Why are edit revisions visible?

Today I learn: Boing Boing BBS has a publicly viewable edit log. That seems… bad.

I agree (I only noticed it a few days ago).

Oh dear. I’ve been known to edit things three or four times because I type faster than I think. Maybe I should put my comments in a word file and then paste them in.

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There is a five minute grace period after posting where edits to a post are not considered revisions.

Revisions are visible so you can’t post something offensive, then edit it away before a moderator notices. They are also nice for tracking changes to a post if you refine or enhance it over time.

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This still strikes me as a really bad idea, and not the way people expect message boards to function. Traditionally, either you can’t edit at all after some grace period, or if you can, there’s a clear message “This was edited at XX:XX,” amended to edited posts. I’ve never heard of a straight-up forum with publicly viewable edit logs.

I mean, this isn’t Wikipedia - it’s not the journey that’s interesting, it’s the final comments you make. If it takes someone five minutes or ten minutes to refine what they’re trying to say, what’s the difference?

Is there any way at all for users to remove content from Boing Boing BBS after that five minute window - even deleting a response entirely - or is it out there for good?

There is a visible indication of edit in the upper right, the redder the edit icon, the more recent the edit. Hover over the icon to see the date of revision. That’s how it has always worked.

Deleting a post changes the content by adding a revision that indicates the author wishes to withdraw the post. Moderators can review and if they agree, manually delete the post.

Because we see a lot more user deletions than I expected here on BBS, we added a convenience: if a withdrawn post is not flagged in 24 hours, it is automatically deleted by the system.

Note that as of now all deletes in Discourse are by definition soft, meaning the content is still visible to staff but not to anyone else.

So … make the edits visible to moderators but not to the general public? You can still have the number and times of edits visible to the general public.

The point is that moderation scales with the community. It’s everyone’s job to make sure that the delete and edit functions aren’t being abused, not just a mythical omnipresent, omniscient moderator who fixes everything.

In the same way that

given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow

I’d say

given enough eyeballs, no troll or hateful person can hide from moderation flags.


Why in the world would I feel the need to “track my changes” if I “refine or enhance” my post over time? Color me unimaginative, but I can’t conceive of a circumstance under which I’d need or want to track my own changes. If I revise my own post, it’s because something in it is wrong and needs to be changed. I don’t feel that such errors (if not caught by me during the 5-minute grace period) actually need to be visible by all and sundry. If I posted something naughty, then sneakily changed it before getting flagged or caught by a mod, where’s the benefit of having the general public at large tasked with checking out my pre-edit comment rather than a moderator?

In a practical sense, this should affect me not at all. But for some reason it makes me feel like I’m simply not encouraged to comment at all.

Disabling the visible history will raise moderator load.

Showing the counter is a must if a post was edited the fact that it was edited needs to be public. Otherwise mountains of weird can happen.

I am not following why it makes you feel so weird since randoms can anyway take a screen shot of your post like so:

Discourse already tries to encourage quoting, if you are editing stuff that is being quoted and then hiding the revision, stuff is weird.

Editing 5 minutes in is such an outlier, it rarely happens. I don’t see why its such a drama, can you point to a practical example of a post you have where it is upsetting you ?

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Editing 5 minutes in doesn’t bother me; I do it all the time. I re-read posts of mine before I hit “Reply” but then I re-read them again after they’ve been posted, and sometimes I’ll catch a typo. So I’ll fix it. I don’t care if the corner of the post says that it has been edited or not. It makes sense if that indicator is present, and so an indication that “one or more edits have been made” doesn’t bother me.

But again, I fix my mistakes. It’s like noticing (or having someone point out to me) that there’s a booger hanging outta my nose. I blow my nose and hope nobody else noticed. Having a public record of all my BBS boogers bugs the hell out of me. I don’t care if the mods need to be able to see the record of all my boogers; they work for the joint and thus enjoy special access that other readers don’t get. (e.g. they know my email address and probably my IP address, and I hope the unwashed masses don’t get unfettered access to that information.)

As far as quoting referring to pre-edit posts and thus the text no longer matching, well, that’s the way things were for ages Back In The Old Country, and we must have learned to deal with it. Knowing that a post has been edited at all is sufficient; ordinary posters don’t necessarily need to know what those edits might have been. “Stuff is weird” might be something you want to avoid (in which case you’ll do what you feel you must; this ain’t my shop), but for some vague and probably completely indefensible reason, a permanent visible record of all my typos and ill-considered mistakes leaves me about as cold as a permanent visible surveillance-cam record of all my trips to the office bathroom here at work.


Our intention is not to scare you off here. We strongly believe this is a sane default for Discourse, this is the first I have heard about this concern.

That said, Discourse is a system of Rainbows, lobby your congressman @beschizza and convince him our default is wrong. We can then add a knob to disable the view edit function for sites that disable public edit record.

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How so?

Because in its absence you need to flag a post to figure out if something fishy is going on. There is no self-service.

