23

[paraphrased position 1]

Generally, if people abstained from doing edits that are just removing "thanks" and context phrasing (without doing any other improvements), that would be great. I perfectly understand the point of not cluttering questions with useless verbiage, but having someone actively enforcing the "no-thanks policy" on sight is incredibly rude -- and culturally insensitive to the point of becoming discriminatory.

The consensus has always been not to edit them out unless you're already editing the post, and then to take them out along with the other changes. That doesn't solve any of the interpersonal issues, in line with SE's usual practice, it just keeps pointless edits down.

v.s.

[paraphrased position 2] Reviewers should approve any edit that improves the post. ANY. Removing thanks improves the post, and should be encouraged.


In earlier discussions, I saw "consensus" that edits that only remove "thanks" or "hi" were fine. At most, I remember (but cannot find) an answer from someone saying they would not make such an edit themselves, but did not see any harm in them.

Can we mark the current feeling of Unix & Linux SE here, in a dedicated post? The above discussions occurred on a question about something different, even if there was some overlap. If nothing else, it should be easier to find here.

terdon ♦ (a diamond moderator) was advocating against this type of edit.

I am not cultured enough myself to give evidence for all the statements in position 1. If you feel confident enough to contradict them, or you feel this is insulting you, please start from an assumption of good faith. I have posted my own argument as an answer, so you could respond to that argument if you find it preferable.

  • 2
    Just to note that the emphasis of this post is on editing these things at all, whereas my earlier post was specifically about editing questions recently put "on hold". – Kusalananda Apr 25 at 15:46
  • These two positions aren't necessarily inconsistent: one says don't make the edit, the other says that once the edit has been made it should be approved in review. I think there's a stronger version of #2 with adherents. – Michael Homer Apr 25 at 20:18
  • 1
    @MichaelHomer Given the emphasis, I interpret "Removing thanks improves the post, and should be encouraged" as promoting making these edits. Absolutely there are a range of possible positions. I confess I've basically given up trying to learn the review system for now, so I'm not very familiar with edit review. My reaction to this discussion is we have at least one regular user who frequently performs these edits (i.e. who is above the review threshold), so I think we don't have a real consensus. – sourcejedi Apr 25 at 20:45
1

Personally I feel that any edit is worth making.

If it's just the removal of "Thanks" or the OP's name from the post this is fine. Putting questions into their best possible light is only a win, and it also demonstrates to the OP that someone is here already attempting to provide "some" assistance.

I would encourage that all edits be made if you're attempting to edit, and not just the "Thanks" when there's more typos to be fixed. I've seen this behavior from time to time here and that behavior is probably what most would find off putting.

Bottom line, make the questions shine and look both aesthetically pleasing as well as grammatically correct as possible.

  • 2
    To give a very rough order of magnitude regarding "from time to time", I found two examples of removing "Thanks" and 1) leaving an obvious format error, 2) leaving a spelling error in the title of a short question (though this one would be easier to overlook, if the editor has less of a keen eye for English), marked "yesterday" and "2 days ago" respectively. Or if you meant that's fine, but a given user should put their changes in a single edit, not do a reflex "no thanks" edit and then do other edits as well, I saw examples of that too. – sourcejedi Apr 28 at 14:24
  • 1
    I'm sure there are good intentions, but I don't notice that any of the various suggested standards have been upheld. Apart from the maximalist "position 2". – sourcejedi Apr 28 at 14:26
  • @sourcejedi - reflexive editing is fine IMO. I do that too where you miss a typo and go and fix it immediately after making other edits. Try to do them in a few as possible but editing can be somewhat of a iterative process. WRT the "time to time" It's difficult to scope who does and does not know English well enough to edit, that's part of why I think ppl editing what they can isn't the worst thing in the world. If a person is not growing as an editor and merely removing "Thanks" when there's other things like i -> I I'd like to see these editors elevate their editing game over time but... – slm Apr 28 at 14:31
  • 2
    Sorry, I am being a bit too cryptic. These were both by a well-known editor. Maybe there are several active editors who like to remove thanks, however I've only noticed one. – sourcejedi Apr 28 at 14:40
  • 1
    @sourcejedi am familiar w/ whom and it's been raised before and brought up to them. – slm Apr 28 at 14:41
  • Maybe make the edit comment something...flattering so people don't feel as taken aback... – rogerdpack May 9 at 16:03
  • 3
    I'm noticing that in the "don't ask" Help page, one of the reasons for not asking useless questions is that they push other questions off the front page. This is also what useless edits to questions do, especially when done in bulk. – Kusalananda May 19 at 8:40
24

The most important thing for a new user asking a question is to get answers.

