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I feel like there's a problem with Stack Overflow, as the number of people prowling it increases.

Each question's answers are sorted by descending score and then by descending time of posting. This means that if a person sits down and answers a question in a long, thorough way, going through every nook and cranny, once they post their answer, it will already be one of about seven different ones, some of which have already been upvoted. This wouldn't be a problem if those answers were as thorough as the one this guy's posting, but they usually aren't. Some of them are downright wrong, some aren't even answers to the question asked because their poster didn't bother to read the question all the way through.

This causes a problem I like to call Stack Overflow's Fastest Gun in the West Problem. I've come to a point where I'd rather just send a short, simple, correct explanation, than to go and do some proper research, write a whole blog post about it or even make sure the code I post even compiles, just so it will be noticed, as opposed to the incorrect ones.

I'm sure I'm not the only one doing this and that it despairs many people from even trying to answer questions.

I've long ago learned to try to always raise a problem with a solution in hand, rather than just say "This is a problem, handle it," so my question, after this long tirade, is:

How do you think this can be changed? What would you change in Stack Overflow to make this problem go away without hurting the site?

I promise to vote on answers I like, even if it takes you a long while to post them. :)

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migrated from Jul 26 '09 at 13:52

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

create a quick answer, and then edit the detail in steps?? – Jonathan. May 24 '11 at 19:39
@Jonathan. That's still too bad, we're always in a hurry. – Ramy Al Zuhouri Jan 9 '13 at 3:33
I read the first two answers in descending score order (and their comments), then skimmed a bit more and grew weary of the topic. Are there great answers among the other 48 (as of now)? I don't expect I'll ever know. It's not in my nature to go hunting for under-appreciated answers, even though I've felt the sting of under-appreciation on S.O. – Griffin Oct 2 '14 at 14:14
This answer was practically identical to the accepted answer to the same question, but posted 10 seconds later. The accepted answer got 838 upvotes; the linked answer got 8 upvotes. There's no way in hell that the 8300 rep difference between what those answerers earned is fair or represents the value of their contributions. – Mark Amery Nov 8 '15 at 21:51

50 Answers 50

I think it's got to be down to the community to a large extent - and to the question owner.

Perhaps the question owner should be given more power to change the order of answers to a greater degree?

The only problem with that is that a lot of people asking questions will be 'drive-by' users, just wanting a quick answer to their problem. They're not the sort of user who will hang around to collate and manage responses.

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I think that this site has to become more like a wiki where many people add small contributions to existing answers instead of creating their own new answer. Unfortunately the reputation system as it is now doesn't really encourage this yet.

I understand from listening to the podcast that this is the direction the creators of Stack Overflow want to go too. Planned features like making questions and answers community editable would be a big step in the right direction.

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You're right. Although I ran into interesting interaction today - I deleted comments between I and another user that had no further use in the topic, and they tracked down my email and called me a censor - expecting that our off-topic conversation would last on Sof forever. People won't like edits. – Adam Davis Sep 11 '08 at 20:15
People don't like other people who judge, decide upon or have the authority to change/delete what they have done. – Bora May 18 '11 at 5:59

I agree to a point, although I have to guess that the site has not even come close to settling down. Users are still in a mad panic, scrabbling for reputation points and badges of any shade - what you are describing is bound to happen... initially.

It will calm down.

Having said that, I've noticed a pleasant tendency for people to vote for the actual best answer, most of the time.

Despite all the bilge posts, it seems the cream does often rise to the top!

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I agree, and fully admit to being guilty of this myself, on occasion. I have, thankfully, seen such 'answers' being modded down, but the level of this occurring varies hugely from question to question - some 'bad' answers are fairly quickly modded down, others are left, possibly, indefinitely.

I think the point about wiki-editing is significant. If the barrier was much lower, we'd get better quality answers, and people would also be less keen to run around, scrabbling for rep. I think Jeff's reservations about this are slightly too great - wikipedia has proven to work without such draconian restrictions.

I also think it would help a lot if up-voting also cost, just like down-voting does. Currently, there is nothing to discourage people from rushing around, blindly up-voting everything they come across.

UPDATE: I wonder if there should be a limit - either time, or number of views / votes / answers - before answers can be voted on at all ...

UPDATE: To clarify the delay concept: this would only apply to answers (but all answers), and could either be a 'reasonable' time to mask 'first posts' (e.g. 10 minutes), or could be dynamic based on number of answers, number of views, etc. "InSciTek Jeff" had a great idea relating to 'blind' votes (see question comments).

