Why Does Discourse Allow Editing Posts After Replies?

At the other place, in a certain thread, a certain person edited a certain post after getting raked over the coals for their unabashed applause for totalitarian-style mass-surveillance of children. Why does Discourse make it possible to edit posts, especially in such a manner as to make the repliers look like unreasonable jackholes?

It’s not such an issue here, since staff can and will revert such Edit Trolling and issue sanctions. But after the St Elsewhere Massacre, permitting such fuckery resembles more anti-community conspiracy than overlooked default.

Is there a setting we can put in Discourse to automatically prevent such Edit Trolling here, or do we need to bug Codinghorror?


I think that there are lots of valid reasons for editing, as I will explain at our 2 PM meeting. No, 3 PM meeting! No, the meeting is cancelled. Beyond people trying to obfuscate their opinions, factual information doers often change. Most edits are made, I am willing to speculate, for reasons of spelling and/or grammar. My eyesight has gotten really bad, so it takes me a lot more effort lately to type with correct spelling and punctuation. And even still lots of mistakes make it through for me to edit later.

For an example of a community with no editing at all, see FetLife. Where people often need to add a post just to correct a misspelled word.

There is an easy way to allow both the efficiency and clarity of editing, as well as the transparency needed to eliminate “edit trolling” - and that is to make the edits visible. Users who opt for visible edits can have their edits shown when one clicks upon the little pencil image at the top right. I opine that edits should always be visible. Then I can see if a person is trying to clarify or obfuscate their remarks.

Why I suppose that many don’t do this on BB is that sometimes people use the feature to retract a post or statement which they don’t want seen. Sometimes this may be prudent, but I think it would be better if they can delete their post or flag it for deletion.

Another issue is that if the forum is to be a safe space for people to discuss issues and opinions, this means taking steps to ensure that people are not attacked for voicing their opinions. When people are mature enough to be able to agree to disagree, then they are more likely to be clear and not troll. Some participants quickly resort to making personal remarks about those whose opinions they find objectionable. But “trolling” (as I understand it) does not mean that a person’s actual views are deserving of opprobrium, rather I understand the term to mean that they being deceitful in the expression of their views.

It requires, I think, the self-discipline and awareness to distinguish between different kinds of acceptance and tolerance. For example, of one cannot “accept racism” as being an existing reality, then one cannot effectively do anything about it. But accepting its history and biases as existing is not the same as agreeing with the content or methods behind racist actions or ideologies - accepting it as valid. This is a degree of semantic indexing which is necessary for nuanced discussion, but which not everybody always has patience for.

A participant in one of these discussions, as a member of this community, is a partner. And as a partner I feel obliged to help them to clarify and understand their own positions, views, opinions. Even if I suspect that I might disagree with them.


Trolling as a term used to be about pranking people on Usenet (sometimes involving writing long, satirical articles and essays - that’s where Snopes started). In BBS context, it refers to being a deliberate asshole (Baiting is a better term, but current general usage is what it is).

The edit Window default is to allow editing until over several months - with a 5 minute grace period wherein no indication of edit will be made.

I’m on mobile right now, so I can’t really go into depth of detail.

Locking editing down to ten minutes may be a sane compromise between allowing edits for grammar or withdrawing a mistaken post and preventing fuckwittery.


I’m willing to risk the fuckwittery for the ability to correct embarrassing typos that I don’t notice until the following morning.

I wasn’t aware that visible edits were something one had to opt into, but if there’s a way to enforce them, that would be a way to prevent—or at least expose—edit trolling.

Also, moderation. If someone is engaging in that type of behavior, they’re probably crossing other lines as well.


It would be very nice if it were at least possible to add to a post in an edit after a time period, without being able to overwrite the entire post. Occasionally, things are said wrong, or outlooks change. Leaving a contentious message in place as-is often means the responses to it continue, even if the author clarifies what they meant or completely changes their mind later in the thread… many (most?) people don’t read the entire thread before responding, especially if they’re angered by a post. I’ve been in that situation myself, and I’ve seen other recent threads in the other place where something that could be read multiple ways was taken badly and took some time and several explanations to smooth out.

