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It happens sometimes to receive or see a very good answer that arrives very late and that would deserve more upvotes.

What can be done to give a boost to them? I would happily spend some of my reputation points to be able to give them such boost.

This is not merely a question of reputation but the idea is to let the answer "bubble up" faster so that it can be seen easily by other people to look into question.

I hope I explained my question so that is understandable.

EDIT 1: I set a bounty because I would like to have more opinions about this issue.

EDIT 2: Bounty time is running out, I have to choose an answer but I am not convinced too much.

Most of you got the point and there are some interesting proposals like the one that proposes to put randomly an answer at top. But I have not enough experience to say if there is one that could solve the issue or not. I would be curious to know what Jeff thinks about it, if it feels there is something that can be improved or not.

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Good question, especially for some of those CW questions that have several pages of answers. It's easy for most of them to get lost. – David Z Jul 17 '09 at 20:54
@David you catch the point! :) – Drake Jul 18 '09 at 23:28
@David, I think good new answers rarely get lost, even if there are hundreds of answers. This is because the "newest" sort option, which many people use for such questions. Here's an example, originally asked 10 months ago, with 200 answers: If you guys were right, answers arriving very late such as LOTR, Hyperion, Non-Designer's Design Book, and Neuromancer would all be "lost" with no or few votes. But they are not - instead they're steadily climbing and nearing the top. – Jonik Jul 22 '09 at 8:07
@Jonik but what if is the votes tab the selected one and not the newest? – Drake Jul 22 '09 at 9:00
I wonder if the system will let you set a bounty on another question. This might be a good opportunity to test an edge case. – Brad Gilbert Jul 22 '09 at 14:17
@marco, um, I'm not sure I understand - you can change it of course. I usually browse with "votes" sorting, but sometimes when looking (again) at the kind of questions David mentioned, I switch to "newest". – Jonik Jul 22 '09 at 15:41

15 Answers 15

up vote 13 down vote accepted

There are several options that have not been discussed:

  • Display answers with the same vote total in random order. Example, if there are 30 answers with a score of 0 you may not read through all of them so give each one a chance to appear at the top of the list of '0' answers. That way the system isn't arbitrarily pushing a low-score over a higher-scoring answer but newer answers don't languish at the end of the list.

  • Save a display slot on the first page for a random answer with a low score. Give it a different colored background to distinguish it from the standard sorted answers.

  • Sort answers of the same score by order of the reputation of the answerer. The downside here is newer users would be somewhat penalized solely for being new. That being said, rep is supposed to mean something. Another side-effect is that high-rep users would get more views for even their less-serious answers.

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+1 for displaying the answers in random order. There's no such thing here, but I like to use the "oldest"/"newest" tab to let the various answers have a fair chance, especially if there's lots of answers and you can't find the time to evaluate them all. – sunny256 Jul 29 '09 at 7:57
Rather than random, how about putting newer answers higher if the vote totals are the same? – Andrew Grimm Aug 12 '09 at 4:25
we now sort answers of the same score, randomly – Jeff Atwood Aug 26 '09 at 7:00
@Jeff: I can hear the villagers coming over to meta with their pitchforks already... wait... a purple star fish with a pitch fork? WTF? – balpha Aug 26 '09 at 7:07
This is a solution to something that is not a problem. I am rarely first, but haven't had any trouble gaining reputation because 1) I try to be more complete/better and 2) I am willing to answer questions with no answers that have languished for awhile. If the first answer is not as good as a later one, simply comment on it and point out that the later answer is better. People will vote for the best answer however they find it. Since the OP can accept any answer, locking it to the top, they are the ultimate arbiter of what is "best" and can make this choice at any time. – tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 17:55

Usually an upvote with a comment along the lines of "+1 this answer is very good because so-and-so" will be enough to entice other people to vote it up. There's not much else you can do, really.

