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Fastest Gun in the West Problem

Not sure if this is the right place to post.

Problem: I have noticed that in certain topical areas, a handful of people crowd the answer space. They gain alot of reputation, and they might be helping people. But the adverse affect is that the knowledge pool is sharply lopsided to a very few answerers. They actually diminish the participation of many other potential contributors, because a few, jump on every question to claim the points before many have the opportunity.

So, the incentive to particpate by others diminishes, and I think, if you check the stats, you'll start seeing a trend of where you have many who just ask questions and a handful of "answerers". It's like you sit in class in the 4th grade, and you know the answer to a question but the smart-alec in the front row keeps shouting out the answers to the teacher ruining the learning experience for everyone else. (I'm talking to you Justin Haines!)

Anyway, I think this is counter-productive to the purpose and spirit of the "stack" sites. If the stat's clearly don't demonstrate this, then I'll be on my way.

If they do as I suspect, then here is an idea for consideration.

IDEA: Those users that attain very high reputations (eg > 3000 points) can answer questions in their zealous fashion, but for reduced value if posted within a certain time period say 48 hours.

So they would get 5 points instead of 25 if they posted within 48 hours and it was accepted at any time. Others with lower reputations can answer the question within 48 hours and, if accepted, get the normal points, 25. This 48 hour period is intended to be an incentive for those of lower reputation to participate. This is like a "noob participation period".

Once outside of the 48 hours, if the question is still un-answered, those with high reputations can post an answer, and if accepted will get 30 points. So, there is some compensation to the answerer for waiting.

Taking it a little further, to keep the more active users happy, they can write up their answer within the 48 hour period and mark it for publishing outside the "noob participation period" so they can answer the question whenever they like, and still be in the running to get the maximum points.

What I like about this idea, is that the active users can gain even more reputation, whilst giving noob participants who may be as knowledgeable an opportunity to get involved and broaden the knowledge pool.

You thoughts please....

UPDATE : This is a great discussion. And I would like to offer a modification. All the uber-answerers are quite annoyed at the point penalty. So, how about this.

Initially a point penalty, but if "quick" answers by uber-answerers continues to get voted up, you get all the points you normally would. So, I don't want to discourage fast good answers, but there is accountability on the answerer to provide a good solution, not just be the "fastest gun in the west" like @Pollyanna has mentioned.

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marked as duplicate by Adam Davis, The Unhandled Exception, Pëkka, Josh K, Ladybug Killer Feb 5 '11 at 21:44

