It takes time and effort to edit questions to make them comprehensible or on-topic. It's useful work, and it should be rewarded.
I agree that good edits make questions useful ongoing resources. Editing to make great questions is important, perhaps as important as providing good answers.
I found this thread on meta.SE about voting on edits and it sounds like points for edits are not going to happen any time soon.
The main rewards appear to be:
- The feel good factor in knowing that you are making this a great site for the many people who read such questions in the future.
- You can see your ranking on the users - editors page.
- You can earn editor badges
Admittedly ranks and badges appear just to be counts and don't pick up on the quality of the edit.
As someone who has edited a lot of questions over the while, I'm motivated by the overall success of this site. I think that having clear titles, tags, and questions is a big part of what makes a site useful to others. And I think that's pretty motivating.
I think we can con the current system by looking for a reason to upvote someone who does a phenomenal edit on our question or answer. If someone did an awesome job on an edit it is highly probable they are doing awesome jobs in their own questions and answers that has gone unnoticed by you and legitimately deserves an upvote. On that note I think Nick really has been doing some great work.
I understand and admire Jeromy's idealist stance (and upvoted his answer). But on a website open to the general public, reputation points serve not only as motivating reward, but also as access control to discourage vandalism.
Reputation leads to moderation rights. But reputation is not gained by anything that shows the thoughtfulness and evenheadedness that is required to responsibly use those rights.
We have had users who rapidly gained in reputation in a relatively short period of time, yet were constantly involved in quarrels with other users. I admit that with some of these users I was afraid of the moment they would gain extended privileges.
As long as some moderation rights are granted automatically based on reputation, I wish that reputation was more closely tied to social behavior, and the only social behavior that I can think of is editing of questions and answers that would otherwise get downvoted and closed.
Maybe you can think of other measurable onsite behaviors that could be incorporated into a more meaningful reputation count and better reflects the prosocial effort that some users put into this site.
This got pretty long, so I subheadered it. TL;DR: amen!
We do gain reputation from editing...sort of.
It is rewarded below the 1000 rep threshold (a measly +2 per accepted edit), but...since this site is in beta (has been for over two years, which seems odd to me as a new user), that threshold is half of what it is on parent sites like Stack Overflow (SO) and fully launched sites like Cross Validated (CV). Thus it's only taken me 27 days of (somewhat exceptional?) activity to surpass that threshold and stop receiving bonus rep for my edits.
The flip side of this threshold is that I can edit freely without bothering anyone else to approve my edits. Yes, I lose the rep score incentive, but as far as the site's threshold system is concerned, I have sufficient rep to edit on the honor system: i.e., whenever I see fit for the sake of the site. Kinda like Wikipedia, but with an activity threshold for the privilege. Gaining that privilege is some incentive in itself, and maybe at this point it's better to reframe editing as a duty, rather than as a means to personal gain? I don't know that I agree with this viewpoint, but I could see others offering it as a counterpoint.
Another would be the possibility of "gaming" (in this case, "farming") the edit system for rep after one no longer needs an accomplice to do so (one could farm up to the threshold as is, given an accomplice capable of approving edits, I think). The only sign of one doing this after earning the privilege to edit without approval would be the edit record accumulating on the most recently active question, which might also stay bumped to the top of the list for abnormally long, if the hypothetical farmer is particularly clumsy or brazen. This counterargument doesn't really bother me either, because I don't really share @what's fear of earned privilege abuse anymore, though I admit I've only gotten over this recently through encouraging personal experiences with several users who have taken some time to acculturate, but seem to have done so with the help of good feedback from various others.
There's quite a lot to learn about SE itself before one can avoid stepping on others' toes reliably, including that the SE system encourages us to hold each other to unusually high (and effortful!) standards of communication, at least compared to many other internet forums...so there's a lot to learn here about communication itself. I find that to be very valuable (I've learned a lot in a pretty short time myself), and I suspect that pointers in communication are a large part of the value I convey to others through my own activity. It takes time to learn, but my impression of most users who stick around long enough to gain even 1000 rep is that they're well-intentioned, honest, and not going to harm anything that can't be undone easily enough just because they have too much rep, or want more. Also, a simpler counter-counterpoint would be to suggest that after a second threshold (e.g., 2000), people can start earning edit rep again. That way people would have to work even further on no edit rep before they could farm it solo, and by then, hopefully they'd have more of whatever privileges they might be after and see less use in farming rep. Maybe they'd then care less about gaining the edit rep too (the OP suggests otherwise :), but it would be nice to provide any encouragement to people who have acculturated to SE that well, and it would still help their efforts receive recognition from others.
