A few days ago, I came across a question on serverfault with an answer I thought good, but could be improved.

And indeed, the software asked me to improve the question. So I did. I clarified and gave details on how to make the solution secure.


This edit was rejected with the vague (and very arguably incorrect) reason being "This edit changes too much in the original post; the original meaning or intent of the post would be lost."

Wow. Imagine how much that makes me want to contribute to questions in the future that ask me to improve them.

So first, I would like to ask moderators to err more on the side of being generous, than on the side of being stringent.

And then, I would also suggest there be someway to notify and discuss the various issues back and forth.

Post the edit and let others correct it later, especially if it's a community edit.

We all here work for free. The reward is in acknowledgement.

I understand how small and petty this minor grief is. I am posting this now to see how serverfault and its policies might be improved in the future.

I posted the following at http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation/#comment-62507

A few days ago, I found an answer on serverfault that I thought was good, and that asked me for my improvement. So I added a good chunk of answer to it. Since I don't have edit privileges there, it went into some queue, where a moderator rejected it with the somewhat strange claim "that my edit would change the answer too much." But the edit didn't change the answer at all, which was left completely intact, but clarified it, and added some important details regarding how to secure the answer. I was not notified of this rejection. And yes, since I am unpaid just as much as the moderator, it somewhat rankles that this obviously good faith and correct edit is just rejected. I will remember this anytime stackoverflow or one of its sites ask me to improve an answer. The response will be no. It's a waste of time. So I think it's a shame that there seems to be no way to directly address/email/im/notify a moderator or anyone that can reject an edit, and nothing in the community that suggests a moderator should directly communicate with the user he is moderating.

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    Re: direct communication, note that most people approving/rejecting edits aren't diamond mods - they're high-rep users who have spare time to look at an edit and decide yay or nay. Most of us don't have time to get into an extended back-and-forth on the "why", beyond the one-line reasons the system provides for us :-) – voretaq7 Oct 13 '11 at 16:54
  • Really. I rarely go into suggested-edits. I have enough work keeping up with flags as it is, so leave suggested-edits to our high-rep users. – sysadmin1138 Oct 13 '11 at 16:58
  • As I said elsewhere, if you and the mods have no time to do a decent job with the edit queue, THAN remove the edit queue. Don't make false promises that you can't keep, or do a quality job with. – Jerry Asher Oct 13 '11 at 20:47
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    I'm afraid this isn't a battle you're going to win: ServerFault and the SE sites are a walled garden, and the community/mods are zealous guardians. We can and will show you the path, but if you ignore the path and insist on trampling the flowers you won't be well received. (analogy quota for the day: Met.) – voretaq7 Oct 13 '11 at 21:07
  • Exactly, which is why I've said, there is no way I will ever choose "Improve an answer" again. What are the rational reasons why anyone should choose this answer, given the likely conduct of the moderators, and the walled off nature of SE and the likely beatdown it exposes a newbie to? As an example, see how much this question itself has been downvoted... Instead of improving an answer, I will always choose make my own answer, regardless of how that diminishes the effectiveness of the site to the end users. – Jerry Asher Oct 13 '11 at 21:13
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    If your answer is good how can it diminish the effectiveness of the site ? Sure it stings a bit when an edit is rejected or a flag is dismissed but really, just learn from it, live with it and move on. The down votes here are because people disagree with your position, nothing more. – Iain Oct 13 '11 at 21:24
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    @Jerry votes on meta are different than on main. All votes are free and don't subtract rep. It's meant purely as "agree" or "disagree" since meta is for deciding site policies and discussing issues. It's not personal here (and it isn't on main either). – MDMarra Oct 14 '11 at 1:26

It was me who rejected this, and my reason for doing so were:

  • It adds no more to the answer, yes it is some nice detail on cygwin and SSH, but it doesn't add any more to the answer. At best it should be a comment.
  • It substantially changes the original persons answer, rather than correcting or improving the answer it changes the answer from being an informational answer, that you can use cygwin/ssh for this, to being an opinion about the benefits of using cygwin/ssh for this. If that's what you want to say that's great, but do it under your own name in a comment or answer, not under someone else's.

Whilst improving an answer is something we want to encourage, changing someones answer to your own is not something I feel is right.

Also, on the subject of the 'vauge' response, we do not get a freeform response, we can only select from a few set reasons.

  • I disagree that it adds no more to the answer. Setup an ssh server sounds pretty daunting to many people. Is it simple? Is it difficult? What are the benefits? IN THIS CONTEXT, what are the benefits over the TELNET solution also offered? Telling someone how to secure and automate their solution further does not seem to be a opinion answer. – Jerry Asher Oct 13 '11 at 20:52
  • Gedanken Experiment to all those agreeing my edit was of not much value. If you had seen side by side the original two lines saying "use cygwin ssh" or my expanded answer saying "use cygwin ssh" and also detailing the various benefits and advising how to secure and automate the solution, which answer would you have voted for? As I've been saying the entire time, if you don't actually want people to improve the answer, you should remove that as an option. Just let people add comments. – Jerry Asher Oct 14 '11 at 3:56
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    There's a tipping point between improving someone's answer and essentially writing one of your own, @Jerry, and I'm inclined to agree with Sam, you crossed that point. Your answer is much more comprehensive than the one you edited though, I would probably have turned that into an answer of your own if I were in your place. – Rob Moir Oct 14 '11 at 7:17
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    @Jerry Your answer does not add anything to the question "Is it possible to run a command on windows server from Linux?", your answer is a comment on the benefits of using Cygwin and SSH over other options. This should, therefore be a comment. – Sam Cogan Oct 14 '11 at 9:46

Re: notifying people when an edit is rejected/accepted - I can certainly see the value in that. Definitely something I think should be happening (I thought it was but I could be wrong).

