I’ve just made a quite substantial edit to an answer. I didn’t change any of the content, just the formatting which I found excessive and consequently disruptive.

Now, the original formatting is certainly not recommended. My question is whether my edit was acceptable or whether such “trivial” edits are frowned upon here.

In fact, were it up to me I’d even remove the unnecessary image1 but I refrained from this.

I’d like to establish a community guideline / FAQ. Can we get a consensus on editing other people’s posts?

For comparison: yes, on other Stack Exchange communities such edits are – generally – encouraged, as long as they don’t destroy the original answer or make it worse (e.g. inaccurate). There is no consensus on the use of decorative images (that I’m aware of).

1) Especially since it’s probably copyrighted, used without permission, and isn’t covered by fair use.

  • $\begingroup$ @bobthejoe Good point, I made the question more general. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph May 4 '12 at 8:31

The answer you linked to is of very low quality, so I'd say do whatever you can to salvage it.

Definitely remove decorative images: they add absolutely nothing and encourage more worthless gimmicks.

Personally, I think images in general should be used sparingly, since they have potential to draw attention away from more useful content.

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    $\begingroup$ I think images can be very helpful – but then I guess we are not in disagreement. Regarding the quality of the answer, this is actually a pity for the point I was trying to make – what would the policy be if the text were of good quality but the formatting atrocious? $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph May 3 '12 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ I've generally operated under the assumption that the poster owns the idea, (and of course the up / down votes) but the phrasing, formatting, etc is treated as part of public domain: if you're fairly sure you can improve it, do it. $\endgroup$ – Shep May 3 '12 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ I tend to abuse images since they usually mean a couple thousand words. $\endgroup$ – bobthejoe May 5 '12 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ @bobthejoe, I'm bad at reading, so I agree with you to some extent. If the image means a few thousand relevant words, it's far better than the same space filled with text. The issue is more that they are often full of irrelevant information: if you're talking about echolocation, there's a temptation to throw in a photo of a dolphin just, ya know, being a dolphin. It's cute and it will generate up votes, but there's a very good chance it adds nothing to the reader's understanding, and if everyone lazy-pastes a picture of a dolphin in their echolocation answer, it's a lot of dolphins. $\endgroup$ – Shep May 6 '12 at 5:30

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