Moderators Editing Post Introductions, Titles, Tags, Categories, etc

Responding to [Product] [Screencast] Elliot Reads Critical Fallibilism Forum, 2023-03-08 - #4 by MetaCreation

Thanks for the feedback.

The post I edited is the first post in Deplatforming and Censorship Examples

I have no strong opinion about whether I should include a note in the post body and/or reply at the end of the topic with a note or just rely on Discourse’s automated edit history tracking feature. But here’s some context:

  • The edited writing wasn’t about ideas. It wasn’t essay writing. It wasn’t trying to express some opinion or conclusion.
  • I know Justin well and doubt he’d mind in this case
  • I’m a better writer than Justin (plus he wasn’t really trying) and am unlikely to cause trouble by rewriting it badly
  • The topic was heavily reused (66 posts, 1500 views)
  • The topic was intended to help with community building and be a service to the community; it wasn’t a personal post (and it was actually directly continuing a topic started by me at a prior forum, and I certainly wouldn’t want to make my own duplicate topic to compete with it).

The things I’m most likely to edit are:

  1. Topic tags
  2. Topic category
  3. Moving some posts to a different topic
  4. Topic title
  5. First post introducing a topic

I think you’ll see the point of tagging and will agree that the automatic edit history is adequate. I have edited tags before without saying anything.

There are two main reasons to edit topic titles.

  1. a title is problematic in some way, e.g. clickbait, offensive or vague/misleading
  2. people post a bunch of stuff and the title no longer matches what’s in the topic

Trust level 3 users can edit post titles and categories btw. That’s a default that I don’t think I’ve changed.

I think I may have edited someone else’s title before without saying anything but I’m not certain. I think I might have edited titles using the format “Y (was: X)” to retain the old title at the end of the new title, but I think I’ve also done it with no “was”. (The “was” is an old convention from email lists.) E.g. I recall renaming a topic about one of my YouTube videos to match the current video title, not the original title. Example title with “was” (this was from splitting a topic not renaming the existing topic).

The point of tagging, title editing, changing a category, moving posts to a different topic, and first post editing is to clean up the forum and keep it organized. This especially matters with topics that get a ton of posts in them. I think most of these activities don’t require an additional note besides the edit history and other automated record keeping (like if you move posts to a new topic Discourse puts a note about it in the old topic).

Stack Exchange does something similar where, if a question gets enough effort by many people, they take ownership away from the original asker. What are "Community Wiki" posts? - Meta Stack Exchange

If Justin’s introductory post didn’t have the first example link in it, then changing the post ownership would have been an option. With that link it’s problematic (have to consider options like deleting the link, but I don’t think there’s any way to move it to be a new first reply in the topic).

Sometimes someone does little work and ends up with a ton of content in “their” topic, and it’s reasonable for the people running the community to want to make some changes. This applies to topics that are generic questions or prompts (e.g. “Topic for discussing Goldratt” or “What do y’all think of Goldratt?”), not to topics based on someone writing about their ideas.

One of the positives of a forum is that stuff can be cleaned up later if a topic gets (re)used heavily. I haven’t done this much, but I think it’s a reasonable thing to do.

Putting a note in the body text adds clutter to a high-traffic introduction. Most people won’t care at all about the note. And the edit history exists. So there’s a downside. Also adding a note there won’t notify the author. I’m not actually sure if editing someone’s post sends them a notification (@JustinCEO did you get notified?), but putting an edit note in brackets won’t affect that.

Noting the edit in a reply at the end of the topic lets you tag the person who was edited and notify them, and it lets currently active forum readers find out about the edit.

If you don’t put a note, then if the text is actually important to anything there is still a record of what happened that anyone can check. But part of the context here is editing text that wouldn’t be important to a debate anyway because it wasn’t about ideas in the first place.

I see now that Discourse has a wiki post feature too:

Justin’s dual-purpose intro post that introduces the topic and also shares the first example link is problematic for changing to a wiki though. Also I don’t think a Wiki makes sense because it isn’t an informative post like Forum Features Guide so there’s no need for the community to keep making edits. (I just turned that guide into a community wiki, btw).

Others are welcome to share their opinions about this.

Justin said he was notified that his post was edited. I think authors receiving notifications, in addition to the public edit history and the limited type of editing (not ideas/essays) should resolve most of the concern. Notifications mean that if an author has an objection they can say something.

I can confirm I get notifications when you move posts and yes assumed if I had an objection to the move it would be fine to say so, so I wasn’t bothered by it.

One situation where there might be a problem with editing someone’s post without comment is if they’re inactive for a few months, and your edit is actually incorrect/not as the OP intended, then I doubt anyone would check the edit history to tell that the OP didn’t say the incorrect edit.

One more general problem is I don’t think it’s unusual to expect really bad authoritarian moderator attitudes from forums in general. People who don’t already know you enough to expect you to be reasonable could interpret edits without the transparency of an obvious note about the edit as a sign of that sort of moderator.

Thanks for the explanation that follows this.

Just to clarify as I’d raised some concerns, I think your criteria for editing posts are reasonable.