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Waffles describes fighting information rot as one of the great challenges for 2011.

The biggest problem with old and much-voted-on questions is that it's very hard for new answers to change the "status quo", i.e. gain recognition for new, more up to date, meaningful contributions. Even though the old question gets bumped, most users (I'm fairly sure) have the "order by votes" view active, and will never see the new contribution, or see it on the bottom - where they are mixed with those old answers that weren't upvoted because they weren't good.

To improve the situation, I suggest showing the two newest contributions on top, regardless of the sorting order the user chose, and visually marking them "new answers", for questions older than a certain number of weeks. Either in their full form, or in a shortened form as suggested by Marc Gravell:

enter image description here

This would have to be for a certain time only, say, until the most recent contribution becomes old itself, or has been viewed a certain number of times, or has been voted on to some extent.

This would allow for new answers to gain equal attention like the first answers when the question was still young, something that is sorely needed. At the moment, it is almost impossible to get a new, newly correct answer into a strong existing "status quo".

I realize this would be a major change for some, because it would mean taking away a part of their control to display contents as they damn well please. But if it helps making old questions more accessible to new contributions, I'd say it's worth it.

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I had proposed a different sorting for CW questions, only to be <strike>cast away violently</strike> shown the perversity of human nature and the FGITW effect. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 12:40
    
I use "order by votes" only to look for the most downvoted posts. Otherwise I switch between "active" and "newest". –  bernd_k Jan 4 '11 at 13:18
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I am very disappointed by the lack of drop-shadows and freehand-circles in this post. –  Shogging through the snow Jan 25 '11 at 19:42
    
"At the moment, it is almost impossible to get a new, newly correct answer into a strong existing status quo" can you provide some real world examples of this? I think this seems rather.. theoretical. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '11 at 6:50
    
@Jeff I see this frequently in massively voted on questions with a lot of answers. Plus I see people starting dupe questions because of old ones that were answered to death, so to speak, but not to their satisfaction. I'll take notes when I see some... although a community effort would be more suited because the answers need to be judged on their quality –  Pëkka Jan 26 '11 at 11:14
    
But in general @Jeff take any of the older, "top voted" questions - an outdated accepted answer with 50 upvotes is not impossible to beat, and it often works out eventually, but it is damn hard and takes time. Unless you reset vote counts in those questions at some point, or start weeding out useless answers, the phenomenon is bound to grow over time. –  Pëkka Jan 26 '11 at 11:41
    
@pekka why would you 'beat' it instead of EDITING it? –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '11 at 11:44
    
@Jeff but what if the new information that you have to add says something 180° different than the highest-voted accepted answer? For example, when an encryption has been broken, or a new tool has come up? You can't just edit that into the accepted answer, can you? (I'm not opposed to it - it would be a good way to deal with this. I just can't see anyone doing this) –  Pëkka Jan 26 '11 at 11:46
    
@pekka again, I need real world examples of this thing you are imagineering up. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '11 at 12:01
    
@Jeff I didn't memorize those I've seen, and I won't have the time to do the research - finding good examples means going through a lot of questions and finding answers that have been unjustly ignored. I'm still sure this is an issue, though. @everyone if anybody else wants to pick this up and look up examples, feel free. Can someone make this CW? –  Pëkka Jan 26 '11 at 12:39
    
@pekka if it is a real practical problem in practice, finding examples should not be difficult. And if it is difficult to find examples, then.. well... –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '11 at 21:05
    
@Jeff with over a million questions, this is an argument that doesn't always work anymore. The search for examples is hard in this case because there are no metrics available to find them. –  Pëkka Jan 26 '11 at 21:07

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted
+500

An intriguing idea, but at very most I'd only want links to the new answers, i.e. the first line, author and date, i.e.

answer summary

(add some "new answer! woot!" bling in your mind's eye, and that text should be "An intriguing idea, but at very most I'd only want links to the..." )

Otherwise it seems to be disregarding my preferences and potentially pushing down the accepted answer. And presumably you wouldn't need it in "newest" mode or where the given [n] new answers are already in the first [n] answers displayed.

(note: I have no idea whether something like this will get implemented; I'm just throwing some ideas into the bowl)

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Interesting idea, less intrusive, but still creating enough chances for new content to get attention. I like it. Maybe the author info could be condensed into one line as well? –  Pëkka Jan 4 '11 at 11:57
    
Marc the screenshot in your answer is already out of date –  bobobobo Jan 26 '11 at 15:08

For users coming from Google and searching for answers this will make the site less useful, since it "hides" the probably best answer out of sight.

