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As answerers noted in my other question, time-of-day and day-of-week does affect your question's chances, independently of question quality. At the same time, there are probably bandwagon effects: popular questions become popular because they're popular.

<opinion>To maintain quality of SO ratings in the long-term, questions should be rated on quality (defined by the community, of course). The site should be structured to promote quality over luck.</opinion>

How might SO be changed -- I'm talking about general ideas here, not the SQL queries that support them -- so that time-of-day/day-of-week effects be mitigated?

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up vote -1 down vote accepted

How about disallowing voting (on both questions and answers) until the question is 24 hours old.

You could still post an answer, and the asker could still accept it.

After 24 hours, show the answers with a score of zero in random order (so rapid answers don't get an advantage in voting, though they would still stand a better chance of being accepted.)

By the time people start voting, they will probably already have 5 or more answers to choose from, even if the question was posted at a quiet time.

Yes I know this is very unlikely to happen :-)

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God no. If you disable voting for 24 hours then you are going to have questions that never get attention or receive rep because too many people only pay attention to the new questions list and then forget about it once they are done reading. – TheTXI Jul 21 '09 at 13:06
Thanks for actually thinking about the problem. It might be a bad idea, but it's an idea. Actually, I kind of like it, but I'm voting you up because it's actually a new idea that answers the question. I think the idea is not bad, too. – Dan Rosenstark Jul 21 '09 at 13:28
@TheTXI, you could work around that by bumping questions back to the top of the list when the 24 hour period has elapsed. – Perpetual Motion Goat Jul 21 '09 at 13:59
finnw: you can bump the Q's back up to the top of the active list, but not to the top of the new questions list. And I don't think people would be happy at all if you bumped old questions up the new questions list. – TheTXI Jul 21 '09 at 14:04

We already have multiple ways of viewing the lists of questions (Newest, Recently Active, Hot, Featured). It is not the site's fault that most people prefer to watch the Newest Question list and ignore the rest.

No matter what type of system checks and mechanisms you put in place, you are not going to stop people from using the site the way they want to use it. If you try to put too many roadblocks in the way of that, they are going to end up leaving. The fact that the time of day and other factors might define whether or not a question gets views is more to do with human psychology/sociology than some inherent flaw in the system.

And your idea of rating questions by the community seems redundant. We already upvote questions we consider interesting or thoughtful (or just a generally good question). I don't understand how tacking on some other type of rating system would be beneficial at all.

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Sorry I wasn't clear. By "rating" I meant "voting" meaning the current system that's in place. Thank you for your answer. – Dan Rosenstark Jul 21 '09 at 12:47
You are always so much more wordy than I am. I'd like to do an analysis of out rep/word ratio on meta. I think people vote on your answers because you put lots of effort in them. 'A' for effort! :P – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:47
Ha! It might also have to do with the fact that I can just type really really fast, it sort of lends to me writing a lot because my fingers can actually keep pace with my thoughts in most cases. – TheTXI Jul 21 '09 at 12:51
Grrr, I need typing lessons. Maybe I'll make the first page on SO then...hmmm... – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:51
I do agree with your point btw. – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:58
There was one point in time when I figured I would just give up on SO and just upvote everything TheTXI posted - but then we had a string of responses where I had a different opinion or more to say. In general, TheTXI provides well thought out answers. Kudos on the SU moderator role btw. – Rob Allen Jul 21 '09 at 13:58
Thanks Rob. – TheTXI Jul 21 '09 at 14:03

A question's popularity holds no bearing on the quality of answers it gets.

As long as the questions are getting answered on the 'off-times' there is nothing wrong with the system.

Just because it doesn't have thousands of views and lots of answers doesn't mean it isn't getting answered.

Also, if people want to increase rep gain, they should make sure to be on during the busy periods. This isn't a requirement though. Questions still get answered when the website isn't hitting its peak traffic times.

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Yes. In my own experience, my questions get answered a bit slower but with higher quality in off-peak periods. Thanks for your answer: good point regarding questions and the quality of answers. – Dan Rosenstark Jul 21 '09 at 12:48
The reputation is a secondary part of the site. It provides motivation, but the site isn't supposed to be centered around it. – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:51
jjnguy: I would not consider rep a secondary part of the site. If it weren't for this motivating factor, the primary concern (answering questions) would likely fail because you would have a hard time keeping an audience of people engaged. The idea of reputation (or some other type of game score) is symbiotic with the mission of answering. – TheTXI Jul 21 '09 at 12:54
Ok, I agree that it is very important. Rep drives the site. But, if I had to pick one thing to be the primary focus of the site, it would be Questions and Answers. – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:56
Yeah, without rep, the site wouldn't work. But, if people want to maximize rep, they should just participate during peak hours. – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:57

Surely voting is the only way to measure "quality" - and that's what we do now.

Other than keeping votes hidden from other users for a period (which has been discussed before) I can't think of anything else that might mitigate this problem.

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voting is a measure of quality, yes. +1 for the keeping votes hidden, I didn't know about that discussion. – Dan Rosenstark Jul 21 '09 at 12:46
It was suggested as part of an answer for something else - I can't find it right now as I can't remember the wording well enough to get the search to work. – ChrisF Jul 21 '09 at 12:57

I have my RSS reader to check for new / newly edited questions. So it doesn't matter what time you ask your question. If it's tagged with one of the tags I'm following, I will see it eventually.

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One idea is to have questions get point boosts if they are asked in off-peak periods. This is an idea in the rough, of course... you'd have to define peak, off-peak, etc.

I'm NOT suggesting doing this without telling the users, of course.

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This seems to advantage people in certain time zones. Also, you are focusing too much on the rep. It's supposed to be about getting answers to questions. And that is happening just fine. – jjnguy Jul 21 '09 at 12:49
@jinguy - very much this – Rob Allen Jul 21 '09 at 13:03
I don't think this was about boosting the rep points but rather the vote count which has a direct impact on the position of a question on the index pages and thus the likeliness of being noticed by someone who is just looking for interesting questions to answer... not quite sure what to think about that... – Oliver Giesen Jul 21 '09 at 13:09
Ditto what Oliver said: I do not care about rep, since as I've said in the past, you cannot trade your rep for wheat (nor a job, but I could be wrong about that). I'm interested in "relevance" (as it's called in SEO). Regarding time-zones, yes, that would be a problem with my answer. – Dan Rosenstark Jul 21 '09 at 13:31

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