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We've all experienced this issue - we ask a question and immediately get inundated with Shakespeare's monkeys all trying to get the answer right in the shortest time (I swear 50% of Hamlet appeared in the responses to a question just yesterday). More often than not, we haven't even finished typing the question before twenty answers crop up pointing at Google, the C# spec, Jon Skeet's blog, an inside joke from the SO podcast, some random Code Project entry, or that dusty top shelf in their gran's pantry (see? there's already 5 answers to this one and I haven't finished yet - no, I don't think the answer is somewhere in UserVoice...whatever). The next thing you know, your question is down-voted fifty times and some self-professed expert called Jon Skeet has soaked up all the reputation points in the universe with his answer that was carefully crafted to perfection in the time it takes mere mortals to read the word "the".

Even worse, we've all been the monkey; reading the question too fast, answering a totally different question that we read somewhere between the lines, then realising our mistake and deleting it again, by which time, Jon Skeet has answered another twenty questions, only five of which have been asked.

So, what tactics can be employed to subvert that impulse to type "I am answer"? Maths tests before posting answers? Candy? Flashing lights?

EDIT: I'm not looking to rehash the question below, people. This was just light-hearted fun for the afternoon as it's honorary Friday here in the US. I was expecting some humourous answers rather than ironic ones (see paragraph starting "Even worse" above and check out the tags).

Related Question

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2008/10/solving-the-fastest-gun-in-the-west-problem/

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This has been rehashed so many times it is getting tiresome. It's why there's voting buttons. blog.stackoverflow.com/2008/10/… –  Runscope API Tools Nov 26 '08 at 20:56
    
Apologies - I wasn't hoping to get serious answers. It's Friday afternoon and I was looking for light relief. I see I touched a sore point. –  Jeff Yates Nov 26 '08 at 20:59
    
it's Wednesday in north America... –  Daok Nov 26 '08 at 21:01
    
Yup, but it's honorary Friday because we don't have to work the rest of the week. :) –  Jeff Yates Nov 26 '08 at 21:02
    
LOL, thanx, I just needed that ;-). –  Gamecat Nov 26 '08 at 21:02
    
Honorary Friday - rofl –  Erik Nov 26 '08 at 21:02
    
well, it lightened my heart for the afternoon. I guess people just weren't ready for light-hearted introspection on this matter. How ironic. –  Jeff Yates Nov 26 '08 at 21:04
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I see nothing wrong with letting Jon Skeet provide the correct answer. –  gbarry Nov 26 '08 at 21:05
    
It's Friday where now? –  KiwiBastard Nov 26 '08 at 21:07
    
agreed, we needed a bit of Friday humor. I think people are a bit over-eager to close questions as Exact Duplicate. –  JaredPar Nov 26 '08 at 21:09
    
Ook? Ook ook ook.[1] 1: Translation, We're not monkeys, we're orangutans. Get it straight. –  Paul Nathan Nov 26 '08 at 21:57
    
"I see nothing wrong with letting Jon Skeet provide the correct answer." -- I agree. The rest of us zombies, where did we come from, either we can post the same as Jon Skeet or we can post worse (except for "sealed"). –  Windows programmer Nov 28 '08 at 6:43
    
Do we really need more posts like this one? –  Robert S. Nov 29 '08 at 3:59
    
I can't believe this hasn't been closed. –  George Stocker Jan 9 '09 at 23:18
    
Where the heck do you work that you get Thursday and Friday off this week? Sounds good. –  beska Aug 26 '09 at 17:54
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 26 '09 at 17:49

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11 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

HAMLET
Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here
that old men have grey beards, that their faces are
wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
plum-tree gum and that they have a plentiful lack of
wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir,
though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet
I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for
yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab
you could go backward.

LORD POLONIUS
[Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method
in 't. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

HAMLET
Into my grave.

LORD POLONIUS
Indeed, that is out o' the air.

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If you give a million monkeys a million computers, one of them will eventually write a java program.

The rest will write perl programs.

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And the perl ones will work. –  Paul Tomblin Nov 26 '08 at 21:02
    
Thanks for finding the humour that I intended. :) Great answer. –  Jeff Yates Nov 26 '08 at 21:05
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But where does all the VB come from then? –  seanb Nov 26 '08 at 21:14
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Chaucer's Baboons –  Jeff Yates Nov 26 '08 at 21:15
    
I think the VB is all the other cruft. –  Soldarnal Nov 26 '08 at 21:17
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But their regexes will suck. –  Justin Morgan Nov 14 '12 at 20:41
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I find it disturbing that I've only just seen this question, despite having the tag equivalent of a bat signal.

How to deter people from posting proper answers:

  • Be as vague as possible. If you're asking for help on an actual coding problem, don't bother mentioning which language or platform you're using, or whether you're writing a web app, a service, a client app or something else entirely.
  • Tell people what answers you don't want, but not why. For example, "I want a way of associating a key with a value, but I don't want to use a tree or a hashtable."
  • If you provide code (preferrably in a mixture of languages; see point 1) make sure you don't bother indenting it. It's far more fun if it looks like it's meant to be just text.
  • Pre-emptively insult potential answerers, particularly those seeking clarification: "If you don't know what this means, you're too stupid to give the right answer."
  • If anyone has the gall to answer, edit the question so that the existing answer makes no sense at all, and preferrably makes the answerer look like an idiot.
  • Ask your question in Welsh. Downvote any answer not in Welsh.
  • Avoid correct spelling and grammar. Why waste your own time when you can waste everyone else's?