I must admit to getting a little lost regarding the more abstract theory behind comment systems, and the minutia of their management. This might explain why I’m not grokking the net benefit of fully visible edits records. Perhaps if @sam or @codinghorror could translate from the original G[r]eek for us layfolk, I would be able to grasp it? Not being sarcastic, just not a programmer/designer, and therefore need a more detailed explanation-for-dummies as to how

mountains of weird can happen.

(Um, “edit”: is the concern that people will quote pre-edit posts, thus causing confusion? I don’t think this has ever confused me very much. And when it does, a simple edit notification on the quoted post is sufficient to let me know that a change has been made. The outdated quote “tracks the changes” quite efficiently; it is different than what is in the quoted comment now, so it’s easy to deduce the editing process.)

It strikes this kinda-dummy that any mountains of weird are more likely to arise from people digging around to find “embarrassing” pre-edit tidbits, if anything. I guess I could see how reading a pre-edit version might help flesh out where a fellow poster is coming from, or trying to go, but mostly it just seems like an invitation to suspicion and potentially confusing references. To be clear, I don’t mind that people know I edit many of my posts. Like @Donald_Petersen, I tend to go long/wordy, and that approach frequently requires edits. Whatever; I put some effort into thinking through a post and revising it for clarity, and I don’t care if people know it. That said, showing the entire sausage making process seems unnecessary,a little invasive, and potentially problematic.

Related question: I recently noticed that one of my comments had been edited. Yes, probably by me, but more recently by @codinghorror. I read the whole thing in the edit history window, and couldn’t figure out what had been changed, or why a mod-type person was editing my posts. I’m not at all trying to get mountainously weird about it, but what happened there, anyway?

This is kind of unfortunate. Our diff window shows “html” changes and not actual markdown changes, so it makes it impossible to tell certain diffs.

For example

this is a test


this    is    a    test

Both render exactly the same way but don’t share the same markdown. Until we sort out markdown diff there are a bunch of things that are invisible. We also don’t even have a way to dig up the raw markdown for each revision, which makes diagnosing these requests impossible :crying_cat_face:

On our list, we will sort this out.

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Do any of you on this topic have a concrete example of an edit you made to a post you wish was hidden to the public?

I hear the philosophical complaint here, its a first for me, have not heard this complaint from any other community we run. I understand the concern, just do not feel we need to alter our default here quite yet.

We are totally open to making “cover my footsteps except to mods” an option that @beschizza can enable on BBS. Just lobby your congressman.

Our concern is that if you make “cover my footsteps except to mods” default, certain people will find ways to abuse it. Hiding makes stuff impossible to track down by the community so the entire onus is on the moderators.

Also, this opens another can-of-worms that some types of posts are wiki like, for example an “article” or “howto” and you want to opt-in to public history.

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I myself have no concrete examples to offer. Yet. But something that comes up quite often on BB is… well, things like surveillance and monitoring. There’s always an argument to support the validity of keeping an eye (and maybe a permanent record) of what people do and say and write in public spaces. And the argument always begins with a desire to keep people safe, the commons clean and orderly, and the world safe for democracy and something approaching the free exchange of ideas, free from the ravages of terrorism and trollishness.

Up until this point, as far as I can tell, nobody has used my edit history against me (or used anyone else’s against them for that matter), but that’s the thing about such things: I can easily imagine someone doing so, and that imagining chills my subjective perception of my own freedom of speech here. You might well dismiss such concerns as paranoia, or a ridiculous stretch from the security overreaches of the NSA to simple ease of crowdsourced moderation for an innocent discussion forum, but y’know, a lot of people on this forum use our imaginations (maybe too much) to try to get an idea of what might lurk further down each fork in our personal roads. Certainly Messrs. Doctorow and Beschizza understand where I’m coming from, though they may not necessarily agree that my concerns are valid enough to be addressed. But yeah, I think I’ll send a note Rob’s way and let him know what I think, and we’ll see what he says. I don’t remember encountering an instance where people abused the Edit function in the manner you describe on the old BB, but certainly Rob would know if it’s a phenomenon common enough to warrant retaining a public edit history. Thanks for listening.

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Good thing those edit revisions were visible, eh, so you and everyone else reading could verify that nothing untoward happened, amirite?

I was trying to determine where the weirdness with numbered lists was coming from, and you had some extra whitespace in front of your list. (turns out it was that someone didn’t specify line-height where they were defining font size for <li> items)

Our diffs don’t show the raw version at the moment, only the rendered HTML. But you’d see if any words changed, you just won’t see whitespace changes since those are invisible in HTML.

In other words: “Point out exactly the thing that you wish no one would look at … and then wait while we all look at it.” :wink:

In general, it just feels sort of creepy … like everyone is a suspect and should be suspicious of others. Are we really supposed to be looking at all the edits and flagging a comment if a deleted part was “inappropriate”? Or are you thinking of someone responding to a comment and then the original comment gets edited? If the first comment was something that would get deleted by the mods, you would still have the situation where the second one no longer makes sense as a response.

I also agree with what @grumblebum said.