I made an edit to this question, which I personally considered to be a huge improvement in readability, but to my surprise it not only got rejected for "does not make the post even a little bit easier to read", but the author rejected it too, commenting "I will not be accepting modifications to this answer. The formatting I used is very specific"

I thought my changes were a big improvement.

Original answer starts like this (in the edit box)

Step 1:
> In the Registry, go to the key
> HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Synaptics\SynTP\Defaults, and set the
> value of all string entries of the form `PalmKms…`, to 0.  These
> values determine the amount of ms that the touchpad stays disabled
> after keyboard input has been detected.

Which gets rendered as:

Step 1:

In the Registry, go to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Synaptics\SynTP\Defaults, and set the value of all string entries of the form PalmKms…, to 0. These values determine the amount of ms that the touchpad stays disabled after keyboard input has been detected.

Right away I see a few problems:

  1. I'm not sure why they used > on every line instead of concatenating all of them in a single paragraph, because that's essentially what it does (that's what I usually do). I thought to myself: Could the author have perhaps actually intended to have them in separate lines, but didn't realize that's not actually what's being rendered?

  2. I also put the registry key on its own line


    so that it could be selected easily by just triple clicking (not sure if many people are familiar with this).

It also makes selecting less error prone to accidentally selecting the surrounding text.

Next in the answer the author writes

Step 2:
> 1. Type WIN+R and start "regedit"
> 2. Confirm that you're an admin (a window may pop up).

Again, I see a few problems:

  1. The user has already been instructed to edit registry prior to this step, so this basic step to open "regedit" seem redundant. Or it should be put at the beginning.

  2. Same thing with putting the registry keys on their own line.

After these steps there's one more registry modification step, but it seems optional.

Overall the answer didn't seem like it had a "structure" which is what I tried to give. I'm struggling to understand whether it's this very intention which was unwelcome or if I made some other minor mistakes in carrying it out.

The author's comment "The formatting I used is very specific" is also what's puzzling me because like I said, I can't see what purpose this specific formatting might achieve. Does "steps" help in google search results? I googled the question but the answer doesn't appear as "steps".

  • 1
    One thing I noticed is that you modified a direct quote. The quotation was the OP's intent. There's nothing wrong with rephrasing or otherwise improving something found elsewhere. But then you become responsible for the content, including any subtle change you might inadvertently introduce. They become your words. So improving on quoted material introduces added responsibility, particularly if you have not personally tested the solution. Reviewers should similarly be careful of allowing inadvertent technical changes. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Feb 6 '18 at 0:04
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    For example, you rearranged some steps, which may be a procedural change. The reviewer isn't going to retest your procedure to verify that it still works, or even verify the sequence in which things appear in a procedure. Minor cleanup for grammar or readability may not be warranted on quoted material; save such improvements for quoted material that has serious (non-technical) problems. – fixer1234 Feb 6 '18 at 0:04
  • It makes sense. This answer has indeed helped me and I can attest to my "version" of it. I actually would've rearranged the registry steps even more in a way that I think would make most sense (and would work too, like I said, I've tested these steps myself). Anyways, thanks for pointing this out, this is exactly what I needed to know. I'll watch out for such subtleties in the future. – laggingreflex Feb 6 '18 at 0:14

As suggested by fixer1234 in the comments here, it appears that the original answerer wanted to make a direct quotation of his source without editing or improving it at all. I for one can see the value of improving on content we pull from external sources, and just leaving the external source there as a place for folks to go if they want to see the original (for authenticity, for example).

But I suppose it's fine if he doesn't want to deviate from what the horse's mouth said. While I think your edit improves the formatting of the content and makes it easier to understand, it fundamentally breaks the "direct quotation" style of the original answer.

Even though I advocate editing whenever it improves an answer, I think, in this case, it's up to the original answerer if they want to keep a direct quotation style in their answer rather than trying to improve it. If you were just cleaning up text that the original answerer had written themselves, I'd see less grounds to reject your edit.


As can probably be inferred from my profile, I am of the opinion that most users are overpossessive of "their" answers. In my opinion, edits are (supposed to be) such a big part of the site because the intent is to eliminate poorly-formatted or even incorrect content by improving it; we're sorta like Wikipedia in that sense.

