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When you are looking around for questions to answer, how do you find them? What is your answering "workflow"?

I've been opening up a tab with the newest questions from some language, and then checking it every time I see new questions pop up in the tab title. I feel like there's got to be a better approach, both for my rep and for the community (in terms of looking for things to edit/flag/retag/idk).

So, how do you approach it?

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Very carefully... –  Robert Harvey Sep 2 '12 at 4:32
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I run across something and think "oh I can answer this." The only thing I ever browse is just newest questions, at least on SO. Here on MSO I occasionally browse over into other lists. –  animuson Sep 2 '12 at 4:36
    
Of course I often just get on for 2 sec. to see if there happens to be a question to answer, but, judging by the speed of a lot of answers and the fact that I'm starting to recognize people, I'm clearly not the only one who sometimes gets on to "aggressively" find questions. –  Matthew Adams Sep 2 '12 at 4:37
    
Why the question downvote? –  Matthew Adams Sep 2 '12 at 5:23
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question downvote in meta means people "disagree". or they just didn't like your question. I think rep in meta is nearly worthless. –  Tina CG Hoehr Sep 2 '12 at 7:08
    
@Tina CG Hoehr: Rep is not worthless on MSO, since it's possible to get banned based just on MSO votes. –  blunders Sep 2 '12 at 22:55
    
@blunders It's possible, but the auto ban algorithm is way more relaxed than on SO proper. It will take a lot of downvotes to get yourself question banned on MSO, and generally speaking you have to be a very persistent troll to get there... –  Yannis Sep 3 '12 at 11:54
    
@Yannis Rizos: I've been banned for months on MSO, never got a hint before it happened, and no clear way to get unbanned either, so no does not take "a lot of downvotes to get yourself question banned on MSO." –  blunders Sep 3 '12 at 13:30
    
@blunders Ouch. I never thought you would be banned on MSO, given our past interactions on Programmers. Well, I guess that proves that you can be banned without being a troll. –  Yannis Sep 3 '12 at 13:35
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5 Answers 5

I keep a queue open and generally have a quick peek at the newest questions. I normally flick back and forth between my IDE on one desktop and browser on another (normally to check code), so I see a few questions, I can't help but take a look. If there is something there that is easy to answer, I pop in and answer it. If I find that I get too many upvotes on a simple answer (say a paragraph at most) then I normally end up feeling guilty and go back and edit the answer to provide as much information (links to references, examples and whatever else is appropriate that might not have been in the original answer).

But I also find that it is a good practice to take a peep at some of the un-answered questions, or even just scroll through a few pages of the queue to find what questions have answers but nothing that is accepted. The majority of the time, there are correct answers there, but there are times when the (sometimes upvoted) answers really don't get to the crux of the question. Sometimes, if a user mis-reads a question (sort of like the XY problem) other readers get caught up in the same train of thought and all go down the wrong path. It's nice to find these questions and properly answer them.

Lastly, I have found (sometimes on my own answers) that if an answer looks right, and attracts an upvote or two, a lot more can occur in quick succession. That doesn't always mean it is right. I always get a real feeling of success if I can find a question that has these and pop the right answer in. It is even sweeter if the OP goes back and accepts it.

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You can't spend all your time answering questions. Completing other tasks on the site (and there's always things to be done) is another great way to contribute to the community and carry on learning. To name a couple of my personal favourites,

  • Editing
  • Flagging
  • Handling flags (>10K)
  • Participating in meta

All of these things contribute to the community, help you learn more about the site, how it works, how to make it work for you and done right this can also teach others by example.

Since the feature was introduced, the method you describe is probably the best way to track posts that interest you. Keep those tabs open and open new questions in a new tab leaving the original tab in place to receive more updates. If you have some down time and (depending on your time zone) the questions are not coming in so fast (or you are interested in a less popular tag), head on over to your review tools or go over your old answers improving/editing where you can to ensure all your posts are up to date.

Meta is a fantastic way to learn the inner workings of the systems here. Being aware of what's going on in Meta is also the best way to stay up to date on new features that are coming out or to give feedback on existing features. Getting to know the system will also help you make the most of your time when answering questions. Plus they have casual Friday on meta - gotta love those...

If anything, doing any one of the things I've listed should pass enough time for your browsers title bar to start looking like this -

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I don't necessarily go on Answering stints, I find I'm more looking for a solution to a problem and whilst I'm there, I'll browse through that site's questions. I have favourited tags, but I still read other questions as well. When I am browsing, I have the list number set to 50, and I just browse through either Newest Questions or Unanswered, occasionally Featured.

If I think I know the answer to a question, I'll click through and (if there isn't already an answer) I'll write one.

If there are answers, I'll check if they cover what I was going to cover.

  • If yes, I'll either up-vote it, or edit to add detail/ flesh it out a bit more (and then up-vote it)
  • If no, I add my own answer. (either with an explanation of why the other answers do not work/ didn't work for me, or as an alternative solution)
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I have my favorite tags OR'd and Bookmark'd in Chrome:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/javascript+or+jquery+or+google-maps+or+google-maps-api-3

And then I press F5 whenever I see the "1 new wild question appears!" bar notification

And I usually have a emacs or jsfiddle window open.

I usually click at the 0-answered questions first. 95% of the time I test my answer and if it's a corner case, say, "It works in Chrome!" The 5% of the time I didn't test, there were bugs, which are guaranteed downvotes :(

I learned to quickly post a working solution, then elaborate with edits! See 80-20 rule and fastest gun in the west problem! There's the five-minute window where your edits won't be "recorded" as edits!

Most importantly, have fun! :)

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You know you can just click on the "new question" banner... no need to refresh :) –  Lix Sep 2 '12 at 7:28
    
I find pressing F5 faster than moving my mouse and clicking the banner. It is a thin banner after all. –  Tina CG Hoehr Sep 2 '12 at 7:30
    
+1 for "a new wild question appears!" :D –  Robotnik Sep 2 '12 at 9:51
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I have no workflow. I look for questions (by repeatedly mashing on the Stackoverflow link at the top of the page) that I feel I am of sufficient expertise to answer; then:

  • Fire up IntelliJ IDEA to help with code formatting/sandboxing
  • Have a tab with the most relevant API open
  • Request clarification from OP, upvote an existing answer that I feel sufficiently answers the question, or answer the question.

Alternatively, I bounce between there and Meta to check on a few questions, or hit up /review to see what could use editing/voting on.

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Have you tried an auto-refresher? Saves a lot of "mashing"... –  Mysticial Sep 2 '12 at 20:49
    
I'll admit the "mashing" I do is maybe 20 times an hour. I don't lurk nearly as hard as I used to, or I'm otherwise preoccupied elsewhere. –  Makoto Sep 2 '12 at 20:50
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