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The Fastest Gun in the West problem has existed on SO since day one, and the SO team has put much effort into resolving it. I wonder how much the Enlightened badge encourages the problem. You get this badge for:

First answer was accepted with at least 10 up votes

So if I know the answer, I have an even greater incentive to fire off a quickie and be first, since only the first can get this badge (a silver one, no less!). AFAIK this is the only thing on SO that directly requires you to be first.

Some other incentives to be first were discussed in the latest podcast (episode 66), but they are all about the side-effects of being first. This badge actually rewards you for being first.

I don't have any suggestions as to what should be done with the badge, but if it does cause this problem, maybe it should be rethought.

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We need a quick-draw badge: "Answered within 15 minutes of the question being asked and was accepted with at least 10 up votes." This would encourage anyone posting a short, quick, probably-right-but-I-didn't-check-nuthing answer (which they edit within 5-15 minutes and flesh out, delete, or just abandon and chalk it up to misunderstanding) to instead post a better answer. Everyone else, which appears to be the majority, of course just goes on about their business. </semi-serious> –  Gnome Jan 5 '10 at 12:06

6 Answers 6

The alleged problem with the Fastest Gun in the West is that the first answer may not be high-quality. However, the Enlightened badge isn't awarded merely for being first, but for being first, and gaining 10 upvotes, and being accepted as the best answer by the asker.

Accomplishing all three of these feats together with a poor-quality answer seems so unlikely as to be negligible. You can't get Enlightened just by submitting a crap answer fast. Therefore: No, this does not encourage the perceived problem.

As to the problem of placeholder answers, I admit there is still a bit of ambiguity, room for doubt. However, I still see it as a matter of opinion. In my opinion, if someone submits a placeholder of only marginal value to get the Enlightened badge, then they have committed to that answer. It is now in their interest to make sure their answer doesn't accumulate too many downvotes, and in fact becomes good enough not only to get 10 upvotes, but to be the most correct answer from the asker's perspective and become accepted, all before anyone else does so.

Therefore, the Enlightened badge is encouraging the first poster to stay committed to their answer and make it the best answer possible. This incentive is by design.

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If anything, it makes sense to lower the threshold, in order to encourage the posters to tailor their responses more specifically to what the OP wants. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 13:02
@devinb: Having an answer which is good enough to get 10 upvotes is not negligible. Both being accepted and being good enough to get the upvotes, taken together, are important components of the badge. Merely being accepted on its own (without upvotes) is not as impressive, just as merely getting upvotes without being accepted is not as impressive. –  ベレアー アダム Sep 9 '09 at 13:09
@devinb: Alsor, I don't see how lowering the vote requirement will encourage the response to be more tailored to the OP's needs. It already needs to be the answer which best meets the OP's needs, or it doesn't get accepted. –  ベレアー アダム Sep 9 '09 at 13:11
I already agree with you, I was just making an idle comment. But, since it has apparently inspired opposition from you, I'll clarify my line of thought. Enlightened encouraged fantastic answers, however, the fact that you need to be first makes it much harder to do both. If there were an additional badge that had a lower threshold but also required you to be first, then you are more specifically encouraging the people who are first to make sure that they are what the OP wants, and not just putting up an answer to get drive-by votes. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 13:35
I agree, it wouldn't be that successful, it was just a thought. I don't really hold to it anymore, but I elaborated because you commented on it. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 13:36
@devinb: I understand. I thought you were suggesting replacing the Enlightened badge, but you are suggesting an additional badge. Yes, I can see how that would make sense, the only downside I can see is that being first answer and accepted answer is so commonplace that the badge would not be nearly as exclusive and sought-after. It would be interesting to see some statistics... –  ベレアー アダム Sep 9 '09 at 13:38
@devinb: I ran some statistics on the data dump, and it looks like when a question has an accepted answer, 46.7% of the time it is also the first answer. –  ベレアー アダム Sep 9 '09 at 14:22
That is definitely higher than I would have guessed. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 17:01

Repeat after me:


  • If you answer good, you will get rewarded for it.

  • If you answer bad, you will get punished.

  • If you answer good AND fast, you will have the most time to get rewarded. This is great.

  • If you answer bad AND fast, then you are available for a longer period of time to collect downvotes, pushing you further down the list. This is great.