If you feel really strongly about an answer being very good and feel the user hasn't gotten the reputation he deserves, people sometimes go through the user's profile looking for other (good) answers to upvote them as well. Doing this too much will probably get you flagged and will end up hurting the user, though.

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I like your approach, but I would like also to let the answer "bubble up" (don't know the right term) so that can be seen also by next visitors. I could help them. This specially for "big" question with many answers – Drake Jul 17 '09 at 19:07
marco, I'm not sure if this is a big problem, because really good answers will bubble up, and eventually reach the top, even if it takes some time; I've seen it happen. Also, for "big" questions with lots of answers - many people browse those using the "newest answers first" ordering, so great new answers usually won't go unnoticed. – Jonik Jul 22 '09 at 8:09
@Jonik I don't know maybe is my problem because I usually navigates with "votes" tab as default one – Drake Jul 22 '09 at 10:50
Over time the better answers will be voted up. That is the basic idea of the site. Does everything have to me now()? I am not sure if up-votes put a question higher in the questions list, but that could assist in more exposure to the question. – Brettski Jul 22 '09 at 14:18
@Paolo I thought more to your answer and what I like is the first part, writing +1 and explain why the answer is really good. The second part I don't agree too much, is it true that the author of answer deserve more credit to its answer, but I don't want to updvote other asnwers he/she made, but that specific ONE. :) – Drake Jul 28 '09 at 18:03
@marco: I know the end result isn't the exact same, but what I meant is that if you feel the person that answered the question really deserves the extra reputation you can give them extra upvotes in other answers. It would be misleading if you were able to upvote an answer more than once, and anything else would add too much complexity to the system for little reward. – Paolo Bergantino Jul 28 '09 at 18:39


(Now raised as a separate feature-request: Should we have a small number of Supervotes per day?)

Something I've thought might be a good idea would be to give each user a small number of Supervotes per day. These would be worth several normal votes, would possibly cost some rep, and would be rationed to maybe 3 per day (as opposed to the 30(?) per day limit for normal votes).

Sometimes you see answers that are so good you want to upvote them really hard. This would be a way to do it.

But of course it complicates the voting system, and the UI, and probably isn't worth the costs.

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I think this is a great idea and it kinda made me laugh when you said "upvote them really hard, haha. IMO, it wouldn't really complicate the UI too much at all. Maybe you can just press the vote-up button x more times and a dialog would ask each time, "Are you sure you want to use one of your x remaining SuperVotes (more info) for the day on this answer/question? This will cost you 2 reputation! [yes] [no]". – KyleFarris Oct 27 '09 at 19:56
Oh, and it could just be limited to, say, 1 SuperVote per question/answer, per user so that they can't just come back in 24 hours and SuperVote it again. – KyleFarris Oct 27 '09 at 19:58

Display answers with the same vote total in random order. Example, if there are 30 answers with a score of 0 you may not read through all of them so give each one a chance to appear at the top of the list of '0' answers. That way the system isn't arbitrarily pushing a low-score over a higher-scoring answer but newer answers don't languish at the end of the list.

We now sort answers of the same score, randomly, per this suggestion.

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Could be helpful even if I think that is difficult to have 30 answers with score 0, but they probably would be 2 with score 3, 3 with score 2, 4 with score 1 and 7 with score 0... i don't know if in this case the randomly implementation would help to achieve the feature I like – Drake Aug 26 '09 at 7:55
just to make sure--pagination won't break this will it? say answers 27-33 all have 2 votes, and i click the "next page" button, you aren't going to re-randomize answers 27-33 are you? – Kip Aug 26 '09 at 12:53
Horrible idea. Should have just truncated the time so that answers that appear within a few seconds/minutes of each other are treated as identical instead of randomly shuffling based on score. This leaves open the possibility that someone can come along hours later, duplicate an existing answer, and still be able to get votes. – tvanfosson Aug 26 '09 at 14:17

If the correct answer falls in the forest...

