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I often find myself in a spot of trouble, and when I have minutes left to fix it, I sometimes turn to SO/SF to start the "community help process". I suppose a tag like "urgent" or "immediate-attention" could enable contributors with spare time easily find the most desperate situations, giving more attention to those issues and solving them quicker. Or could this be a special tab on the home page?

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(-1) Won't work (because people will see your question when they look, and not before), and if it somehow did anyway it would be subject to abuse, because I always want to know the answer soon. –  dmckee Jul 17 '09 at 17:08
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Yeah! I would find it useful too. –  Kevin Boyd Aug 12 '09 at 19:40
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This is akin to our secretary who puts the high-priority flag on every email by default.... –  squillman Aug 15 '09 at 6:23
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So far, there's a strong correlation between "urgent" and "plz send teh codez"; so this would be nice addition to my ignore list - except it's a meta-tag. (Anyway, when I need an answer, I don't need it next year, I always need it five minutes ago, dammit!) ((this is a year old, how did it get to the front page?)) –  Piskvor Sep 29 '10 at 8:13
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Your deadlines are not the problem of anyone else in the Stack Overflow community. –  Jack Maney Apr 28 '12 at 14:12
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Sounds pretty much like a "bounty" to me. –  Brian White Oct 10 '12 at 12:59

12 Answers 12

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I am very much against this idea. Stack Overflow is meant to be a repository of information. It is NOT meant to be a place to farm out your work to.

If you have something urgent, your time would be better spent asking the people around you, or figuring it out for yourself. On SO, because the answers are provided wikipedia style (anyone can answer) you can't guarantee it is correct, so if you are on a time-crunch the first answer could be completely wrong, and might destroy your application.

Of course that could happen if you were doing your own work too.

All questions are equal on SO, one person should not be able to skip the line or get special treatment just because they didn't manage to get everything done beforehand.

And, my sympathies go out to them, lord knows I've missed deadlines. But the point is that SO is not a technical-help phoneline that you can immediately get gratification from.

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I do think there are different types of questions that get posed. You will get questions that generally do well by having it open for longer, allowing for longer and more detailed answers, but like I detailed above, sometimes you just need a quick SQL query or code snippet and SO has turned out to be a very efficient method of getting that info (provided you give a decent amount of information to the audience). –  TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 12:28
    
@TheTXI: I agree that there are questions which get answered very quickly, I just feel that a 'special' URGENT tag would be very prone to abuse, and counter to the purpose of the site. –  devinb Jul 17 '09 at 12:38

Don't think it would work. To get quick attention, ask a clear question with all the information required in it and if anyone's out there with the answer you'll get a quick response - don't see any special tagging making a difference personally.

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Man, if there's one word i hate seeing anywhere in a question, it's "urgent".

'Cause... truth be told... there are other things i should be doing too...

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+1. I'll admit it: if a person mentions anything about it being "urgent" or "please help quickly" it bothers me so much I don't answer even if I know the answer. –  Paolo Bergantino Jul 17 '09 at 15:35

I see a lot of potential for abuse of an 'urgent' tag. How do you differentiate once all questions are tagged urgent?

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Bill, do you want a response to that now, or can it wait? –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:31
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Clearly we need to implement an urgent urgent tag. For the questions that need to be answered 5 minutes ago. –  devinb Jul 17 '09 at 18:49

I think it's assumed that everybody needs their answer right now. I certainly don't browse the questions and think to myself, "Meh, he doesn't need an answer right now."

