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The majority of questions are answered by say the top 200-500 users disproportionately more so as you get closer to Jon Skeet :). Now while the ratio of "askers" to "answerers" is expected to favour "askers" I have to wonder if this has perhaps gone too far. It's at least raising as an issue to talk about I think.

I started answering jQuery questions late 2008. At the time there were quite a few of them, lots of simple ones and not all that many people answering them. This was useful to me as I used it to help learn jQuery. Real-world problems from programmers beat made-up problems from books, particularly in a forum where others will vote you up or down if you're right or wrong.

I'm not sure if it would be possible for someone to do that now. jQuery questions get jumped on like a feeding frenzy. It's not the only tag like that either. Between Jon Skeet, Marc Gravell and others, it'd be damned near impossible to get an answer in on any C# question unless you instantly know the answer and are lucky enough to see it first.

Now while the efforts of those guys should (rightly) be applauded I have to wonder at the long term effects. To borrow an analogy, it's like a handful of predators have been so successful in this ecosystem that they've crowded out every other predator to the point of near-extinction.

This is one of those "where is the next generation coming from?" scenarios.

Anyway I'm not saying it is a problem. Nor am I making a suggestion how to fix it if it needs fixing but I am curious to hear some other opinions on it.

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closed as off-topic by Shadow Wizard, Martijn Pieters, Monica Cellio, rene, ɥʇǝS Jul 16 '14 at 17:33

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Cletus, maybe this ties into your other answer… , which was "is the daily rep cap designed to reduce participation"? – Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '09 at 2:59
If I ask a question I actually hope for an answer by Marc or Jon Skeet, it's almost a priviledge and certainly going to be reliable. 90% of developers don't really know what they're doing so having a few high quality individuals who share their time and knowledge is invaluable. The last thing I'd want is a system to discourage these two. – flesh Jul 2 '09 at 22:29
It's important to note that Jon himself is not a very old user of SO. He doesn't own a Beta badge (I haven't been on SO in its private beta days but there are enough evidence that it was easy to get high number of upvotes by posting and answering subjective and more fun oriented questions). Jon himself started at rep 1 and reached #1 spot. As soon as you stop contributing to SO, your rank is going to eventually decline. That's how rep should work. I really don't expect to see a new user who has contributed very little compared to Jon to take the #1 spot. He deserves that position. – xmm0 Jul 3 '09 at 0:11
Is it fair that Bill Gates has more money than thousands of people combined? Is it fair that everyone wants to marry Ines Sainz and not Rossie O'Donald? Is it fair that Angelina Joulie intimidates other female actresses? I do not like Jon Skeets humor, and a lot of his rep come from Jon Skeet trademark (more users follow him). However, life is competitive. I applaud his efforts for capitalizing on his fame and working on a second book. Why not? The world would not be better off if Jon stopped trying. Competition is a damn good thing! Please agree or join a programmer's Cobol'89 union. – Joe Polski Oct 3 '10 at 20:15
Higher level users likely get noticed of questions first too. – Evan Carroll Mar 16 '13 at 22:47
It's also worth knowing that, like a prophet who never fails, I predicted that this state of affairs would get worse. The only solution is to expropriate EXP. – Evan Carroll Mar 16 '13 at 22:48
@EvanCarroll - how is it that after all these years of being a prophet who is never wrong, you still can't get that it's "reputation", not "experience" - there's a subtle but important difference. – Mark Henderson Mar 18 '13 at 21:29
It's never been explained to me.. It's just been declared to be different every now and then. – Evan Carroll Mar 20 '13 at 15:50
Not true, I can still answer C# question before the come along. However much better to pick C# AND anther tag you know about, .e.g WinForms – Ian Ringrose Jul 16 '14 at 17:57

32 Answers 32

Create a badge, "Giant Killer", for when your answer is accepted in preference to, say, anyone in the top 10 by reputation.

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I'm not sure I feel "killed" when somebody else gets the answer. Often we're just adding a "great answer from {x}, but here's some additional info you should also consider" (that is too long for a comment), and don't expect a tick... – Marc Gravell Jul 2 '09 at 8:01
@Marc . . . I guess that means I should stop jumping up from my desk, grabbing the tow spear, and dancing around the office when that happens..... :) – Kevin Jul 21 '09 at 19:51

Even though this thread is REALLY old, I want to make an observation here. I find it fascinating that in the 30 or so answers here prior to mine, they are made by mostly (if not all) highly rep'd users. (I am not really going to click through each person's link but I have clicked through at least 10)

As another total (practically) brand new user to SO, etc., I'd like to offer another view of things. I am just shocked that this subject is consistently brushed off as "silly". From all the similar threads here on meta, surely it's a sign that the sentiment is commonly shared and felt by new users.