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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3000 is considered very high reputation? Well now I feel special. –  Brandon Feb 3 '11 at 23:20
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@giuliocc, -1 on meta means disagree. –  jzd Feb 3 '11 at 23:24
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The objective of this website is to get useful answers to questions; it is not to earn rep. Reputation is a side effect and at best an incentive to answer questions thoughtfully and in a manner that actually benefits the asker. –  Mark Elliot Feb 3 '11 at 23:25
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I haven't finished reading this yet, but I have thought of another behavior that is, to use your words, "counter-productive to the purpose and spirit of the 'stack' sites": calling specific users out as "whores." (Oddly, I was unable to figure out who you're calling out. User-searching and Googling for the name you provided doesn't bring up any relevant results.) –  Pops Feb 3 '11 at 23:28
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@Mark: Heck, sometimes the act of answering well in and of itself benefits the anwerer. –  dmckee Feb 3 '11 at 23:29
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This is far from the first time someone has suggested hobbling the high rep users in some way. Probably the fasted way to find some example of the others would be to sort meta questions by score and look near the end of the list. –  dmckee Feb 3 '11 at 23:31
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I don't see how this is different than the Fastest Gun in the West Problem - Can you elaborate what the differences are between the problem you're trying to solve, and the one described in the FGITW question? If the problem is the same, consider posting your solution as an answer to the existing problem question. –  Adam Davis Feb 3 '11 at 23:31
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@Brandon Why did you edit out the "whore" content. I think that was unwarranted censorship and dilutes the intent of the post, and censors what gives an insight into a highly personal post. I think it deserves to stay, not on any sort of merits but the question should be judged on that sort of content. I'm no fan of "white-washing". –  chibacity Feb 3 '11 at 23:39
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@giuliocc I actually think it made you look like a fool. I'm disappointed that someone else took upon themselves to make you appear to be able to present yourself better than you actually can. –  chibacity Feb 3 '11 at 23:55
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@giuliocc You can say what you like. I object to you being censored by someone else and the whitewashing. –  chibacity Feb 4 '11 at 0:03
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@giuliocc I am not supporting you, I am questioning your censorship. If you want to go around calling high rep members of the community whores, then that's up to you. I don't think that should be whitewashed. People should be able to see what you think. –  chibacity Feb 4 '11 at 0:11
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@chibacity, censorship is one thing, insulting other members of the community is another. If anyone disagrees, you can always roll back. I won't start an edit war over this, I just didn't feel it appropriate that in an effort to improve the site, giuliocc felt the need to insult certain users. I'm sure he meant it as a joke, but I still felt it inappropriate. Just my opinion though, anyone with the rep can always reverse it :P –  Brandon Feb 4 '11 at 1:17
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@chibacity, It may not be my job but the third point in the FAQ clearly states "Be Nice". So unless a moderator or staff member says otherwise, I see no harm in cleaning insults out of the post as they were unnecessary. If posts are edited to remove things like "Hi" and "Thanks", I fail to see how editing a post to remove an insult is any worse. –  Brandon Feb 4 '11 at 1:50
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@chibacity A "slippery slope" argument is in fact a logical fallacy. Please see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope –  Mike Bethany Feb 4 '11 at 2:00
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@chibacity Saying my clarification of censorship is disingenuous is another logical fallacy; a red herring. The intent of the speaker is irrelevant to the truth of what they say. All these logical fallacies in your arguments are a slippery slope; soon you'll be typing in all caps. ;) –  Mike Bethany Feb 4 '11 at 2:15

7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If someone answers a question before you get a chance instead of metaphorically throwing your hands up in the air see if you can add some value to the answers already given. This is how I actually started getting points, by answering already answered questions with a better answer or providing more info about the whole issue.

I've seen many cases where an "answer-whore" (I'm offended by the word "über") gives a really terse answers with a sentence or two and a link to some docs but the answer is accepted. I consider this a horrible practice so what I'll do is go in and give a complete, working example and I'll often get up votes for the effort.

I only really do this for questions I personally find intriguing so even if I don't get any votes I was doing something I found interesting and hopefully I learned something myself.

And finally if you want to help support newer people with low scores make sure you actually do so by upvoting alternative answers that are more complete than the accepted answer; don't just "ride the wave" of newly asked questions, make sure you go look at old questions with new answers.

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1  
The stack sites employ a "darwinian survival" approach to solutions. As this discussion has revealed, rather than try and enforce counter-intuitive practices to combat exploitation of the rep system, it is best dealt with by up-voting suitable answers of other users with lower scores. I think you have summarised it best in your last paragraph. Thanks –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 2:50
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Just FYI, "űber" only means "above", "over" or "super". I know it has some connotations when using it in English texts, but do you really think it's more offensive than "whore"? –  balpha Feb 4 '11 at 7:40
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@balpha The number one rule of joke club is you don't explain joke club... –  Mike Bethany Feb 4 '11 at 15:14
    
I read that as "swoooooosh"... Point taken :) –  balpha Feb 4 '11 at 15:23

I think your intentions are good and there is some true about this, but in my opinion this is a NO NO.

  • First off: I don't particularly like you calling the most dedicated users of this site whores.
  • They are one of the most crucial ingredients of this site, IMO opinion, what make this site so great, people so eager to answer your question.
  • They should not be handicapped because they are good questions answerers.
  • They once had low rep just like you and me(I guess)
  • Democracy and equality of opportunity is very important in this site.
  • Think it from the perspective of que one answering the question, they give good quick answers, you have to love that.

And to close, I think your idea in conceptually wrong given the workings of this site and will definitely lower the quality of the questions (or at least delay good ones, which is as bad).

If those whores are "stealing" rep points, It is because they are giving good answers otherwise, if they are truly unfaithfully trying to earn points with no merits, they will get down-voted or not voted at all.

