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Yes I know it's been custom for 100s (1000s?) of years for the author of a letter to sign it at the bottom. I guess this came about due to security and eventually legal reasons. What the author wrote ends at the signature, so any blank space on the page can't be fraudulently filled in later.

That was a long time ago, and here we are in the internet age with rather different reasons for "signing" a post. This is now simply to let others know who wrote it. This is information you want before you read the post, not after. In today's world, especially here on the internet, the signature should therefore be at the top of each post, not the bottom.

I can't fault SE for following the convention and doing like it's been done for 1000 years, but let's step back and think about this anew, folks. The identify of the author is important context to post. This context is important to know while reading a post, not after. For short posts this doesn't matter as much because the whole post including the signature is on the screen at the same time. Think about it, for short posts do you automatically look at the bottom first to see who wrote it before reading? Do you maybe do this without being aware of it? I know I've scrolled to the bottom of long posts to identify the author, then scrolled back to the top to read.

Is there any advantage to having the signature at the bottom as apposed to the top? If we can't come up with one, then it should be moved to the top.

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migrated from meta.electronics.stackexchange.com Sep 21 '11 at 15:15

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for electronic hardware hacking enthusiasts.

    
I posted this here because it's the only place I know. I'm rather hazy on how this whole Stack Exchange (or is that Stack Overflow, and I don't know what MSO is, too many cutesy non-descriptive names) system works. Move it to wherever you think is appropriate. Yes, I guess I was referring to the "user card" in your lingo. I don't know the internal names for your software elements. In any case, I think you understand my suggestion, so I'll leave it at that. –  Olin Lathrop Sep 21 '11 at 14:58
    
@Olin - Sorry; maybe I'm a little too familiar with the system. Moving to Meta Stack Overflow (aka MSO, the largest meta site on the Stack Exchange system, originally the meta site of Stack Overflow, the first Stack Exchange site) in hopes of better discussion. Don't worry about the tagging - I'm more than happy to help with that. –  Kevin Vermeer Sep 21 '11 at 15:14
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@Olin - in case you come back and notice that you've got -2 votes on your proposal, this isn't because it's a bad question, it's because downvotes imply disagreement with a feature request on MSO. –  Kevin Vermeer Sep 21 '11 at 15:30
    
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/66668/146495, which proposed the movement of the SE blog author to the top of their posts. Jeff disagreed, but Joel and Robert wanted to move it. It got moved. –  Kevin Vermeer Sep 21 '11 at 16:26
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Why would anyone care who the author is? –  endolith Sep 21 '11 at 20:10

3 Answers 3

My opinion: Order content to present information first.

This is obviously a subjective judgement, but I would rank the items I'd like to see in a source of information in the following order:

  1. Title. This should be single-phrase summary. With this, I determine whether or not I want to read something in a couple seconds.
  2. Summary/Outline/Table of Contents. Prepares my brain by telling me what to expect and in what order. Having this makes it much easier to read and comprehend the full text. Optional for shorter posts, probably only a few Stack Exchange answers require a full-on table of contents. Easily skimmed headings throughout the text can also serve this purpose for medium-length pieces.
  3. The actual content. Don't push this down too far. I'm frequently annoyed by the list of figures, list of tables and "this page intentionally left blank" content in many articles, and the long lists of pinouts for every...single...package...variant in some datasheets.
  4. Community opinion of the content. On Stack Exchange, this is contained in votes and comments. If I'm not really interested in the content (not in moderator mode) a quick glance at the votes tells me whether I really want to read the post or not.
  5. Tools to improve/share the content. In some cases, the sharing mechanism is the file itself or the URL of the page I'm on. For most articles or web pages, I want to know the email address of the author(s) to give feedback if necessary.
  6. The author. To be quite frank, the author really isn't important to me. The content is what matters. If I find an author I consistently like, I'll find a list of his or her publications (such as http://electronics.stackexchange.com/users/4512/olin-lathrop). If I'm looking for information, I go to a search location where I expect to find that information in a useful format.

This doesn't have to exist in a linear format, it's fine that the SE network sprinkles 4 and 5 around the content. What's important is that lower-priority items don't obstruct access to higher-priority items.

Given this ranking, I feel that the current location of the user card is quite appropriate.

If you disagree with my ranking, I still think we should:

Aim to equalize users' ability to share information

Great information might come from highly respected users, but it may also come from low-rep or completely new users. Presenting information is therefore more important than presenting the author. The proposed system would create castes of high-rep, respected users and low-rep proles.

In summary: Information is more important than authorship.

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This is information you want before you read the post, not after.

No.

The author should not matter if you read a question/answer, only the question/answer itself. Stack Exchange is focused on content, not users. Therefor it should not matter who wrote the content.

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From my point of view, it's better to have the signature at the bottom.

One of my bad personality traits is to quickly get irritated by behavior of some users here and from time to time I feel the need not to up-vote answers which I think deserve the up-vote or even down-vote answers for some trivial mistakes or strongly expressed opinions I disagree with because of the author of the post.

To somehow rectify this I started not to read the author field until after I've made my decision about voting about the question because I've noticed that I almost never undo my up-vote if I happen to up-vote the post of an author that I do not like. Yes, I know that I use the "feature" of this site to solve my own personality problems, but I think that this particular example shows that we should stick to the principle of having quality of post's content above reputation of post's author.

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