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I've become confused by two meta posts:

  1. Edit invalidating top voted answer
  2. (REOPENED) Reopen request: Clean Air & Office

In the first, a diamond user made substantial editorial changes in an effort to remove backstory distraction and clarify the question. This invalidated a top-voted answer (which had become caught up in the distraction), which started an editing war leading to @MartinBonner's post (or, more precisely, Martin's post was trying to head off the editing war, but it was too late).

In the second, a standard user was inviting people to reopen a question stating that she disliked the VTC reason and that the core question did not fall under its mandate. I did not vote to close that question, but posted an answer to postulate why the question was closed. She subsequently edited the question to remove the issues I pointed out which, IMO, changed the meaning of the question. When I expressed my outrage, user @RichardU directed me to the Code of Conduct and thanked her for what he believed was a good edit.

One of these two users, @MonicaCellio or @Kyralessa, is wrong.1 However, this site's meta is filled with questions about editing and it's made identifying the site's actual editing policy difficult. Three of my personal concerns are these:

  • Are users allowed to remove factual information from a question solely for the purpose of reopening it?

  • Are users allowed to remove backstory in an effort to reduce distraction?

  • Are users allowed to modify the tone, voice, or emotional context of a question?

They are concerns to me because I do not believe people have the right to put words in any OP's mouth (or to remove them), but I understand that questions should be clear.

Unless specified elsewhere in Meta, the current policy as stated in Help -> Editing should be our guide

  • To fix grammar and spelling mistakes
  • To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)
  • To include additional information only found in comments, so all of the information relevant to the post is contained in one place
  • To correct minor mistakes or add updates as the post ages
  • To add related resources or hyperlinks

Based on these guidelines, it appears @MonicaCellio was correct to make the changes she did and @Kyralessa was wrong to make the changes she did, but I am seeking community input and consensus.

What is this site's editing policy if it differs from the Help Center?


1Honestly, they could both be wrong. But they cannot both be right.

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    My impression is that more substantial edits are common here, e. g. this. A former mod wrote about troll questions: "Another approach is massively editing the question. The reason trolling is even effective is that questions normally have some level of meaningful "real" question in them - otherwise they'd just get closed. Editing to remove the fluff/details often can help here to sanitize a question (often this can be done and then the question is a more clear duplicate)." – Anne Daunted Feb 21 at 21:30
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    @F1Krazy, if we were speaking about the OP you'd be absolutely correct. Now, if you posted a question that was off-topic, and someone gave a 3rd party advice about why your question was off-topic, and that 3rd party took it upon themselves to change your question to make it on-topic - but in the process changed the question such that it was no longer what you, the OP, asked in the first place. Out of curiosity, would you have the same feelings on the matter? – JBH Feb 23 at 14:20
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    Why cannot they both be right? – HorusKol Feb 24 at 13:30
  • @HorusKol because it appears to me that one is in compliance with SE's editing policy and one is not. If they are both right, it requires the community to explain how that has come to pass. – JBH Feb 24 at 18:07
  • Guidelines cannot cover all possibles cases. We could discuss whether the second post change the intent of the question. but that's not important. We are a community with guidelines, we can just discuss the case that are borderlines here on meta. If the community and OP and answerers agree then it's fine. – Walfrat Feb 27 at 13:37
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Users with enough reputation have the ability to edit posts, this much you know. It isn't a case of the first person to make an edit "wins", posts can be edited any number of times, or rolled back if the OP doesn't agree.

This sometimes leads to "edit wars", but mostly doesn't. Mostly, people have the maturity and insight to edit appropriately.

It might be worth reminding ourselves of what SE is fundamentally here for:

The Workplace Stack Exchange is a question and answer site about the workplace and other career-related topics. It is for members of the workforce to get answers on topics such as the job hunting process, interviewing, salary negotiation, and professionalism within the Workplace.

Other sites on the SE network have a similar introductory paragraph in their tour page, which everyone has read.

And what SE is not intended for

Entertainment

We do get our fair share of questions that are engineered for entertainment purposes rather than having a straightforward question that needs a straightforward answer. There's a click-bait title to make you read further, there's a backstory with salacious details, there are tales of intrigue, sabotage, bad attitudes, and bad smells.

