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Now that MathOverflow has moved to 2.0, there is a potential solution to the long-standing tension between people wanting to make minor improvements to old posts, and others not wanting the 'active questions' list being cluttered by these minor edits.

A "minor edit" feature has been proposed previously on meta.stackoverflow.com, but was declined, in part because it is very important that all edits are reviewed, and a minor edit feature would enable various types of vandalism or otherwise poor behaviour.

Note that on wikipedia (which has a minor edit feature), all changes appear in the list of recent changes, where everything is more of less thoroughly scrutinized.

With the coming of 2.0, we've gained access to a "reviewed edit" feature, by which users with insufficient reputation to make edits directly can propose edits. These proposed edits are then farmed out to sufficiently high reputation users (you might sometimes see a small brown circle with a number in it next to the word "review" on the top bar). This suggests a solution to the minor edit problem, and hence the following feature request.

Can we have a "minor edit" checkbox in the edit interface, along with the parenthetical text "minor edits do not bump posts on the list of active questions, but are subject to review but another user"?

As the text suggests, these edits would then be diverted to the review mechanism, regardless of the reputation of the editor. (Presumably this feature should also only be available after some reputation threshold.)

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    $\begingroup$ Poll question (1/2): I am confident that there are sufficiently many active reviewers that minor edits would be reviewed in a timely manner. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Jun 26 '13 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ Poll question (2/2): I am concerned that minor edits would overwhelm the review system. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Jun 26 '13 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ The main issue I see here is that the suggested edits queue requires the approval of two people. It sort of is a waste of time for two people to review a small change. In fact, most sites actively discourage suggesting minor edits for this reason. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ Ideally we could drop the number of approvals down to one for minor edits. I've already approved lots of edits which improved LaTeX formatting, and weren't particularly bothered by them. Since the review queue is entirely voluntary, it's not really a 'waste of time'. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Jun 26 '13 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth, A separate minor edits queue would be necessary (with just one 2K+ vote to clear). $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Jun 26 '13 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Scott Well, it is if more substantial suggested edits get pushed out and have to wait. On Physics we get a steady trickle of these, I bet MO will have a lot more coming in. Ideally, a different queue for these would be better but I don't see this getting implemented by the team. Alternatively, make the minor edit thing a post-approval -- the edit goes through, but it stays in a queue so others can check it out. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ Re 2: We have over 400 users with 2K+ points. Assuming 5% participation, that's probably enough people. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Jun 26 '13 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ If we keep the bound on the max number of characters in a minor edit low, that should limit the queue to a reasonable size. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Jun 26 '13 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ At least, "new style" tag edits by 10k+ users shouldn't bump. (See final part of mathoverflow.net/privileges/moderator-tools ) $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Jun 26 '13 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Scott - I thought the "newest" tab reflected new questions but not new answers. If that's right then it is not a good approximation of the "active" tab uncluttered by minor edits. (For the record, I find minor edits to be a merely minor hassle, and I wouldn't personally put much effort into fixing the problem. But if others want to fix it I'm supportive of that.) $\endgroup$ – Kevin Walker Jun 26 '13 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ I've proposed a very similar feature request in the past on MSO. I'm not entirely convinced anymore that this is the best way to do this, as the reviews themselves also have a cost (in terms of time users have to spend on them), but I think some way to do this would be useful. But there are no easy solutions to this problem, they all have some drawbacks. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Jun 26 '13 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if automatic CW-ing after a certain number of edits still exists, but if it does, I suppose these minor edits should not count, right? $\endgroup$ – Philip van Reeuwijk Jul 3 '13 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ As I understand it, the reason for reviewing minor edits is to make sure a vandal can't come in, totally change what I wrote, and claim it's a minor edit so that nobody notices. So, might the reviewers' duties be described as simply ensuring that minor edits are truly minor and, in particular, are not vandalism? Such a limitation of duties might increase the number of willing reviewers for minor edits. $\endgroup$ – Andreas Blass Jul 7 '13 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ I have a silly question. Is there any way of knowing if this feature request is actually moving forward or not? $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 26 '13 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ I've just pinged the Stack Exchange folks about this. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Sep 9 '13 at 0:17
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As an aside, I've posted this as a feature-request directly on https://meta.mathoverflow.net/, rather than at https://meta.stackoverflow.com/.

I think that minor edits are particularly important to mathematicians --- we are much more concerned about the accuracy and detail of all posts than most SE sites, where attention to old posts decays more rapidly. (I don't have the statistics to back that up, and would love to know details, btw) I'm pretty confident that we have sufficiently many 'attention to detail' types here that the review mechanism would work well.

I'd be very happy if this were implemented as an 'experimental' feature just for us, and either discontinued, kept at MathOverflow, or expanded to the whole SE network depending on its success here.

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  • $\begingroup$ (And finally, sorry that was posted as an answer, not a comment. What can I say --- I miss tea a bit :-) $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Jun 26 '13 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ You could just edit the original post. This wouldn't fit in a comment :P $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 26 '13 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's good that you posted this as an answer since it emphasizes a main difference between MO and some other network sites. On MO, posts have lasting documentary value so "too many inconsequential edits" is not something we want to discourage on MO. The main objection to Mad Scientist's proposal - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/122567/… - are exactly that and that reasoning does not apply to MO at all. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Jun 27 '13 at 21:33

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