Re: "being generous", not so much - though to be fair sysadmins are not generous by nature and we're often more inclined to say no than yes.

Personally I would agree with the rejection not because your edit substantially changes the meaning of the answer, but rather because it's better suited as a comment.

Your edit doesn't correct anything in the original post, and it doesn't clarify anything that was unclear - It provides a commentary on why you feel SSH remote execution is a good way to solve the problem presented in the question, with scenarios that illustrate the varying levels of lockdown and security available.

An explanation of the security of various ways of implementing SSH remote command execution is useful and illustrative, but if you want to agree with an answer and point out reasons why you think it's a good one a comment (and an appropriate vote) is the "right" way to do so (IMHO) - as it is if you disagree with an answer.
Editing the answer to add your own viewpoint/narrative/etc. is a slippery slope and leads to edit wars.

  • I think you're asking for a subtlety here that is beyond the system or most users. Serverfault SPECIFICALLY asked me to "improve the answer" and "add a comment." I chose "improve the answer". Sam and Serverfault said "FU". Now you tell me it's clear that I should have chosen "add a comment." – Jerry Asher Oct 13 '11 at 20:56
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    I believe you're reading what you want to read, and will not allow yourself to be shown otherwise. Sorry to be blunt, but the community seems to disagree with how you interpret the edit functionality versus the comment functionality. When 10000 people say "A" and one guy says "B" it's very rare that the guy saying B is correct. – voretaq7 Oct 13 '11 at 21:01

I don't disagree - that's a huge amount of extra information. I would wonder why you didn't just make an answer of your own? Editing other people's answers is supposed to be really only syntax/formatting, and not really add a whole lot of extra information.

  • +1 "and not really add a whole lot of extra information" = "This edit changes too much in the original post" (the reason given by Sam) – Chris S Oct 13 '11 at 16:58
  • I didn't make this an answer of my own, because the basic answer, use ssh was right there. INSTEAD, since serverfault INVITED AND ASKED ME to improve the answer, I chose to improve the answer. Perhaps Sam, instead of his blind rejection, could have taken that and turned it into a comment. This is one way of many that serverfault/stackexchange are downright rude and hostile to newcomers and inexperienced users – Jerry Asher Oct 13 '11 at 20:49
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    @Jerry - enforcing the community standards isn't hostility: It's the way we keep StackExchange sites from turning into ExpertsExchange, Ubuntu Forums, or ($_DEITY forbid) Usenet. Many of us have come here and explained why we also would have rejected the edit - the community seems to have reached a consensus backed by multiple reasons. I'm sorry if you feel having an edit rejected is "hostile", but I submit that you might be just a tad oversensitive about it. My advice: Read, Understand, and decide if this is a community you want to continue to participate in. – voretaq7 Oct 13 '11 at 21:15
  • Thank you, "My advice: Read, Understand, and decide if this is a community you want to continue to participate in." is a very long about way of saying foad / don't like it hit the road. And you wonder why people might think you're hostile to newbies. – Jerry Asher Oct 13 '11 at 21:18
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    @Jerry, you're the one bringing the hostile attitude. I appreciate that you started by trying to help; but it's nothing more than disruptive now. We don't need that here. – Chris S Oct 13 '11 at 21:42
  • @Jerry when rejecting an edit, we do not have the option to turn it into a comment, or another answer, we have a yes or no button. If I had manually added a comment it would have been under my name, which is not what you want. If you want to go and add a comment to that answer, please do. – Sam Cogan Oct 14 '11 at 9:48

The ability to approve or reject edits is something that earned based on reputation. There are about 50 people on this site that have the ability to approve or reject edits, only a few are elected moderators.

I could have, and would have voted to reject that edit as well, and I am not elected, I earned all my privileges here by participating in the site.

I found an answer on serverfault that I thought was good, and that asked me for my improvement. So I added a good chunk of answer to it. Since I don't have edit privileges there, it went into some queue, where a moderator rejected it

In many ways your edit is breaking the idea of that post. The ability to improve an answer is a moderator power that has been grated to users, and you are basically complaining that you abused that power, and your abuse was rejected.

If you note the main point in that blog 'what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!'

Your edit was not doing as little as possible, you almost quadrupled, the size of the answer. The point of the editing feature is to allow the community to share the moderator duties by correcting minor errors. Adding a lot of commentary is not correcting a minor error.

  • I'm sorry, I must be at a different stack exchange site, because the one I go to, says explicitly, do not make minor changes. – Jerry Asher Oct 14 '11 at 3:58
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    If you can't see the middle ground between "minor changes" and the whole new answer you essentially produced in your edit then its hard to know what to say. – Rob Moir Oct 14 '11 at 7:20

And then, I would also suggest there be someway to notify and discuss the various issues back and forth.

This (meta) is the place to do that.

  • Or, sometimes, chat. – DanBeale Oct 19 '11 at 21:05

As others have already made clear, your edit added nothing of relevance to the original answer. It was merely expressing your opinions. The original got to the point without unnecessary verbiage, so there was no need to change it.

and very arguably incorrect

Argue all you like but it looks like you might be losing this one.

And then, I would also suggest there be someway to notify and discuss the various issues back and forth.

No. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum (although I personally wish we had a forum as well). If you really wish to have a discussion about it try chat.

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