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I like the "I wonder if there should be a limit - either time, or number of views / votes / answers - before answers can be voted on at all ..." Jeff nuked an idea i posted to uservoice regarding a delay period for vote to be shown. "A pathology of its own", he said. – Stu Thompson Sep 14 '08 at 15:12

I agree too. I've done the same thing. Been waiting for a page to load so I can verify what I'm writing, but it's taking too long so I just post without the verification.

It does reduce the effectiveness of the site I think. Rather than have a few well written responses, you end up with 10 short half-baked answers.

I'm not sure how you'd fix this - what about a delay between the time you post? So it's not like you're all rushing to answer the question, because if there is a 30 minute delay before the post is viewed, you can safely assume someone else will have already answered the question.

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I completely agree. The pattern of a lot of questions and answers almost appear to look like reputation trading rather than providing quality information. Obviously this is an annectdotal opinion.

The system does appear to reward incomplete but quick answers.

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...and does not reward those who think an answer out completely. – Stu Thompson Sep 14 '08 at 15:14

I think that a time buffer is a solution, but the buffer should, instead of buffer the appearance time of the answers, decide when people can vote. Answers will appear as they are being written, but votes can be issued after a half hour or ten minutes, whatever.

Given that you won't be upvoted in that period of time you know you can take 10 minutes or a half hour to prepare the answer.

The saddest part of it all is: What is reputation actually good for? I mean, besides a little ego trip? I'm as guilty as the next guy, but it's still sad.

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Yes, rep is definitely a head trip. But it's also tied to rights, and there are obviously a lot of users who are eager to contribute and make the site better. I was so excited when I could retag! Yes, it is sad. – harpo Sep 11 '08 at 14:29

A related problem is the fact that when a question already had 10+ answers, an answer with new information given at this time tends to get lost in the clutter in the bottom and not get the exposure it deserves.

One possibility would be to position an answer based on both its rating and its "age" (for lack of a better word), giving recent but already voted answers a place before older answers with a similar rating.

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But it's not the default, nor - necessarily - the 'best' way of viewing answers. The types of answers referred to will still suffer bias. – Bobby Jack Sep 11 '08 at 10:09

Here's what I have noticed and tried as well:

Put a one-liner real quick, and then edit the answer and add more details. But this is not a solution to the problem. Once again, the only reason I would do this is because if I am spending time to put out a well-constructed answer, I would like it to be read.

For a solution the (programmer's) mind suggests that you should take a token to begin an answer, and then the answers are posted in the order the token was taken regardless of who submits first. Of course, there can be many problems around this.

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I feel that it works fairly well as it is. Using the default sort of newest first, the long thorough answer will show up first for the answers with the same vote. I do think that the 'best' answer will in most cases end up at the top of the list. If a user browsing the site really care about finding a good solution to a problem then they will look at all the answers and vote up the one(s) that prove useful.

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Another possibility that might help is to give users a better view into what changed recently around their votes. I haven't yet found a good way to see all Q&As I voted on that have changed. Having that, it'd be easier to review one's votes, which in turn might lead to long-term improvements in vote quality.

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Good answers will rise up. Don't worry, post a helpful answer that does not exceed half a page. Instead of "read this" or "link to that", be objective and comprehensive. Also, the first/last line (bold) as fast as possible should be the direct answer to the OP's question. These kind of answers will be rewarded with votes.

As for not reading all the way down, well it's your loss if you don't read all the answers to find the gem. Someone else definitely will. So post and help away!

Hey I made my first 1000, so post! post! post! Just kidding. 'The work is its own reward' as Jeff likes to quote.

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One thing that could possibly help in this case would be to force the "Oldest" sorting mode for the question owner so he goes through all the answers.

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i raised a user voice for exactly this, much like a forum, there is value in being forced (as much as you can force anyone) to read the answers people have provided rather than lazily upvoting the top answer because it's there.. – flesh Dec 10 '08 at 19:01

I've noticed myself reacting to this too, although I try to mitigate against it as much as possible.

I sometimes try and post a short correct answer as quickly as possible to kind of "mark" the question with my answer to discourage other similar answers. I then I would edit my answer to improve it, using the 5 minutes grace period to edit without it appearing as an edit (although I'll still carry on editing after then if I can improve it, I just use the grace period to edit without worrying about writing edit descriptions).

