The question and its edit war
So this edit war happened. Here's a quick recap:
- A poster asked a very clear question, two different ways.
- A user edited the question to eliminate the second phrasing.
- The OP added the second phrasing back in.
- A user who was subsequently elected to a moderator position after the edit in question deleted the second phrasing of the question.
- The original poster restored the second phrasing of the question.
- A moderator deleted the alternate phrasing again.
- The OP restored the alternate phrasing and posted a comment to the effect that he thought the alternate wording provided additional clarity into what he was was asking.
- A moderator deleted the alternate phrasing and locked the question to prevent any more revisions or comments.
What message might users discern from this edit pattern?
The first deletion by the moderator-to-be does seem like a legitimate attempt at improving the question. Everything should be as simple as possible, but not any simpler. I think we all agree with that.
However, the original poster apparently felt that the revisions made the question "too simple", i.e. that clarity was lost.
The question I ask here is, what message might question-askers take away from not being able to ask questions the way they want? Am I alone in thinking that question-askers might be irritated by repeated "revisions"? Perhaps the only thing OPs will be able to take away from situations like this is that they aren't in control of their own questions? Perhaps they may feel that this is a site where others presume to know their own question better than they do?
I don't think any of the moderators wanted to send messages like these, but I'm confident that these are the messages that are coming across. If this is what moderation looks like, I want to hear more about why its a useful strategy. Three lines of redundant content (note: whether the content is redundant is certainly arguable) don't seem worth worth fighting over to me. Wouldn't it make sense to either let the (arguably too verbose) original question stand, or at least to propose a "third-way" edit that provides a new possibility, instead of just repeatedly rolling back the OP's own question?
Why focus on the moderator behavior here?
Comments and answers to date have brought up the valid point that my summary mentions only the actions of moderators (or future moderators), not of all the question editors. I apologize for not making this clear in my initial post. Let me explain why I wrote this question here. First, I wrote this question when the post was locked. The link on the lock notice specifically recommends that people raise issues with a locked question here on Meta. Second, a very large number of the rollbacks were made by moderators or moderators-to-be. I recognize that editing questions is not specifically a duty of moderators, but of all high-rep users. However, I do believe that moderators are (and should be) held to the highest standards and in general should serve as exemplars to the community. This question was in my mind a rare example of (some of) the moderators not meeting this admittedly lofty standard. I do think it is worth examining how we can avoid situations like this in the future.