This topic came up in chat the other day.


Is it good form to insert a related, but ultimately unnecessary, animated gif, picture, or some other form of media (say, a YouTube video) into someone else's post?

I don't feel it is good form. If the OP wants media in their post, I of course don't mind viewing their pictures -- many of them are really enjoyable. But I feel it's up to the OP to place media in their post. Some users, myself included, prefer a neat text-based question (Although I, too, have occasionally put an image in one of my posts.). To inject unwanted media into an OP's post is, I believe, poor form and unnecessary. Yes, perhaps there is the rare instance that added media will enhance the post, but I don't believe this is true most of the time.

I may be alone in my take on this. But if I'm not, is there some sort of etiquette we can talk about, maybe gauge how the community feels about this?

I'm not proposing we establish a rule or anything like that, but I also don't think it's at all appropriate to say to the protesting OP, who has just been media bombed, "That's what rollbacks are for." That kind of smacks of neener neener to me. Why should I be responsible for policing other users, and for keeping their unwanted media out of my post, when there's no need for media to begin with, only to be blithely told, "If you don't like it, too bad. Take it out yourself"? I rarely have time to check my inbox to begin with and I can never find the rollback option (Yeah, yeah, I know ...).

I know we're a collaborative community and that we all muck around in each others' posts, editing, formatting, improving, etc. But I wonder if media should be treated a little more delicately. For example, in a recent Harry Potter question, an answer was given from book canon; someone inserted an animated gif from one of the movies into the OP's answer that directly contradicted book canon. That could have been damaging to the OP's answer and cost him/her upvotes.

How should we treat media? Is it okay to insert unsolicited media into another user's post or answer?

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Oh really?

Educational Decree - Computer

Snape, Snape, Severus Snape - Potter Puppet Pals

Harry and Voldemort - Spaghetti

Because I can too :>

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    Ahahaha, I knew I could count on my chat buddies! :D <laughing> Aug 28, 2014 at 3:03

5 Answers 5


It's clear that editors are allowed to improve posts.

It's equally clear that editors are not allowed to make a post worse.

What is perhaps not completely clear, but is true nonetheless, is that editors are not allowed to merely change posts. If the edit doesn't make the post better, then it should be rejected.

In practice, the difference between "improve" and "change" can be hard to pin down. Thus, I think the standard to use should be "Is this image worth a proverbial thousand words? Does it replace a good chunk of unclear descriptive text in the question/answer?" If yes, go ahead and add it. Otherwise, no matter how relevant or pretty the picture is, you are not within your rights as an editor to add it.

  • This is what I was trying to get at. Thank you. :) Aug 28, 2014 at 4:52

As a general rule of thumb, I’m fairly conservative about adding media to somebody else’s post.

I feel like media draws attention more than text (look at teh shiny), so I don’t want to add it unless it adds clear and indisputable value to the post. Usually this means my media edits are fairly minor.

Two examples spring to mind:

  1. If the OP clearly knows about the media and wants to reference it, but hasn’t found/inserted the item in question.

    Say, if the OP makes reference to a video clip, but can’t find a link themselves. Adding a YouTube link/embed to the video in question would be fine. This is akin to somebody saying “I can’t find a quote now” in a book answer, and somebody else adding the appropriate quote on their behalf.

  2. Improving the quality of existing media.

    For example, replacing screen grabs from a back-of-the-cinema video with one from the DVD release.

In both cases, the change to the post is fairly minor, and I don’t think the OP could have much objection to the edit.

Otherwise, if it’s anything more substantial and I think it might be useful, then I usually leave it as a link in the comments. The OP can see it and add it if they wish, and other readers can find it, but it doesn’t change the original answer.


I feel that this should follow the same exact rules as (a) editing in text and (b) inserting media in your own posts:

  1. If the media is unnecessary and doesn't add any useful information to the post, it shouldn't be there. Whether it was added by the OP or a side editor is wholly irrelevant.

