In this answer somebody made a (granted, minor) change to the content of the answer. I was wondering if this is allowed. Personally I wouldn't like to have my name under an answer if I didn't write it myself, and if it might have additions I don't agree with.
Are changes to the actual content allowed, or should they be limited to fixing typos, grammar, formatting and such?

Granted, the edit in the example was harmless, but this answer got a completely different meaning when @markrages added a picture.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ it actually looks like on the "markrages edit" example he just added a picture for what kellenjb was already saying. That is what I would assume. Markrages was trying to make a better answer out of the short answer, I am not sure why you rolled it back. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jun 25 '11 at 8:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk - I felt the picture was about something completely else than what Kellenjb meant, so not a better answer, but a completely different answer. Apparently Kellenjb feels the same about it, because he just rolled back your rollback :-) \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 25 '11 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ yes, but I notified him in chat and asked him if it was what he wanted or not. I am not saying I was right, I am saying that I never assumed I was and asked him. Putting a comment after saying, "@kellenjb, is this what you want" would be a perfect way to notify him. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jul 1 '11 at 6:59

Why do we allow users to edit others' posts?

Edits give the site a wiki feel, and allow the information contained on the site to constantly evolve and remain up to date. Importantly, if you see something that is misleading like the edit in question, which is a minor mistake, or which could use some additional links, images, or a schematic, please make the post better! Note that this doesn't include changes involving a major change in the meaning of a post, changes based on a difference of opinion, or changes to a question which affect the usability of subsequent answers.

Sometimes, the content is fine, but the post should be edited to better conform to the site guidelines. This could involve changing tags, removing unnecessary meta information from the title, removing signatures or salutations, and the like.

Additionally, and probably most commonly, edits ensure that the appearance of the site is top-notch. We'd like to be a professional quality community. Spelling errors, grammar errors, bad or nonexistent formatting, and unprofessional writing (txt speak, l33t speak, i dont like capitals or punctuation, etc) detract from that goal. This is actually the most common cause for an edit!

The privileges page reads:

When should I edit posts?

Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!

Some common reasons to edit are:

  • to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
  • add related resources or hyperlinks

Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged.

Note that major changes to the original authors' intent is not among the common reasons to edit. Also, there's some mixed opinions behind the "tiny, trivial edits are discouraged" line. I've been known to edit a single character for a misspelling in a title, and we don't want to leave broken windows around, but generally, try to keep useful information on the front page from being drowned out by edits. While the post is on the front page, it's fair game for any edit which improves it. (Just try to do a thorough job, so that we don't convert posts to Community Wiki accidentally.)

To see this in action, you can take a look at my edit history, or Grace Note (another moderator) provides a good example to follow.

Who can edit a question or answer?

The original author of a question or answer may edit their own post. Users with a certain level of reputation (currently 2000) may edit any question or answer. The one exception is locked questions, which may not be edited by anyone, including the original author, until they are unlocked. Additionally, the amount of reputation needed to edit community wiki editable posts is much lower (currently 100) than that needed to edit ordinary questions and answers. If a user does not have enough reputation to edit directly, they can still suggest an edit (see a related FAQ question, How do suggested edits work?).

How can you tell what has been changed between edits?

Edit indicator

Once your question has been edited, there will be a note of it, with the time since the last edit hyperlinked to a revision history for the post:

Edit note screenshot

Revision history

Each revision is displayed in a separate, collapsible section. Older revisions start out already collapsed. If a comment was specified by the person editing, that will be displayed in yellow next to the revision number; otherwise, the total number of characters added or removed in that revision will be listed. Once expanded, the revision will be displayed, with changes highlighted:

Revision History screenshot

Revision diff color key:

  • Green background: characters added
  • Red text + strikeout: characters removed

This answer borrows heavily from the meta.stackoverflow.com FAQ on edits.
Additional references at the FAQ entry on editing and the edit privileges page

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Edits give the site a wiki feel". Yes, but Wikipedia (as the mother of all wikis) articles are not signed. Nobody claims to have written it, which in EE isn't so. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 23 '11 at 6:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stevenh: Wikipedia article authors are listed under "View History" just like here. If someone edits an answer, their name is added to the signature below the answer. If the original author doesn't want their name associated with the resultant answer, they can revert it or convert it to community wiki. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Jun 24 '11 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Stevenvh, the reward of this site is rep. That is the way it works. People are not meant to change the spirit of your post, but improving it is valuable to making a better set of answers. It requires a high rep use or moderator approval, so only trusted users can make these edits and hopefully understand the system. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jun 25 '11 at 9:32

