An edit was recently made to an answer I posted to this question:

How can Ganymede have an Earth-like gravity without us having realized it?

The edit changed this text:

That would change its orbit (and its influence on the other moons) in unavoidable and easily observable ways.

to:

That would change its influence on the other moons in unavoidable and easily observable ways.

It seems to me that the editor believed my answer was in error about Ganymede's orbit being changed. Whether or not they were correct isn't especially important to me...but I was surprised that someone would just go ahead and edit my answer to change its meaning/semantic content. I thought edits were supposed to clarify a question or answer, or to correct grammar/spelling/punctuation etc.

(I would have thought the correct way to challenge the accuracy of an answer or part of it would be to post a comment and dialogue with the answer's author.)

Is it appropriate to edit someone else's answer in this way?

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  • I'll point out that this edit was pushed into the review queue, where I saw it and rejected it because it was inappropriate. Apparently, there were two other people reviewing who disagreed with my assessment and approved the change. – Frostfyre Sep 20 at 13:02
  • @Frostfyre Some people are stupid -----> – kingledion Sep 20 at 15:04
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    Well, some people admit their mistakes ^ which some other people greatly appreciate ----> – Qami Sep 20 at 15:22
  • Whether or not they were correct is the only thing that's important to me. Edits should bring, or increase value. In 100 years no one will care who wrote what - only if that it's right. – Mazura Sep 28 at 1:18
up vote 15 down vote accepted

No

Don't change the content of someone else's answer. Feel free to roll back that edit.

I approved that edit, so I need to remand myself for punishment. I think that I thought it was a grammar edit. If you don't want to read the edits carefully when you review, don't do the reviews.

Technically you are right; changing the mass does change the orbit. Effectively, however, the mass of Ganymede and Jupiter are summed in the orbital period equation, so you could increase Ganymede's mass by a factor of 10 and its orbit would change by maybe a few meters. So the edit is more correct, in my opinion, in case you want to edit the answer yourself.

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    Consider your wrist (gently) smacked! – elemtilas Sep 20 at 4:01
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    I am in complete agreement here. Editing should be confined to formating, grammar, spelling - things that make the quesiton easier to read. Putting words into another person's mouth by assuming what you think they meant is what comments are for. – JBH Oct 2 at 2:32

Yes but it's not appropriate to change the content, and consultation is often more useful.

The issue is where to actually draw the line between correcting an error and altering content. It can be appropriate to correct errors within existing content, I'm thinking mostly about answers with math in them here, but even then it's usually better to consult the author in the comments.

In this case the content of your message has been altered which is very poor form, worse yet you were right in the first place because while the change may be extremely minor there will be one; if you alter the mass of any member of any orbital assemblage the whole system will shift, if only a little.

It's probably fine. I doubt the editor did that on purpose, they might have just misunderstood your answer or the OP's question. In that case, just roll back the edit and then leave a comment saying something like "@ name, the gravity will affect the moon's orbit, as well as the orbit of the other moons, so I rolled back your edit." That nicely explains to the editor that they were incorrect in their edit, and if they did it for some other reason, it will open a channel of communication for them to explain their edit.

Stack Exchange is all about giving good answers, and editing is part of that process. Usually, mistakes are well-meant or one of the people involved misunderstood something. If someone is abusing the edits, you can always flag it for moderator attention. If they have their own answer for the question and are trying to change you answer to make it more like their idea, just invite them to answer the question on their own, building off yours and giving you credit for it.

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