I promise not to answer any question which meets all of the above criteria.

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Holy Crap - 16.7K rep. Dude, put down the keyboard. The big blue room will not bite. –  jim Dec 4 '08 at 23:10
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Still a thousand or so behind the leaders. Must... keep... typing... –  Jon Skeet Dec 4 '08 at 23:34
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You forgot to mention "Don't actually ask a question. Just mention a series of unrelated statements followed by a thank you." –  Jeff Yates Dec 5 '08 at 22:10
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Just look at a couple of @david-bonnici questions and you will see the perfect question! –  Redbeard 0x0A Dec 11 '08 at 23:56
    
"...edit the question so that the existing answer makes no sense..." That's hilarious! –  gnostradamus Jan 22 '09 at 17:17
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Does Jon Skeet know you have a crush on him?

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Nice answer. :D And no, because I don't. –  Jeff Yates Nov 26 '08 at 21:06
    
Jon Skeet sees all and knows all. –  onebyone Nov 26 '08 at 22:04
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I think the only way to stop the "fastest gun in the west" mentatility is to essentially not allow questions to be voted on for a period of time. Say for example 5 minutes. Enough time to allow people to carefully craft an intelligent response.

I'm not proposing we do this though. I kinda of like the system as it is now. It almost feels like a game. How can I get my answer in quick and correct, better than the other guy? It really makes you think on your feet.

Occassionally, I play a different version of the game. Sit back, relax and craft an intelligent well thought out answer just for fun sake. If I can still get some rep points then all the better. I find this strategy to fairly effective. I've even managed to get an answer accepted after a quick Skeet response that sucked up a quick 17 up votes. That was a bright day.

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"block votes for N minutes" is not a bad idea at all, IMO. Not too long, though... five minutes is an absolute maximum. Definitely not 2 hours. A question is stale here, after 2 hours. –  bart Nov 26 '08 at 21:07
    
Or perhaps after x number of other questions have been asked. That way you get a longer period when fewer people are on. Of course that could be gamed, but probably wouldn't be worth the effort. –  EBGreen Nov 26 '08 at 21:23
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Bear in mind that when you craft your answer carefully, you too are learning. For me the biggest advantage of SO is that it enables me to practice my writing and communication with others. Of course it's nice to have some rep, but I trust that someone who read my answer will eventually give me some rep because my answer is clear and well written.

If you wait a million years, eventually the monkeys turn into humans.

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My suggestion would be to have some time limit on how long one could answer a question before they start to appear, e.g. give a time block of say 2 hours so that within 2 hours of posting the question, any answers aren't visible and then at that mark all submitted answers are posted. Granted this does break up the conversation but it also would deter those that want to try to be quick on the trigger.

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This would be anathema to those who come to SO for quick answers to their questions, though. Perhaps as an amendment to your suggestion the questions appear to the submitter but not anybody else. Also to avoid confusion, your answers would appear to you immediately. –  Erik Nov 26 '08 at 21:04
    
Also if the submitter accepts an answer before the time limit is up, all answers immediately become visible. –  Erik Nov 26 '08 at 21:04
    
I don't see how it would solve anything, and it will make even more duplicate answers. –  PhiLho Nov 26 '08 at 23:05
    
I suppose one could try to have a Quickie SO and another one where longer answers are more common. It was after all just an idea I thought I'd toss out there. –  JB King Nov 28 '08 at 0:03
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  • Add flashing lights to the side of each question, thus distracting those who are inclined to answer quickly.
  • Answers can only be posted after answering a simple question like, "What is your name?"
  • Add a "Slap answerer" button that people can use to physically slap those who make bad nswers (this may be open to abuse...ow! ow! ow! ....stop that! ow!).
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Slap Answerer Button xD LOL, I'd +1 you if I could but you don't get to do much with 8rep here on SO Meta :( –  YatharthROCK Apr 2 '12 at 17:47
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First! Ohh wait... lol jk ;)

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I think you miss the implication of the title Stack Overflow...

A stack should ideally be a simple FIFO data structure.

An overflowed stack like this one, however, fills very quickly with the quickest, first-at-hand "solutions" or wise-cracking comments. Once the capacity is breached, people only see those solutions and no further wisdom can be imparted on the subject.

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Are you saying an under-flowed stack would be better? –  YatharthROCK Apr 2 '12 at 17:44
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I resent the implication that I'm a monkey. From wikipedia:

The term code monkey generally refers to a computer programmer or other person who writes computer code for a living. More specifically, it refers to a person only capable of grinding out code, but unable to perform the more intellectually complex tasks of software architecture, analysis, and design. In this sense, the term is considered to be mildly insulting, and is often applied to the most junior people on a programming team.

I only had this information at hand because a coworker called me a code monkey earlier this week, and had no idea it had negative connotations. I set him straight real fast.

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Those darned code monkeys... –  Redbeard 0x0A Dec 11 '08 at 23:57
    
Code Monkeys is a great show, though. –  gnostradamus Jan 22 '09 at 17:20
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I prefer Software Simian. Sounds geekier and more of an advanced breed. –  YatharthROCK Apr 2 '12 at 17:45
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