I like to feel that I am helping others by providing answers to questions and situations that are bothering them.

I tend to write conversationally. When helping people in person, I usually end by wishing them luck.

Yet, when I write "Good luck" in an answer here, for some reason it is often edited out.

Why is that? What is the value in editing out an honest wish for the questioner? How does removing the phrase "Good luck" make this a better community?

  • 1
    see: What should I keep out of my posts and titles? (MSO faq-proposed): 'I've recently been editing out things such as "hope this helps" and "good luck" from posts...'
    – gnat
    Nov 8 '13 at 13:46
  • 2
    @gnat - yup. I guess "Good luck" is like "hope this helps", and is thus verboten. I'd thank you for pointing this out, but apparently that's frowned upon. ;-) Nov 8 '13 at 14:03

Let's Build an Encyclopedia

The goal of Stack Exchange is to form an encyclopedia of knowledge that's helpful to future visitors for years to come, using a Questions and Answers format, and every time you post a question or an answer, you're planting a seed that helps grow that knowledge. It's important to recognize that most of the people who visit Workplace SE aren't people with actual accounts. Instead, they're people with real problems who typed that problem into the Google search box and landed on one of our posts.

We never see these people nor do we directly interact with them, but they're there, watching everything we do and soaking up the knowledge we've built here. Many who create accounts know the rules just from watching us interact in comments, and the new users who know the rules are more likely to become avid users with 200+ reputation.

We're showing new users we're a Q&A site, not a forum

Some people may think of this as a forum because many questions feel like they could be a discussion. But forums are nasty places. Before Stack Exchange, I remember digging through noisy threads, oftentimes not finding my answer until page 18, 1/2 way down the page, after filtering out all of the "I have the same problem too" messages and other noise. Forums are actually just random snapshots of the Internet at a specific point in time. All those grammar errors, spelling issues, and clarity problems are forever stuck, forcing all future readers to go through the same steps that others went through in trying to find answers.

But it's important we fight the urge to delve into the discussion because it gives those future visitors the wrong idea. Eventually, some of those future visitors will decide that Workplace SE has helped them so much that they want to give back, and we want them to hit the ground running. If there's too many conversational elements in answers, users may not realize we're not a forum.

The easiest new user to deal with is one who already has an understanding of how the site works. Users who don't have that understanding, even when dealt with gently, may throw their hands up in frustration and leave. In fact, if you read posts from 1 rep new users, there's just something that feels different about those posts. They're sloppier, don't have good whitespace, and just contain a lot of aspects that one might expect to see on a forum, not an encyclopedia of knowledge.

Why do we remove noise

The information above about new user adoption is just one reason to avoid being too conversational in posts, but the other reason is to filter out noise. All of those greetings, salutations, thank you's, and other taglines tend to take up space and create clutter, not in the database :D), but on the actual page. They take up valuable screen real estate. Most of the people visiting this site see ads; they don't have the same experience as avid users, where Stack Exchange filters those out for users who create content. Just view the site in incognito mode to see what random visitors see.

Oftentimes, these taglines, greetings, or thank you's are put on their own lines. Which means we've introduced more whitespace and pushed more content down the page, making users have to scroll in order to see the big picture.

In questions, greetings are the worst, because they take up room on the front page, pushing out all of the important stuff. Imagine what the front page would look like if every post title was "Plz help!" or "Help m1" or "HEEEELLLPPP!" followed by more noise that tells us nothing about the actual problem. In short, this is also about making it easy for our community to moderate posts by maximizing our ability to properly vet questions and answers.

So should we edit this stuff out

I tend to take the approach of only intervening if there's a problem. If you look at my answers, I've probably included "Hope this helps" or something similar, but I try to make it a point of not putting that on it's own line so I don't take up unnecessary vertical space on the screen. If someone edits it out, so be it. I'd rather err on the side of less noise than more noise. But to maximize the use of space, you could just include it on the same line and know that if it gets edited out, just let it go. Less noise is always better than more noise. Hope this helps!

  • 4
    "Hope this helps!" - I see what you did there... :-) Nov 8 '13 at 16:04
  • You are more awesome than me.
    – enderland
    Nov 8 '13 at 16:20

You might be interested in this post from the main SE site meta.

Particularly this answer on a question which is a duplicate.

  • 1
    Those pretty much dealt exclusively with salutations in questions rather than well-wishes in answers. If the rule is "no friendliness in answers - just answer and don't put any personality into it" I guess I can accept it, if not agree that it's a wise rule. I don't make the rules - I just seek to understand them... Nov 8 '13 at 12:54
  • @JoeStrazzere for what it's worth, I've edited out a ton of salutations in questions and none in any of your answers ;)
    – enderland
    Nov 8 '13 at 14:58
  • I understand. I'm just trying to increase my understanding of the rules here. Even after being here a while, I still find it uncomfortable to have my answers edited by others. I'd prefer to avoid friendly phrases in the first place if that's what is necessary, rather than having them edited out after the fact. If I were king, I'd rule differently. But I'm not, so as a humble member of the masses, I try to comply. Nov 8 '13 at 15:05
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere what made me get more used to the idea personally is thinking about Stack Exchange more like Wikipedia than a forum. Your answers are generally good enough I never really feel the need to edit them, though :)
    – enderland
    Nov 8 '13 at 15:26
  • Yup, thanks. I understand, but don't really agree. What makes Stack Exchange unlike Wikipedia are the names attached to questions and answers here, as well as the "gamification/scoring" attached. Again, this isn't the way I'd do things, but it's not my site. Nov 8 '13 at 15:43
  • @JoeStrazzere agree that personal attribution ("attached names") calls for somewhat different editing philosophy than that at Wikipedia. Similar to theirs, as editing is considered "core, fundamental Stack Exchange value", but still, not exactly the same
    – gnat
    Nov 8 '13 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Joe, it is your site, in the sense that SE is community owned. We are the ones who decide (within reason) what we want. Personally I think editing other people's answers makes for a better resource (especially for typos and silly errors), and don't mind it. There are lots of people who don't. You can always ping editors with @username if you need details on an edit, and can always rollback if needed.
    – jmac
    Nov 11 '13 at 0:54

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