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When I first spoke up against petty moderatorial control freakery on Russian SE, little did I imagine what it would blossom into a few years down the line when a really dedicated вахтер took over.

Back then, the argument went, broadly, that moderatorial micromanagement created a better user experience. I'd like to know how that applies to CocoPop's barrages of tiny edits to years-old posts cluttering up the front page to the point of completely disrupting it.

I don't come here often anymore, but it is sad to see a good thing ran into the ground by a culture of treating it as a sandbox game of building up reputation just so one can then power-trip on changing other people's stuff because one can. CocoPop's enthusiasm for it is nothing short of obsessive, and on at least one occasion, it's to the detriment of his own reading comprehension. Case in point, "for decades at this point", a correct and perfectly idiomatic English expression that he failed to parse and changed to "on this point"; obviously not what I meant but I see how he really, really wanted to see another mistake there for him to fix.

And that's without going into the subject of whether it's appropriate, sensitivity-wise, for a native English speaker to "correct" ESL speakers uninvited when the meaning is clear enough despite non-normative grammar or syntax.

Russian SE used to be a withering but neatly trimmed garden; now it's not even that neatly trimmed, and littered all over with the trimmings. But I guess those who are happy treating it as their little administrative fiefdom are fine with that, and for all I know in a few more years there'll be no activity left here but minor edits to posts from the 2010s.

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I can't speak for the others, but I myself make a lot of mistakes in my English, and, as a rule, CocoPop's edits make my posts look better to me than they did before those edits.

Sometimes they don't, in which case I just revert or edit them.

I can't speak about his motivation, but, fwiw, editing others' posts does not affect the editor's reputation beyond a certain point (which he has long since reached).

We cannot ban someone from editing posts just because the original author doesn't like the edits. A user can be temporarily banned from editing by the system if lots of their edit suggestions are rejected, but it only works for low-reputation users whose edits go to the review queue.

I can see that in the case you have mentioned his edits were not justified. It happens. It has happened to me too. It took me less than ten minutes to roll back or edit those edits and explain the reason why I did it. In every single one of those cases I could see that I myself was not clear in the first place.

The fact that a native English speaker, whose command of the language was for the most part something he developed effortlessly as a child, is correcting English mistakes made by me, who had to go through the effort of learning it as an adult, does not hurt my pride. I've been getting it all my life from my blog visitors, book editors, Stack Overflow commenters and lots of other people. But I can see it how it can hurt someone else's.

This is, unfortunately, something that is bound to happen on any community edited website. This issue has been raised countless number of times in moderatorial discussions, and the consensus remains the same: we try to urge the editors to be sensitive, but, unless they are really rude or condescending in their edits or remarks, we don't stop them.

While unsolicited correction of others' language, especially one which adds nothing to the meaning the speaker intends to convey, would indeed be rude and condescending in spoken communication, we don't consider it as such in written posts that are intended to be read and re-read by, hopefully, the generations to come.

Whatever vile and disgraceful motives the editor has in their mind when, with a spiteful cackle, they put a missing "the" back where it belongs, we don't stop them from doing it. If they, inevitably, make disruptive edits every now and then, the course of action would be to fix those edits or roll them back. Unless the burden of doing so every once in a while exceeds a certain threshold (which, at the time of this writing, is not anywhere close) we won't be taking any administrative measures.


The site is designed in such a way that its entry page features questions which recently saw some activity. I don't have any more say than any other participant in the matters of site mechanics, and the creators of the site seem to want it this way.

If someone decides to spend their time providing meaningful edits, however small, which has as a side effect, intended or otherwise, old posts floating up and the front page being replete with their nickname, then it will happen.

As long as most of these edits are beneficial, albeit small — which I think CocoPop's are — I'm not inclined to limit them using my moderatorial authority or otherwise, even his actions are driven by some hidden agenda, whatever it might be.

Of course, if the mass of user's edits turned out to be demonstrably disruptive to the site, even if each and every one of them in isolation would seem innocuous, that would make grounds for administrative action. However, so far I'm not seeing any signs of this happening.

The only way to effect change in the appearance of the front page, which would align with the design goals of the site, is contributing meaningful, beneficial edits, answers, or questions of your own — an endeavor that I encourage in every way.

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    Thank you. Perhaps I shouldn't have brought up the native/non-native issue at all, because it may be eclipsing my bigger point, which is that the sheer volume of these minuscule edits is currently overwhelming the front page. Which I know is a feature of StackExchange as a whole and there seems to be no way to make those edits discrete, but I'd say it ought to have been a major argument for leaving old questions and answers as they were, warts and all, if the priority was maintaining a meaningful recent activity page for both regular and new users. Which I believe should be the priority. Aug 2, 2022 at 23:37
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This is a Problem

I’ve only been using this site for about six months, but it is very clear that we have a problem with CocoPop’s unrestrained editing habits.

It’s true that there are a lot of posts on Russian Language SE that are somewhat poorly written—this is to be expected on a language learning site. If words are misspelled, if necessary punctuation marks are missing, if the grammar of a sentence is clearly faulty, or if the wording/phrasing is particularly awkward, etc., then sure, it is worthwhile fixing these actual mistakes. But that is not what I am talking about. Far too often, CocoPop seems to be simply editing every post merely for the sake of it.

