Recently, the my default answer display order was changed from "highest vote first" to "latest edit first" (probably due to misclick on my part). I had not been aware that that was even possible, and spent a number of days thinking that it had been a site-wide policy change. During that time, I noticed a certain behavior that seemed intended to exploit the "active" answer ordering. (I'm not calling out specific cases because I really don't want to turn this into a toxic politics thing. It would not help.)

Specifically, having posted an answer of reasonable size, the author was returning to the post to make trivial edits (adding or tweaking a word or two) every time anyone else added a new answer or made an edit, thus ensuring that they were always the first answer on the list. I find this mildly unpleasant aesthetically, but mostly it seems like a behavior that we are encouraging (indeed, it exists only because it is encouraged), and should not be.

It seemed like it might be worth discussing. Is there anything that could reasonably be done about this? Should anything be done about this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sdjz I am not aware of having made the change myself, though it's possible I made it unintentionally. If I did this to myself unknowingly, and it's not site-wide, that's great, as it addresses most of the issue I'd had. It still caused me to notice the microediting behavior, though, which still seems somewhat poor, and like it deserves at least a bit of attention. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have an example of the micro-editing? I know I often edit my answers a few times shortly after posting, because I don't sufficiently proofread before clicking submit. There may be no mal-intent behind what you are seeing. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jun 25 '19 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I mean is, if you go to a question and select the option to sort answers by votes, then go and see another question, how are the answers sorted? \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jun 25 '19 at 15:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I do, but I don't necessarily want to call out the individual in question, unless that's really what's called for here. They're relatively high-rep, and I'm trying to address the system that causes this, rather than generate a lot of ugliness and politics. The particular thing I noticed is that there are a series of edits, all by the original author, making changes of one or two words each, and each of them coming shortly after someone else posted a new answer or edited a different answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sdjz it persists. If it's on me, it's on me. If someone can tell me that there hasn't been a site-wide policy change recently, that's great. Let me know, and I'll edit the question down to just deal with the microediting thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. I hadn't considered that. Best to refrain \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jun 25 '19 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "If someone can tell me that there hasn't been a site-wide policy change recently, that's great.". Well anecdotally, my answers are always sorted by vote, and haven't seen any change \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jun 25 '19 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I'll take it. Question (heavily) edited. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the "latest edited queue" and "recently modified list" do you mean the Active queue on the front page? Or are you talking about the ordering of answers on the question page itself? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mod Jun 25 '19 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ It'd really help to see the example. I know I often make 'micro-edits' because I see things I want to change, and I don't always see them immediately. And I sort by "active", so I'm always seeing what's currently being worked on. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 25 '19 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose the answer ordering on the question page itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch do you have a proposal on how to do that without making this an accusation? I'm really, really trying to not make this a case of me calling someone out. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I saw the comment, addressed it, and I modified the question in order accordingly. Is it clear enough now, or do I need to go back over it? \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 25 '19 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I get that you don't want to call someone out specifically, and that's fine. As an alternative route, you could flag one of the person's posts with a message saying "I think this author's using trivial edits to ensure top billing, can you take a look?" and we moderators would look into that. Then we might be able to answer this question with more understanding, without unfairly (perhaps) stigmatizing any one particular user. Though it occurs to me that it might be a moderator; in that case just name them--we can all take it and are happier to know that some action we're taking is... \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 25 '19 at 23:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...not coming across the way we'd intended. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 25 '19 at 23:48

I don't see the issue here

You have stated that your issue is with:

the author was returning to the post to make trivial edits (adding or tweaking a word or two) every time anyone else added a new answer or made an edit

In my opinion this is the least reputation gaming way to make edits. Making an edit after someone else has already bumped the question won't change the view order for most people. The majority of user sort their answers by votes according to this straw poll from chat, and which is the default option as explained here. Editing immediately after someone else also won't bump the question unnecessarily.

I often make typos or minor errors in my posts that I don't notice and the time but later notice when responding to a comment or similar. Sometimes I bother to change them and fix my mistakes, sometimes I leave them because the question is older and there is no point bumping it. If someone then bumps those older questions anyway I will see it on the homepage and make the edits then. We have a general practice of being more forgiving with minor-edits on questions that are already on the homepage.

Making unprompted micro-edits would be worse

If you notice that someone if micro-editing their answer every day or so to keep it on the homepage, that would be a problem. To me this is the only practical way to game the reputation system. By regularly editing a post you can keep it on the homepage, gaining more views and therefore more votes. I actively avoid doing this for trivial edits.

If you see someone doing this the correct response is to raise a custom flag and explain the situation. The moderators will look into it and take appropriate action. I don't pretend to know what the solution is but I trust our mods to look after it. Note; I have never noticed or suspected someone of doing this in my time on this site.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth noting that sorting by votes is the default option. (Further explanation of the sorting options and how/whether your selection is remembered here.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod Jun 26 '19 at 5:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might also be worth noting that sorting choice is not a statistic we have access to apparently. I think it is safe to say though that the majority of users just stick with the default option. Even some of our more experienced members had no idea you can change it and I certainly don't expect drive-by users to necessarily notice it much less bother to change it that often. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mod Jun 26 '19 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll add that I tend to fix typos etc. when I go back to the page - usually as the result of a vote on the answer. Many users who post an answer will also vote. This might explain the correlation. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jun 27 '19 at 0:54

I do this

Whenever a question I've answered is bumped, I reread my answer. When I do that, sometimes I notice stylistic issues in my answer or comments I hadn't ever gotten round to responding to or stuff other answers are consistently getting wrong and no one is talking about or whatever. I don't mind correcting these kinds of issues on older answers of mine either-- the age of a question or answer shouldn't matter with respect to how it's treated, in my opinion-- but I know that other people don't like reviving old posts for some reason, so I think it's better to do it after a post is already bumped.

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    \$\begingroup\$ People don't like reviving old posts because of old habits from newsgroups, mailing lists, and forums. This is not one of those things; in fact, we should encourage improving old posts. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jun 29 '19 at 14:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do the same, and not only when I see a question I answered. Sometimes an upvote on an old question/answer of mine is enough for me to come back, review it, and sometimes tweak it a little bit to make it better. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jul 4 '19 at 12:54

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