So, if anything, leave the alone. Even better, thank them.

EDIT:

I would recommend you that to fight übermensch like those, the best way is to actually give a better answer than them! How? not by a better programming analysis but a more detailed one. Since you know you won't be the fastest, take as much time as you need and write very long good answers, the community WILL up-vote you!

Joel Spolsky once said that if you don't know anything about programming you may come to the site and combine in better way previous answer in to a long better one and earn points.

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OK, Answer-whore is a little rough, to appease ego's I'll refer to them as "uber-answerers". I agree with much of what you say. I suppose then it's at the discretion of the "uber-answerer" to decide if they want to let many other knowledgeable particpants have a go or not. If the uber-answerers are keen on answering the question, they would just do it then regardless of points because they already have "uber" status. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:27
    
I think people have over-looked, that the uber-answerers are not the only able people to address many of the questions. I am trying to increase the number of uber-answerers. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:31
    
@giuliocc I've updated my answer concerning your first comment. –  Trufa Feb 3 '11 at 23:36
    
@Trufa. thanks for advising. Spending time for a better answer is at the risk of the "fastest gun in the west". Dirty and quick wins. Completeness appears to be secondary. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:39
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@giuliocc It is my opinion that your idea won't have that effect, rather it will scare the top users away, yes it sometimes feels like they answer too fast but, this is a good thing not a bad thing, in StackOverflow there is space for everyone, from the biggest newbie (like me - three months ago I wrote my first hello world) to Jon Skeet, lets all learn to grow together! –  Trufa Feb 3 '11 at 23:40
    
    
@Trufa. Ofcourse there will be instances where it plays out with quality answers over broader periods. My goal is to improve answer quality and particpation volume. I ain't tryin to be "Mr Anderson" here. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:54
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@giuliocc I don't think you are the bad guy :) in fact is the first thing I said is that you intentions are good, but if you want the site to have better quality answers, answer your questions better and encourage this behavior. –  Trufa Feb 4 '11 at 0:02
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Please, someone just give this guy a Reversal badge. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 4 '11 at 0:22
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@BoltClock it makes me feel like a rep-whore up-voting your comment ;) –  Trufa Feb 4 '11 at 0:27
    
@Trufa. ROFL :D –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 0:37
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I've cited the Joel post you're talking about, and every time I do, I put a disclaimer on it for not being an accurate representation of how the modern SO works. He suggests tagging easy questions as homework, for example. –  Pops Feb 4 '11 at 15:07
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@Popular I'm sorry I did not completely understand you concern. The "quote" was took from here youtube.com/watch?v=NWHfY_lvKIQ and I don't recall him talking about home work (could be, can't watch video now). But I do sustain this idea, I think though SO might be a dynamic changing site, I think this idea still stands, I think anything that makes this site better will always be welcomed here. (I'm still not sure this is what you ment!) –  Trufa Feb 4 '11 at 15:16
    
@Trufa, this one's on me, I thought you were referring to this Joel on Software post. I didn't know about the video (which I also cannot watch now). –  Pops Feb 4 '11 at 17:53
    
@Popular no, I hadn't read that one! Just curios if you down-voted (not offended hehe) was it because of the reference? –  Trufa Feb 4 '11 at 18:19

Wouldn't it be better for the question asker if he could get the answer to his hard question immediately instead of having to wait for 48 hours? And wouldn't it be harmful to get only low quality answers first, because everybody who has proven to often answer these questions correctly is barred from answering? Wouldn't that diminish the value of the site?

Also, without the proposed restrictions, if the answer given by the "fastest gun in the west" isn't particularly helpful, nothing stops "the noobs" to add their own, better answers later on. The helpful answer will then be posted just as soon as it would be if the "fastest" answer was blocked. If, on the other hand, the fastest answers is also good -- what's the problem then? It is usually better to get a good answer sooner than to get a good answer later...

