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When high-rep users see a suggested edit, why can they not simply approve it?

I can make any change I like to questions and answers, but cannot simply approve someone else's edit?

Any reason for that?

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There are multiple reasons. Some may apply more than others, depending on whether you're asking why multiple approvals are ever needed, or why there isn't a higher-rep level that allows instant approvals.

  1. The Edit Questions and Answers privilege gives you the ability to edit without peer review, and review suggested edits. They are separate activities.
  2. Giving privileged users the ability to approve a suggested edit instantly might deprive other lower-rep users of the chance to participate in the review process. Ensuring that many reviewers participate is an explicit goal.
  3. Instant approval implies a greater responsibility for the change than might be intended. Giving qualified users the ability to choose between a 'regular approve' or 'instant approve' would be an unnecessary complication, without adding much value to the site.
  4. If you do want to take full responsibility, it is often possible to find something else in the post to Improve. Taking the Improve route does result in approval of the original edit (by the community user) and your name appearing against the Improved version. One should not abuse this feature of course - the simple fact is that many suggested edits are capable of meaningful improvement. This should be routine anyway.
  5. The first reviewer might get it wrong. We all make mistakes, so peer review is a useful safety net. In addition, another qualified user might choose to Improve the edit, rather than simply approving it. Instant approval would remove that opportunity.
  6. Instant approvals might be used to side-step the limits on suggested edit reviews.
  7. High rep is not a reliable indicator of review quality.

Side notes:

  • The original author can instantly accept or reject suggested edits.
  • Tag wiki edits require the Approve Tag Wiki Edits privilege to review, or the Trusted User privilege to edit without peer review.
  • 4
    Great write-up. As a side note, the original author rarely gets a chance to instantly accept or reject suggested edits, even on this site. On Stack Overflow, forget it. – Aaron Bertrand Oct 19 '15 at 14:45
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    Agreed. I especially liked "High rep is not a reliable indicator of review quality." This I did not know: "The original author can instantly accept or reject suggested edits." – Max Vernon Oct 19 '15 at 16:56
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    Maybe the most important point is nr. 4: high-rep users can approve edits instantly by going the improve route. It requires more interaction, puts the user into the edit history directly and is less easily abused. Just the perfect middle ground I think. – Erwin Brandstetter Oct 29 '15 at 17:24

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