Conversely, if I find someone has answered the question while I was writing my answer, and I don't feel my answer adds anything, then I've deleted my answer on occasion, although if I provide a link and the previous answer doesn't I'd leave mine. Once I can edit I'd be inclined to remove my answer and add the link to the other answer. Since comments were added I've also been adding to answers by commenting on them, again, once I've got edit rights I might edit directly for simple improvements (adding links, spelling, grammar, formatting, etc.) and just use comments for actual comments.

I've also learnt a few of the keyboard shortcuts for the edit box (hover over the buttons to see them on the tooltips.) The shortcut I use the most is CTRL+L to add a link to selected text. That makes it much quicker to write a quick answer with a few useful links in it.

I've also taken the attitude that there is also a long game to be played. If you can provide a better answer then the initial rush of points that the first answers got is possibly just the tip of the iceberg and there's probably much more points "underwater" to be made once the site is indexed by Google and we start finding answers to questions in Google search results. (although the fact that new users can't vote straight away - you need +15 rep to upvote - might mitigate against this.)

Update: for a really good description of how the long game will play out and why the fastest gun answers aren't a problem see Adam Davis's Answer.

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That's exactly what I do, too. However, once you hit submit the 5-minute clock starts ticking, so your short answer only gets as good as you can make it in 5 minutes. – Kyle Cronin Sep 11 '08 at 14:13
the link is broken in here. – Rosinante Dec 14 '09 at 18:55

You could let old answers "fade away", unless someone votes on them and they are not one of the top n answers. Hacker News uses this technique to gray out downvoted comments so you can ignore the bad answers and focus on the good ones.

But I guess the better way would be to change the culture of Stack Overflow:

  • If you ask a question, you should own the answering process. Vote, comment and clarify heavy on the answers. People will see that you care and keep answering even on older questions.
  • As a reader, use voting more deliberately. Especially the downvote-button is useful to push new answers above inaccurate old ones.
  • Too many rules are confusing and rarely the solution to more than one specific problem. Provide a framework with few, simple rules and let the community do the rest.

Yes, I know: if we don't have all these safeguards in place, the barbarians will burn down the town, once we open up the gates. But a lot of the rules are there to make things nicer, not safer.

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Just a preference, but I think downvotes should only be used for incorrect or misleading answers. Upvotes should be used to push the cream up, and ownvotes to push the rotten items down, but I wouldn't want people to downvote a question when it applies just because it's not as good as another... – Adam Davis Sep 11 '08 at 14:51
Once we get out of beta yo'll see far less than 10% of the viewers voting. It would be great if everyone voted often for all good answers, but it's either human nature or culture that we really only vote up the best one if it's currently an underdog, or really exceptional - votes are scarce. -Adam – Adam Davis Sep 11 '08 at 15:22

I think that it works ok the way it is. What is the problem of 10 short answers BEFORE yours if yours is good? In the end, people will hopefully vote yours up.

Out of my mind a few things thay may help are:

The asker may have the ability to "hide" certain useless answers, or the ability to MERGE two (or more) answers into one single text, making it easier for the reader to follow the answers. Like "The Answer" is conformed with text from answer1,2,3,4 and 5. Preserving the author's name for each "part" of "The Answer". (Sorta like SVN Blame) ;)

Some sort of visual cue indicators that "help" the reader to see that there are more good answers "below". And stuff like that.

Maybe all this makes no sense at all. :)

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If there are 10 short answers before a good and correct one, then that good and correct one will be on the second page that no one reads. – Josef Sep 11 '08 at 13:37
While I like the idea of letting the OP hide or merge (or otherwise define the sorting/visibility) of answers, I think you are neglecting the lemming mentality we seem to see with new questions and their respective answers. The OP should not have to actively manage posts in thread for the first day – Stu Thompson Sep 14 '08 at 15:23

The central problem here is that while there might be several answers to a given question, in an ideal world there would only be one representative of each answer, rather than a whole muddle of similar duplicates.

Obviously we want our answer to be that representative. Our fear is that if we spend too long composing the definitive response someone else will get there first - and if they 'win' they'll get the rep (and, of course, the rep will be going to another answer that can't be as good as ours).

I like the ideal of good answers rising, but what we actually need here is probably some concept of answer merging.

It's probably not for the questioner to make the decision, they can accept an answer but there should be some mechanism for respondees to be able to merge another's answer into theirs and the product would be owned by the community wiki.

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Many comments here refer to the wikification of the answering process: Merging comments, editing each other's comments, etc.

As far as I see it, we're talking about two different types of sites here: Collaborative and Competitive.

