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This question has been edited by a diamond moderator in a way that invalidates the top-voted answer.

Given the question as it now stands, my reaction tends towards "give your colleague a heads up". Given the question that the OP actually asked, I think the answer "stop poking your nose in where it isn't wanted" is the right one.

Is this sort of edit acceptable?

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    @JoeStrazzere Sigh! Trying to prevent the edit war was exactly why I asked the question :-(. Reach consensus on what the best question would like like and then edit it. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 18 '19 at 14:01
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    I think a good mod will know how to decide if editing a question to their liking is enough reason for rendering a perfectly valid answer invalid as a result. – user22159 Feb 18 '19 at 18:00
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    Please keep in mind that it is perfectly ok to edit the question to be the best question it can be, regardless if it does in fact invalidate an answer. I have had a popular answer of my recently deleted on another stack because of a edit to the question that made the question better while making my answer a whole lot less useful. I did not like the rep hit, but in the end it was the right course of action. – Mister Positive Feb 22 '19 at 15:40
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The question was a provocative story, complete with plot, named characters, and motivations. We've been getting a lot of these, as site regulars will have noticed. Our site isn't for getting scintillating, fantastical tales onto the hot list; it's for getting answers to questions people actually have.

Often the actual questions are fairly straightforward or even boring. How do I handle a hit & run fender-bender? What do I do about a slacker coworker? How do I give credit to a junior colleague without calling my own abilities into question? But the problems arise when these questions are packaged up in descriptions that are fanciful, filled with colorful characters and intriguing but utterly irrelevant detail. Lots of detail. Worldbuilding-levels of detail. People then respond, in comments and answers, to the detail, in the process losing the pearl of the actual question in the vast dunes of sand that are all that other stuff. The top answer to this question falls into that trap, and you can tell from the voting that people love a good smackdown -- but that doesn't make it a good answer whose presence protects the original tale.

When we see stuff like that, our first instinct should be to edit the question to fix the problem, not to rush to get answers in before the inevitable entry to the hot list and free rep (the more blunt or snarky the answer, the more rep). This is Stack Exchange, not Youtube; we're here for answers to questions, not entertainment. By failing to fix questions like these, we are failing the people with real problems who come here looking for answers, and at the same time providing precedent for trolls who just want to waste our time.

If the OP is trying to solve a problem, my edit makes it more likely that answers to the real question will emerge. If the OP is trying to do something else, we don't need to support it.

In response to complaints, I have made a further edit to bring back some details about the OP's behavior (the timing, in particular). I have also edited that answer, because the fact that an answer quoted stuff that wasn't needed (like the part about "I can't believe I need to ask this") does not obligate us to keep that text forever. My original edit didn't invalidate the answer -- the answer is "no, don't do that, and stop bothering your coworker" -- it only removed context for some other stuff the answerer also chose to talk about. I've fixed that now.

We've had discussions before about aggressive edits. Sometimes they are necessary. Questions with this problem have been deleted (sometimes by community managers, not just moderators) when they were beyond repair. An edit to fix a broken question is far better than deleting the whole thing.

  • last 2 edits have been rolled back (including yours). – ypercubeᵀᴹ Feb 18 '19 at 16:49
  • Thanks for the reply. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 18 '19 at 17:15
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    The major concern I had with your edit wasn't the removal of story, it was the dramatic change in tone. Tone can imply some pretty significant things about the attitude that a poster is bringing to the question, and the ways that they have acted already (and not particularly talked about). Difference in tone can call for significant difference in answer. As far as "my edit makes that more likely", do you feel that the original top-voted answer at the time of your edit was insufficient to their needs? If not, then how would an edit make it more likely? – Ben Barden Feb 18 '19 at 19:34
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    At first, I was against the edit. It removed a lot of nuance from the question. However, upon reflection I more and more agree with the edit. Yes, there was nuance that can influence answers but almost all of it is actually going to lead to worse answers as they focus on the nuance, not the core of the question. The only detail that I think might be relevant is the time tracking of the bathroom breaks. Mostly because that should be advised against. – VLAZ Feb 19 '19 at 8:09
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    Wait, you're basically suggesting that it's better to have boring questions with minimal details to keep the question generic enough for a "general-purpose" answer than to have a question with realistic and interesting details?? That just seems strange and wrong. People coming here looking for answers are able see what aspects of a question apply to their scenario even if there's realistic details in the way. In fact, users are more frustrated by overly aggressive closing/editing and marking-as-dupe than they are by an occasional poorly-framed question. – teego1967 Feb 19 '19 at 13:15
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    We cannot expect new users to know which details are relevant and which are not, so it is our job as a community to request additional information where needed, edit (ruthlessly if needed), and otherwise help the OP get a helpful answer to the question, instead of being a source of jollies for the Internet. – Monica Cellio Feb 19 '19 at 15:20
  • @teego1967 I would not be so fast to call it that much a subjective judgement. Since we're at the workplace, edit like that should remove fluff like blaming, names and so on and focus on the fact. And edit that remove fluff and let only facts is not a subjective edit. – Walfrat Feb 21 '19 at 8:07
  • I'm not convinced that we need to completely edit personality out of every question. The "entertaining" aspect of a lot of these questions is what makes them interesting to read. I feel like we can edit a question to remove offensive material while keeping the flavor of the question intact. – user1602 Feb 21 '19 at 12:13
  • @Kyralessa we don't need to edit all personality and background out of every question, but it should be the garnish to the actual question, not the full meal at the all-you-can-eat buffet. When the question is getting buried or the personality takes over to the point that people interact with that instead of the question, it's too much. – Monica Cellio Feb 21 '19 at 14:35
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    @MonicaCellio, This post and another have led me to ask about this site's editing policy. Your input (and that of other moderators) would be appreciated. – JBH Feb 21 '19 at 19:36
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    Call me paranoid, but this level of compelling story and "worldbuilding" as you neatly put it (followed up by an edit essentially vindicating the OP, after being given the metaphorical "smack-down") makes it look more like a creative writing exercise than a real question about something that happened. Or perhaps I am biased from seeing various subreddits overwhelmed by this kind of thing. I don't know. :/ – mbrig Feb 22 '19 at 6:30
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    Honestly, I'm kinda here for the entertainment (though I agree it's not the purpose of the site). – Ben Feb 22 '19 at 7:17
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My view is that Monica's edit went much too far. The question was indeed immature, but that doesn't make it a bad question. As it stood, the right answer was "don't be so immature"; now the best answer is very different.

