I read an article once (which I can't now find) about the different types of Google search. There were something like 9 distinct categories. For example, one category was 'local search', where you want to find the nearest restaurant, or someone's address. Another was 'the porn hound' - people cruising for free pictures. A bizarre category was 'the crystal ball', where people type things into Google like "What should I do with my life?".
One interesting feature of the new Stack Exchange sites is to watch the usage profile of the top users evolve. Some of the different answer styles I've noticed predominate:
- Large numbers of very high quality answers (the Jon Skeet category of answerer).
- Many answers of generally average quality, spread all over the site (a kind of shotgun approach to answering).
- A small number of high quality answers, usually accepted, so that the user's overall rate of acceptance by questioners is very high (focused expertise).
- Scattershot posts of dubious quality, which gather both downvotes and upvotes (the "I like to talk" syndrome).
All of these approaches can lead to substantial reputation, over time.
It's also interesting to see to what extent these different "answerer demographics" edit other's posts, leave comments, participate on the site Meta, etc. Are there any trends?
This is a practical question, because an understanding of these use patterns could lead to a more accurate representation of the "health" of a new site as a whole. It could also identify 2nd order behaviours that could benefit from reward (e.g. with badges).
Has the Stack Overflow team, or anyone else, done any research into characterising the different types of users that answer questions?