  • a Collaborative site is one where the strive is to reach the correct answer for the sake of the correct answer, without regard for selfish advancement. Everyone selflessly adds input, comments on each other's input, etc.
  • a Competitive site is one in which each contributor's work is measured and compared to others'. This is the approach which brings more user involvement (who doesn't want another badge?), but has some other downsides to it too.

SO is a competitive site, rewarding each of its members for their individual effort, so I'm looking for answers that go more along those lines.

I don't pretend to try and change the whole perspective of how the site operates to being a collaborative site.

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I have been thinking about this problem for some time but didn't find good solution.

Since reputation system exists people want to get some reward for their answers. As number of users growth, number of duplicate answers will grow as well.

One of the useful features would be a real-time update on question's answers while you're writing your own answer. It can be implemented in the same way as search, but "search result" should be updated every N seconds/minutes. That way I can clearly see that some one else post similar answer.

Another feature that I find to be useful is merging - as @Unsliced suggested. There must be a way to merge similar answers. However it's not clear who should do it and how to divide reputation points between answering people.

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I think SO is not only competitive. The competition is just an incentive to -in the end- provide a good (if not the best) source of information for programmers, written by programmers. The reputation feeds two things: you own ego and the confidence of the one who's reading an answer when it sees that it comes from a "guy who's not a newbie in the site and knows what he's talking about". Ot at least, you could change all that quote to: "a guy who has been hanging aroung a lot of time in SO". (which doesn't mean he's good). Badges kind of help with that. You could have 10.000 rep points, and little good badges, or 1000 rep and a few silver…

In either case, time will tell. I think that this is both competitive and collaborative with strong and weak points in each.

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Could an answer's length be factored into the sorting algorithm somehow? How about letting the reader choose how they want their answers sorted? Much like I can go to Best Buy or Circuit City's sites and sort my search answers by brand, price, or alphabetically, I might be inclined to sort my answers descending by length if given the option... at least as a short-term experiment, although if I find the quality of answers to be better that way, I might just leave it like that forever.

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And it is easy to cheat. – Ladybug Killer Sep 11 '08 at 14:34

I think macbirdie is on to something. I would recommend a slight enhancement, though:

  • for questions that have no answer marked as "the answer" by the question-asker, sort by "oldest" as the default
  • for question that do have at least one answer marked as "the answer," sort first by "the-answer?" then by "votes", then by "newest" (the current scheme)
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This is a very valid problem, which I have been thinking a lot too. I have some ideas for this.

Redesign ranking functionality a bit. People can upvote (good ones can range from 1-10) or downvote (bad ones will always show as -1) but users will NOT be able to see their actual rep scores.

Use only Badges (or Grades) for display. Ranking can be used internally to determine the badges but the user will never see his rep points.

This has a psychological effect. Instead of posting a quick reply and refreshing the screen for the rep points to shoot up, users will try to write a more useful and conservative reply with code samples and will know they will get more points in the long run.

Allow users who posted the question to only Accept the answer after a day. If you want to get too draconian, allow him to accept only after upvoting or downvoting all the existing answers. :)

To eliminate fastest gun replies, answers will show up only after 5 minutes. That way, even if 10 quick guns are composing replies and posting, all those answers will show up at the same time. This will negate people to post quick replies and allow them to think at least for 5 minutes.

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Following on from Omer's distinction between a Collaborative site and a Competitive site...

It would seem that we need the best of both worlds. There's nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition so that people strive to produce timely, high quality answers. However, we don't want the answer to be lost between several people's contributions. Certainly marking answers up and down helps the good stuff filter through to the top, but if there's lots of good answers you really need a combined view.

I suggest the question owner take on (at least initially) driving the collaborative element and start the 'wikificiation' process of combining the best bits of several answers into (drum roll) the answer.

The question owner can do this today by adding another answer, but really it's an additional feature that should be put into the tool.

I'd say that most (90%?) of questions wouldn't need this extra step, but where there are several high quality answers having a single point that draws them together would be excellent.

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You have some interesting point. It will be nice to differentiate answers by various criteria, not only by votes count. Length of the answer can matter for me. Event if it's wrong, it serves as an indication that person spent some time thinking on his answer.

For example, when I browse through answers I'm interesting not only in "common opinion" but in experts decision. I don't care how much "reputation" answered person has. But I'm interested in his skill in given technology. For example there might be a little statistics attached to answer - total votes, how much people with average score per answer (with same\similar tags) > N voted, etc. Of course there might be a case when someone with tiny "reputation" provides best answer. But it's really a matter of statistics. Probability that quality of answer given by "experts" would be good is quite high. I prefer to not see "reputation" of answering person. In my opinion "reputation" doesn't matter, but specific skill does.