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Not so, sometimes we ask questions that could only have long-term effect, with no immediate need for answers. –  Jarvis Jul 17 '09 at 12:10
    
I don't think people browse questions and think "Meh, he doesn't need the answer right now." –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:13
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I think Jonathan may have misspoke. I think he was intending to say that the people doing the answering should assume that all questions have a desire to be immediately solved, that way you don't have users just putting off a question. –  TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 12:14
    
Thank you TheTXI. That is what I mean. If it is within somebody's capacity to answer a question, I am fairly confident that they will. –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:15
    
There's that added glory of getting up-votes, and 15 points for providing the correct answer. This is sufficient motivation to get answers quickly. –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:16
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Who says Fastest Gun In The West is a problem!? –  TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 12:23
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Jealous persons, TheTXI. –  Ladybug Killer Jul 17 '09 at 12:28
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As long as the shooter is skilled, more power to him :) –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:28
    
Of course what is the window of time that defines "fastest." I often come across rather simple questions that have been up for nearly 5 minutes with no answers. –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:29
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Some questions need an answer right now. Some need a correct answer. –  Andrew Grimm Jun 10 '10 at 12:11

The issue with this is that everything will get tagged as URGENT. Who doesn't want to have their question solved in minutes? Probably not a good idea...

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I know exactly what the first thing I'm going to do once this starts happening. ... Hide everything tagged urgent.


If you really want the information from me right now, I expect to see a check. You do realize that the people who are paid to be on-call 24/7, usually get paid better than people paid to work 9-5.

Whats more, what happens if you don't get an answer? Do you keep the urgent tag until it is answered? I can just see it now, hundreds of questions tagged urgent, that have been that way for years.

Do you want to know the first thing that goes through my mind, when I see the word urgent? The first thing I think, is ... well you better get started on that, I've got other things I could be doing. I mean I have my own problems that I should be thinking about, I don't need to start worrying about your problems as well.

Do you really think that your problem is more urgent to me, than my own problems?

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The check's in the mail. –  Andrew Grimm Jun 10 '10 at 12:09

One thing that StackOverflow (and I presume the other sites will in time, if not already) are great for is immediacy. Some questions can get answered in seconds, literally.

The best thing to get a quick response is to give as much information as possible in the clearest manner possible.

Example: If you have a question about how to write a particular SQL query, the following information is essential in getting you a super-fast result...

  • Easy-to-read schema
  • Sample data set
  • Desired output
  • Query you already have (if applicable)

By providing that type of information, it is very easy for someone to see what you are talking about and get to work immediately answering the question.

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I like this idea. It would probably need a rep penalty to prevent abuse. But then it sounds a lot like bounties....

Maybe you should be able to set bounties with 10 minutes time limit or something...

...Or just find an IRC channel...

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IRC? Like which? –  Jarvis Jul 17 '09 at 12:12
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Heh. I don't know. I've never really got into IRC, but I hear there are channels you can go to to ask your questions... uhm. Or something. –  Greg Jul 17 '09 at 12:13
    
I remember some of us proposed very early in the Meta's lifetime a badge that rewarded someone for having a "quick draw" on an accepted answer. I think it may have been RSolberg –  TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 12:17
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I don't like it, Greg, for the same reasons you mentioned. Without rep penalty it will be abused. With penalty it is a bounty. Conclusion: not needed, because it already exists. –  Ladybug Killer Jul 17 '09 at 12:32
    
@TheTXI, I suggested the "quick draw." :) –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 17 '09 at 12:54

I guess one solution would be to a allow a bounty straight off the mark (but maybe not include the 50 rep from the system). Given the cost of reputation this might alleviate the "everything is urgent" issue

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Along the lines of Rowland's answer, I think having an urgent tag should cost say 100 to 200 rep. It's not punitive measure, but a safeguard against poorly worded question and poor attitude of OPs.

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I think that some kind of immediacy flagging is inevitable, because I see these sites as rapidly growing in popularity, and a smaller crowd of people that want to be "online" and answer things interactively. Probably, on a more intermittent basis, people will be desperate and post urgent questions.

Obviously, you need to discourage people from posting everything as urgent, but there are features like auto-timeout and high karma pricing that could make this work.

The reason I think tagged discussions is better than a chat room, is that chat rooms are not threaded, and if you have too many open items, the place becomes a mess.

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