Invariably, these questions develop traffic (they're designed to do so), they gain an avalanche of upvotes and comments when people get involved with and contribute to the morass. More likely than not, the OP never visits again, they sit back and watch the mountain of discussion and arguments they've created. As a complication, users are beguiled by the gamification of the SE network, so pile onto the bandwagon and earn their reps and badges before the question is inevitably closed or protected.

But back to the point, the editing.

Questions like this do have a point, hidden somewhere within their prose. It's ok to take the pruning shears and get rid of the unnecessary deadwood details and strip them back to the bare question, and leave behind enough context to allow for considered answers to be offered.

In doing this, we add value to this question, the answers, the site, and future users who are facing the same issues. Sometimes, when the fluff has been removed from the question, there's a clear duplicate, so the question can be closed as such.

This was the intent of Monica's edit. There's a whole lot more discussion about this in the linked "invalidating edit" meta question that you linked to, but it basically boils down to

Adding value, reducing noise (as entertaining as it is)

With regard to editing and changing the meaning of the question, if you feel that an edit is inappropriate, then you're free to do any of the following:

  • Edit, and describe the reason why you've made the edit
  • Leave a comment asking for clarification of why the edit was made by someone else
  • Flag it and let the moderators decide
  • So which is it? "never visit again" or "sit back and watch the mountain"? Or perhaps it's not possible to know? Whatever the case, a site with "straightforward questions and straightforward answers" would be not only boring as heck, but also not reflective of the very not straightforward problems that people face at work. If the problems that cause people to ask questions were straightforward, there would be no reason to ask, right? Sometimes its better to relax the moderation, and let the readers decide what's worthy or not worthy. – teego1967 Feb 22 at 21:08
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The most important thing to do is keep the intent intact, where possible.

I have done a bit of editing on this site and it's usually well received. Details that are not germane to the overall question may be edited out, even if somewhat relevant.

To address your questions directly:

•Are users allowed to remove factual information from a question solely for the purpose of reopening it?

If it is not material to the question itself, absolutely. That's what edits are for, to make a question more on topic and answerable if still open, or to revise it so that it is both answerable and on topic.

•Are users allowed to remove backstory in an effort to reduce distraction?

Not only allowed but recommended.

•Are users allowed to modify the tone, voice, or emotional context of a question?

Absolutely. I've done so personally, and the result in an extreme case was a reversal from a vote of negative 7 to over 50.

Additionally, edits are used to revise posts that are rude, or call out specific users, which is STRONGLY frowned upon.

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    Perhaps we need another question about this site's use of the "be nice" policy. You'll notice I rolled back your edits (to a question about the site's editing policy, you don't lack chutzpah). But the user names are readily and publicly available through the links in my post and their use here is factual and civil, so I rolled your edits back. Edits being used to remove user references is not addressed in the help center and while I understand your point on the Main site, the point of Meta is to talk openly about policies and the culture of this Stack. – JBH Feb 21 at 21:47
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    @JBH the best way to sum up the Be Nice policy is with Rabbi Hillel's Silver rule. "“What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor:" You know that it's not nice to drag people's names out and berate them. At least I hope you do. – Retired Codger Feb 22 at 13:42
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    I don't believe I did "drag people's names out and berate them." If my own name were presented in a manner like this (and it has) I would not (did not and do not) consider it hateful. I do not believe I have overstepped the good Rabbi's rule at all. – JBH Feb 23 at 20:29
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    @JBH Here's a good rule of thumb. If adding a person's name contributes nothing, don't add it. Your adding that user's name is essentially a call-out, and shaming behavior. – Retired Codger Feb 25 at 13:21
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    No, Richard. You're being overly sensitive on someonelse's behalf. Please focus on the question. Curiously, your answer suggests you were distracted by background information. Does this site's editing policy vary from SE's? – JBH Feb 25 at 15:24
  • @JBH this may be the first time the word sensitive has ever been applied to me in an un-ironic manner... listen to me or don't it's bad form in the very least, but the mods will make the ultimate call. Personally, I think it's bullying behavior, but that's just my opinion for what it is worth, or is not. – Retired Codger Feb 25 at 15:28
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    @JBH, given that I've been chastised before (here on The Workplace!) for calling out users by name, I'm rather surprised you seem to have gotten away with it. And the way I did it was a lot more subtle than the way you've done it. – user1602 Feb 27 at 13:18

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