If you can provide a solution that is not only the first one to post, but good enough to get +10 AND the Accepted Answer, then you deserve a badge and it is proof that FGITW is not an issue.

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(-1) FGITW is a problem. I agree that it's not a major problem, and that the system does a fine job of solving it, but yelling at anyone who mentions is just ignoring the issue that exists. There is a huge incentive to post a 'quickie' answer, even if you haven't bothered to verify it. Oftentimes people will post specific problems that they've been having including things they've tried, a poster will immediately post "Use XYZ" even if it conflicts with what the OP wanted. That will get upvotes, because many other people won't bother to read the original question either. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:14
@devinb: What has FGITW to do with people who vote and do not read? You cannot solve this by punishing good fast answers. Downvote it, comment it. You are doing it all the time. –  Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 12:21
That is not a problem with the mechanics of the system. That is a problem with people going and blindly upvoting crap answers, and I'm sorry but going and changing the way answers are sorted or what badges are awarded is not going to change human stupidity. –  TheTXI Sep 9 '09 at 12:21
I'm trying to clarify what the FGITW problem refers to. Mostly because whenever someone mentions it, the Meta crew acts as if the people are complaining about getting answer fast. If have so little respect for the people you're talking to that you won't ascribe basic intelligence to them, then my faith in you was displaced. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:28
As mentioned before: The FGITW problem is that it encourages any answer fast. A solution to that (a horrible solution) would be "If the first answer gets downvoted by the OP, they lose 100 points". Now, I am not suggesting that, I think it's moronically stupid, but it would cut down on people answering without reading. Ultimately, I don't think the FGITW problem is a big deal, I think it is inherent in the system, and that there really isn't anything we can do about it. But that doesn't stop it from existing. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:31
I hope I've been clear, feel free to ask for any clarification. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:32
Sorry, devinb, but my faith in him is affirmed. What you are describing has nothing to do with fast answers. It has to do with stupid upvoters. So it's a SUITE problem. They do not only stupid upvote the first answer. These two things have nothing in common to me. –  Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 12:36
@devinb: Everything you describe constitutes a flaw in the voters and not in the people posting quick answers. It's not a FGITW problem, it's a Stupid People In The Peanut Gallery Problem. All people focus on is punishing (or taking away rewards) from people who post quickly (rightly or wrongly) when the flaws are actually coming from people not voting properly. –  TheTXI Sep 9 '09 at 12:38
It has to do with crowd dynamics. People will vote for answers that sound right and people have a tendency to settle for an answer that is close rather than write their own, even when they are given ample opportunity. Because a quick approximate answer is likely to get votes, even if it is wildly unhelpful (unhelpful, but not necessarily factually incorrect) to the OP, so there are large numbers of people who earn their reputation giving off-the-cuff answers. Then once there have been three or four quick answers, it is less likely that someone else will come along with the correct answer. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:43
@TheTXI: I 100% agree that there is a problem with the voters not doing their research either. But these are included in the FGITW problem in my opinion. As mentioned earlier, I don't think we can do anything about it. But we can at least recognize that it is an endemic problem. I don't think the Enlightened Badge has anything to do with it though. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:46
I don't see how punishing (or taking away rewards) from the people who post answers is going to stop the crowds from being stupid. Not only are you wanting to apply some type of method to circumvent a human nature-based problem, you want (or at least don't cry foul) when it is applied towards the wrong segment (answerers instead of the dumb voters who perpetuate the problem). –  TheTXI Sep 9 '09 at 12:48
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned again and again that I don't want to do anything about it. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:53
And second, the answerers are still partially to blame. As mentioned (I have to keep saying this, because it appears you haven't read) the answeres are posting incomplete answers and then being rewarded for it. The root of the problem is that they are being rewarded, but part of the problem is that they were posting quick/incomplete/incorrect answers. Which you shouldn't do. And, unless an answer is 'obviously' incorrect, the first poster will usually still get an upvote or two. Again, I don't have any solution, I'm just trying to characterize what the problem is. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:56
@devinb: my point remains, if FGITW has a down-side, it's that it can emphasize a problem that exists independently of FGITW. IMHO, it's a distraction to call FGITW itself a problem, as some people (not you) do jump to suggest "solutions" to it without considering the underlying issue. It's somewhat akin to blaming a dual-core CPU for a race condition in an application: while the CPU may dramatically increase the likelyhood that you'll encounter the bug, it's the application that's at fault, not the CPU. –  Shogging through the snow Sep 9 '09 at 17:39
@Shog: That is the first clear reason I've been given for not worrying about the problem. My response is that FGITW has been used to (mis)characterize the problem for so long that the label has been irrevocably stuck. But you and I are totally in agreement that the "FGITW problem" is actually a symptom (manifestation) of underlying problems. Thanks for a great discussion! –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 17:54

