I recently ran across this edit, which included changing the double quote character one gets when typing on a keyboard (Unicode
U+0022 Quotation Mark) to “ (
U+201C Left Double Quotation Mark) and ” (
U+201D Right Double Quotation Mark), and the apostrophe generated by typing (
U+0027 Apostrophe) to ’ (
U+2019 Right Single Quotation Mark). Titles of questions in German are also edited to replace
U+0022 Quotation Mark characters with inward guillemets (» and «)1. This is what word processors do presumably to make the text more aesthetically appealing. Currently, the following warning appears on the Edit page:
We welcome all constructive edits, but please make them substantial. Avoid trivial edits unless absolutely necessary.
Aside from the link to Leo (which the user didn't have enough reputation to include), the formatting change from code to italics, and the fact that a right single quotation mark is semantically different than an apostrophe, what's the value of such an edit? What what edits are "absolutely necessary"? If it were important, the site could decide to convert and/or render the characters in question in the "improved" version automatically without the need for human intervention, thus saving editors (particularly its more engaged ones) an enormous amount of time.
As a new user coming from Stack Overflow, reputation is used to gauge a user's standing on the site, not whether they can perform menial tasks that a computer can do faster and are only intended for aesthetic reasons. In this sense, I find reputation gained from such edits to be a misrepresentation of the user's standing. This was cleared up by @chirlu in the comments: "High-rep users who have the edit privilege don’t get reputation for their edits." However, a low-rep user could conceivably gain reputation with such edits, so this question really focuses on the hypothetical case of users amassing rep through repeated edits like these.
I don't know the editor or how many edits like the one linked there are, but just looking at the OP's history alone yields another example of such an edit. Looking at the open questions yields an example of the guillemet edit. As a programmer, I struggle to understand why someone would spend so much time and effort on something like this, but I'm happy to be enlightened.
I'm perfectly fine with ruffling some feathers with my question and my statements about how I perceive such edits personally. That's a sign that people feel strongly about this, and that's a good thing. However, what's important here is that the community can reflect, have an open discussion and reach some level of consensus. So, if you have an opinion about why this should or shouldn't be the case, then please compose an answer which addresses why you feel this adds value and improves the question (or not) so that it can be voted on by others to measure its degree of consensus within the community.
1 : I pasted these from Wikipedia and haven't checked whether they match the actual character being replaced in questions.