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Early in my experience on Stack Overflow my gut reaction to this issue was that it was a problem. I also hadn't asked any questions at that time. I soon changed my mind. I believe over time that the most correct answers do bubble up to the top.

If I ask the question I will be reading all the answers no matter what order they are in. As someone looking for an answer I will most likely be doing the same thing. To me what order they are in and how much they have been upvoted doesn't really matter if I need the information.

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I do NOT want to, in any way, discourage the quick and dirty answer.

I've asked questions that have received an immediate answer with enough information to get me past my block, but not served on a platter as you propose, with all the information I might need.

This is extraordinarily helpful - I know I can post something on here, day or night, and get an answer within minutes, often seconds, that will be better than searching through books, online, etc, even though it's a throw-away post that took someone 35 seconds, who may have only answered for the reputation. If it's at all helpful, I upvote it.

Later on I'll review my question again and select the answer that is what I consider the best of the bunch (I try and wait a day or so for long answers like you provide).

But I DO NOT want to 'adjust' the system to discourage short quick answers, or make long thoughtful answers that come a day late so highly valued that no one posts the short ones anymore.


Let's look at it from the perspective of what the site is supposed to be:

A long term repository of searchable, free, and freely editable information.

In the long run, it doesn't matter if the long, good answers don't get the initial rush of votes. They will ultimately go to the top because

  • There are generally few answers per question, so future searchers will read the entire post and may upvote the better answer. The special case of the question with tons of answers is just that - a special case, and it will be gamed and mined for rep a dozen ways from Tuesday, so it's not worth fixing - it's less than 1% of total content - don't design the system around the special case, or else all your cases will become special.

  • Once someone posts a new answer, the post gets a new chance to be on the front page, which will entice some more people to see it that haven't - they'll upvote the good, long answer at the bottom of the page if they feel it's better than what was initially offered.

  • The person who initially asked the question will often come back later and review it, and if your post is truly the better answer they'll select it as the new accepted answer.

A key point, though, is that if someone is looking for the information later, they'll read all the answers unless it's obvious that the first one is good enough for their purposes.

So that completely guts your argument that it's important that the longer, complete answers should get a boost to the top, somehow. The only reason left to complain about the tradeoff between short posting and long posting, then, is because you may not get as much of the initial rep as you would otherwise.

