Someone with editor permissions edited my answer here, inherently changing the tone and essence of my answer to match their point of view instead

Are there any attempts to replace the shapefile?

So the situation is this:

I stated that I was going to put a personal opinion. I wrote my opinion ( the conclusion being that filegdb and spatialite are not viable replacements). The community voted it up to 16+ votes.

Somebody edited my answer after the votes had been made to say that spatialite has tri-licensing mode (for practical purposes described in my original post, this is effectively an incorrect statement), and then they decided that making sqlite a viable format to replace shapefiles was ok and proceeded to edit my answer.

They added/removed text to my answer, basically changing my view of spatialite licensing and it's status as a viable format.

This answer is being shown, with my name on it even though it is not my view.

I cannot change my answer back, because it would entail "editing wars". If somebody has a different opinion, they should be able to post their own answer and not rely on editing the top answer, right?

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    I have edited this question to remove a personal attack on another community member.
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 19:34
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    @whuber I am sorry, but I completely disagree. The attack was made by the editor when the essence of post was changed. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 19:40
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    I apologize: I think my previous comment may have been misinterpreted and I can see how it may be a little ambiguous. Let's try again: I did not edit the reply in question. I did edit the current question--the one you're looking at, right here in meta--to remove what I perceived to be your attack on a third person.
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 19:46
  • @whuber No apology needed. I understood what you meant. Nevertheless, if you see the comparison of the edits in my answer below, you will see why I think it is inappropriate. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 20:25
  • @whuber Also, some of us have actually spent time using and contributing to GEOS for several years trac.osgeo.org/geos/changeset/2556 and that gives me an insight that I think makes my point below valid. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 20:32
  • @whuber Oh, I see, anyway, then who edited my answer then? Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 20:42

4 Answers 4


One thing that SE does really well is it gives ownership to users over their questions and answers. Rather than having a single answer the way a wiki might, it allows for a plurality of answers, each tied to a particular owner, with discussions of those answers. This helps sidestep the problem of "revision wars", taking the advantages of the wiki (allowing multiple users to improve a single answer) and minimizing conflicts where there are disagreements. Everyone gets to have their say.

One of the problems with the internet is that it makes people say crazy things. The flatness of text makes respectful disagreements far more difficult to have online than in real life. What can be intended as friendly or informative gets read aggressive and overbearing. People you disagree with become combatants rather than collaborators. I have seen terrifically few flames on the SE network (mostly people arguing about OO programming, jeez does that get nasty), and I think that's wonderful. One important part of how this is achieved is by not putting people in direct conflict.

In this instance we have what Ragi saw as a misuse of the edit feature. I think it's pretty clear that the edits did substantially change the meaning of his post. Ragi has demonstrated that it's against SO policy to do so. I don't know that we have to follow SO policy here, but it seems to be spot on in this instance. Substantially changing the meaning of answers is bound to generate ill will, even if it's done with the best of intentions. Stack Exchange has five other, more transparent methods to deal with answers we don't like: downvotes, comments, competing answers, chat, and meta. If this type of editing were commonplace, it would make this site less appealing to participate in, and that would be a shame.

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    You are far more eloquent than I. I would say I 110% agree with you, but I just hate it then people use 110, since that is, well, crazy talk, so you get 100% approval from me :) Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 16:14

I am not asking for disallowing the community to edit my answers. What I am asking for is to disallow an answer to get rewritten by somebody else when it is already high voted (and thus accepted by the community at large as an acceptable answer).

This is the portion that got edited from the original post.

Original post:


Spatialite is awesome because it gets all the free functionality from SQLite. SQLite is used everywhere. It is on your Android Phone, on your iPhone/iPad, on Firefox, on Google Chrome, on several commercial embedded devices - can go on forever. To truly make it into a Geoformat (and not just do dumb bounding box operations), it needs to leverage the same geometry library that PostGIS uses: GEOS. Sadly, GEOS is based on another even more awesome geometry library known as JTS. All the algorithms in JTS are extremely powerful, so what is the problem?

Well, JTS is licensed as Open Source LGPL, and LGPL is a viral license. JTS is LGPL, means GEOS is LGPL, means spatialite linked statically with GEOS is LGPL. This sucks. Why? Without explaining open source licenses too much, I can tell you that, for example, I cannot use Spatialite on, say, an iPhone app because that would make my entire app automatically open source (iOS only allows static linking). Any type of GPL license (reasonably) scares the crap out of ESRI, and so they will not touch it with a 10 foot pole. Hence, ArcGIS, the most popular GIS system in the world does not (and will probably never) support spatialite natively. This automatically kills it as a viable format.

Contrast this with the revised format:

Spatialite is awesome because it gets all the free functionality from SQLite. SQLite is used everywhere. It is on your Android Phone, on your iPhone/iPad, on Firefox, on Google Chrome, on several commercial embedded devices - can go on forever.

SQLite itself is a perfectly usable geospatial format - Spatialite extends it to make it sort of a portable PostGIS, but that level of power is beyond what's needed by most applications - after all, Shapefiles, GeoJSON, etc., don't have GEOS-provided query abilities and have become quite popular.

