My understanding of this site is that we're hoping to provide a single "best" answer rather than a discussion or list of partial answers. With this in mind, I would assume that it would make sense to edit even the content of posts, if most of the post is good but there are parts that aren't.

But I've tried doing this and the original author has reverted to the original post without discussion. Have I violated a community standard? Are edits not really appreciated? (The previous "what should be edited" question had answers suggesting that even grammar should only be edited in extreme cases).

So, if I read an answer that is mostly solid but has a couple areas that I can't support as a "best" answer, am I supposed to edit that original answer, or just replicate most of the answer in my own post, with changes/additions as I feel necessary?

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I think I am one of those whose answers you edited and who rolled back to their original version. At least I rolled back an edit to one of my answers recently, and this answer refers to that.

The reason for my rollback was that someone added something to my answer with which I didn't agree.

I think that this site differs from, say, Stack Overflow in some very basic way. When you write code, there is code that works and code that doesn't work. While there are often different ways of coding the same function (so there are different correct answers to a question), there are clearly answers that are better than others, because they better do, what the OP wants, or because the code is more safe, etc.

In writing there is no such clear reference (works / doesn't work) against which you can measure an answer to a given question. First of all, no one knows which certain books sell and others don't. If we knew that, everyone would be writing bestsellers. Second, people (readers and writers) have different tastes. Third, different approaches work differently for different writers. Therefore, there never is one correct answer for any given question here. Anyone who believes that doesn't understand people (nor writing).

If you are on Stack Overflow and you see a why to improve code, most everyone will agree with that improvement. Here, it is not clear what is and what isn't an improvement. Therefore you are showing respect for and understanding of people's differences, by politely writing a comment suggesting your improvement, and allowing the author (!) of the answer to either accept and include that improvement or leave it as a comment for others to add to the answer in their minds if they agree with you.

I stressed the word "author" here, because that is also a difference. Software (or academic writing) is almost always a communal effort. While every programmer is proud of their contribution, they work with a mindset that includes teamwork. A fiction writer on the other hand is usually the sole creator of his work. He or she not only takes pride in their work, as the programmer (or contributor to a scientific publication) does, but indentifies with their work because they express their personality in their writing.

Authors feel the same way about their answers here, because this perspective is not limited to their novels, but a personality trait. I deeply dislike anyone messing with what I wrote, because you basically mess with me. I expect them to discuss their objections with me, allowing myself to change my opinion (and myself). I am always open to that, but reserve the right to disagree.

My recommendation would be to do what I do:

  • If you see and answer that you mostly agree with but would like to add something to or correct in some detail, write a comment.

  • If your own answer differs fundamentally from the answers given, write your own answer.

  • Do not write a near duplicate of another answer, even if your own wording would be better. That's stealing. You can write that you agree with so-and-so, but want to add this or that. Give credit where credit is due.

  • Do not change the meaning of answers, that's disrespectful.

  • Only correct spelling, grammar or confusing wording, but don't go overboard with that either, we're not a school, but a help forum.

Finally, I'd like to say that I very much appreciate your contributions to this site and that I find many of your answers helpful. I didn't even think your (if it was yours) edit to my question was basically wrong. It just wasn't the answer that I wanted to give. I upvoted this question, because I think its a great one and gave me an opportunity to clarify my own behavior on this site for me. Thank you.

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    I appreciate the ideas about there not being one correct answer to writing questions, but I wonder if it's not one of the reasons why this site is in Beta for so long and seems to have trouble getting users - maybe writing just isn't suited to this format of question-answering? (I find myself often frustrated by the rules for question format, as well - I understand the intent behind the rules, but I'm not sure they work for writing...) – Kate S. Aug 9 '15 at 20:43
  • The "Do not write a near duplicate answer" is problematic, I think, because even if we're saying substantive editing shouldn't be performed by OTHER community members, that doesn't mean it won't be performed by the original author. Yes, people could track back through the edit trail to see what was being said at the time the agreement comment was made, but it's a complication, for sure. – Kate S. Aug 9 '15 at 20:46
  • I agree with both your comments, especially the first. – user5645 Aug 10 '15 at 6:06

Removing stuff from others' answers is pretty iffy, unless it's clear-cut like a dead link. And editing because you disagree is a bad idea; in that case it's better to try to persuade the author of your position in a comment so he makes the edit himself.

