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The amount of exposure time a question has on the "newest" list is highly variable. It depends heavily upon the day, time of day, and a good deal of random chance.

We can't do much about the time-dependent amount of traffic the site gets. However is it beneficial and "more fair" to mitigate the effect of randomness on the amount of exposure a question gets?

Right now, questions are immediately visible and open to answer as soon as the question is asked. While this system works, I've been wondering if leveling the playing field (so to speak) would improve the quality of the site.

Would it be worth implementing a question queue whereby every question get's X minutes of exposure time at the top of the newest list of questions and newer questions are queued up? Of course, it would be a good idea not to fix X, but instead make it dependent upon the current traffic. This could depend either on the time of day or on the number of questions currently in the queue.

Regardless of the implementation, what about the general idea of reducing the variability in exposure time?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Unfortunately, not all questions are equal. They vary widely in their quality, clarity and interest to the community. Poor questions tend to get downvoted and pushed to the bottom of the question stack. Good questions tend to stay at the top of the stack a little longer. Questions with activity get bumped to the top of the stack. That's how it should be.

The amount of exposure time that a question gets is already determined to a large degree by traffic. The more people there are at the site, the less time a question gets visibility because there are more people asking questions pushing down the old ones, but more people means more attention available for unanswered questions.

On the weekend, when traffic is lower, questions tend to stay at the top of the stack longer, because the traffic is lower. So overall, I would say that any given question is treated more or less equally with respect to overall view potential.

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I'm not talking about the average case though. I'm talking about stopping the guy who posted a bad question during peak times but still managed to get in 15 minutes at the top simply by getting lucky. And the guy who posted an amazing question but still got bumped down by a flurry of 10 questions posted afterwards. I agree that the system works on AVERAGE, but the microfluctuations in traffic can affect the exposure of a question. – tskuzzy Jul 27 '11 at 15:29
Also, what do you mean by the "stack"? When I click on one of my favorite tags, the default page is a list of "Newest" questions, sorted by timestamp, irrespective of the quality. I'm referring specifically to this tab. – tskuzzy Jul 27 '11 at 15:31
That's what I mean by the "stack." Remember, if someone's question stayed at the top of the stack for 15 minutes, it means that nobody was there for that 15 minutes. – Robert Harvey Jul 27 '11 at 15:32
But questions with "activity" don't get bumped to the top of the stack. The only thing that affects it's position is the time at which the question was asked. – tskuzzy Jul 27 '11 at 15:33
Questions that get late answers (20 to 30 minutes after the question was asked) get bumped to (somewhere near) the top of the stack. – Robert Harvey Jul 27 '11 at 15:34
Ah. Thanks for the clarification. I understand your point now. – tskuzzy Jul 27 '11 at 15:36

I don't think the exposure time is as critical as the number of views. During peak traffic times, a question with low exposure time still gets a lot of views. I don't think delaying them by placing them in a queue is a good idea. If I want people to look at my question later, I'll either wait to post it or bump it with an edit at a later time.

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See my comment on Robert Harvey's answer. – tskuzzy Jul 27 '11 at 15:31
@tskuzzy: See Robert's replies to your comments. ;) – Bill the Lizard Jul 27 '11 at 15:39

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