I don't claim to know the philosophy behind SO, but I feel if you want to help newbies and incorporate a new generation of users surely there must be a way to do that. (Unless you don't want new users, then what I have to say is moot.)

From my perspective as a user, a consumer... I do feel there is a high barrier to entry here. You either have to be an expert, have seniority, or be quick/lucky enough to answer questions first. Otherwise, you are left to sift through the crap in hopes of finding a gem. I would like to be more active on SO, but probably will not stay for long because it's hard to gain traction.

Ideally, there should be something to ease a user into a product. This is commonly done in video games today. You learn how all the control works via starter levels and graduate to the real game. (Not that I am trying to compare SO to a game, but that is the first example that comes to mind.)

I feel SO and its users (old and new) can benefit from a similar system. If only there's a pool, say beginners questions. Newbies can gather there, develop and GROW. The more established users can still peek in and be there to mentor newbies. Otherwise, veterans can focus on harder questions.

I'll be honest that I haven't thoroughly explored SO to see if there are mechanisms that already achieve similar things... so I'm open to suggestions/guidance here.

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"they are made by mostly highly rep'd users" - consider that since this Q was posted, the people who originally answered and stuck with the site might have accumulated a lot of rep. Regarding a "newbie section" on SO, without the experts: that's been discussed a lot. It's a pretty bad idea when you site down and think about it: "newbies" are the ones who most need guidance from the "elders". Remove the elders and let the "newbs" help each other out and you've lost the whole "standing on the shoulders of giants" thing go. – Mat Mar 16 '13 at 22:41
Video games can do this because they have a preexisting set of scenarios, and can just run you through easy ones. The whole point of SO is that you're dealing with actual problems that need solutions; a "beginner" section with fake questions doesn't help anyone. In multiplayer games, new players are often put in games with other new players, but that's because new players don't want to play against the super-elite and vice versa. A new asker here generally would like an answer from an experienced user, so we don't want to discourage those. – cpast Mar 16 '13 at 22:51
@Mat Regarding the first point - very true, rep could have been accumulated since then. I didn't think about that. As for "newbies" only area, read carefully that I did not say it's off limits to "elders". In fact, I said they can still be there (and should) to help newbies. But how is a user who's genuinely interested going to find a place? It's not suddenly becoming an expert or asking a lot of questions. At present, I can only see seniority... – user1766760 Mar 16 '13 at 22:58
@cpast Don't misconstrue, I DO NOT support asking unresearched or fake questions at all. (In fact, I also disagree with helping ppl who are obviously posting hw, but that's a diff topic). Again, I did not say an experienced user should not answer (I often find I learn most from their answers) but I feel there's a fundamental problem that new users face here. – user1766760 Mar 16 '13 at 23:02
"how is a user who's genuinely interested going to find a place?" What barriers are there to that (apart from having to register an account, which is relatively new)? People who are interested have interesting questions, whatever the perceived "level" of those questions are. Interesting questions get good answers, at least in the tags I'm familiar with (which is a very small subset, granted). – Mat Mar 16 '13 at 23:06
@Mat Well, there's nothing preventing a new user from using the site. Seems though, there's a shortage of opportunities to participate. It's a Q&A site. Q-wise, I guesstimate situations where I truly get stuck and require help is prolly a handful of times a year. Most of the time, I research it first and find an answer 90%+ of the time (where a majority of answers I find are from SO!). Answer-wise, I've already mentioned issues above. Plus, if I feel others have a better answer, I am hesitant on repeating and just give the guy an upvote. So the way I figure, I can mostly only lurk... – user1766760 Mar 16 '13 at 23:25
It's funny, this is a discussion on OPINIONS and my honest OPINION receives a down vote. Almost feels like I'm penalized for having deviant thought, lol. Seriously think this is a great site and mean well. Just think there's some kinks to work out, tis' all. – user1766760 Mar 16 '13 at 23:29
This is meta, voting is strange. Worry even less about it than on the main site. – Mat Mar 17 '13 at 6:46

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