Most of the anonymous suggested edits I've seen till now are something of this sort (might be my misfortune.): enter image description here

As far as I've seen, most SE members here are active enough and keep editing stuff that needs to be edited. Are anonymous edits useful at all?


No, anonymous edits are not useful.

If someone can't be bothered to register an account (with anonymity! they can be user137103820382), they are unlikely to care about the well-being of the site. Moreover, they are almost certainly unaware of the site's culture and policies.

Most every anonymous edit I've seen has been vandalism. And the few that were good-intentioned were things that should be rejected as too minor, or things that too drastically deviated from the author's intention.

This kind of noise is detrimental to the site. Especially because poor edits do leak through the review. We have a number of users who auto-approve every edit they review, and my own experiences tell me careful reviewers are outnumbered by the careless on the site (I've had to reverse a number of harmful edits to my own posts -- edits that were approved so fast I never even saw them pending.)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I share the concern for the auto-approval of some reviewers. I think that is a more serious problem for the site than anonymous edits. $\endgroup$
    – Bernhard
    Aug 29 '15 at 18:12
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ If you believe that a user is robo-reviewing, please flag one of their posts with the custom reason and let the mods know. Links to a couple of bad reviews wouldn't hurt. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '15 at 19:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I can't help but notice a big warning light marked 'anecdotal evidence' here. Some data would be nice. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '15 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ ... aaaand, here is that data. Anonymous edits have a ~55% approval rate (down from ~87% for registered users), so 'almost every anonymous edit is vandalism' is probably wrong. They might still be worth chucking out - depending on your opinion of such edits but that does require a more thorough look. $\endgroup$ Nov 6 '15 at 15:52

Yes, anonymous edits are useful. There are two reasons.

  1. If you are SE user on another SE subsite, but not on Physics.SE, your edits will show up as anonymous (as far as I know). I, for example, sometimes read interesting questions on subsites on which I do not have an account. If I see questions or answer where multiple issues can be improved (language, style, etc), then I will suggest an edit to improve the question/answer.

  2. Some people will end up on Physics.SE via search engines. They do not have an account, but may be very familiar with the field. If they spot mistakes in a post, they should not be discouraged to correct them.

Of course, examples as you show are just vandalism, but in my experience they are not so common. It is one of the reasons we do have the review queue, so that edits do not show up immediately.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I personally find the vandalism from anonymous more frequent than proper fixes, but your answer pretty much nails it on the head. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Aug 29 '15 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ I personally think that most anons don't know anything about the site's policy. I've seen loads and loads of edits which actually qualify as comments on the post! but your point does make sense, yes. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '15 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ One recent datapoint in your favor. But I concur with the blokes above that these useful anonymous edits are rare. $\endgroup$
    – 299792458
    Nov 16 '15 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDarkSide Your datapoint got rejected. Also, to be honest, since this answer I have been paying some attention, but in most cases also well-intended edits are still not really useful. $\endgroup$
    – Bernhard
    Nov 16 '15 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Oops! Usually I play the role of an edit-reject-machine (rejected 63/215), in this case I felt it wasn't bad after all, and jumped the gun. But two gentlemen disagreed. Sorry. :( $\endgroup$
    – 299792458
    Nov 17 '15 at 4:34

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