    We already have reasonably decent (if a bit vague) guidelines on that: What is up with all the tangential imagery?

    The example you referenced in your question fully fits under this rubric.

  2. If the media is not objectionable and enhances the post, it's poor form to object to the edit. Your post doesn't belong to you, and the site rules clearly state that if you don't like having your posts edited, you're on the wrong site.

  3. Having said that, unless the media is absolutely necessary to the post, insisting on it (over the objections of the OP - stated in comments or rollback) - is also poor form. OP may not have the right to insist on lack of edits, but they do have the right to have an opinion that is respected by the editors.

  • I don't think it's poor form to object to the edit necessarily -- like you said, the media must enhance the post. IMO, most of the time media does not (I will exclude comics from this POV) enhance a post. It's more of a distraction. I feel it's entirely appropriate for the OP to object to that. Yes, the site is collaborative, but it's also about quality, which, I believe supersedes the right to do whatever to a post just because we can. Hope this makes sense. :) Aug 28, 2014 at 22:21
  • @slytherincess - see the bolded qualification right before poor form words. If it enhances the post Aug 28, 2014 at 22:45
  • I did see it -- I was agreeing with you in principle, just with a caveat regarding quality versus "because I can". :) Aug 29, 2014 at 1:45

I'm really not a fan of the numerous pointless images that get inserted into posts. If the Q&A requires some visual evidence or explanation, then yes an image is useful. But the majority of the time, an image is used that just depicts a topic being discussed. If the question asker and answerer don't know what the things they're discussing look like, then we have some really big problems that need to be discussed.

Personally, I rollback edits that add these gratuitous images to my posts. If I wanted them there, I'd do a google image search and add the image myself. I prefer to keep my posts short and to the point.

However, my opinion is clearly the opposite of the community, which seems to upvote these posts more than posts that don't have images. I think this is an instance of something that isn't helpful being popular, but I can't form an effective argument on the subject.


Call me old-fashioned, but I like pictures with my text and I've always though that a well-chosen picture can massively improve a question or an answer.

Part of the ethos of the site is that we're free to edit posts based on whatever we think will improve them (e.g. "clearer or more relevant") and that includes adding pictures, quotes or anything else as long as we don't change the original meaning.

To quote from the site FAQ;

"Edits are expected...to leave the post better...[including] add[ing] related resources or hyperlinks" and that "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."

This clearly includes pictures and video links.

At the risk of seeming like I'm repeating your own words back, I haven't seen many "protesting" OP's in the chatroom and the original editor is always free to roll back to an earlier version if they see something they don't like (in fact they get a badge for doing so).

The only caveats I'd put on adding media is that an edit should never be made twice (if the OP has removed it) and I'd always be shy of editing a post or a question from a high rep-count user since they're usually big enough and ugly enough to do their own editing.

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    I don't believe I said anyone else was protesting; I said it came up in chat. I am the one with the issue. That's great that you like pictures with your text, but could you let me and others NOT like them in our posts? I don't remove your images, so I'd rather not have images inserted into mine. Yes, the FAQ says you can add bling to another's post, but does that mean you have to? And by that I mean gratuitously, not adding something that is genuinely helpful to the OP. I do agree with your caveats. :) Aug 25, 2014 at 18:23
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    @Slytherincess - When you said "I also don't think it's at all appropriate to say to the protesting OP", I assumed you hads someone (or several someones) in mind.
    – Valorum
    Aug 25, 2014 at 18:27
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    @Richard Who you callin' ugly?
    – TGnat
    Aug 25, 2014 at 21:55
  • @TGnat - You, specifically.
    – Valorum
    Aug 26, 2014 at 7:26
  • Don't hate me because I'm beautiful ... Aug 26, 2014 at 21:09
  • @Richard - Regarding your other comment about a protesting OP, yes, you would be right. :) Aug 27, 2014 at 2:45

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