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    Agreed. We're not editing books, but questions. The edit took so much out of the original question, I thought I was seeing things when I read the answer. – user22159 Feb 18 '19 at 17:57
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    I disagree. Monica's edit was much better in getting to the root of the question and not all the un-necessary stuff. Not down-voting, just sharing my opinon. – Mister Positive Feb 18 '19 at 18:08
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    How is "don't be so immature" in any way a useful answer? Is anyone asking questions here with the premise, "should I be this immature?" Isn't it infinitely more likely that folks desperately want to be more mature, want to be professional, but... don't know what that entails? Isn't a helpful answer one that can empathize with precisely that sort of ignorance, one that can teach? – Shog9 Feb 19 '19 at 0:45
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    @Shog9 "Don't be so immature" in exactly those words would not be a good answer. However a helpful answer which addressed the immaturity would be. I was trying to indicate the direction of the answer, not the full text. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 19 '19 at 5:28
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    @MisterPositive I encourage you to downvote if you disagree - that's how we can see what the community consensus is. (As I write, this is level pegging with Monica's answer. If that's because those who disagree are not down voting, that is misleading.) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 19 '19 at 5:30
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    @MartinBonner do note that community consensus is important as a source of input, but this isn't a democracy. If the community decides it wants to be a "shits-and-giggles, pass the popcorn" site, that doesn't mean it'll happen. I'm serious when I say that I tried for the least invasive change to address this problem. At other times questions like this have simply been deleted. – Monica Cellio Feb 19 '19 at 15:21
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    Maybe you wanna elaborate a bit on why that direction is useful then, @Martin. Imagine for a minute that the question isn't entirely contrived, that real people are really in this situation: explain how the answer is helping? – Shog9 Feb 19 '19 at 15:49
  • The term immature here seems wrong. I have a feeling OP wasn't a native speaker (although certainly very proficient!). I think "embarrassing behavior" = "unprofessional behavior" (as in behavior Hans should have been ashamed of) – Mars Feb 21 '19 at 23:16
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The original question was too troll-ish and immature. It needed an edit.

This one is a step in right direction, and a pretty good one. Yes, it cuts many things off. But at least it sounds less childish, and that's a good thing for Workplace and Professionalism tag.

I am in favor of another edit, of this quality, adding the information that were removed. Without the rant/troll ton. It will not be easy work as a simple revert. And it should be the OP's responsibility to match some quality standard.

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Yes, these kinds of edits should be acceptable — but maybe we're not asking the right question

First and foremost, please be aware that I've worked with Monica for nearly two years now on several Stacks. You will find her to be one of the most level-headed, conscientious, practical, and valuable moderators you'll ever meet. She's one of the few people in the Stack Exchange universe I would trust with an edit of this size, and my first response would be to figure out why she felt it important to make such an edit.

And I agree with her entirely.

the top-voted answer to the question may have better addressed the original version of the post — but it was not a quality answer to the question found within the post, and that was proven by the OP's later update. Personally, I wonder about any non-OP user who rolls back a moderator's changes without first contacting the moderator and asking what's going on (a perfectly good Meta question, that).

Monica's right when she says that too much background story is distracting. I contribute regularly over at Worldbuilding.SE and people get distracted by the OP's backstory all the time. I've seen perfectly good questions get closed because people had problems with the backstory, not the question.

In a way, it's worse here. It is human nature to (a) embellish and (b) bias any story — and every story here is personal.

From that perspective, a better question to ask might be whether or not it should be the expectation of this Stack to allow distracting backstories. From SE's perspective the purpose of any Stack is to provide a compendium of experiences and insight that many people can use — and not simply be a personal advice column. Therefore, it would seem the backstories should be minimized and discouraged and edits of this nature, while not perhaps encouraged from younger participants, should be allowed to remind OPs that they should be asking focused, objective questions and not telling us their life stories.

Allow me to make one more point. This site has an enormous number of participants who react to questions with breathtaking speed. More so than on any other Stack I've experienced (with the possible exception of SO). That puts a considerable burden on the community to moderate questions even more quickly. It's really unfortunate that most participants are more interested in getting their answer posted first than they are clarifying a question. This means that having a clear Meta post concerning the usefulness of backstories and how the culture and policy of this site will respond to them would be very valuable.

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