Recently, there have been a number of disputes about the appropriate extent of editing a post and which sources to add, if any.

I would like to use this thread to enable people to add their views in the form of answers, and discuss them in comments if seen as necessary.

The proper way to resolve conflict should be a discussion, putting up perspectives, and the community deciding via votes. I know that the latter point is problematic simply because of a lack of participation but I hope for the best.

  • 1
    Am I right in thinking that the OP can always revert an edit if they don't agree with it?
    – Bumble
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 10:33
  • 1
    @Bumble That is correct in principle, yes. Given they know how to do that.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 11:13
  • 3
    @Bumble Helps hardly if the OP returns after answers have been given to a totally twisted question.
    – user14511
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 11:20
  • Our editing guidelines explicitly say that edits do not need to be community reviewed. Is the outcome of this thread possibly a change to those guidelines, and a scaling back of our editing powers?
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 18:04
  • 1
    @Dcleve No, why should it? This is a discussion about the manner in which those who can edit without community review (via review queues), effect immediately, should make use of this power. Those editing powers mean anything is possible and so we should try to figure out which extent edits should have and what basic principles they should follow, together.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 19:56
  • Got it, thanks. I like the current policy, and yes, any dispute over edits should come here, rather than being an "edit war".
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 14:34
  • "The proper way to resolve conflict should be a discussion" Then why do you delete my posts for no good reason with no discussion involved?
    – polcott
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 13:48
  • @polcott There are good reasons, and I am glad you finally chose the correct platform to allow me to discuss them. It is not primarily my concern to open meta discussions. I did in this case because neither party did it by themselves and third parties were involved.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 18:51
  • @PhilipKlöcking It seemed to be totally rude that you always made sure to delete the post before I could have any chance to reply.
    – polcott
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 20:03

3 Answers 3


I think apart from personal preferences, the way how a question or an answer is altered and how links are embedded is crucial in any edit.

The main reason for carefully considering the extent of an edit is given in the comment section of the question: Your edit may change the answers that are given significantly, to the point of being useless to the one who formulated the original question! And the main goal should be to get a good answer to whatever the OP was asking, on a level appropriate for them, and not about what someone else deems interesting or understands.

I will give my personal view (I am not an authority above and beyond the community, I am a community member with more-than-normal amounts of tools to do what every community member should do):


There are a few things to say about links. This is what our help center has to say about them:

Provide context for links

Links to external resources are encouraged, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there. Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the external resource is unreachable or goes permanently offline. Links to other websites should always be helpful, but avoid making it necessary to click on them as much as possible. (source)

This means a link should not serve as explanatory device on its own. If one wants to include explanatory content or a clarification/definition of terms, the proper way to do so is including the relevant information in the body of the post and using the link as a reference for that content.

Whether or not Wikipedia is a reputable source is up to debate but pretty much depends on the article and assertion we look at. A main advantage of only taking specific relevant content and referencing it is that one can see whether this specific content is backed up by references. On the other hand, the IEP and certainly the SEP are always properly sourced and referenced.

Content alteration

I think that while it is ok to alter a post in principle, even substantially, and is totally within the rules and to some extent encouraged, it very much hinges on how it is done. I'd like to draw some lines I see as crucial.

  1. Do not put words into the mouth of a poster. While it is ok to add examples and make the whole thing more accessible and comprehensive, one should not make it look as if this was the line of thought of the original poster. It isn't. Added content should always be in objective language.
  2. Do add to and expand on what is there, not change with what you think might be there in mind, see also next point.
  3. Ask for clarification in comments first. You should be pretty certain of the intentions and needs of the original poster if you are to make substantial changes to the content. It is their post, after all. And many users do not know the mechanics of the site well enough to be able to roll back (or make) an edit.
  4. Keep in mind that it should be expert knowledge reflected in answers. Not everybody has to understand every question and most people will not bother to even try to. Those who want to can certainly hit the first search engine hit for the term (almost certainly Wikipedia) themselves. Thus, technical terms, given they are not ambiguous, do not always have to be explained in order to make a question a (very) good one that solicits great answers. If a definition or qualification is warranted in the context of the question, more specific sources that might not be that easy to find would probably be more helpful.


As said, this is my personal view.