For a start, CocoPop is editing over 90% of posts. I am not exaggerating. Of the most recently active posts, 47 out of 50 were last modified by Coco. And this statistic doesn’t even consider that both questions and answers are being edited, or that some posts are being edited multiple times.

Some (perhaps even most) of Coco’s edits are on posts that require some editing, but these edits usually go too far. Many of these “corrections” aren’t even corrections at all, they are either unnecessary, trivial, uncalled-for, or even improper.

The main types of inappropriate editing that Coco performs regularly include: insignificant punctuation changes, meaningless rewordings, and unwarranted contractions. Many posts are, to some extent, just being rewritten in a different style—CocoPop’s style. This is not beneficial to this site, and that’s not what editing on Stack Exchange is supposed to be.


Insignificant punctuation changes

My very first action on this site was to post a question (now since deleted as it was off-topic).

CocoPop’s edit:

Similarly, this edit on another post:

Coco edited this post twice:

On the following post, Coco made three successive edits:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/26946/revisions

    The second broke up a slightly long sentence with a semicolon.
    The very next day, Coco changed this semicolon to a full stop.

    Neither of these edits were at all significant because they didn’t affect the meaning.

    But the first of Coco’s edits on this post was a different kind of edit. It put in a couple of missing words. This was accompanied by some utterly meaningless rewordings.

    Adding the missing words is useful, but the other changes were not.

Meaningless rewordings

Sometimes rewording or rephrasing a sentence can be really useful when someone has chosen the wrong word or phrased something particularly awkwardly. But it seems to be that a large number of the “corrections” CocoPop makes are just rewording things because they weren’t the words or phrasing that Coco would have chosen.

In this post, CocoPop has made three (more or less successive) edits:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/15212/revisions

    The first broke down a common acronym (unnecessarily), and put in a useless comma.
    The second broke a sentence into two pieces.
    And the third changed the word “mean” to “refer to”.

    None of these are substantial edits; there was nothing wrong that Coco “fixed”.

Another couple of completely trivial and useless edits are on this post:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/26947/revisions

    Coco has changed “Here’s the sentence in my book” to “Here’s a sentence in my book”.
    Then in a later edit, to “Here’s a sentence from my book”.

    These edits are lame; neither are a real improvement on the original.

Here’s another worthless rewording:

And again, a trivial edit:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/4221/revisions

    changed “What is a proper translations” to “What is the proper translations”.

    This isn’t better in any way, shape, or form. Coco has even missed the error with this sentence (“translations” should be in the singular form, not the plural).

Unwarranted Contractions

A different type of edit that CocoPop routinely makes is contractions, e.g., changing “What is” to “What’s”.

While it’s true that English natives will often use contractions in speech, this occurs far less in writing, and certainly not at every possible opportunity. Many editors even consider the use of contractions to be poor writing style in many contexts.

Furthermore, a contraction can change the meaning of a sentence subtly by shifting the stress and altering the pace.

Having said that, whether to use a contraction or not, is almost always a stylistic choice rather than a substantial one. So, this decision should be left up to the author of the post, and not to an editor.

Editing in unwarranted contractions isn’t just unnecessary, it is poor editing. It’s also misleading to the original poster, who may (if they aren’t a native English speaker) take this “correction” as implying that they made some sort of mistake.


There are very many instances of CocoPop replacing words with contractions amongst other edits, but there is even a significant number of instances where this is the only edit being made, such as:

and

Here, Coco’s edit:

Another string of three petty edits on the same post:

The bulk of Coco’s edit to this post is immaterial:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/26957/revisions

    It adds a needless contraction, and it makes two insignificant punctuation changes.
    However, it does add in a full stop at the very end, which is a minor improvement.

    I suppose the missing full stop justifies clicking the edit button, but whether the other punctuation “corrections” are worthy is questionable, and the contraction is undue.


A long post that I made here on the local meta was also edited by CocoPop:

  • https://russian.meta.stackexchange.com/posts/516/revisions

    This edit featured 5 contractions,

    These were all unneeded and unwanted.

    “Italics is” was changed to “Italics are”,

    This change is incorrect (“italics is” a short form of “italic font is”).

    The word “instil” was changed from the British (and Australian) spelling to “instill” the American.

    Neither of these spelling systems is “incorrect”, and this sort of thing shouldn’t be “corrected” by editors on Stack Exchange.

    A particular “which” was reworded to “that”.

    This didn’t improve that sentence because it already had a “that” in it.

    As this was my question, I could (and did) roll Coco’s edit back. In the edit history, you can see that after the rollback I thought that maybe “italics are” and “that” actually were improvements, but after a second thought, I realised that both were actually worse.

Combinations

What complicates matters, (unlike in most of the posts I have mentioned) is that more often than not, CocoPop’s insignificant punctuation changes, meaningless rewordings, and unwarranted contractions are accompanied by some actually helpful actions. Rollbacks aren’t appropriate in these cases because they would throw out the useful edits just to get rid of the trivial and the counterproductive.