Sounds like it keeps the spirit of the Fastest Gun alive in these dusty times of sand blowing in the wind and gritting up the floors of the saloon. Where the shot glasses are all mixed randomly when they're on the same table.

Still, it rewards good answers that happen to be nicely poured and first. Doesn't seem like a bad thing at all.

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A Fastest Gun in the West problem has never existed, does not exist and will not exist! Getting answers to your urgent problems fast is a feature and not a bug!

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Right, but if I get an answer in 5 minutes or in 0.5 minutes is really not such a difference. –  Nathan Fellman Sep 9 '09 at 9:58
> Getting answers to your urgent problems fast is a feature and not a bug! –  David Pearce Sep 9 '09 at 10:12
(-1) The FGITW problem is related to people posting as quickly as possible and not bothering to fact-check. And it does exist. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:11
@devinb: Then downvote them. Now, what's the problem? –  Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 12:12
@Nathan: tell me, where is the benefit for the asker to wait 5 minutes, if he can get the answer in 30 seconds? –  Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 12:13
@devinb: What part of "the answer is bad, downvote it" seems to be causing people trouble around here? The fact that we are allowed to upvote and downvote is specifically so that the best answers filter up. The longer an answer is posted that is factually wrong, the longer it will collect downvotes and get punished. Sounds like it works to me. –  TheTXI Sep 9 '09 at 12:14
@TheTXI: I have only one vote. I can downvote once, and comment on it. But if it's already got 5 or 6 upvotes by the time I check it again, then I'm pretty much SOL. It will continue to get upvote. Then again, it won't get accepted, but it actively discourages other answers by simply being at the top of the pile with such a huge advantage. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 12:25
@John Smithers, if the asker can get a bad answer in 30 seconds or a good one in 5 minutes, it makes a difference. The FGITW problem is about people posting bad answers just to be first. –  Nathan Fellman Sep 9 '09 at 13:18
@Nathan: If he got a bad answer after 30 sec, he will wait anyway. I can still not see the problem. Good after 30sec -> happy, bad after 30sec -> depressed and waiting. Why skipping option one? –  Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 13:29
@devinb: the problem then would appear to be lazy voters, not fast guns... Who's up-voting these factually-incorrect answers? –  Shogging through the snow Sep 9 '09 at 16:57
@Shog9: Anonymous voting. I don't have the power to persecute those people. =p And if you'll check my wildly verbose responses to TheTXIs post, you'll see that I blame both the voters and the posters for this problem. –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 17:00
Yeah, i should have read the rest of the answers before commenting here... looks like this has been hashed out already. –  Shogging through the snow Sep 9 '09 at 17:33
I don't mind repetition, it allows me the opportunity to express myself better the second time around. (hopefully). –  devinb Sep 9 '09 at 17:59

Well, if you post the first reply with the word "First" in it, you would get downvoted real fast, even though you would take your time to edit it to provide a real answer. If the first reply is a good answer then it will be upvoted by all others. But if the second answer is more complete, it's likely that most upvotes will go to the second answer instead, telling everyone it's better than the first one.

Basically, the badge has a good value since it didn't take you much time to get the right answer, thus it's likely that you're very good at the specific topic. It shows skill and experience to come up with such a good answer in such a short amount of time.

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Being the first answer has a great effect on whether you are likely to get any points at all - so even without the badge, getting in with the first post is still important. I don't think removing the badge will have any effect on people's behaviour.

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It used to but it's not as important since the random sorting –  Greg Sep 9 '09 at 9:15
Good point! I got in before Ólafur with the same point and he's got a up-vote! –  oxbow_lakes Sep 9 '09 at 9:19

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