Since I use my real name, I might gain some real-world "rep points" by attaching my name to every post I edit. I also risk it somewhat if people don't like the question despite my edits, which may often be the case. Some of the questions most in need of editing can't be edited appropriately without putting words in the OPer's mouth. Sometimes doing so isn't a bad idea though; some support exists for the practice.
We should edit more...for the site's reputation!
We should review some meta-questions about when it is appropriate to edit (When should I edit a post?), and particularly consider editing beyond addressing issues of clarity, as to change the meaning of the question to be more on-topic (e.g., more scientific, or less self-referential: General strategies for converting self-help into a useful general question for this site) or less broad. A lot of what seems to be bothering longer-term users like @ArtemKaznatcheev and @ChuckSherrington recently—a sort of "bad question" problem arising from "topic drift"—might be addressed helpfully by editing the semantic content of overly broad and off-topic questions more liberally. I've supported @JeromyAnglim's efforts in this regard, because I think it's an important practice for the health of the site, but not all of us may be able to do this as well as our fearless leader. High-rep users are probably better suited in general to reign in these inappropriate questions. That's why mod privileges are unlocked with rep, right?
If any user sees a problem with a question, a flag can be raised. If the problem is simple enough to address, an edit can also be submitted to address it. Edits need approval until 1000 rep, whereas the privilege to handle close votes unlocks at only 500 rep here. Over on SO and CV, it's 3000! It seems odd to me that one can edit freely on established sites (which only takes one reviewer, right?) sooner than one can vote to shut down a question (though this requires agreement from four others to pass), but that the opposite is true here.
Part of the beta process is development of a large number of questions and definition through them of what's on-topic. Even closed questions count toward the total corpus of questions, but they can't continue counting toward our answer ratio. I'm not sure they count against it, but I'm not convinced that they count against the underlying problems either. I.e., I'm not sure closing questions prevents others from asking more bad questions. I suspect most of these come from new users who pay no mind to whether others have asked bad questions, or what constitute them. It's hard enough to ask a truly original question at all, yet we get people trying every day, probably at least one of whom doesn't research the topic off this site at all, let alone on it. Do we really think people are paying that much attention to what questions we leave open?
Regardless, this isn't an argument that we shouldn't keep questions on-topic; just that it can be accomplished by editing, not just closing. We should be careful about getting in the habit of just closing questions instead of editing them when we could refine something useful and on-topic from the raw input, especially since closing privileges expand before editing privileges do here. We should also be careful because it's the easier habit. It's noteworthy that even without addressing deeper issues of question content, the discussion of when to edit emphasizes how much work should be involved in editing a post completely. If this is to include changing the question itself to be more scientific, specific, and generally useful to others, the job gets even harder, but also more important and deserving of incentives.
+1 for the +2s
Fundamentally, I agree with the OP. I've gone somewhat off-topic here in arguing why editing is such an important job, but I hope you've followed me this far or at least agree without needing to follow my argument. As such an important job, editing should be incentivized however is feasible and within reason, and I don't think two rep points is at all too much to ask for. I'd like to see other moderator-type activities incentivized into the rep game too, but I get the feeling from Meta SO that badges are the way SE prefers to go with mod work (see Reward finding duplicate questions - +10, +2, -5 vs. Give an incentive for finding duplicate questions). As such, maybe it doesn't matter that we seem to agree on rep incentives. Maybe my answer boils down to the same stuff as the other answers. Maybe we've just gotta go to war with the rep system we've got. I'm going to try to do so in any case, at least for a little while longer...but I sure wouldn't complain if I started to see the green +2s popping up again.