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I disagree too. Even in beta there are enough new questions that old answered questions get rotated off the front page. Most of your argument assumes that the person who asked the question performed due diligence to maintain that question. I don't think that happens as much as it should do. – tonylo Sep 11 '08 at 17:49
tonylo, the main problem being discussed here is that there's a lot of initial activity on a question, most of which makes spending time on a great answer less advantageous. So the issue is really only with questions that will stay on the front page and deciding whether to make a great post or not. – Adam Davis Sep 11 '08 at 20:13
Taking your stance as valid, I think there is still an issue whereby most question-posters will not come back a day+ later to upvote/select the best answer. If there was some [more obvious / greater] incentive to do that then I could agree with you more completely. – Sparr Sep 20 '08 at 2:07
The bounty system is working very well to give the detailed long answers a chance for great rep increases... – Adam Davis Jan 28 '09 at 17:19
I disagree. As to your key point, I don't think people who come much later read through all the answers and upvote the good ones. A more likely scenario is that they go through the first couple of answers, because in the mind of that person, the first couple of answers probably a) are the best b) contain 80% of the information one would get by reading all of the answers, which might take considerable time. That person is not likely to review all the answers, even if the first couple do not contain all the details he cares about. Would you start from the middle or end of the list of answers?? – allyourcode Mar 8 '10 at 2:12
In that case, the quick and dirty answers that start at the top tend stay there, and the carefully thought-out ones tend to stay near the bottom. You can't dismiss this by saying "when that happens, it means the quick and dirty answers are deserve to be on top". The problem is that quick and dirty answers benefit from a positive feedback loop: the higher an answer is in the list, the more likely someone is to view and upvote it. Long and thorough answers, on the other hand, have to fight an uphill battle in order to gain attention, a prerequisite for upvotes. – allyourcode Mar 8 '10 at 2:21
@allyourcode - but if the quick and dirty answer is right and sufficient to resolve the issue, then who is to say that the longer, more ponderous message is righter or sufficienter than the quick and dirty answer? Why do people hold so tightly to the idea that a longer, perhaps even more complete answer, is better than the shorter answer which also resolves the problem, and has come earlier to boot? Keep in mind that we're not talking about wrong answers. Both are right. – Adam Davis Mar 8 '10 at 15:02
@allyourcode - further, my own experience shows that longer posts which come later still receive significant upvotes over time. Otherwise the necromancer badge would never be awarded. People still vote on posts I made 2 years ago. Your assumption that people don't go back and upvote posts, even shown way down on the page, is flat out wrong. But don't take my word for it - examine the data dump and draw your own conclusions. – Adam Davis Mar 8 '10 at 15:09
It's not necessarily about "length". No one is suggesting that word or char count be used as the sort criterion. As for "this is sufficient, therefore it should win", you're assuming that every answer that reaches some threshold of completeness is just as good. I completely disagree. – allyourcode Mar 15 '10 at 21:11
re Pollyanna's second point: I do not doubt that people look at all answers to old questions occasionally, and upvote the better ones, but I think that's rare. One of the points that I'm trying to make is that there's alot of room for improvement when the desired outcome is requires a whole series of rare occurrences. – allyourcode Mar 15 '10 at 21:16
Even though I encourage quick and dirty answers, better (and later) answers should triumph over quick and dirty the long run. But "in the long run" is not good enough for right now. The underlying problem is that questions with one up-voted post are considered "answered". Early upvoted posts build momentum by being shown first and allot the question as "answered", discouraging delayed higher-quality posts which would provide better information to all future viewers, but which can never build the same momentum as the first quick and dirty answer. – pate Feb 11 '11 at 18:29
@Tom - but a brilliant answer released at 11am is worth more than a bad answer at 10:45am. – Martin Capodici Jul 31 '14 at 22:11
I would even say a good answer posted after 4 minutes is worth more than a placeholder posted after 3 minutes (which got edited to a mediocre answer after 11 minutes and accepted as the fastest after 15 minutes.) – Robert Aug 5 '14 at 6:56
Part of the problem here is that the placeholder answers appear within the grace period as the "first legitimate answer". The logical reasoning of the questioner would dictate that given two roughly similar answers, the first one posted should be accepted. However, often times, the first one posted wasn't the first to actually answer, and either edited later or even plagiarized another answer. There's nothing wrong with quick & dirty answers - if they actually answer the question. – crush Aug 27 '14 at 18:37

@Adam: I appreciate your argument, but I respectfully disagree.

I find that now there's a flood of answers within minutes. Yes, it used to be one fast and several later, but now it's 2-5 immediately, often with very similar information, often with shallow, trivial information. I picked a random question current at the time of this comment, and you can see this effect for yourself.

These linger around forever. Usually people don't down-vote, perhaps because of the combination of losing rep and having just 30 votes per day.

I also disagree that "if someone is looking for the information later, they'll read all the answers." I don't think people carefully look through all the answers, and again I don't think they'll be down/up-voting as they go.

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I do my best to answer with the detail that I find is appropriate. In my limited experience, I have found that the "fastest draw" does get some up votes and initially my post falls beneath them. However, I find that if your answer truly has more value than any of the other answers, yours will quickly get voted much higher than the previous ones.

Here's an example of this in action. Eric's post was correct, but little more than a code snippet. I decided it's better to teach someone to fish rather than to catch it for them so I explained why the code snippet worked. By the time my explanation was finished, Eric had 3 or 4 up-votes. Notice how over time, my answer got more votes than Eric.

I think SO corrects this itself. I browse answered questions from time to time and up-vote the good responses, particularly when the post teaches me something I didn't know. There's not really a solution to this problem, other than hiding the reputation number so people won't be carefully calculating their every move to maximize their reputation boost. If you decide that the up-vote is more important than providing the best answer, then you are part of the problem. If instead you'd rather be known for always providing a detailed and correct answer, I think you'll find that the "problem" evaporates.

I'm here to help other people and get help myself; reputation is just an arbitrary score that indicates how many times I've had the most interesting/correct/accepted answer to a question.

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Maybe there could be a "challenge" to the selected answer. So the person asking a question gets a response and marks that as their answer, even though it may, for whatever reason, be an invalid answer. Part of it could be by adding a comment to the "selected answer" but those are somewhat buried to anyone reading the answer.

If there were a way to show that there is some dispute/challenge from people other than the questioner that the selected answer is the best answer, it should foster some discussion and perhaps even cause the questioner to change their selected answer.

Of course, this way lay flame wars, perhaps, but I'm just using this as a starting point.

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protected by Jeff Atwood Aug 8 '11 at 5:13

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