Spatialite uses GEOS, which is based on JTS. It's licensed under the MPL, GPL, and LGPL partially because of this dependency.(from the docs)

Thus simple SQLite (licensed under Public Domain) is a more viable format for closed-source applications to use.


So in my original post (the one that got 15+ votes from the community), I actually state that spatialite is not a viable format. In his revised version, sqlite is (which actually, it is not! sqlite has no spatial support whatsoever!)

I understand editing to improve the quality, but this is seriously ridiculous. If he wants to express his opinion, he is free to POST IT and let people vote for it. But editing the top accepted answer should be done very carefully, and in my humble opinion it is highly unethical to completely change the message of the answer in such a way.


I followed Kirk's suggestion and looked for a precedent in the StackOverflow Meta site:

Answer edits that completely change the answer?

For editors, it says:

  • fix grammatical or spelling errors
  • clarify meaning without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes
  • add related resources or links
  • always respect the original author

and in this case, this was clearly violated.

  • 1
    I can see what you are meaning. While the tone of your original post could appear to be pretty abrasive ('This sucks') to a more sensitive minded user. But you are also correct in that the fully form of the edits should be outside of what was appropriate. While I do not agree with your feeling of him completely changing he did make the tone more generalized and soft.
    – D.E.Wright
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 4:07
  • 1
    @D.E.Wright Thanks. I think one of the great things about the StackExchange platform is that anyone can contribute in a very transparent manner and the community gets to decide what it thinks is appropriate in a very democratic manner. Nevertheless, if you and I disagree, it is completely OK, we just show different answers. The moment that someone has a different point of view and they start editing an opinion post directly (that has been approved by the community), they are circumventing the system. Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 14:00

I disagree with allowing the edited version of this post to be approved (to be clear, I am referring to the original edit of @Ragi's answer). I don't think it is @whuber's fault as I assume most edits are in good faith and I understand that it is near impossible to check that the content is correct. In this case, the motivation for the edit seems to be based on a disagreement over the interpretation of open-source licensing. While the tone of @Ragi's answer is slightly abrasive, there does not seem to be a precedent on SE to allow an answer to be changed in such a way that it means the opposite of what the poster intended.

I've noticed on StackOverflow and Wikipedia that certain pages can be locked for a variety of reasons (on Wikipedia it is often due to edit wars). Presumably this could be applied here after rolling back the question to it's original state.


A quick review of our FAQ may help allay your concerns:

Other people can edit my posts?!

All contributions are licensed under Creative Commons and this site is collaboratively edited, like Wikipedia. If you see something that needs improvement, click edit and help us make it so!

All edits are tracked in a public revision history. To view revisions, click the edit date on the post.

If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

In this instance, the editor did not have editor privileges: the proposed edits had to be reviewed and accepted by a moderator. I was the one who happened to do that. A mod's job is not to guarantee correctness of all material on the site! (That would be an impossible task for mere mortals.) In this case, objections were made about the tone of the original post and I found those to be valid. I hope you will not object if I fail to get into specifics about that.

Your options include

  • Accept the status quo.

  • Further edit your reply. If you roll it back to its previous state, you may subsequently find that this is reversed and your ability to make further changes may be curtailed to prevent a "rollback war."

  • Discuss ways to improve the reply on chat. A discussion in meta may be appropriate if it is of general interest (e.g., if it raises issues about improving replies in general).

Your options do not include stopping the community from editing your replies.

  • 3
    There is a huge difference between editing an answer, and changing what the answer is saying from a post. If the editor truly thought that what I was saying was incorrect, he had the ability to submit his own answer and let the community vote if they thought it was the right answer. That's the whole point of the downvoting upvoting system. Allowing a question to get high points in one state, then sneaking in and changing the content is cheating at best. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 19:38
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    The stated reason for the edit was not incorrectness, but tone. Downvoting does not rectify abusive or unacceptable language. Characterizing another user's edit as "sneaking" and "cheating" is unfair and wrong (as well as belligerent). Please take a few minutes to cool off; review our FAQ, and then think about what you would like to do. The community values your contributions so please don't let a little thing like this blow everything up. You have the power to act constructively in the ways I outline above.
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 19:42
  • what I'd like to do is to put back the answer the way it was intended. I am willing to change the tone if that hurt anybody, but not the actual essence of it. Also, how can I have a more interactive chat with you instead of posting things back and forth? Do you have a skype? Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 20:34
  • We can chat if you like. I'm going to be away from the Internet for a while, though. Other duties call... . In the meantime, your approach sounds good to me. I personally don't have a problem with the original, but as a mod I respect the sensibilities of the community, so I support efforts to improve the tone of anything that appears on our site. It sounds like you do too, provided such efforts do not change the actual meaning--a sensibility that I also strongly support both personally and as a mod. Perhaps you can find some way to edit your reply to achieve both ends?
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 21:07
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    @RagiYaserBurhum Certainly this kind of thing has come up before on SO. Did you search the meta site there for a precedent? Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 22:22
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    @KirkKuykendall You are correct. This is what I found meta.stackexchange.com/questions/104438/… . The important point is that it says "clarify meaning without changing it" Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 23:05

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