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I do need to estimate how much time do people spend on Stack Exchange sites on creative activities, like adding questions or answers, maybe even comments.

Probably there is a big correlation between the post size (including the number of reviews).

Still, from Data Explorer there is no way of getting this data. I can assume that Google Analytics could help here but still, I am not sure if you can get this information out of it, and also I do not have access to it.

Mainly, I could say that the time-effort could be estimated like this:

  • For questions: the time spend between pressing the ask question option and when the question is saved (that will have to extended if the question have multiple reviews, as it is comment to revise it few times even very soon after adding it).

  • For answers, I would say it is between when the page is accessed and when the answer is saved (same rule for revisions like before)

I am open to other alternatives, as long I can come out with some numbers that I can use. The best it would be if I can find a formula for estimating the time based on the size in bytes.

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closed as not constructive by kiamlaluno, Toon Krijthe, Al E., Martijn Pieters, Bart Nov 10 '12 at 20:43

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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How's that interesting and more importantly, how's it useful? And... [social-network-analysis]??? Stack Exchange sites are not social networks... –  Yannis Nov 10 '12 at 18:31
    
First Yannis, thanks for the downvote ;) ...you may be surprised but stackexchange sites do enter under more than 90% of existing social-network definitions. –  sorin Nov 10 '12 at 18:34
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@SorinSbarnea: Is that 90% just a figure you made up out of thin air? It sounds like it - do you have a list of definitions, along with which of them you think SO falls under and which ones it doesn't? –  Jon Skeet Nov 10 '12 at 18:42
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@SorinSbarnea Oh, I didn't downvote. Here's my downvote now to prove it. –  Yannis Nov 10 '12 at 18:44
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This cries out for, 'and I need a pony.' Maybe you want to make such an estimate, but need? –  Rosinante Nov 10 '12 at 18:46
    
@JonSkeet Just this thread of comments proves the social nature. Regarding 90%, let's say it was a wild estimate: I read about 10 definitions from 3 different sources and only one of them was not right. Now for the pony lover,... I do want to estimate the user commitment level and the time spent/unit of time is a very good indication. I'm sure you can continue the "But why?" series... Sometimes, if you don't know how to answer a question you can just go and find another one or do something else, definitely we all have too much time ;) –  sorin Nov 10 '12 at 18:56
    
@SorinSbarnea - "Regarding 90%, let's say it was a wild estimate..." No. Let's say you provide something that might somehow resemble evidence that this estimate might be accurate. –  Jack Maney Nov 10 '12 at 22:39
    
I am quite disappointed that nobody tried to find a way to estimate this, probably because it's hard. This question is one about estimation and statistics, it's not about a specific question, it's all about average. Clearly an answer exists for this question, and that's not impossible to find out. Answering with "impossible" is just noise, like saying that i don't have the time or care to think about this. –  sorin Mar 25 '13 at 16:09

2 Answers 2

It's simply not possible to determine this, so why even try? There are an infinite number of factors that could contribute to someone's time spent being less or more than expected:

  1. A question popping up in the similar questions that you look into, halting your asking progress.

  2. Verifying your answer works before posting it.

  3. Typing out your question or answer in an external editor before copy-pasting it to the site.

  4. Being distracted by a co-worker or mother-in-law while trying to type.

  5. Having a unicorn randomly appear in your room to take you on a ride through the forest.

  6. Spilling something on your keyboard rendering you unable to type for a short amount of time.

  7. Saving your draft and coming back to finish at a later time.

  8. Deleting the entire contents of your post and starting over, maybe even changing the entire focus of the post, without leaving the page.

Ok, so I'm going to stop now, but you get the point. Anything can happen, so there's just no way to figure something like that out, and there's absolutely no reason for SE to even attempt to keep track of something like that.

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I never intended to consider what factors can modify this, I am just looking for the average time, let's average overall or over a long period of time, but I doubt it will vary in time. It may vary between stackexchange sites, as it maybe be less time consuming to answer question from one area than another. –  sorin Nov 10 '12 at 18:46
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What's the use in having a statistic if you know for sure it's completely inaccurate? –  animuson Nov 10 '12 at 18:49
    
Just to collect the statistics properly - how long did it take to come up with this answer? –  Bo Persson Nov 10 '12 at 19:09
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@BoPersson: I don't know, I was kind of watching Untraceable at the same time. Maybe I should add that to the list. But a good guess is somewhere between the time he posted the question and the time I posted the answer. ;) –  animuson Nov 10 '12 at 19:11
    
What if the co-worker who's distracting you is also your mother-in-law?! –  Pops Nov 13 '12 at 16:40

As Animuson say's it's impossible to actually know how long it takes to answer a question.

It is possible to put an upper bound on the median length of time though. To quote from Design Lessons from the Fastest Q&A Site in the West, a paper published in 2011:

The median time for a first answer is only 11 minutes (Figure 4): half of all questions that eventually receive answers are answered within 11 minutes. The median time for upvoted answers is 10:52 minutes (questions with upvoted answers are a subset of questions with answers; hence a faster time is possible)

It's out of date now but you know that in 2011 the median time the first person to answer a question took to write their answer was at most 10 minutes and 52 seconds.

You can do your own investigation along a similar line by using the Data Explorer

Full Disclosure:
I'm re-watching Serenity, so this answer took me longer to research and type than it otherwise would have.

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