Take a look at this edit history (or this one). The author of the accepted answer has made several edits that consist of formatting/unformatting text, just flip-flopping between two alternatives.

It is hard to see what value they add, or what the motivation is for these edits other than to draw more attention to the accepted answer. I don't think revoking edit privileges is even possible, let alone the correct course of action. But what steps can we take to discourage this sort of behavior? I have noticed a growing pattern of it that I find troublesome.

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    Hey Adrian.. I did so thought may be my answer get more attention.. If you don't like then I won't do that.. Sorry for that
    – Ratan Paul
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 7:18
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    @Ratan I seriously don't know the community etiquette, which is why I ask. My opinion is that if you are not improving something, you shouldn't edit it. I have seen some newbies doing so as well, but with them I can just reject the edits haha. Anyway I am curious what other members of the community think. Thanks for being receptive. :)
    – Adrian Larson Mod
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 7:21
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    I've noticed this as well and had contemplated asking on meta. I agree with you Adrian I think an edit should only be done to improve the question/answer.
    – Girbot
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 18:04
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    Good point. As a side note, I see a lot of edits consisting in "added 4 characters to the body". I don't see the value that they add and tend to be suspicious of them. I do a lot of post editing, mostly to fix indentation. I find badly-indented post hard to read, and thus the first thing I will always do is fix the indentation. But 4-char edits? What is really the value in those?
    – mkorman
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 18:04
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    What is the proper way to approach this? user "karthikselva" seems to be a frequent offender of the "useless edit" category. I am not sure what the best practice is... Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 19:39
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    @SebastianKessel, I don't want this to turn into a finger-pointing thread (sorry Ratan), but more of a general discussion about this behavior. We'll see if any other moderator types chime in.
    – Adrian Larson Mod
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 19:41
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    Good point @AdrianLarson, I didn't mean to single him out... but he is the one I notice the most. I don't want to bash the user, but I am not sure what the right approach is either Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 19:42
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    Boy, there have been times when I have gone back to 'improve' a past answer because I have learned something new or could have expressed the solution more concisely -- partly to try and live up to the standards of others here (yes, sfdcfox and keith C, I'm talking about you :-) ) I wish I could silent edit because I didn't want the answer to pop up in the stream. My answers are, so-to-speak, my reputation and hence edits have been done if in the course of browsing, I rehappen upon previous answers and they are 'incomplete'. Deliberate flip-flopping though seems bad form
    – cropredy
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 6:15
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    Our moderators should also weigh in here with their thoughts on this matter.
    – Jarvis
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 6:22
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    @Bennie I'v added an answer Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 11:04

3 Answers 3


I seriously don't know the community etiquette, which is why I ask.

This link from the Stack Exchange Meta tells you exactly when users should edit a post:

When should I edit posts?

Any time you see a post that needs improvement and are inclined to suggest an edit, you are welcome to do so. The original author of a question or answer may always edit their own post, regardless of reputation level.

Edits are expected to be substantial and to leave the post better than you found it. Common reasons for edits include:

  • 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

If this resource is hosted on the Exchange itself, I'd expect the same rules to apply to each board.

I don't think revoking edit privileges is even possible, let alone the correct course of action.

I agree!

what steps can we take to discourage this sort of behavior?

As you've mentioned, part of having a high reputation is the ability to police users with lower reputation to ensure edits are worthwhile even if their intentions are reasonable, hence why we should reject them!

As for users who're above that threshold, I suppose the only thing I can think to do is have a polite word with them and ask them to review the Exchange's rules. By the time you hit the threshold to automatically edit posts, that person should be well-enough informed to know editing posts for the sake of attention is frowned upon.

Frankly I find the notion of drawing attention to a question/answer really shallow. It defeats the point of SFSE to help people (and be helped!) rather than hoard reputation, get shiny new privileges and flex about it.

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    Great insights. Thanks! It sounds like this post was a step in the right direction then. :)
    – Adrian Larson Mod
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 14:51
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    Well expressed, thanks!
    – mkorman
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 18:06

This doesn't represent the entire mod-team's view, but my own.

My opinion is pretty much covered by Poets answer. This type of behavior is by all reasonable standards probably not desired, but there are little tools to deal with it for the community or(!) moderators when it comes to high-reputation users and edits.

If there are extreme escalations and addressing the fact in comments or meta won't do you can reach out to us by flagging questions or answers with your custom comment. We can reach out to people directly or set them in time-out, but these are things we will only do as last-resorts for really bad cases. The focus of our community should be on member-education rather than repression.

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    I full agree with you
    – Jarvis
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 11:39

I couldn't agree more. I literally just accepted an edit from somebody that all it did was bold some titles and add some bullets.

What is the correct course of action, then? Reject the edits?

PS: When the edit is to format included code to be readable (instead of a paragraph of black-on-white text, I do support it. I am only referring the ones that make a post pretty but don't add any real value.

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    Definitely feel free to reject if there is no improvement posed by the edit. As Poet mentioned, we should make sure they are worthwhile. Yes readability is important and I usually accept those too.
    – Adrian Larson Mod
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:33
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    I like it. Sounds like a good course of action Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:34
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    Completely agree with editing for formatting code. It's amazing how a grey box, different font can turn a post from "making my eyes bleed" to being nice and readable. :)
    – Dan Jones
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 10:13
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    I would argue that in most of cases making a post "pretty" is actually improving it. Having properly formatting helps the reader, and furthers to overall goal of StackExchange to be a community-sourced site for excellent help articles. To accept or reject is a gut feeling sometimes. Based on your description, I would have accepted it.
    – pchittum
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 12:45

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