Edits to augment an answer work better; if you can add a source for a claim, for example, that improves the post and should be uncontroversial. (But don't overdo; if you double the size of the post with your edit, you're kind of taking over.)

Edits to improve a post are part of the SE model. If an author objects to anybody else editing and is consistently rolling back good edits, flag so mods can take a look.

It's fine for an answer to build on another. "As noted in (link), (main point). In addition, (my longer addition). However, don't (thing you object to in other answer) because (reasons)." Acknowledge & link, summarize what you agree with, and then write the rest of your answer.

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  • I would add to that...with the original poster’s agreement…Steamrolling an Edit without the writer’s knowledge or approval is at best bullying, at worst censure and fascism. – Reed -SE is a Fish on Dry Land Aug 7 '15 at 22:27
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    @Reed I don't know what you mean by "steamrolling", but I find that communities work best if we assume good intentions absent evidence otherwise. Editing somebody else's answer is rarely "bullying" and certainly not "censure and fascism" (seriously??). Editing to improve a post is a clear part of the SE model. If you don't like the idea that people can edit your posts, this might not be the place for you. – Monica Cellio Aug 9 '15 at 17:55
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    @reed "at worst censure and fascism" - Stack Overflow is a company, not a government. Neither term applies here. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 11 '15 at 1:23
  • @Monica Cellio this is not about proposing an edit but editing someone's answer without their consent or knowledge. it would be ok if there was no author's name and editor name. However, if there is something with my name on it, then no, it should not have content that i have neither writen nor appoved. even worse the edit was done without my knowing about it, which is wy i called it steamrolled, i found out accidentaly that my post was edited. – Reed -SE is a Fish on Dry Land Aug 11 '15 at 22:59
  • @Reed you should have received an inbox notification of any but a very minor edit (where "very minor" means a few characters, like fixing a typo). – Monica Cellio Aug 12 '15 at 3:19
  • I didn’t, which is why i had such a knee-jerk reaction when I found my original content was modified. Anyways, since this whole issue has caused such a row, I have amended my post. – Reed -SE is a Fish on Dry Land Aug 13 '15 at 19:47

The general rule I personally follow is:

Edits for spelling/grammar, etc., are always OK.

Edits for clarity should be done with caution, and a notification to the OP in the comments.

Edits for content should be suggested first in the comments and only committed with the original poster's approval (I only make an exception to this when an salvageable question or answer is on the verge of being closed or deleted).

I've edited many posts on many different SE following this approach, and never had a problem.

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If you are speaking about me, personally I felt a bit violated when I found out my answer was edited without my approval, I didn’t even know it was possible.

In the past all proposed edits were suggestions always subject to my consent. I believe that this is a general view, and most would see editing as an offensive intrusion.

I think it is only really warranted for clarity purposes…if the formatting is off, or if grammatical mistakes make the content ambiguous, or near illegible.

But editing something because you don’t agree, or think it could be improved!!!!!!…Comments and your own answers are there for that.

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  • Wasn't just yours, there was another as well. I'm interested to see the community response, b/c my understanding of the Stack idea is that we're supposed to be editing a lot, but I could be wrong. – Kate S. Aug 6 '15 at 2:49
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    If you need to approve edits to your answers, keep in mind that this is a wiki-based Q&A site. Your questions and answers will be edited, but there are systems to keep edits under control. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 11 '15 at 1:25
  • well maybe it was just shock. this is the first time that i found someone forced an edit without my approval or knowledge. i feel that at least the original poster should be informed that his post was edited. – Reed -SE is a Fish on Dry Land Aug 11 '15 at 22:51

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