Our dedication to edits goes so far that, after you get a certain amount of reputation, you can unilaterally make an edit anywhere you want on the site -- you just click "edit", type what you want, click save, and bam -- your changes are live on the site.

Instead, in forum-like fashion, most users stake out their answer and go, "Mine! Hands off!" and aggressively reject anyone trying to encroach on their little fiefdoms, paying no mind to what future visitors to the site might experience. All that matters is that their original content is preserved intact.

Have you ever been a consumer of the content on one of the Stack Exchange sites? Whether it was Super User, Stack Overflow or some other site? Okay... so did you ever read a question that was relevant to you, but had, say, more than 3 answers?

Did you ever feel that a lot of information was being repeated multiple times in each answer, but with each poster's take on it in their own words? And then each post has its own typos; its own formatting imperfections; maybe even its own factual inaccuracies.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, this screed is just to say, that's kind of where the culture of the site is (and has been for a while). I don't think it's optimal, and I'm sure later visitors find it annoying to search through multiple similar answers and pick out the grains of truth from between the teeth of half-truths, outdated information, and lovely data evidently typed by someone who doesn't know Markdown from magic marker.

The de facto policy is, generally speaking, don't edit others' answers (like, at all). Instead, if you want to contribute to the discussion, post your own, competing answer, and let God votes sort out whose answer is better.


  • Yes, sometimes there's the problem of people being too possessive of their post. But it isn't really a continuum between personally-owned answers and the Wikipedia model of perfecting the single right answer. It's more of a triangle and the SE model is the third corner. Here, answers compete with each other. Your last paragraph is part of the fundamental design. What you describe in the next to last paragraph is a shortcoming of the design. We deal with that using comments and votes. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Feb 6 '18 at 4:12
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    It's great if each answer can be polished to make it the best it can be, and we don't want duplication. But sometimes, several answers describe the same thing and what sets them apart is how understandable and usable they are to different audiences. There's value in that. – fixer1234 Feb 6 '18 at 4:12
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    I think your humbly described rant is a well considered and productive perspective, I wish more people felt this way. However, it seems an overstatement to say it’s the defacto policy not to edit answers. I feel comfortable doing it when productive, and even receiving occasional ego tinged objections, find it still perfectly practical to do so. – whitneyland Feb 6 '18 at 22:01
  • "The de facto policy is, generally speaking, don't edit others' answers (like, at all)" -- absolutely disagree. Do edit others' answers if you think you're improving them. We should never discourage people from stepping in and fixing issues when they find them. I've been a prolific editor over the past years (perhaps not as much in recent times) and I've never encountered big problems there. Sure, once in a while someone objects. That's their prerogative, but it's not like the majority of folks whose answers you edit will complain. I think that this number is actually quite low. – slhck Feb 7 '18 at 15:45
  • Of course, your editing style matters a lot. Don't go impose your idiosyncrasies on other folks or delete and re-write the content; try to find a middle ground where possible and stick to the original intent. If that is not possible, do write your own answer. – slhck Feb 7 '18 at 15:45
  • IMHO the de facto policy you describe is more real in the Suggested Edit queue than on the site in general. Like @slhck, I edit anything that needs improvement. I'm certain my edits would be routinely rejected based on the practice of denying "minor" edits, as if to assert only posts with significant errors should be edited. – Twisty Impersonator Feb 10 '18 at 18:14
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    I just edited the rant to fix the strikethrough text :P – rahuldottech Feb 11 '18 at 17:28
  • I imagine that without the edit queue, very often people simply don't notice their answers being edited later, so they don't bother to police the content as much. The edit queue puts more eyes on it (and eyes who aren't necessarily familiar with the subject matter), so there's a greater chance of rejection. – allquixotic Feb 14 '18 at 9:01
  • I think one of the key reasons people are so possessive is that their name is shown in the lower-right corner of the text. This visually looks very much like a signature, and people don't like being misquoted. When someone else performs an edit, visitors do not easily see what got edited (clicking to view Edit History is often too time consuming), so visitors are inclined to think most of the answer is probably still the same, so each individual word is most likely part of unedited text created by whomever's profile is in the signature's location. Visual re-design could impact this greatly. – TOOGAM Feb 19 '18 at 3:53

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