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You're assuming that only an uber-answerer can solve the problem and that the degree of difficulty of the questions are always quite high. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:21
    
Firstly, no one is "barred" from answering. It just depends if you want a stack site that has a very broad range of knowledgeable people participating, or a small handful of people. Pollyanna makes a good point. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:37
    
@giuliocc: By that I mean: not allowed to answer in the first two days. –  sth Feb 3 '11 at 23:39
    
@giuliocc: Did you notice the date of the question Pollyanna linked? We've been aware of this problem since the whole userbase was a handful of people., and somehow the site has grown to have more than 100,000 registered users (though perhaps only 10,000 are more than minimally active) and 4 million entries in the Q&A table. Did you notice the highest voted answer? –  dmckee Feb 3 '11 at 23:41
    
@dmckee. Thanks for the info. So, you agree that it is an issue in some areas ? I can see that it's a huge site overall, I suppose I am referring to topics that are not as "fat and broad" that provide the space for everyone to gain reputation and contribute consistently. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:49
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@giulioc: I think that the FGIW is the biggest strength of the site. Period. People come here because they get good answers fast. You have exactly the same chance to answer a question as Jon Skeet. If you can't keep up that is not John's fault or his problem. Me, I do c and c++ and the unix API and latex (since gone to tex.SE) and make, so I don't have to compete with John. But there are other really fast guys in my fields, and they beat me to the punch very often. Cest le vie. –  dmckee Feb 3 '11 at 23:54
    
@dmckee Very nicely put! +1 –  Trufa Feb 3 '11 at 23:59
    
@dmckee. Check my update to the question above. I have never mentioned that I exclude someone for answering. It's all about incentives. It would be interesting to get a demographic breakdown of various topic areas and see the volumes of answers and the percentage of the population who answer them. Would you rather 2% answering 50% of all the questions or something less extreme. As long the questions are answered. –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 0:05
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@giuliocc: I'd rather that users with questions got good answers fast. You have made no case for how you are going to improve that situation, indeed you are still trying to dissuade the best respondents on the site, and trying to hide behind a rhetoric of "accountability". Give me a break. –  dmckee Feb 4 '11 at 0:11
    
@dmckee. I see some answers that were provided quickly, but "good" then becomes the bone of contention. That is the area of accountability I want to address. –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 0:15
    
@giuliocc: I have an idea to encourage accountability for quality: let's let the users of the site vote on what they think constitutes a "good" answer. Oh wait, that's what we already do! Is your claim that you know which answers are the good ones better than the thousands of active users? –  dmckee Feb 4 '11 at 0:27
    
@dmckee. But the points get assigned once someone clicks the big green "tick thing". But I only have 90 odd points.. what do i know..lol –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 0:38
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@giuliocc: The green checkmark for "accepted answer" gives you 15 points. Only who asked the question can accept an answer for it. The accepted answer can also always be changed again, if a better answer comes up. Aside of that there are "upvotes", each giving 10 points. Those are independent of the accepted answers and are distributed always when someone votes an answer up. –  sth Feb 4 '11 at 0:43
    
@giuliocc: The points get assigned every time someone votes from the time the question is posted until it is deleted or locked. Acceptance doesn't change how the question work, or how users can interact with it. Acceptance isn't even forever: the owner can change acceptance at will. I get votes on posts over a year old most weeks (and recently got an acceptance on a answer almost that old, Whoo! Hoo!), and I still have fewer than 1000 posts on the site. –  dmckee Feb 4 '11 at 0:45
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@giuliocc: You know, "upvotes" are a pretty basic principle of the site and we just assumed you would know about them. After all, you came here to change how the site should work. You seem to get all worked up over this issue, but you never even bothered to find out how the thing you complain about works? Why do you think you know what do change if you don't know what's currently there? –  sth Feb 4 '11 at 1:12

IDEA: Those users that attain very high reputations (eg > 3000 points) can answer questions in their zealous fashion, but for reduced value if posted within a certain time period say 48 hours.

This is effectively building in a punishment for gaining high rep. Hige rep users are a key component of our sites, I see no reason to punish them.

Answers should be voted on their merit, who wrote it should not matter. The effect of the votes needs to be equal across all users.

