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As no doubt most of us have experienced, we sometimes start answering a question that receives a lot of attention, and many of us start preparing their answers simultaneously, at almost exactly the same time. Some questions might thus receive nearly identical answers from different members, posted only a few minutes apart of each other, sometimes not even that much. This is an obvious waste of human resources, as only one such nearly identical answer is really needed at most times that I've observed this happening, and other members that posted similar or same answers might (I know I did a few times) feel like they could have spent their time more productively by answering some other question instead, if there only was a way to know (or have better insight) into how much attention the question is already receiving.

I've also seen the answers (goes the same for questions, but that's not relevant here) are stored as drafts before posting. I'm not sure how frequent this draft saving is, but it looks frequent enough to me that it could possibly serve as some sort of an indicator, how many people are writing their answer to a question at any given time, maybe even the list of these members, so we can decide if the question might be properly answered or, if it might not be (that's argumentative, but some might like this list as well).

I think you can anticipate my question/request by now, but let me summarize it, in case you felt my description was unclear or TL;DR:

  • ability to see active participants list in a question by collating information of the number of answer drafts saved in the last few minutes (developers need to decide what's the best time-out period to aggregate these results)
  • ability to inspect active participants' (currently adding an answer to the question) reputation and badges to help us determine, if the question is already receiving enough attention, and if we could move on to answering some other questions.

I hope I described my request clearly enough, but if you need further clarification, don't hesitate to ask in the comments. Thanks!

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Given your last paragraph, let me show you this preemptively: meta.stackoverflow.com/faq#vote-differences –  Bart Feb 8 '13 at 23:03
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I get what you're going for, but I think there is no need.

So your feature would allow us to see who is working on an answer. If the question is not absolutely trivial, how would you know what they are actually going to end up writing? A draft is only a draft. Perhaps you have a valid insight which another user doesn't have. If you would withhold that just because another user is answering, that's rather counter-productive.

And then there is the whole "Fastest Gun" issue, which this feature would only increase, I'd say. If I see someone else is answering, and if I were to be the FGITW type, why would I bother to perfect my answer and not just dump a draft onto the site just to be the fastest?

All in all I would say, just take your time answering the question and make sure you write a good answer. If that occasionally ends up being a somewhat duplicate answer, who cares.

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Yeah, that happens and is unfortunate. And especially for the more trivial questions that happens quite often. But ignoring the technical implications, I don't see the feature having a lot of positive influences. Admittedly, I might be a pessimist. But I also think that if you've given a correct and well written answer, even if it's not the accepted or highest upvoted answer, it is not a waste. It will be useful to someone. –  Bart Feb 8 '13 at 23:19
    
@TildalWave There is no need to accept my answer (just yet). I'm but a single user. Let this question remain open a little longer to get other views, if you want. You are free to accept any answer whenever you want, but there is no hurry. –  Bart Feb 8 '13 at 23:34
    
@TildalWave Hahaha, fair enough. Don't be too down on yourself though. No need for that. A well-articulated idea to try and improve the site. That is already far above the crap we often deal with on Meta. Don't hesitate to participate and keep in mind that Meta rep doesn't mean a thing. ;) –  Bart Feb 8 '13 at 23:45
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Even if your suggestion gets implemented, most folks would still try to write their answer as quickly as possible to get the FGITW.

In order to get the votes, you usually need to answer first, people will often aim for that.

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