A lot of times it happens that I post a question there but I fail follow up on it because of my irritating internet connection and/or university commitments and then after a week or so I again remember that question and when I go there and see, some people have answered but it isn't perfectly accurate wrt my requirements or problem, and some other people have commented asking for clarifications. If I reply to all of them now, will I come off as a jerk who will only work according to his own convenience even when it's about other people selflessly volunteering to help him?

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I think it'd be fine to reply late. It's loads better than the people with "urgent requirements" –  simchona Jun 24 '12 at 20:00
    
I agree that it is completely fine to reply late, but I do get the feeling on SO that people are expecting an almost instant reply. I often feel bad replying to a comment/answering a question just before I leave work (I have a 1.5 hour drive home most days) because it's so common to arrive home and have numerous replies. Even so, I wouldn't explicitly discourage then practice. –  James Allardice Jun 24 '12 at 23:23
    
I suggest that you do stick around for a bit immediately after posting the question though as quite frequently (at least in the tags I frequent) requests for clarification can occur within minutes of the question being posted. –  Martin Smith Jun 25 '12 at 12:20
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4 Answers

I would not consider you a jerk. I regard Stack Overflow as a timeless Q&A site where both questions and answers can be improved at any time. I recently went back to some of my older answers to improve them even more, which may be helpful for future visitors.

I suspect most people ask their follow-up comments and then leave to do something better while waiting for your reply (and they will be notified about your reply in the notification area in the upper-left corner).

With that said, at least make sure to be around for a few minutes after posting your question to handle the most immediate comments. These are probably the most obvious shortcomings of your post and may be needed to know where to start an answer.

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If you only happen to go back to a question after a while (for whatever reason), and find out that you need to add detail to it, do so.

It really doesn't matter why there is a lag (or how long it is).

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I think that SO (and internet forums in general) are necessarily ... um, asynchronous. It's normal to post something and then answer/reply/update much later; that's what the notifications are for. It's not like your answerers are sitting there, twiddling their thumbs with increasing annoyance as they wait for you to respond.

Of course the following things are nice where possible:

  1. Expressing a question with such lucid precision that further clarifications are not needed.
  2. Being available to discuss follow-up questions immediately while the question is still fresh in everyone's mind, and the answerers are all there.

The first is an ideal that is not always easy or possible to accomplish; the second is nice but not required, or expected.

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Personally I wouldn't find you a jerk but my primary goal is to better myself by answering questions, helping you is a secondary objective (sorry :s). Maybe that actually makes me the jerk.

New arrivals to a question like that (with answers already given but no response from the asker) might think you're a lost case though, which could hurt the number of prospective answers you get.

This is something where in my opinion accepted answers % score helps you. If you have a high percentage then people'd be less likely to see you as a 'lost cause'. If you have a low percentage then it could evoke a negative perception with new arrivals since they'll just assume that you found one of the answers acceptable and moved along.

So I'd say it's not a given that tardiness in response could hurt the number of answers you get, but it might where 'late answers' are considered. In my opinion people would be less likely to answer a question that has been answered at least once days before but where no response from the OP was forthcoming. (provided the OP is in 'low standing' due to low acceptance %)

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