When someone's first contact with the site is to ask a question, that's usually because they have a problem to solve, not because they want to join a community. Joining a community comes later, if the community has proven to be useful or interesting.

So when evaluating questions from new users, don't focus exclusively on your perception of what's rude and what isn't. Not only because your perception might not match that person's at all, but also because it often isn't the most important factor. Note that I'm not saying that you should be rude, of course, or even that it's ok to be rude. It isn't. But if you refrain from certain actions just because it might possibly be interpreted as rude, you're missing the point.

What's the effect of an edit that removes “thanks”?

Objectively, it improves the chances for the post to get answered. Having less clutter gives it a better chance of being read. Editing the post bumps it, giving it another go on the front page.

Subjectively, however, there are downsides. When an asker sees some interaction with their post, but that interaction doesn't solve their problem, that often creates a backlash. “Yeah, you did something, but why didn't you help me?”

For this reason, I recommend against making minor edits to a recent, unanswered questions. By “minor edit”, I mean one that doesn't make a real difference to the readability of the post: fixing trivial spelling mistakes like “i” → “I”, removing “Thanks in advance” at the end of the post. Spelling errors in potential search keywords, retags, title improvements, formatting multiline code fragments as code, and so on are significant improvements and should be done no matter what. And if these include the removal of “thanks”, that's fine.

Also, if a rule is not that important, don't try to teach the rule. “Don't put thanks at the end of posts” or “‘I’ is always capitalized” is not that important. If you start educating a newcomer who's still waiting for an answer, expect them to be angry that you're wasting their time. Do teach the rule if there is a clear link between following the rule and getting an answer or if it requires an action from the poster, for example if the question contains screenshots of text, or if the question is missing some information. If it's a reason to close the question, absolutely do teach the rule. If not, then probably the rule isn't that important.

  • 8
    I agree with everything you say, except your choice of example for a minor error. Maybe it's because I'm a pedant and a language geek, but i instead of I is really, really jarring for me. It is distracting and makes the post harder to read. I don't think that fixing such glaring spelling errors is on the same level as removing thanks. At least, one is an actual error (i for I) while the other is simply unnecessary politeness. – terdon Apr 25 at 20:53
  • 4
    @terdon Well, for me, it's the opposite. Lowercase “I” is an unimportant spelling error. An extra paragraph for “thanks”, even if it's a short one, makes it less likely that I'll decide to read the question. – Gilles Apr 25 at 20:56
  • 2
    @Gilles: What is minor for you will be jarring for others, and may reduce their likelihood of giving answers. Isn't that the whole point? – Kevin Apr 26 at 7:32
  • 8
    There’s one nice way to deal with all this, which is to edit a question only after answering it ;-). – Stephen Kitt Apr 26 at 9:27
  • 2
    @Gilles - I agree w/ Terdon as well, the example you cite w/ the i -> I is super annoying to me as well as a native English speaker and so would encourage this type of edit. – slm Apr 28 at 13:02
  • 5
    My very first posting to the Linux forum turned out to be very long (I think necessarily so). It was immediately edited to remove the "Thanks" and my name at the bottom, probably less than 1% of the size. Been around enough to search to not react there, found this thread. Frankly my first wonder if it was edited by a bot, but apparently was done by someone with nothing more to contribute to my discourse than that -- do they get an award for how many "Thanks" they can remove or something? It's not so much offensive as just baffling why one would bother? – Linwood May 2 at 19:34
  • 3
    @Linwood People who edit posts generally do it just to make the site better. – Gilles May 2 at 20:27
  • 3
    @Linwood "a stitch in time saves nine" etc. Every question sets an example for the next person who wants to ask a question. That's why one would bother. – pipe May 3 at 13:33
  • I agree that "The most important thing for a new user asking a question is to get answers." However, that seems (to me) to be in contradiction to 'the most important thing for the site is to have good questions with good answers'. – John Hascall May 7 at 14:57
  • @JohnHascall What's most important to one user at one point in time is not always the best thing for the site overall (however you choose to define this). – Gilles May 7 at 23:09
  • 1
    @Linwood Yes, doing a lot of edits increase their moderator score and give them badges. Make no mistake, they're not doing because of some internal tweaking compulsion. Look at this edit -- that guy didn't bother to fix the typo in the title, didn't bother to fix the code formatting, but he did bother to remove an entire paragraph + thanks, without engaging the OP in any way. – pizdelect May 12 at 11:38
7

I agree more with position 1.