I guess the goal of posting a robust answer after the fact is to provide those who are in need, searching the web and seeing SO as meeting their criteria, a more complete answer rather than just the most popular at the time or the one meeting the asker's need, again, at the time of asking.

That is why we are here, right? Who is in it for the points, anyway?


You do want a way for the searcher to see the right answer an think 'that is the right answer, and I believe it because "they" all trust it.'

So how do you get those who are interested in a certain topic to review answers that might just be 'more correct' than the answer that was accepted?

  • Perhaps you add a view akin to the active/featured/hot/week/month set that focuses on questions that were answered after they were accepted, and maybe this set is filtered by the tags you find interesting.
  • add a badge for those that routinely search and upvote late answers
  • add a badge, akin to the necromancy concept (so make it bronze), for answering late an accepted question and getting upvoted n times
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I appreciate your proposals, you I have got the problem. But I don't know if badges are enough to solve this issue. I mean they are "cool" but most people could survive without it. – Drake Jul 28 '09 at 18:08

I don't like this idea because it effectively gives more votes to those with more reputation. That breaks the democracy of 1 vote per user per question/answer. I think everyone's vote should count the same. If one person's vote counts for a lot more than others, then that one person can more easily make a bad answer look good.

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But then what is the reputation for? Also bounty then is more affordable for people with more reputation. – Drake Jul 17 '09 at 19:04
+1 Althought I did previously suggest lifting the limit for the OP on his own questions but not allowing more then one vote. – BinaryMisfit Jul 17 '09 at 19:05
@marco - Reputation is there to highlight your level of knowledge. I can still upvote answers although there is an accepted answer. More weight is given to upvoted answer then the accepted answer in most cases. – BinaryMisfit Jul 17 '09 at 19:06
@marco: Yes, bounty is more affordable to those with higher reputation, but winning a bounty doesn't affect the votes. If only the OP thinks yours is the best answer to a bounty question, everyone else can still see who got more votes. – Bill the Lizard Jul 17 '09 at 19:18

It sometimes happens that an answer is fantastic, but it's very important that a single user cannot accelerate the "bubble up" effect very much, because that would result in gaming. If you want something done right, sometimes it has to be done slow. That said, there is one user in a unique position to determine when an answer is really awesome: the person who asked the question. And the questioner can accelerate the "bubble up" by accepting the answer, which also happens to be worth an upvote and a half.

If you aren't the questioner and you want to do more to get an answer voted up, you can try to be a "community organizer," like you'd do in an election. Leave a comment to the effect of, "This is a great answer. Please vote it up." If it really is that good, it will make it's way up. If it doesn't, then maybe it isn't as good an answer as you thought, or maybe it's answering the wrong question.

The current system is very well thought-out. It has to be the community that bubbles the answer up; individuals are too prone to falling in love.

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regarding the accepted answer is ok, for sure the "owner" of the answer would know that it is better for him. But happens often that the answer is accepted really early, and that contingent problem is solved. But maybe answers that arrive later could help other visitor with similar problem that find the question on google. – Drake Jul 28 '09 at 8:54
sorry the "owner" of the question – Drake Jul 28 '09 at 8:55

Being able to spend 50 rep to give an extra upvote sounds like a good idea. Though I'd cap it at 1 extra upvote max.

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One thing that could be done is show on the front page questions wit recent activity, including posting an answer, so within minutes of a new answer being added, there would be new visitors capable of upvoting, renewed interest in the question.

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that already happens, no? – akf Jul 22 '09 at 13:19
I'm not aware of the exact algorithm, so maybe it does, may it doesn't. I've seen some degree of randomness on the front page. If it does, then maybe there needs to be more weight on new answers on old questions. – perbert Jul 22 '09 at 15:43

I don't think there is anything more you can do other than upvoting the answer. Furthermore, I don't think you should be able to do more. The voting system is based around overall community approval, therefore each person can only vote once per answer, keeping any one person for having too much influence. If you are the question owner, of course you can mark an answer as accepted, and in the long run (unless the answer was your own) this should help the answer receive more upvotes if it really was very good, because it will always be displayed first. Additionally, someone adding an answer (and possibly your voting) will cause the question to rise again to the front page, and become more "hot" and "active" so it is more likely to get seen, even if it is many months old.