I think that change is totally fine. The editor's name is listed under the answer, too.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, this one is ok, but how about when someone adds a complete paragraph? I don't want to have to look at the editing history every time. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 23 '11 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh - Can you give an example of an edit that you're genuinely uncertain about? A complete paragraph that brings clarity to the original author's meaning might only be obvious to someone with the experience of the editor. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Jun 23 '11 at 0:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now, adding a whole paragraph to Endolith's two-sentence answer might be overwhelming. On the other hand, two or three paragraphs might get added to my answer without changing the authorship. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Jun 23 '11 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kevin - not added text, but this answer got a completely different meaning when @markrages added the picture. Ok, it was witty, but I removed it again and suggested to @markrages to make it a separate answer, which he did. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 23 '11 at 6:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't mind if someone adds a paragraph to my answer, as long as it's relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Jun 23 '11 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh you have provided a perfect example of why there isn't any problem with editing... If someone edits an answer in such a way that it a significant difference then the community or original poster can switch back easily. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Jun 24 '11 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kellenjb - Yeah, you really spoiled my argument! :-) \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 26 '11 at 8:05

Is there a way to see what the edit was? I don't know of any such thing. In the absence of that, I don't know whether I think the change is fine since I don't know what the change was.

I'm new here, and so far haven't dared edit anything I haven't written even though I have enough reputation to do so. I can see the point in some cases, especially when very poor english is used. However, it still feels intellectually dishonest to me. I think I'd be upset if someone edited something I wrote beyond fixing a spelling error. My name would still be below the post, and as far as I can tell nobody will know what I said and what words were put in my mouth.

It doesn't help that the description of the edit privilege contradicts itself. If I remember right, in one place it said not to change the meaning of a post, just fix things like spelling and grammar. It also says edits are encouraged. That makes sense enough. However then later it says that trivial edits are discouraged. That doesn't make sense in light of the previous statement. I might be willing to fix trivial things like spelling and grammar, but anything more I'm really uncomfortable with. But then edits are encouraged, but such trivial edits are not. Huh?

My solution is to avoid editing others' posts because the guidlines make no sense, and because I disagree philosophically that others should be able to edit a post beyond bad spelling and grammar that get in the way of understanding.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, you can see what the edit was: Click the "edited X hours ago" link above the name of the editor, and the changes will be shown with old (removed) text highlighted with red strikethrough and new text in green. I've made a couple trivial edits to your post so you can see this in action. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Jun 22 '11 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kevin: Thanks, that sure wasn't obvious. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jun 23 '11 at 12:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ how would you recommend it be any more obvious? \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Jun 24 '11 at 17:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kellenjb - for me it's ok the way it is; it show as a link, so I learned about the edit history by being provoked to click it. Just curiosity. The only way I can think of to make it more obvious is to make it a button, but I think it will attract too much attention then. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 26 '11 at 10:49

I guess this gets back to something that's been bugging me ever since I started posting on this site. It seems the site is optimized more for generating and maintaining a archive than to be a useful exchange between EEs and others doing electronics.

Personally, while I can see some value to a good archive, that's not something I really care all that much about. I'm here for the technical exchange, and I think most others are too. This different mindset shows up in various places. I've seen several questions closed that while perhaps somewhat off topic were still useful or at least interesting conversations relevant to electronics. @Kortuk seems to be particularly heavy handed in this regard. For example, while I agree this question is off topic, I nonethless would have let it continue.

I haven't been here very long, so am still trying to understand the reasoning behind why things are as they are before wanting to change them, but I'm finding my opinion agreeing less with the high level intent of this site as time goes on.

EDIT: OK, so using the HTML A tag isn't how to put links in posts. Ah, apparently the URL needs to be in quotes withing the A tag.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I never even tried HTML tags in my posts. To add a link type the link's text in square brackets, followed by the link in parentheses. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jun 23 '11 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh: It turns out some HTML does work. The embedded link in my post above is one of them. It is done with a regular A tag, except the URL after the "href=" part hast to be in quotes. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jun 23 '11 at 18:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ the tools when writing an answer make it very easy to add a link if you can't remember the tags needed. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Jun 24 '11 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you are looking for the back and forth conversation style exchange then you can either use our chat for discussion or you can go to a site that uses a forum style discussion. I don't think changing this site into a forum style would be beneficial at all as there would then be no advantage to any of the other sites out there. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Jun 24 '11 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ and about the question be closed, if it is off-topic then it needs to be closed. This is required to keep some amount of organization and focus to the site. If you think a question was closed that should not have been then there is a vote to reopen link that you will see at 3,000 rep. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Jun 24 '11 at 17:09

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