I've been happily making minor edits to questions and titles for months, but it was only today I noticed that there's a concept of "you haven't edited this enough for your edit to be accepted", with this message:

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

(The message wasn't directed at me.) At first glance this is odd - it's going to encourage editors to make additional and possibly unnecessary changes just to get over some threshold, just like people typing extra characters into a comment to get over the minimum count. People will start changing British or Australian English to American English, or looking for any nitpick they can, just to bump up the numbers.

I've browsed some Meta StackOverflow questions (e.g. this one) but I saw no compelling reasons to justify this. There's seems to be no technical reason. It might make additional work for reviewers if there are more smaller edits, but on the other hand it's easier to approve batches of minor edits than to wade through questions that have been comprehensively shredded and re-assembled.

Also, in this particular case, it meant that I was unable to fix a typo in the title for about 3 hours (the question was edit-locked or something). The editor in question had simply italicized Mathematica and removed an unnecessary "thank you" at the end; minor edits to be sure, but why should more edits be made just to get those ones through?

Given the generally poor state of so many questions these days, with questioners even starting to develop their own custom formatting rules or just not bothering to read the FAQ before asking, why is there this restriction that edits must, like London buses, only travel in groups? Or is this being applied only to users with certain reputation levels? If so, isn't there the risk that this policy will discourage people from contributing more to the site?

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1 Answer 1

This is applicable only to people with less than 2k rep (and less than 20k for tag wiki edits — I still don't know why this is so high). In general, the reasons are:

  • to force editors to try and look at the rest of the post and not just the minor typo that caught their eye. A post is not improved just because they added backticks to change f[x] to f[x], while leaving the rest of the post looking like crap.
  • to not flood the front page with inconsequential edits. There is no point in bumping up a post just because someone added a ? to make it a "real question" (yes, this has happened).
  • to not bother reviewers with trivial edits (< 6 char edits). Of course, there can be trivial edits with more than 6 chars, but that's a different story...
  • because too many minor edits can make the post a CW.

I personally think the restriction is fair. SE's reasoning behind this is that by the time they (the user) have reached 2k, a typical user would've participated in editing posts and would've learned what to do (and not) either from rejection reasons or by watching others' edits. This is not always true though, as it is quite easy to get 2k without ever making a single edit.

This doesn't stop people from trying to submit such minor edits (often by padding nonsense, which is the point you're trying to make). Examples:

  1. Editor wants to add a line break, even though it doesn't affect the rendered output. Another example, but the editor deletes alt text instead to bypass 6 char limit.
  2. Minor code formatting (no other edits). Another example
  3. Lack of formatting -> incorrect formatting + mistakes
  4. Tries to format code, but ends up slicing error message in two and formatting only half of it; ignores rest of the typos, etc.

To be frank, I see no improvements made by the edits to any of the above posts. For the most part, the reviewing system catches these and most of them are rejected.

Personally, I try to do my best to fix as much as I can in a single edit, and most regular editors do that. It's very rare that a post has just 1 tiny thing that needs to be fixed and if that's all there is to it, then go ahead and make the change. Sometimes, I tend to let a very minor typo in an otherwise flawless post slide by, but others might edit and that's OK. However, I consider single letter edits (or < 6 char edits) to be a privilege of having 2k rep. Those with 50≤ rep ≤ 2000 can leave a comment to the OP and the rest can wait till they get 50 rep.

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Nice answer! And a useful explanation of how it all works. The problem of unwanted bumping of old answers due to non-substantive edits is annoying, but solutions aren't going to be forthcoming so it'll have to do. –  cormullion Jun 18 '13 at 18:56
    
I think the last point should be emphasized more: first leave a comment for the author of the post. –  Jens Jun 20 '13 at 16:38

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