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I propose the following to get fair voting for late very good answers (LVGAs):

A new flagging option "Bump this answer".

Rationale: questions/answers need attention in order to get upvoted. In turn attention requires bumping to the main page.


The requestor for bumping also needs to provide a justification for it. Minimum is 15 characters (as in other places).

If moderators accept the flagging for bumping a question then:

The question will be bumped onto the main page for a set time, say 1 hour. When such a question reach the end of the main page it will be bumped to the top. This repeats until the set time is up. This could be repeated, e.g. a 10 minutes bump every three hour for 2 days.

The link from the main page will be directly to the LVGA, not the top of the page for the question.

Possible limits (for one site, e.g. SU):

  1. One bump flagging per answer per user (ever).

  2. A maximum of 1 bump flagging per day per user.

  3. A maximum of 10 bumped questions per day (even moderators can not override this limit).

  4. A user can not ask for his/her own answers to be bumped.

  5. A LVGA can not be bumped before it is 7 days old.

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To improve the value of votes on newer answers, votes could be weighted by the amount of time they've been there. I.e. older votes are worth less.


This edit in part consolidates (and perhaps clarifies) my comments on decay, and also proposes an alternative means of accounting for decay.

The problem with votes that come before all the answers are submitted is that people who vote at a particular time (i.e. anytime before all answers have been posted) have temporal parallax, so to speak. Here's an example:

Sets of people A, B respectively view the answer sets 1 & 2, which sets of answers are made in order (i.e. people in set A can see answer set 1, those in B see 1 & 2). There can be as many subsets of A & B as there are answers to a question. Obviously, the best answer in set 1 is not necessarily the best answer out of the union of set 1 & 2. Thus, persons in set A may vote for an answer in set 1 but actually think the best answer was in set 2 (had answer set 2 existed at the time they voted).

Thus A's votes are less informed than B's votes (which are less informed than a hypothetical C's votes that occur after there are more answers after set 2). B therefore has better informed votes (Assuming B votes on the merits - this is notwithstanding that B votes for things that already have votes just because those things already have votes). The value of the votes of people in set B are the only fully informed votes made as they are made with the benefit of all possible selections at that time (notwithstanding any subsequent answer sets).

A single vote may therefore be described as an indication of the perceived value of an answer by the set of users who reviewed the set of answers available at the time they voted. The count of votes on an answer is the perceived value of an answer by the set of users who reviewed the set of answers available at the time they voted. The set of counts of all votes on the answers to the question ranks the answers according to the perceived value of the answer by the set of users who reviewed the set of answers available at the time they voted. (I just find these definitions helpful for clarity and concision of thought).

I therefore posit that votes do not have the same value, and a unit weighting system of vote counting does not accurately reflect the actual value of the answers in many situations. The accuracy of the perceived value of the answers that the votes reflect diminishes where any answer subsequent to the vote would have been considered superior (in the mind of the voter) to the answer they voted upon. In other words, as more answers form, there is increasing probability that votes made prior to those answers (i.e. the perceived value) deviates further from the actual value of the answers.

This foregoing analysis presumes that the 'correct/best answer' actually never changes. In cases where the 'correct/best answer' does actually change (i.e. reality shifts and so the answers on stackoverflow/etc become incorrect), an answer may later appear that is correct and this new answer reflects the fact that the previous answers are invalid.

For example, given A & B and the respective set of answers they know about when they review the question 1 & 2. After, the world changes and the answers in set 1 are now incorrect. If there are subsequent answers (forming answer set 2, which the people in set B know about but A did not) which accurately reflect the new material world change, only people in set B would be able to vote up the correct answer (subject to people in A reviewing their votes).