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Punishment ? Well, don't forget that anyone can answer, you just don't get as many points depending how much experience you have. OK.. I have ammended my question to address your point. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:42
    
Excellent point. This "idea" is basically one giant, hate filled ad hominem against people that like to help others. –  Mike Bethany Feb 4 '11 at 1:45
    
@Mike. "hate filled" ? I think there are some other respondents here who are hate filled, but not me when I was tendering this idea. –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 2:46
    
@giuliocc Perhaps "hate filled" was too strong. –  Mike Bethany Feb 4 '11 at 2:51

I dislike everything about this idea. In a meritocracy, the best in a section will rise to the top and dominate it. When I ask a question, I specifically hope a super-informed user with lots of time to comprehensively and quickly answer my question comes along.

A side note: what you like to call them is probably biasing your opinion of active high quality responders. Something like super helpers would be a better term.

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A good point. "Domination" by an uber-answerer has a drawback that the uber-answerer is not always there. I am actually trying to increase the number of uber-answerers in the community with this feature. Alot of questions are answerable by many, but if the answer "whores" take over, you actually limit the success of the stack sites to only a few people. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:17
    
@giuliocc: Let me get this straight. It's a problem that there are high rep users who seem to answer everything. And it's a problem if they are not there all the time and other people get a chance. Really? Plus you were saying in other comments that you don't think the high rep users are actually special when it comes to being able to answer questions well. So why is it a problem when they're not around? –  dmckee Feb 4 '11 at 0:05
    
@dmckee. You almost get my point. A limited number of uber-answerers discourages increased participation of others and potentially limits the quality of answers provided. That's the only points I make. –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 0:12

There's a view which none of the other answerers voiced. (But since I'm late enough already, I'll be short.)

You're missing the point. This site is not about building a reputation. It's not some kind of MMORPG, where each user strives to become '80th level Paladin'. It's about providing good answers to good questions. Reputation is a byproduct.

So, if tomorrow Jon Skeet starts giving instant and perfect answers to every question here, forcing rest of the answerers to 'go get a life', that's only good. That means, site succeeds.

PS Didn't downvote you.

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Thanks for the answer (and not downvoting!) I think the issue I am trying to address is the "MMORPG" like answerers. The idea that uber-answerers will not get the same points as other participants and that someone may delay their answer has upset many which goes against the site intentions. However, if you're genuine about answering you would not care so much about the points at the level of reputation ? Thus this idea automatically weeds out those answerers that focus on rep and not answer quality. But the current downvote volume suggests that this is not the case. –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 0:44
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@giuliocc Yeah, but I still would like good answers in time :) Last two days I'm working on a hobby OSX project and I knew nothing about cocoa-development before. But here I can have my questions answered in less than an hour and it's a great help. I don't care how much reputation person helping me has, I'm just thankful. –  Nikita Rybak Feb 4 '11 at 0:50
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@giuliocc "Thus this idea automatically weeds out those answerers that focus on rep and not answer quality" Sorry, but it's you who's focusing on the rep here. I've never in my life upvoted anybody because of his reputation. I vote for answers, not for people. –  Nikita Rybak Feb 4 '11 at 0:52
    
I only discuss the rep system as a point that there are subsets of users who may exploit "rep". Albeit, it seems that it's quite difficult, now that I have managed to discuss with you all. Aside from the those who almost had a coronary at this discussion, it's been quite informative. –  giulio Feb 4 '11 at 1:02

I don't agree. I think users should not have to wait for any answer, and I don't think it would be productive to artificially delay "answer whores" from posting.

I do see your point that some people seem to be excessively driven to answer questions, but I just don't think that there should be anything done to prevent them from doing so.

Asking and answering questions is the whole point here, and the fact that there is such a short turnaround for good answers is a major (positive) part of the experience. It does not matter who answers the question, or how much rep they have, so long as their answer is correct and of good quality. Timeliness is just icing on the cake.

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I understand where you're coming from. Who cares how much rep you got. But I think that sometimes, people just answer "quick and dirty" to get points rather than with more consideration for the solution and the consequence is that other good participants will self-exclude out of attrition, thus limiting the knowledge pool. That's all. –  giulio Feb 3 '11 at 23:57
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@giuliocc I think the best participants actually assess the quality of the answer and post a more considerate answer if necessary. If the "quick and dirty" guy just wants the rep, it will show in the answer's quality. –  Jason Plank Feb 4 '11 at 0:14

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