I ask this from the perspective of someone asking a question. And this is somewhat inspired by a question that I asked earlier today on Stack Overflow. This is based on my observations today of the question I asked and how quickly it moved down the chain.,

When I come on a couple times a day to see if I can lend my knowledge to answer a question, I will typically look over, at most, the first two or three pages of questions. Assuming that a person has their settings at 50 questions per page, a question remains on each page for about 10 minutes. I would guess that this is probably a good mid-range guess for others as well. Some will view more, some less.

But going by my estimate I have about 30 minutes in which I might get an answer before it drifts off into a nether region where the only people who will ever see it are those who might be asking a similar question and have it pop up in the list to the right, or that small group of people who will do a tag search to see if they can answer questions on a specific discipline.

Either way, if I haven't gotten an answer in 30 minutes (you know, while I'm waiting for my pizza to be delivered...), the odds of getting an answer would seem to drop off dramatically. Thankfully, for my question this time I got a couple great answers, but that hasn't always been the case.

Would Stack Overflow benefit from being broken out into smaller exchanges that are more focused around specific disciplines?

  • sql.stackoverflow.com
  • dotnet.stackoverflow.com
  • java.stackoverflow.com
  • etc.
share|improve this question
12  
"that small group of people who will do a tag search to see if they can answer questions on a specific discipline" - Judging by how people use their favorite tags and what I always hear about tag feeds, I have a feeling that this population is far larger than you're imagining. –  Grace Note Jun 17 '11 at 17:01
1  
Regarding your suggestion, check out this meta post: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/94591/… –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 17 '11 at 17:01
    
For finding questions you can answer, have you tried the homepage? It was changed to try to show you more questions you might be interested in. –  Jon Seigel Jun 17 '11 at 17:24
    
I hang out in the [regex] and [linq] tags all the time. I doubt I'm alone. –  Justin Morgan Jun 17 '11 at 19:08
1  
@Grace Note: You can favorite a tag? How do you do this? I did not realize there was any way of specifically "following" a tag, besides using the RSS feed (which adds a bit of a barrier), and I guess the OP did not either. –  grautur Jun 18 '11 at 5:40
    
Thanks for everyone's input. I appreciate everyone's views and for pointing out a couple features I was unaware of due to how I've always used SO not taking advantage, or making me aware of them. –  BBlake Jun 20 '11 at 12:02
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Would Stack Overflow benefit from being broken out into smaller exchanges that are more focused around specific disciplines?

This is exactly what favourite and ignored tags help you do. What's more, if you go here you'll see all the questions, ordered by votes, that do not have an accepted answer, only in your tags and definitely not including anything in your ignored tags.

This way, the way I see Stack Overflow I very rarely see anything .NET related, unless it's mis-tagged. I can look there for unanswered things, or as often, just use the home page - it won't show me anything I don't want to see.

What's more, did you know that if you edit your question, or somebody answers it, it goes back on the home page? Also, every so often, a user called Community bumps it to the home page automatically.

Finally, also remember there are badges for providing answers to old questions and a general reputation incentive too (given it'll get its 30 minutes of fame on the home page again).

Also, this experience is different for different tags. For example, in C, where I answer a fair amount, off the top of my head I can name a few of the regular users. I can name one or two of the regulars from C++ too. No question goes long without an answer. However, the complexity of C is such that... it isn't that complicated. This is why the same core people answer the same set of questions. C++ is pretty complicated, but again, there are a core of people answering the lower level questions and again, there is little time between answers.

Contrast this to Django, another tag I lurk in. If I ask a question in Django I typically wait a day or three because Django is, as a domain, far more complicated, so it takes longer for my question to end up on the screen of someone who understands what I want to do and has done it before.

Or Python. I know nothing about Tkinter, for example, and I've done very little with Matplotlib, but I know Django pretty well. So Python as a domain is a big space.

So, it depends on the tag and/or area of interest you've got. It also depends on the level of question you ask.

But if there's anywhere you're likely to get an answer from an expert without the obligatory clutter, noise and distracted discussion of a phpBB forum, it's here.

share|improve this answer
add comment

You got an answer in 17 minutes, and another in 23 minutes. There's a graph someone made some time ago that shows the time between asking a question and the first answer received, and the vast majority of questions are, in fact, provided with an answer within minutes of being asked. It trails of into a long tail after that, and there are still questions around that haven't been answered for more than a year. But the salient point is that as questions grow, so do potential answerers.

Yes, your question may only appear on the front page for a few minutes, but due to the tag system, interesting tags, and the way the front page is automatically customized to show questions you might know the answer to, the reality is that everyone's question gets enough time to find an answer.

If the system becomes unbalanced, and there are truly more questions being asked per second than answers being given, then we'll run into the problem you describe. The fact that many questions are getting multiple answers, however, suggests that we still have more people answering than asking.

share|improve this answer
add comment

When I come on a couple times a day to see if I can lend my knowledge to answer a question, I will typically look over, at most, the first two or three pages of questions. Assuming that a person has their settings at 50 questions per page, a question remains on each page for about 10 minutes. I would guess that this is probably a good mid-range guess for others as well. Some will view more, some less.

But going by my estimate I have about 30 minutes in which I might get an answer before it drifts off into a nether region where the only people who will ever see it are those who might be asking a similar question and have it pop up in the list to the right, or that small group of people who will do a tag search to see if they can answer questions on a specific discipline.

It sounds like you might not be aware of this homepage change, which is quite significant:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/stack-overflow-homepage-changes/

As of today, we’ve rolled this change out based on your feedback. On Stack Overflow (and only Stack Overflow) the default home page tab has changed from active to interesting. The goal is no longer to show you a simple flat list of the last (n) active questions — that’s not even possible any more based on sheer question volume — but, instead, to narrow the list to a subset of active questions that we think you will be interested in.

share|improve this answer
    
You are correct that I was unaware of that. All of my SE browser bookmarks default to the questions tab because I was seldom interested in what was active, but rather what was new. I don't visit the blog that often. I shall have to update my bookmark for SO. I should think that's a change that most would want to enacted on all the SE sites, but that's a different discussion. –  BBlake Jun 20 '11 at 11:58
add comment

This phenomenon is actually opportunity in disguise. It means that there is a lot of questions that need answers, so that you can always find questions to be answered. The sky's the limit.

share|improve this answer
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .