# Are questions being excessively edited?

Someone asks a perfectly reasonably question about aluminum hydroxide, then someone comes along and deletes the word "hydroxide" from the title to make the question sound stupid:

Can aluminium be split into Al 3+ and OH-?

One person edits a question to add a homework tag (which edit is reviewed and approved by a couple people), then another person edits it again to remove the homework tag:

What is the net ionic equation of sodium hydroxide when it dissolves in water?

Questions are being nitpicked just for their capitalization or boldface use:

IUPAC name of trisubstituted benzene ring

Are non-integer oxidation states possible?

Why so much editing?

• Are there any correlations amongst the various editors there? Are the editors mainly people new to the site trying to build rep perhaps? Mar 9 '18 at 15:34
• There is recently a large influx of active new users who are still learning the ropes. Not sure how to help them improve their editing skills...
– Zhe
Mar 9 '18 at 16:44
• You had almost two years to edit or rollback my stupid edit, but you had to point it out on meta on 2018. My 2016 self, like the overzealous and excited editors we have right now, was new, immature, and sometimes an idiot, and it was learning to appreciate the SE's peer-reviewed model. You're more than welcome to outline when editing is too much in a new meta post or one we already have, but I doubt there'd be much fruit to this one. (Well, except me correcting my blunder by . . . Another edit) Mar 9 '18 at 17:41
• Having said that, I think everyone just forgot to remind our newer editors that bumping old questions to the active page is discouraged, since a considerable number of users (only) use the active page. Related: chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2742/… Mar 9 '18 at 17:52

From what I can infer you are saying that the edits are too trivial. Personally I don't necessarily agree with that - in my opinion edits should be substantial in the sense that they fix everything that needs to be fixed in the question. Whether that is minor or major, I do not really care. I think minor edits are fine as long as it

• fixes everything that needs to be fixed in the question (i.e. don't change CO2 -> $\ce{CO2}$ while leaving unreadable grammar)

and satisfies either of the following:

• is done on new questions (i.e. those already on the front page for whatever reason)
• is done on old questions sparingly

That is my take on it. I think that the problem right now that most people have - and the problem that most people are discussing - is not that the edits are trivial, but rather that they are being performed on old questions at a very productive rate. In moderation that is good, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

IMO anything else that needs to be said has already been said by hBy2Py in the comments to the other answer.

• +10 this answer makes the most sense in this thread by far. (Except for my awesome comments) Mar 10 '18 at 20:06
• Orthocresol, I think an edit just changing "2" to "2" and "4" to "4" is a good example of too trivial. chemistry.stackexchange.com/posts/64213/revisions Mar 10 '18 at 20:41
• @DavePhD, trivial, but what is the harm, though? If you think it is bad, then sure, we should discourage it. I personally don't have an issue with it, but I may be convinced otherwise if there is a good reason.
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 10 '18 at 21:05
• @orthocresol The harm is the accompanying police-state-like message "don't enclose bare numbers in mathjax". It makes me feel unwelcomed at chemistrySE. There are such rigid rules that it reminds me of a compiler I used on a DEC PDP years ago. Mar 12 '18 at 13:03
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 21 '18 at 0:54
• and as such there is no prohibition on anybody editing your posts, or my posts. Obviously, we do not enforce this stringently; there have been quite a few cases of rollbacks and arguments over edits (I have been on both sides, editor and author, myself) and we generally defer to the author, e.g. here, even though (I believe) multiple moderators preferred the revised version of OP's question. So, if you dislike an edit, the first thing to do would be to roll back. After all, you have the same editing privileges as the editor.
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 21 '18 at 0:58
• There are very few rules per se that we have when it comes to editing, and I do not consider there to be a rule saying bare numbers must not be enclosed in MathJax. Personally, as an erstwhile editor, I generally edit posts because they are good and are worth improving - but I am also aware that improvement is subjective and what looks better to me may not look better to you. So, I don't consider my minor edits to be a correction, but rather more like a suggestion, or a very minor polishing. I might be disappointed if you choose to roll back, but not offended.
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 21 '18 at 1:06
• So, part of the compromise is for authors like you and I to realise that edits - even minor edits - are aimed more at raising the general standard of content on the site, rather than chastising the OPs for doing something wrong. I agree that the edit summary you quoted on the other post is hardly beneficial in this respect, and I hope that will not happen again. I stand by my stance that minor edits in and of themselves are not bad, so the other part of the compromise is not for people to stop making minor edits, but I think rather to be mindful of their edits and how they impact others.
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 21 '18 at 1:21
• From the instances you've brought up, I feel like a large part of that is the attitude that is portrayed in the edit summary, which sometimes borders on being... self-righteous. I suspect this is only an issue with at most a handful of users, so hopefully it will stop soon, although we will take more action if it proves to still be a problem. As for some of the other edits you have mentioned - my suggestion is really to just roll it back! If I were in your shoes, I would absolutely have done so on some of them, e.g. the CO2/carbon dioxide answer, which genuinely adds no benefit in my opinion.
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 21 '18 at 1:31
• @orthocresol Thanks for your comments. I know other moderators handle this differently on other SEs, because I got a warning letter just for editing my own answer skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/27352/… too many times in a SE employee/moderator's opinion, as I tried to improve the answer. Mar 21 '18 at 11:56

Since I was involved in 3/4 of the posts you mention, and the fact that I've had all-time 8th highest, 1250 edits in just two months (undoubtedly referring to "Are questions being excessively edited?"), I feel compelled to answer this meta post.

But first things first. I crossed 2k rep when I only had made 200 edits. The next 1000 edits came after having crossed 2k, so there is clearly no rep gain factor involved in whatever edits I make.

Can aluminium be split into Al 3+ and OH-?

It doesn't make sense to talk about this today. It was last edited in May'16, more than two years back. Why bring this up now? Unless I'm missing something, your context is "Are questions being excessively edited?" => present tense.

One person edits a question to add a homework tag (which edit is reviewed and approved by a couple people), then another person edits it again to remove the homework tag:

The homework tag is actively being removed from old posts. There was a lot of meta discussion about it. I am sure you've already read it, but still, here is one. So, I am not sure what you're trying to say here. It has to be removed, and I did remove it. What's the problem here?

IUPAC name of trisubstituted benzene ring

If you'll read the revision history, you'll find the suggested edit had removed the tag, which was the primary objective. I only fixed the unnecessary capitalization and boldening of IUPAC names, which I deem did not add any value here. This happens all the time. Suggestors add MathJax to bare numbers while doing other main things. I "Improve edit" and then remove the dollar signs. Simple.

Are non-integer oxidation states possible?

Yep. I edited it to fix only the capitals. Please read here.

With all that said, also note that I've been trying to follow rules everywhere possible. You can tell this from the help I often fervently sought on the Table. You can tell this from the several meta posts I made about standard ways to do different things (I also tried to clean up some tags, different story). I don't edit posts that I am unsure about; you can tell this from my several Spring Cleaning messages. I have tried to stick to existing guidelines as much as possible, and have asked for them to be created when I didn't find any.

That said, however, I admit I have been on a rampant voyage against the tag. You did not name me, so I guess your post refers to a broader set of people. But still, if you have any problem with my editing style, just ping me in chat. I admit I have made a few mistakes, but I abandoned them as soon as anyone pointed them to me. Case in point: converting curly quotes to straight quotes, Loong told me not to do so immediately after my first such edit. I had a discussion with him, and then gave the habit up. No further incidence since then.
So, I'm sure few of my editing styles might not be deemed valid by everyone else, and as such, I'm willing to take constructive feedback.

PS: if your primary concern is the rate at which posts are being edited, I've no problem in slowing down. I'm not getting any rep for whatever edits I make. I only do these in hope of improving the content quality.

I'm hoping to receive constructive feedback. Thank you!

• I agree with what moderator Martin said here: chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3732/… "An edit in general should always be substantial". I don't see un-boldfacing or un-capitalizing or insisting that I spell out the word "carbon dioxide" instead of writing "CO2" chemistry.stackexchange.com/posts/63541/revisions as substantial. Mar 9 '18 at 17:33
• @DavePhD I agree. Edits should be substantial. However, time and again, while doing the primary task of editing out the homework, there do creep up a tiny stuff or two that deserves to be removed, and I do remove it. I do not dig out posts specifically to make insignificant edits. I only dig out homework posts. The post you link to, was a homework post. I removed the tag, and then proceeded to clean up the answers. In that answer, CO2 was not mhchem-fied. At that point, I felt instead of unnecessarily slowing (cont) Mar 9 '18 at 17:38
• (cont) page render by adding four mathjax instances, a better way would have been, since $\ce{CO2}$ isn't a part of any equation, to simply write it in plain text words instead. That's all that I did. Just that. Mar 9 '18 at 17:39
• When you wrote the comment "excessive clean up" to summarize your editing of my answer here: chemistry.stackexchange.com/posts/71133/revisions , did you mean that you understand that you are editing excessively? Or are you saying there was an excessive problem with my answer? Mar 9 '18 at 17:57
• With whom you consulted sudden editing out thousands of questions? If there was agreement on this, it would be done long ago. Mar 9 '18 at 22:33
• Ease up, @Mithoron, DavePhD. Gaurang is working in good faith. He's been in the Spring Cleaning chat room, trying to carry on that work. Gaurang, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but probably you should back off of the site cleanup for a while. Every time you edit a post, it gets bumped to the top of the front page of the site, and if you're editing a lot of different posts, then trivialities, often old, end up dominating the front page ticker. Mar 10 '18 at 0:25
• Ping @DavePhD $\uparrow$ Mar 10 '18 at 0:27
• Gaurang, part of the reason we had the scheduled Spring Cleaning event back awhile ago was so that the minor-edit clutter would be concentrated at one ~2-3 hour block of time. Since there's no official event, a much more gradual pace is best. Mar 10 '18 at 0:29
• @DavePhD Both of your conclusions are wrong. I like to track how long each homework edit took me. "excessive clean up" means roughly three minutes; "moderate" means two and "slight" means less than a minute. Adding a table falls in the first category. I am not a native speaker and you interpreted my edit summary wrongly. I'll use different edit summaries from now on, to better highlight what I actually meant. Mar 10 '18 at 2:02
• @hBy2Py Yeah, sure, I understand what you say. I've no problem in slowing down. And I will. Mar 10 '18 at 2:03
• This isn’t on topic, but I would suggest that apologising for writing an edit summary which can easily be taken the wrong way would help, rather than curtly telling people that they are ‘wrong’ (which really makes it seem as though you are actively trying to deflect blame / avoid admitting that you made a mistake). Pulling the native speaker card isn’t helpful, the fact is that your edit summary can easily be construed as rude, whether you meant it or not.
– orthocresol Mod
Mar 10 '18 at 12:49
• @orthocresol I didn't want to sound curt, and I never like to be curt. I only wanted to say that Dave's conclusion from my edit summary was not-what-I-meant. I'm not a native speaker, and I now understand words can have different meanings to different people. Dave, I apologize to you as you did not find my edit summary polite. I did not mean to say whatever you feel I said. I will not to repeat such words again. I've now also changed my edit summaries. If you find any problem again, kindly ping me in chat. Thanks! Mar 10 '18 at 13:09
• @DavePhD please find comment above. Also, I won't go on rapid editing sprees from now on. I apologize for having done this in the past. Please accept my apology. Thank you. Mar 10 '18 at 13:10
• @GaurangTandon Ok, thank you. "Excessive" means "more than is necessary, normal, or desirable". I've been to India including IIT Madras, and I understand that not everyone in India knows English well, but many, especially in universities, know English just as well as other people from other former British colonies like the USA, Canada or Australia, just with a different accent. I think editing should primarily be done by people fluent in the language being edited. Mar 10 '18 at 13:41