posts in that instance I don't think that should cause penalties. It's more a recurring poor behaviour that continues through a longer period (a few days?) that would be problematic. – gktscrk Jun 1 at 20:37
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what is a tag? When is it useful?

The site already has a very good key word search. Making every keyword a tag has several detrimental effects:

  • There are too many to search. Tags are useful when there are few enough that one can scan them for ways to further restrict a key word search.

  • There are too many to assign. If every keyword is a tag, what to do if a question has more than five key words? Should one prefer:

    • century;
    • decade-of century;
    • current country name of geographic region;
    • contemporary country name;
    • political/military leader name;
    • political/military leader political philosophy;
    • political/military leader ethnicity;
    • city name;
    • province/district/region name, and then or now;
    • one of: military, war, battle, tactics, grand-tactics, strategy, siege, infantry, cavalry, artillery, submarine, frigate, naval, ships, ship-of-the-line, galley; quinquireme, trireme, brig, sloop, brigantine, bark, encirclement, advance, retreat, defense, ...

One could go on. There are as many potential keywords as there nouns, adjectives, place names, person names, and more in the English language.

So what makes a tag system useful? When the tags are the missing keywords. The keywords that describe the question but aren't in the text. They are useful only when they are in fact the anti-keywords, and few in number. Only then can the tag system provide a means of further restricting a keyword search based on meta-information about the question that doesn't appear in the question text - and might be expected to also not appear in the text of any answer.

Let's consider an example. When is a suitable usage of the tag napoleonic-wars? If the name of Napoleon appears in the question the tag is superfluous, but probably unavoidable. However if the question is about the Peninsular Campaign, or Russian Campaign, or one of the many distinguished (or not) commanders of the period, then the tag becomes a useful way to supplement a key word search - precisely because the question text doesn't contain the name of Napoleon, but is about the era of European history that he so dominated all discussion of. There are multiple Peninsular Campaigns inn history, so tagging one with napoleonic-wars and one with american-civil-war becomes useful - and double so when neither of those phrases is in the question text itself.

Likewise there are many well-known Alexanders in history. tagging a question about one with meta-data not in the question allows setting meta-data to distinguish Alexandre Berthier, Tsar Alexanders, Alexander Hamilton, Alexander the Great (and his era), etc. Only when tags are used in this way - and only in this way - is the Tag system even worth the effort.

You may think i exaggerate. here are the recent new tags over the past few days:

  • cantral-america, 1 question & no description

  • anatolia, 1 question & no description

  • watergate-scandal, 1 question & no description

  • erwin-rommel, 5 questions

  • richard-nixon. 3 questions

  • fbi, 2 questions and no description

  • sicily, 4 questions & minimal description

  • bolshevik-chinese, 1 question and no description

  • templars 1 question

  • ww2-european-theater 68 questions no description - but a useful tag once it has desscription

  • hospitalers, 3 questions

  • *8epidemics** 2 questions and no description

  • spanish-flu 3 questions no description

  • vandals, 1 question

  • huns, 4 questions

  • goths, 6 questions no desscription

  • roman-hispania, 2 questions

  • moscow, 6 questions

  • **henrietta-maria*, 1 question

    Seriously? Who's Henrietta Maria that she gets her very own special-for-her tag?

  • charles-i 1 question no description

  • jesuits, 5 questions

  • morocco, 6 questions no description

  • nightman, 1 question and no description.

    Okay, that's useful - not. What is this supposed to even mean?

  • anti-apartheid, 1 question no description

    Having a tag apartheid wasn't enough apparently, we need one tag for each side of this question. i wonder if it's about just apartheid in South Africa 1945-1990, unofficial apartheid over a wider time frame, alleged apartheid in the Levant, pseudo-apartheid in the American South 1865-1965, or something else entirely.

  • tourism, 1 question no description

  • hong-kong, 6 questions no description

That's just the first page. The plethora of new tags with no description is telling.

So the real question is what to do with the recent user who not only insists on destroying the Home Page by flooding it with tag edits every day, but is insistent on destroying the integrity of the Tag System itself by flooding it with keywords instead of anti-key-words?

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  • Tags are also a 'curated search word' and describing not the content but the general topic/subject area (but not as meta-tag!), hence make browsing a field/topic easier (cf tabs on the left). Eg: It's possible to search for "alexander" but only with the interest in a certain one, which may be quite hampered by how search works, but facilitated by how tags work. The 'subscription' angle should not be dismissed either. – LаngLаngС May 6 at 7:18
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    @RodrigodeAzevedo - could you reconsider the tone of the comment above - I'm not sure that the adjective "bovinely" is really in keeping with our code of conduct.. At least in my opinion, the ad hominem distracts from the point you're trying to make. – Mark C. Wallace May 6 at 12:13
  • I don't think any person deserves a tag when the tags represent countries and/or periods of history, as these are broader and simpler themes to structure a question around. – gktscrk May 10 at 20:55

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