In this question, I made an edit to change the formatting because I thought it was inappropriate (related meta discussion).

The author swiftly reverted my edit to restore the original version, without waiting for further opinions. Is this the appropriate behavior?

I believe that when we notice a conflict of this type, the proper procedure would be either alerting the moderators or opening a meta discussion. Reverting edits is OK for vandalism, or in cases in which an edit contains an honest mistake (for instance, changing a notation wrongly). But when there is a clear conflict of opinions, I would prefer if unilateral changes were avoided.

Something similar happened in this controversial question. I edited it to remove out a part that I considered inappropriate on this site; another user disagreed with me and reverted the edit without much discussion. Later on, in the meta discussion a vast majority of users agreed that my deletion was appropriate (+21/-4 votes as I am writing). The question still stands in its original state, by the way.

In both cases, the authors were trying to attract more attention to their questions; so I believe that if the question stays in its original state for a long period of time, especially in the first days while it is new and active, the 'harm' has already been done and they have achieved their goal. So we should err on the side of the editor in this kind of conflicts, not on the side of the author (contrary to what has happened in both cases).

What is the opinion of the community and of the moderators on this issue?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are you actually asking about protocol or writing a callout thread? I think that when users disagree on the way a question is presented a calm discussion in meta is a good place for it, and that this is what has usually happened. In any case, I do not agree that one edit each constitutes an "edit war". $\endgroup$
    – mme
    Commented Oct 18, 2018 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeMiller I already opened another meta thread (linked) to discuss the content of the issue. The same thing happened twice already, and I am writing to ask what I should do if it happens a third time. I believe that the timing of the edits and reverts is important here (as argued in the question), so it would be good for me to have a policy on what to do in future. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2018 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ I realize that it is difficult (for me in the first place) to keep the discussion on this incident separate from the general "what to do" question. My proposal is that I let it cool off, and one week from now I try to write a completely new meta question that tries to be detached from this issue and describes the problem a more general setting. I have voted to close this question as "unclear what you are asking". (I didn't even know the author of a question could vote to close it!) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2018 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ It was my intuition precisely because of the other thread that the purpose of this was to double down and fan the flames, as posting the other thread already seemed to be "proper protocol" to me. However, I take you at your word that it was not (and apologize for the accusation). I think that a more general question would be of use to this website as a pointer for future conflicts and look forward to it. $\endgroup$
    – mme
    Commented Oct 18, 2018 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ If you will forgive the irony, I applaud the idea of waiting a week, then editing the question to include your meditation that week on the pertinent issues. Most of us will be here to help after a week. Gerhard "Does Gazing At Other Navels" Paseman, 2018.10.18. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2018 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ There is a FAQ post on this meta: Editing etiquette. Todd Trimble wrote in his answer: "If simple polite communication doesn't work and you find yourselves at an impasse, you can flag for moderator attention to help resolve the dispute." If there are many edits on a post, mod-attention flag is automatically raised: Put an end to rollback wars and What causes a post to be auto-flagged for many edits more than once? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2018 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico Poloni: From what kind of 'harm' are you talking? What's bad if a question gets attention? $\endgroup$
    – tj_
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @tj_ It's not creating attention from nowhere, it's taking it away from other posts. It's the same kind of 'harm' that ads and sponsored content do, in my view. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 7:20

2 Answers 2


As a longtime Wikipedia contributor who has been around a lot of truly crazy edit wars, my advice is: never revert more than once even if the other person's edit is terrible. Instead leave a comment explaining your objection, and flag the post or open a discussion on meta. There is an official 3-revert limit on Wikipedia but in practice it's preferable to stop at 1. There are exceptions (like if the edit could do someone real harm if not reverted, e.g. it contains bad medical advice) but they're less likely to come up on MO.


I find the post title mildly inflammatory, but effective, so I will resist the temptation to edit it.

I think there should be no edit wars, and thus do not see the need for a protocol. In cases of disagreement, I like to leave a comment suggesting the author make the change. Leaving aside obvious (to the community) cases like spam, I almost never act independently or call in the moderators; I prefer to encourage the individual instead. I think you have the right idea, but a different modus operandi: for serious (to you) cases you start by asking for help on how to proceed, through meta or through moderators.

While I understand 'harm' or 'damage' might be useful word in this discussion, I think it may help to rename the problem and talk about 'impact' instead on the community. I think if a well-intended edit gets reverted that is a signal to ask about what is going on, and seek advice. Egos can be repaired, and they are usually the primary victims in many cases.

Gerhard "Does This Signature Have Impact?" Paseman, 2018.10.18.


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