In cases where A is a large set relative to set B (i.e. lots of people view answer set 1 but not 2), this is highly prejudicial to the Stackoverflow's presumed ambition to value and rank appropriately correct & incorrect answers. In fact, in certain cases this straight vote will actually prevent the Stackoverflow community from being able to highlight and rank at the top the best answers. Those early answers will simply be too far advantaged by existing votes and prevent new answers from percolating to the top.


There is an alternative mechanism for re-evaluating answers that I have thought of: Once a question reaches a certain age (or other appropriate condition), someone can re-ask the question (or engage some mechanism which asks the community whether it's appropriate to re-ask the question), which resets all the votes and thus allows new answers to get a chance to percolate to the top. See e.g. Expiration of answers for questions with novel solutions

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There is a big invisible sarcasm tag around this answer, isn't it? – Ladybug Killer Jul 22 '09 at 12:30
It's decay. Any form of prioritization of newer posts must be, or be analogous to, a form of decay in the perceived value (or alternatively a ranking or attention-getting features) of the votes previously made (e.g. a stepwise increase in new votes' value, a formulaic weighting of votes on age, a parallel weighting system, some combination of those, etc.). Why would one be sarcastic about that? – Brian M. Hunt Jul 22 '09 at 13:48
I'm not 100% sure about the exact solution you're proposing, but I like the idea that there might be some alternative solution to the problem. Maybe new votes on old answers could give the answer an automatic temporary boost or something. – Ant Jul 22 '09 at 15:33
Newer votes should have more value than old ones? They indicate more quality (and that's what votes do) because they are newer? I'm still sure you are kidding. – Ladybug Killer Jul 23 '09 at 11:48
@John: Huh? Why would he be kidding? Sometimes you want to rate by how popular something is now, i.e., dx/dt (ex: popular pages). Weighting new votes heavier is a middle ground. – derobert Jul 27 '09 at 14:48
Votes are point-in-time indicators of perceived value of an answer to a reader. That reader is without the benefit of knowing the value of subsequent answers, and therefore by definition has made a less informed vote than a subsequent reader who reviews more answers, and by corollary has a vote with less meaning than a fully informed voter (i.e. one that has seen all the answers). Ergo, I posit that weighting by time (or number of subsequent answers) is an idea worth considering. I'd also describe such weighting as creating a site that is more "wiki", less "forum". – Brian M. Hunt Aug 10 '09 at 14:47

There are 3 sort order tabs, 'oldest', 'newest' and 'votes'.

'newest' sorting gets more attention to newly created post, as those get on top.

Maybe one could change so 'newest' are default sorting (think 'oldest' are default?). This will not help after the user changed setting (it's a global setting correct?), and I think one would expect the setting to stick?.

Could changed this setting to be per question (unless it already is) and make 'newest' the default.

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I've always maintained that if you were the person who asked the question you should effectively get to pick the order of the answers. I understand that there is one right answer chosen to be at the top, but sometimes a certain answer is popular because it sounds right but needs to get shot down, or a new answer is either a viable alternative or amends the otherwise correct answer and neither the answering or asking party has the ability to edit the accepted answer to amend it. Thus the answer should be moved to be close to the right answer, and irrelevant answers need to be moved out of the top (lest this becomes /.). One way would be to let the question owner reorder the answers, another would be to give that question owner unlimited votes on his/her question's answers. The latter is more prone to opening up the system to some kind of abuse though.

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Yes, reputation transfer would make things interesting.

Alternatively, If you find a superior but neglected answer, you could downvote the other answers (and bear the rep lost).

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The second part is not right; you should not down-vote good answers just because there's a better one. You should only down-vote unhelpful or bad answers, which is not the same thing. – Lawrence Dol Jan 20 '10 at 7:24
I'm going to downvote this answer for saying perfectly good answers should be downvoted. Not because there's a better answer, because that's crappy advice. – cat Mar 3 at 1:41

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