Also often the newest answer is something like "Thanks that works!" or "I have $related_problem, please help!".

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Re Google, fair point. That would be remedied by @Marc's suggestion. That's why I say they should be removed from the top after receiving sufficient attention, or maybe if they have accumulated 2 or more downvotes. –  Pëkka Jan 4 '11 at 14:46

I suggest showing the two newest contributions on top, regardless of the sorting order the user chose

As you mentioned, there is already a setting to show the newest on top. Why mandate it? I understand that you want to help new answers but the option is already there so I think it would just annoy users. The system is designed to show the best, proven, working answer on top. Why change that?

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Using the option is a theoretical possibility, but not very practical. As to why, it's because there is no way to challenge the best, proven, working answer once it's been manifested by a ton of upvotes. The right answer can change over time –  Pëkka Jan 5 '11 at 0:44

Me too. Me too. I would prefer an option to override user settings for my questions.

There's always topics where the quickest answer isn't necessarily the best. Yet the current system favors speed over competency, which I consider counter to the pretended Stackoverflow mantra of "best answer wins". There's simply too much meme, sheep and campvoting. Even putting questions up for bounty doesn't always help.

How would an option override work? The way I image it, I get extra flags to predefine the ordering for my questions ([x] newest first, [-] by votes). The ordering state of other users is overriden temporarily for that specific answer only. Yet people can reselect [votes] if they feel a factual need for it. It would remain in the default state for other answers anyway. And I'd even be willing to put up reputation points for overriding the defaults, if that raises the answer quality.

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For "your" questions, surely it would be better to get the notification via email, multi-collider, etc –  Marc Gravell Jan 5 '11 at 5:55
    
@MarcGravell: Excessively upvoted top answers or too many answers simply discourage people to post new ones. And that's what an override order could compensate. (Notification doesn't help if there are no new answers because people are detered by landing the last spot.) –  mario Jan 5 '11 at 6:03
    
-1: No, no, no. I'm sorry, as the user, my settings should take precedence. That's why users have settings, after all. –  Powerlord Jan 25 '11 at 20:48
    
@R.Bemrose: Actually that's why browsers provide for user.css and scripts. It doesn't explain why site defaults should encourage low quality answers. –  mario Jan 25 '11 at 21:09

My experience has been that new answers I put on old questions get voted up, especially if I note that something about the language/framework/etc has changed that makes the original best answer less useful. I'll usually add comments to the accepted and top answers indicating that newer information is available (and sometimes they will update their answers, fixing the problem wholesale).

The only cases where my newer, better answers don't float up are:

  • Question has a lot of answers
  • Top answers are overinflated (more than 25 votes or so)

And, I suspect, those cases indicate the question is more of a "Me, too!" subjective/popular question, where the latest and greatest info is not necessarily going to be valued more than the popular answers.

However, it would be great if someone put together a set of example questions where new updated answers are given, but are not floating to the top. Without a good measure of the significance of the problem, fixing it seems premature.

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This has two major problems

  1. It is useless on questions with 4-10 answers, as those all get read very reliably. (Most typical answers aren't that long anyway).

  2. It only benefits questions with lots of answers, which are rare, and not exactly things we want to encourage.

So it's a micro-optimization of the negative kind: it makes our worst and rarest questions better.

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I agree with 1) unless they are massively voted on. An answer with 50 votes is very hard to fight against. –  Pëkka Jan 26 '11 at 11:20
    
Well you're trying to beat half the Internet. If you can't fight 'em, join 'em. Wait, you already have.. –  bobobobo Jan 26 '11 at 12:05

I think changes to your favorites (showing new answers to my fav questions) was a good way to get attention/upvotes to new answers.

Perhaps showing more answers in each page (I really hate pagination and would rather browse a long/endless page than have to click next) and collapsing the low voted answers you've already seen would give more attention to new answers.

Answers I've already seen may or may not already be kept track of in viewcount, but you could make

  • answers I've never seen appear in yellow (as Pekka suggests)
  • collapse answers with +0 votes that I have already seen

The point of collapsing +0 answers is to remove some of the "cruft" or "chaff" (i.e. answers with no bold text) that will block newer (possibly better) content from being seen.

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