On language “rules”

As explained well in the central thrust of a recent answer by Quassnoi, language “rules” are a largely fluid and intangible phenomenon; often just an attempt at describing what is usually done in certain contexts, rather than being objective truths.

For example, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, is an English writing style guide full of dozens of such “rules”. This little book phrases its tips in a tone that suggests that each and every one must be obeyed at all times. But really, these are just a set of recommendations for effective writing in a certain time and place.

Particulars like when to use a comma, when to use a contraction, how best to phrase a sentence, or what word should be used, etc., fall squarely into the category of writing style, rather than solid rules. These shouldn’t be enforced onto other people’s writing that is just fine without them. But this is exactly what a large portion of the “corrections” that CocoPop makes are.

Having one user go through every post on this site and meticulously applying their own personal “rules”, flies directly in the face of a proper understanding of the nature of language.


Incidentally, the edit history of the aforementioned post shows:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/26937/revisions

    CocoPop’s two edits have made nearly 100 “corrections”.

    But by my count, there were really only about 5 things that needed fixing. The other 95% were insignificant punctuation changes, meaningless rewordings, and unwarranted contractions.

Deliberate misquoting

Moreover, I’ve noticed a few of CocoPop’s edits that are downright infringements of acceptable editing practice. There is no excuse for editing direct quotations without some indication of what has been changed. Coco has tried to do this on at least two occasions.

The following post includes a large quotation from a textbook. Coco decided they didn’t like a particular word that the textbook used, and so:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/17135/revisions

    Coco changed that word for another word—without any indication.

    I explained (in the now since deleted comments) that direct quotes shouldn’t be altered, and reverted the quote to verbatim. I also added Coco’s preferred synonym of the word in square brackets (this is an acceptable way to show an alteration or commentary on a quote).

    But CocoPop just removed this, again substituting in their choice of word!

    A moderator had to intervene, rolling back the edit and locking the post.

On another post (after some disagreement as to whether or not some particular terms should be capitalised), I did some research and found that the particular answer was almost entirely copied from somewhere else.

So, I put the quoted material in blockquotes, and added a link to the source:

  • https://russian.stackexchange.com/posts/25560/revisions

    CocoPop then edited in their preferred capitalisation style to the material—despite the fact that now it was clearly a direct quotation!

    A moderator rolled this back, and left an explanation as to why this was inappropriate.

    Coco completely ignored this, and simply re-applied their capitalisation style!

    The moderator re-rolled this back as well, and had to lock the post to prevent further editing abuse.

Why this is bad for the site

A large portion of CocoPop’s edits: the insignificant punctuation changes, the meaningless rewordings, and the unwarranted contraction, match exactly with a set of criteria for rejecting a suggested edit in a review:

No improvement whatsoever

  • changes to content or formatting that are unnecessary or make the post more confusing
  • changes to grammar, spelling, or style that are unnecessary

These types of edit bump posts on the activity page, yet they don’t make the posts significantly better. This distracts attention from substantial activity.


The sheer volume of these bad edits is ridiculous; almost every single post on the front page is tagged with CocoPop’s name. This behaviour seems territorial and imperialist in nature.

Regardless of the quality of the editing, having a single user heavily edit all of the posts is detrimental to the health of this site. It’s a step towards all posts being written by the same voice, which erodes a sense of community.

This site is supposed to belong to all of its users; having different authors that use different writing styles is a feature and an asset of the Stack Exchange model. CocoPop’s unfettered editing gives an impression that this site belongs to CocoPop—other users can add posts to it, but Coco gets the final say on how everything is phrased and what words they can use.

Summary

The above sample of CocoPop’s inappropriate edits shows a pattern of obsessive and misguided editing behaviour that needs to be addressed.

I’ve highlighted some of the bad types of edit that CocoPop makes frequently. But even if many edits do some bad, admittedly most do at least some good.

Roll backs?

Attempting to fix this problem by rolling back some of CocoPop’s edits is not really a solution. While some of the edits I’ve mentioned could be, the vast majority probably shouldn’t be rolled back for a few reasons:

  • Reverting a tiny and trivial edit would itself be a tiny and trivial edit.
  • Most of the bad edits are mixed in with perfectly valid and useful edits.
  • It is also unrealistic to think that anyone should have to sift through all of Coco’s edits to separate the good from the bad (there are over 1000).
  • Coco has demonstrated that they are unperturbed by rollbacks, often simply reapply the bad edits.

What needs to happen

If the type and extent of these edits are allowed to continue, it is effectively an endorsement of the practice.

This site would be a better place if CocoPop changed their behaviour considerably, by simply reining in their intolerance for other people’s styles of writing.

Taking such excessive editing liberties is an abuse of editing privileges.

  • Posts that don’t need editing should be left alone.
  • Edits should be limited to correcting what is necessary and sufficient.
  • Edits in the form of insignificant punctuation changes, meaningless rewordings, and unwarranted contractions need to stop.
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  • There is a sequence of badges for edits, but after 100(?) there's no further reward therefore nothing to gain. However the gamification nature can create a habit, which can be hard to break.
    – Criggie
    Nov 9, 2023 at 2:25

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