Community editing is an interesting feature, actually. It has tremendous power for good. I've been able to shield many non-English speakers by correcting their spelling, grammar, and formatting before they could be assassinated.
The thing is, unless you have the appropriate privileges, your edits are supposed to be put in a review queue for the community moderators. Besides that, you can roll back the changes yourself if they contradict your intention.
So, the problem only comes when the people who either have free-for-all edit powers, or who go through the queue, start abusing the power. And that goes back to my point about selecting moderators carefully.
If you are editing a document without the consent of the author, then you are taking part of the copyright and authorship of the document, even if it is a phrase or a full document. So, it is extremely rude.
For example, it is rare (if any) to find a book's editor that edits a book directly from the original script. An editor could suggest changes but he could not edit a document.
It also happens with music. One of the causes of the break-up of the Beatles was because a producer decided to change a song without the advice to Paul (the first cause is Yoko Ohno)
I think the difference with StackOverflow, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, is that it was intended to be a sort of wiki. When you publish an article on Wikipedia, anyone can edit it. That's an expected part of the workflow. Your content is never really meant to be "yours" (except it is? They're weird.)
I think the founders believed that by building StackOverflow on that basis, information would be (and stay) more accurate, much like how Wikipedia is often more accurate than many single-source articles. (There was a study about that, but I can't recall which university.)
Whether or not that was a good design decision though? Well, as you can see from the other comments, that remains to be seen.
In that case, posts should be anonymous, not have your name next to them. It feels like you're being misrepresented when someone edits your question without your consent, sometimes subtly changing its meaning/intent.
Yeah...I'd never really put much thought into it before this conversation. Something about that hybrid didn't work, did it?
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