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This has something I've noticed since trying to help out on stackoverflow, server fault generally isn't so bad. Is this so they can be the first person to answer?

There will be a question

How come I can't see the text of my HTML page? I am trying to get my program to
output some HTML, but I can't see it in my browser.

HTML page:
<title>Hi there</title>
This is a page

Then someone will answer within a minute

htmlspecialchars

Then they will spend the next 5 minutes editing the post so it looks like a normal answer you'd expect to see if you were looking for help, whereas others are attempting to answer the question fully for the OP but they weren't 'first'.

I can't seem to find a method to the answers, sometimes mine appear above all the others, sometimes below. Is this done so their answer is the top answer? Is it to show others that they have this question so no further answers are needed? What's the deal?

Is there anyway to stop this from happening? It's annoying when I am half way through writing an answer and someone jumps in with a one word answer. I tend to abandon my answer when I can see they're going to write the exact same thing as me.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, hims056, animuson, Toon Krijthe, Rory Feb 27 '13 at 11:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

9  
Related: FGITW –  Lance Roberts Feb 27 '13 at 4:13
5  
@LanceRoberts Your initial, unedited comment with a broken link because you were in such a rush to answer quickly was much funnier. –  blahdiblah Feb 27 '13 at 4:16
    
See in particular the highly-upvoted comment on that question. –  John Flatness Feb 27 '13 at 4:31
    
Yep I've read that. Thanks. I couldn't find the question originally. –  sjdaws Feb 27 '13 at 4:34
5  
Why should we stop this from happening? It's the people who post the short, crappy answers and then don't edit them that's the problem. Just because it annoys you doesn't mean it's something the community needs to "stop from happening". –  meagar Feb 27 '13 at 4:49

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Who knows. This is a very diverse community, so I very much doubt there is one answer fitting all cases. Perhaps as Lance Roberts says, perhaps just (as happened to me) that I realize my answer is incomplete/easy to minsunderstand, and go back to complete it. Would need to (a) identify the culprits, (b) do a poll among them, (c) decide if you are to believe them.

Not worth worrying about, IMVHO.

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On the flip side of that, I believe it turns people off helping out. I spend more time going through the old unanswered questions or bounties than trying to race 10 other people on new questions. It doesn't help that it seems edits within a minute or so aren't edits either... –  sjdaws Feb 27 '13 at 4:22

I can't seem to find a method to the answers,

It's referred to as the fastest gun in the west; get the obvious answer out as soon as possible in the hopes that other viewers will see only one answer and upvote it, thus gaining the upper hand while ninja edits are made within five minutes to make it look like a groomed answer.

sometimes mine appear above all the others, sometimes below. Is this done so their answer is the top answer?

Answers with an equal score are randomized to give equal chance to other posters.

Is it to show others that they have this question so no further answers are needed? What's the deal?

The game is to increase upvote probability as fast as possible; that said, if an answer is really that simple, you shouldn't really be bothered about it.

Is there anyway to stop this from happening?

Yes, unfortunately. There's a variation to this game that involves dirty downvoting; once another answer is posted, you refresh and downvote it. Once your answer gains enough upvotes, you remove the dirty vote.

To be clear, I'm not advocating this method at all ;-)

It's annoying when I am half way through writing an answer and someone jumps in with a one word answer.

If you can make your answer more canonical than the other answer, it might be worth trying; this happened to me on a few occasions and my answer was recognized and accepted minutes after writing.

I tend to abandon my answer when I can see they're going to write the exact same thing as me.

I think that's commendable :)

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Speaking from experience, sometimes the answer seems obvious to the answer so they post. A good answer doesn't need to be verbose. (I guess I could hit "post your answer" now...)

However, after you post you may realize that maybe just because it's obvious to you, doesn't mean it's obvious to the person asking the question... or maybe an example would be beneficial, or maybe you'll go dig up that link after all.

Obviously some people do it for the rep gained from upvotes that typically come from being the first with the correct answer, and even there's some encouragement to be quick by the badges given in the Stack Exchange sites.

> Is there anyway to stop this from happening? It's annoying when I am half way through writing an answer and someone jumps in with a one word answer.

Why? I don't always post just because I'm the only/first one. If that's your goal, yeah, that would be annoying, but personally I like to post because I think I'm helping the OP, and my post maybe more helpful/insightful than those that post before (measured by up votes at least) me. My only rule of thumb is if I have nothing to add that hasn't already been said, I don't go for it.

How would you "stop" it from happening anyway? Put a limit of what, 500 characters on an answer? There's no good way to do that.

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7  
The funny thing I have noticed that there are people who don't have a clue on what they are upvoting for. Recently I saw couple of answers which were not even answering the OP's question but it was the quickest answer. It received 3 upvotes in no time. Talk about being clueless. –  user213400 Feb 27 '13 at 5:09
    
@Mike I think I worded that badly. If I'm halfway through an answer about htmlspecialchars as per my original question and someone answers that one word it seems they keep editing their post to match any answers which come in later and have better information in them. I've noticed this happen a lot on the jQuery tag, originally they have incorrect answers, bad syntax, no fiddle. They then get upvoted for using information from others people's answers. When the whole community is built on gaining rep from helping people it is discouraging. –  sjdaws Feb 27 '13 at 5:17

I do this, for a couple of reasons. Being the first to answer when there is a obvious answer yields a ton of rep, and I know my answer will probably be the best answer. Why should I let somebody else win the FGITW game when they're probably going to leave their mediocre one- or two-word answer as it stands? I guess my point is that I'm more interested in depriving others of the FGITW points than I am in earning them myself.

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3  
Wow.... Really? –  user213400 Feb 27 '13 at 4:51
3  
Yes, I am spite incarnate. –  meagar Feb 27 '13 at 4:55
    
That gold badge if for FGITW? –  vonbrand Feb 27 '13 at 10:14

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