The main four takeaways should be:

  1. Links should never be a stand-alone but always be used as a reference for content of the post. The information that is necessary should always be part of the post proper, not hidden somewhere in links.
  2. Wikipedia links are, given point 1 is respected, of limited use not necessarily because they are wrong or unsourced (both things happen with regards to philosophy quite often) but because they are literally the information that is the most trivial to find and because they give a lot of information that is completely irrelevant for the post at hand.
  3. The main scope of any edit should be the interest and needs of the original poster already manifest in post and comments. Everything that goes above and beyond that should be checked with them first.
  4. Never pretend to speak for the poster.
  • 1
    On Wikipedia -- the lack of expertise in Wiki editors is a risk when using Wiki as a source. The founder actually recommends against using Wiki as a source for any purpose, instead using it as an introductions to allow deeper searches for real sources. However, I have been surprised and pleased with some of the Wiki philosophy entries, which often provide better summaries of an issue than I have been able to find anywhere else. So despite my Wiki -doubts, I have used Wiki for some philosophy references. I agree absolutely, it very much depends on the specific Wiki article.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 14:42
  • This question and answers provides a good discussion on Wiki and other references. philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/92908/…
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 15:33
  • PK, you are soliciting comments, so here they are. I find your suggestions in this discussion to be well thought out, and only disagree on a very few points. a) Embedding the primary content of a link seems excessive. Summarizing what one would follow the link to learn, though, is very helpful. This is consistent with current link policy. b) Summary 3 -- our answers are to benefit the community, not just the OP. Clarifications to the question to solicit better answers should benefit the community, as a secondary objective, and should not always need to be checked with the OP.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 17:34
  • @Dcleve It is fine to disagree, that's what we are here for đź‘Ť Ad a) Well the policy on linking does not say primary content has to be summarised but at the very least it has to be clear why that link is relevant and insofar the content has to be reflected. If you just write "if you wanna know what X is, click here" and the link leads to an external site, this doesn't do the trick. If you write "in this link X is defined in such and such terms which highlights that...", perfect. As of b) I think that is really erroneous. SE's model is that people come here to get their question answered.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 19:34
  • PK, I think we are saying the exact same thing now on link rationales -- let people know why they should bother to follow. :-) On usefulness -- we are encouraged to search prior questions and answers before posting a question, which I interpret as indicating that both questions (to improve relevance) and answers are implicitly intended to benefit other participants as well as the OP.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 13:37
  • Relative to the edits in question, as I read your suggested guidelines, they suggest to me 2 primary concerns you had over these edits were: 1-- putting words in the OPs mouth by posting "I think" for a preamble they may not actually think; and 2 -- links to non-focused references with no pointers as to what benefit there is to follow them, if any. Am I understanding the point of these guidelines relative to the edit in question, or was there other specific concern(s)? BTW, I agree with these two concerns.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 13:40
  • 1
    @Dcleve Exactly what you describe. The reason I would emphasise the needs of the OP is that the normal idea of StackExchange is that it is a useful database both because you yourself get your question answered and then others who have the same question can find the answer afterwards. That is essentially why the identification and closure (thereby link) of duplicates is so essential for the model of StackExchange.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 14:58

Hi: I tend to restrict editing to the correction of spelling and grammar and of factual errors such as (recently) a reference to 'John Hopkins' medical school. It's 'Johns Hopkins', of course.

A while back I rephrased a question in order, as I thought, to make the OP's meaning clearer. I also answered the revised question. I was then criticised for amending the question in order to make it fit my answer. I had no such intention.

My present policy is to use Comments to indicate any lack of clarity or precision.

PK's suggestion of community-decision in the event of 'conflict' seems good to me.


Our community guidelines on editing are:

When should I edit posts?

Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!

Some common reasons to edit are:

to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages to add related resources or hyperlinks Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged - try to make the post significantly better when you edit, correcting all problems that you observe.

Additionally, we are encouraged to edit low quality posts, rather than close them.

I think these guidelines fully support editing for content, to clarify and strengthen a question. Strong/useful rather than trivial edits are explicitly encouraged, and our site guidelines also explicitly say we do not need to check with the OP or the rest of the community before editing:

We believe in the power of community editing. That means once you've generated enough reputation, we trust you to edit anything in the system without it going through peer review. Not just your posts—anyone's posts!

Reference: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/edit

Is there a problem which we have seen that would call for revising these guidelines? I have not seen one in the instances cited.

  • 2
    Editing is encouraged but other SE principles should not be ignored by doing so. The reason I started this thread was that there were several rollback wars where one party added Wikipedia links without adding anything to explain or contextualise the need for them and some content to the question. The other one thought it to be inappropriate to do that, so we should discuss what approach we should take generally, simple as that.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 20:00

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