Assuming that the mods are able to see all edits, wouldn’t it be enough for them to take some defined action if an edit appears to be done in bad faith?


That’s a good idea, a post script that can appear as an addition to a post instead of downthread so that it remains closer to the original remarks. This is another way that the initial post can remain the same while benefiting from clarification.


Like this, for instance. If I only I had known then what I know now!


i wonder why the history of edits it’s only visible to mods? it feels like it would be nice to allow edits - but still have others be able to see the entirety of what was said if they’re curious

[edit] we all make mistakes!


There is a toggle in the admin menu that enables viewing edits for all members, but I didn’t see an opt-in toggle on my person profile to enable others to see my edit history. :frowning:


IMHO that would be the best way to address the issue. Also, some Hitler stuff that I’ll be adding to my popular posts from last week.


Here’s what the setting looks like:

Note that the text is brown and there’s a reset button. That indicates that it’s been changed from the default.

Here’s the post where I made the change:

I’m happy to change it back, and that’s actually what I’d prefer, for many of the reasons mentioned above, but I don’t think we should do so without having a proper vote on it first. It’s an issue that people have strong opinions on, and I’d like for everyone interested to have a change to explain that position before we make a decision. This thread seems like as good of a place as any, but we may also what to create a new thread in #site-feedback that more directly addresses this issue, so it can have the appropriate level of visibility.


Does this also effect the ability to read withdrawn posts?

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It would shit me not to be able to fix a typo or add an ETA just because someone’s replied to me.

The best way to prevent editing shenanigans is to quote the bit you’re replying to, simple.


I frequently edit my posts after I complete them for clarity and punctuation and grammar. However I have seen on BB and other platforms this thing where people fight and then go back and delete multiple posts, making it impossible for a person viewing the thread later to figure out what happened. I think people should have complete control over what they post. Not quite sure what the solution is to this behavior. It always smacks of drama queen to me.


I don’t believe so.

I was one of the people who argued against the publicly viewable edit history on the BoingBoing BBS, partly because I never felt the need to use my or other people’s post history as weapons in a flamewar. Anyone interested in the (perfectly civil) argument at the time can check it out here:

FWIW, Jeff (codinghorror) was for the publicly viewable edit history, whereas I felt more comfortable if it were only viewable by mods. Back then, Beschizza decided to configure it my way, and I think later it became a user configurable opt-in thing. I think.

Anyway, my opinion hasn’t changed, but whatever. I think it’s sufficient to leave that access to the mods, especially on a board with a tiny fraction of the mod workload they have at BB. I don’t see myself getting into fights that would require screenshots and such to proclaim “Uh HUH, you did SO say that, you lyin’ sack of Trumpnuts!” and if I ever do, somebody please send me to the vice principal’s office.


It’s just good practice to quote whatever you’re replying to. If people did that, this would be total non-starter as an issue.


I like the ability to edit whether I’ve noticed a typo three days later, or if I say something not-quite-clearly and think of (or have suggested to me) a better way to say it. If I do clarify things, I like to note it, however.

We can look at incorporating edit logs into our mod rules, however: if the mods find themselves needing to police a thread and can see a lot of bad-faith edits, that should be used in their evaluation (we can argue over “should” versus “shall”, later. If you ever deal with regulations, you know they are extremely different terms. :-P).


It’s hard to, on a mobile. If there was a “Reply with Quote” button it would be much easier!


Highlight what you want to quote before hitting reply and a little grey “quote” button should pop up (I am on Firefox for Android, haven’t tested it on other browsers). Hit that and the quote should pop up in a reply window where you can continue typing. Doesn’t really work after you’ve hit reply, however.


Samething comes up on chrome. As you can see above.

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