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In the Knowledge Discovery Laboratory, Brian J. Taylor, David D. Jensen and Huseyin Oktay (me), performed an analysis of the Stack Overflow website. Here is the summary of our findings:

Our analysis enabled us to discover that:

  1. the existence of a previous high-quality answer does not discourage other users from contributing subsequent answers;
  2. when two answers have equally high ratings, users prefer the newer answer regardless of the order in which the answers are displayed; and
  3. the contributions of highly active users decline shortly after receiving community recognition of that activity level.

If you are interested here is the link to the paper titled as Causal Discovery in Social Media using Quasi-Experimental Designs.

We wanted to share our findings with the Stack Overflow community and see what you guys think about our results.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thanks to Jon Seigel for giving me the idea to post our findings on Meta!

share|improve this question
+1 Also, Jeff made a post on the blog about this, and some other research, as well:… – Jon Seigel Jun 8 '10 at 18:35
In #2, what is the difference between the "newer answer" and the "order in which the answers were provided"? Wouldn't the newer answer be the one that was provided later? – waiwai933 Jun 8 '10 at 18:40
@waiwai933: The "order" is referring to the order the answers appear on the screen. Newer answers used to be displayed lower than older answers with the same score. A rules change last year randomized the ordering of answers with the same score. – Bill the Lizard Jun 8 '10 at 18:59
@Bill: Thanks. I was under the impression that it meant the order in which the answers are provided by the users rather the the order in which the answers are displayed. – waiwai933 Jun 8 '10 at 19:02
@waiwai933: I was confused by the same wording. – Bill the Lizard Jun 8 '10 at 19:06
@Huseyin Oktay: can you elaborate on "(3) the contributions of highly active users decline shortly after receiving community recognition of that activity level."? For example, is "receiving community recognition" the same as receiving badges? The paper contains this statement about the epic badge: "We may conclude that getting the epic badge reduces the number of posts provided." – Peter Mortensen Jun 8 '10 at 20:03
Yes, in our analysis "receiving community recognition" is measured by obtaining the epic badge. You may want come up with other metrics to measure the community recognition. Definitely badges are the easiest way to measure that. Another variable may be the reputation points. – Huseyin Oktay Jun 10 '10 at 3:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

(2) when two answers have equally high ratings, users prefer the newer answer

If a newer answer already has the same votes as an older one, it is likely better, and will continue to climb at a faster rate.

If two answers came in at about the same time, and have the same number of votes, it is likely that the answers are of equal quality

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They're certainly very interesting observations. A few comments I have:

A user may provide only one answer for a particular question

This is incorrect. A user may provide, in theory, an infinite amount of answers to any question.

I don't see, but I could be wrong, a mention of the fact that a new question receives more exposure than an older one, which could affect how many answers are provided, regardless of whether an answer was accepted or not. If further analysis is done, this could certainly be something interesting to bring up.

Something else for the future is an examination of the bounty system.

And finally, you mention the "daily reputation point limit" and the "daily reputation cap". Just wanted to mention that this is never put in context nor explained; i.e. the cap is 200 points from upvotes, not affected by bounties nor accepted answers.

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Thanks for you note! Bounty system is definitely looking interesting! Very nice points! Wish I had posted this before I prepare the camera ready version of the paper. – Huseyin Oktay Jun 10 '10 at 3:16

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