3

Context

  1. I wrote a question
  2. Received a downvote and user #1 told to read the faqs for better questions
  3. I asked for more specific feedback on the question, so I could learn how to improve it
  4. At the same time, user #2 edited the question to be something very different
  5. Then user #3 submitted an answer
  6. I proposed a revision to the question
  7. I received no feedback, so I posted a separate question
  8. The question was edited again by user #4
  9. I never learned how to improve my original question, or what made it a bad question, and I've spent two hours between writing responses on it, writing a separate question, and writing this meta post.

Problem

It's convenient for those with privs to go in and edit. When that happens, however:

  • The original question gets deleted
  • The question's original asker can't compare the original and revised versions
  • The question asker may not remember the original version
  • The new question's writer now has some ownership in the question
  • The question's meaning may get changed
  • Other users may spend time answering questions that nobody individually "owns" anymore
  • It wastes the user's time, which makes it more likely new users will leave
  • New users (like myself), can feel frustrated by wanting to improve their questions and instead having the question edited without constructive feedback

Suggestions

So a few suggestions on helping new users learn from editing:

  • If a user takes the time to write a question, it's considerate and respectful to ask before changing it
  • Explain why the question doesn't meet guidelines and suggest a different version
  • Provide constructive and specific feedback
  • If you must edit without asking (though I see no good reason for doing so), post the pre-edited version so users can compare (Feature request: SE should really build versioning in, if they're going to have the editing without asking ability)

Those encourage getting to the right question, facilitate learning, avoid orphaned questions, promote positive exchanges, ensure that the asker maintains "ownership" of their question, and can save time for other users who spent their time answering the pre-edit question.

Any other ways to encourage new user learning in light of the editing ability?

4

Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with your question. I agree that things weren't handled as gracefully as they should be.

Did you know you can actually see the history of edits to your question, and, as the original poster, actually opt to roll back the changes if you disagree with them? Just click on "edited xx hours ago":

enter image description here

If someone edits your question and you don't agree, you could roll it back and post a comment to them saying that their edit isn't what you had in mind. For extended discussion on the question you can join the chat (because comments aren't a great place for conversations) and we can help you figure out how to rewrite your question to be a great question.

I agree that it's not very constructive to just rewrite your question to mean something else, even if the new question fits the site's requirements.

It looks like your second question was successful and you were able to find what you needed. Should I close/delete the original question? Is there something else I can help you with?

Finally, if you ever have a problem using the site, feel free to ping one of the moderators, including myself, directly in a comment or question. You can also mention me in the chat or on Twitter.

  • 2
    Well, the option to review previous versions isn't well-discoverable. It took me some guessing to learn it. – dnbrv Feb 12 '12 at 20:35
  • Agree on all accounts. Our twitter handles are available on our profiles (@Rahul, @Patrick_mc, @Vitalym). – Vitaly Mijiritsky Feb 12 '12 at 21:20
  • Re p1 & p2: It's good to know how to view revisions, and to know that we can revert them. Agreed that those actions should be more intuitive. Re p3: Thanks for asking. While I can write an answer for it also, doing so is going to take some time since other things are higher priority. If you're cool with letting it sit for a bit, I'd like to wait for other answers on it, or write one myself when I have more time for it. Re p4: Cool. Thank you. – Adam Feb 17 '12 at 18:48
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I was the original editor of the question. I edited it to ask what I thought you were originally trying to ask but in a more fitting way to abide by our guidelines. The reason I did so as quickly as I did is that your question already had multiple votes to close and I was simply trying to keep it alive before it got closed, as it saw it as an interesting question if reworded. As Rahul has mentioned, you can always rollback or edit your own questions at any time and please feel free to do so.

  • I edited for similar reasons (to remove references to "best" ways to do things) because the Q seemed dead in the water, though I admit I didn't read the full revision history. – Ben Brocka Feb 15 '12 at 4:22
  • 1
    You bring up a great point Matt. Why would my question get multiple votes to close without anyone taking the time to explain? That's like me telling a new coworker that they can ask me a question, then arbitrarily ignoring them when they do. If a person spends time asking a question that we dislike, and we don't want to spend our time explaining our rationale to them, then we shouldn't vote to close their question. We should leave it for someone who is willing to spend the time teaching them. – Adam Feb 17 '12 at 17:46
0

I'd like to try to address some of our points.

  • The original question gets deleted

As you've already found out nothing gets deleted on an edit.

  • The question's original asker can't compare the original and revised versions
  • The question asker may not remember the original version

You can view your question's revisions by using this URL scheme:

http://ux.stackexchange.com/posts/POSTID/revisions

Your question's post ID is in the URL.

  • The new question's writer now has some ownership in the question

That is not true, you are still the owner of the question, no one else.

  • The question's meaning may get changed
  • Other users may spend time answering questions that nobody individually "owns" anymore

Such edits sometimes happen, we're all just human. If such an edit happens you should revert the edit and talk to the user that edited the question. Best way to do that is by writing a Meta post (like you did).

Moderators are here to make sure such (invasive) edits don't happen too often. The meaning of a question should not be altered.

  • It wastes the user's time, which makes it more likely new users will leave

Generally, it is completely the other way around. Edits are here to improve questions so that it can be answered and meets the quality standards of the Stack Exchange network.

New users (like myself), can feel frustrated by wanting to improve their questions and instead having the question edited without constructive feedback

We - that is all users that edit posts - can't post a comment on every edit explaining why we edited it, there is way too much to do to keep the quality of the sites as high as it is - same goes for closing a question. Additionally there is the edit reason which most editors use to briefly explain what they edited. For that there is Meta.

  • If a user takes the time to write a question, it's considerate and respectful to ask before changing it

That just isn't practicable.

I agree with you that the inline editing functionality doesn't really help to promote the revision view I've explained you above. We should probably post a proper feature request for that.

  • I'm not sure I would encourage the revision view to most people, it seems to me from how Wikipedia evolved that the "edit" tab was far too intimidating compared to just clicking an edit button and editing inline. – Ben Brocka Feb 19 '12 at 17:22
  • Well the revision view is helpful when you find out what exactly a user changed. – Octavian A. Damiean Feb 19 '12 at 17:54

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