It is extremely surprising for a user, to learn that some readers consider "thanks" harmful enough, that they will edit purely to remove it.

I saw a similar edit on a question marked as being from a new user. I cannot see enforcing this on new users as being "welcoming". If the poster works out what's going on, it feels like a rebuke: "don't do this again". Editors often don't take the time to provide an edit reason, that explains why it is considered an improvement. And the amount of effort required for the poster to try and work out what's going on seems disproportionate. That applies to removing either "thanks" or "hi".

StackExchange already has significant surprises. E.g. the use of editing (plus the way comments interact with this) seems unfamiliar from nearly any other form of human discussion. At minimum, I would wait until I could see someone was in a comfortable position, before I tried to teach them about a "no thanks policy". By default, while you are asking a question, you are in a fairly exposed position.

I don't know exactly how to promote this position. I'm not sure that I feel much better if an edit fixes the spelling of a word (technical jargon or otherwise) at the same time as removing "thanks". And I am sceptical that editors would remember to write an edit reason, linking to the Meta explaining that StackExchange prefers questions without "thanks".

I admit I highly enjoy reading posts without "hi" and "thanks" at either end. But I don't understand how policing this through edits can be worth the cost.


Having less clutter gives it a better chance of being read.

I don't "get" this. I can imagine it being true statistically, and a contributing factor if the rest of the question is a challenge to read. I struggle to imagine that the increase in probability is significant from the point of view of the poster.

if a rule is not that important, don't try to teach the rule

I agree the aim is not to teach posters every detail of how write a perfect question "for next time". We don't need edit descriptions to include an itemized list of references for spelling and grammar. My problem is that removing "thanks" is us being idiosyncratic. It then takes effort for posters e.g. to distinguish this from vandalism by a rogue user.

I suppose that argument is not as relevant if you can tell the overall edit is clearly being helpful - i.e. removing "thanks" is combined with changes that are easy to understand as improving the question.


If you're seeing the community helping you progress towards an answer, I think changes like "i" -> "I" are different from "thanks" -> "". In some contexts people do use lowercase because they like the style, but IMO you have to be very laconic to make that work well. When you've written several sentences, it's likely there are some other possible cleanups for readability (or for search keywords, or making the title a good summary...). Lowercase "i" is pretty idiosyncratic, to expect editors to try to preserve that style when they're improving readability. I think people understand that, and I don't remember it causing drama. Editors removing "thanks" that you put in is harder to understand. (Unless it feels like they rewrote the question as a whole, perhaps.)

  • 8
    There is a sliding scale between excessive verboseness, conciseness and terseness, and Stack Exchange sites overall can perhaps tend a little too much towards the last, which comes across as cliquey and off-putting to newcomers. It is generally considered polite in human society to offer thanks-in-advance when requesting help, and it's only a few words at most at the very end of a question. Can those who get too upset by that basic politeness not just parse it as an "End of Message" marker? No harm in editing out if making other constructive edits, but rather unnecessary otherwise. – dave559 May 6 at 15:00
3

I think the answer also depends on whether the changes from the user doing the edit need to be reviewed by other users, or if they have enough reputation for the edits to go into effect immediately.

I have been told that, as long as one’s edits need to be reviewed, they should keep to the important things, such as an overhaul of verbiage in order to be understood, or correcting formatting (e.g. for code), changing broken links, or somesuch. (When such an edit is done, the other things can be improved, but only then.)

And once the reputation is above the threshold, that minor edits to slightly improve legibility or so can also be made.

The idea here was, IIRC, that, while increasing the quality of posts (questions and answers alike) is good, overburdening the reviewers isn’t.

  • 1
    Ah, good point. And I suppose it means the site cannot really teach this topic through edit reviews. So it seems useful to discuss this topic, in Meta questions or elsewhere. – sourcejedi May 7 at 20:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .