Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

I know that the "fastest gun" problem has been discussed many times, but I'm not sure if anyone has proposed this solution. To me, it seems that the root of the problem is that answering easy, new questions is the best way to gain reputation at StackO.

When a problem gets old (which is really fast!), no one wants to bother answering it because they are afraid that the poster has found an independent solution or has lost interest in the question, making their "investment" not worthwhile. And of course, old questions are also less visible.

Of course the problem is, most truly challenging questions are ignored, and StackOverflow has become a site where people race to blurb one sentence solutions to easy questions. Over time, users become disillusioned about the possibility of getting more in-depth help.

Anyway, I think we need an algorithm where we reward people for answering more difficult questions, not just the latest questions. There are many ways to rank how "difficult" a question is:

  • The ratio of views to answers
  • The ratio of age to answers
  • The ratio of question upvotes to answers
  • The size of any bounty
  • A combination of all three
share|improve this question
Re: "most truly challenging questions are ignored" -- I completely disagree. These questions often get lots of attention. – PengOne Jul 11 '11 at 1:15
I agree with PengOne. Also, your first two criteria could describe boring or confusing questions. – Josh Caswell Jul 11 '11 at 2:16
@Josh: That's why the algorithm needs to be a weighted combination of these factors. Regardless, my point is not to say that I have discovered the best algorithm but rather to establish that an effort is needed to encourage people to answer older and more difficult questions. – T Nguyen Jul 11 '11 at 3:30
@PengOne: Well we could disagree with each other all day and it's hard to quantify these things exactly, but my experience with StackO is that, if I ask a simple question, it gets answered within the first five minutes. If I ask a harder question and it doesn't get answered within the first few hours, it will never get answered. And IMHO, I'm a very good question asker - I provide code examples, detailed info, etc. – T Nguyen Jul 11 '11 at 3:44
I think this depends on the tags ... in the smaller tags, you often will get answers later. (For example, I regularly try to check my favorite tags for unanswered questions, and try to answer them (or find the missing information). This works better in smaller tags, of course, than in big tags like Java, where the questions are away from the first page before I see them. – Paŭlo Ebermann Jul 11 '11 at 12:42

These sites aren't places to find people to do research for you. These sites are places to find people who already know the answer. There are people all around the clock hovering over the new question, just itching to answer (and collect some rep). If you post a question that is so obscure that none of them know the answer, or so poorly worded that none of them can figure out the question, it is going to end up in oblivion, or closed.

It is, I claim, more amazing to see the number of 'gosh can someone debug my program' questions that get answered in spite of their lack of focus.

share|improve this answer
What you're saying is actually in defense of what I'm saying. If a question is at all obscure (whether by natural difficulty or whatever), people tend to ignore. It's not worth their "time" when that time could be better spent hovering over new questions. A lot of those more obscure questions are eminently answerable, but requires some thinking and yes, some research, on the part of the answerer. Good answers do take some research to make sure you are saying something correct, maybe try a quick code example to verify what you're proposing, etc. – T Nguyen Jul 11 '11 at 23:41
That's not to say that StackO is a place to have other people do research for you, but it's also wrong to have a site which encourages the attitude of "If I don't know the answer off the top of my head, I won't even bother to help". This is why I find that StackO has become less useful for me, because most of my easier questions I could ultimately answer myself but when I have something more challenging, I almost never get any help. Is this the kind of site we want? – T Nguyen Jul 11 '11 at 23:41
@T I disagree. Problems that are quite obscure are answered. I wrote 'so obscure'. Rep is not going to make people go off and do large amounts of work. – Rosinante Jul 12 '11 at 0:55
I don't understand what you mean when you say that "problems that are quite obscure are answered." There are many slightly obscure or difficult questions that are never answered. This is the category that we need to improve upon. I'm not looking to increase the level of question answered from 3 (where I feel we are at today) to 10, more like 3 to 6. And by the way, rep makes people do all sorts of things - like spend hours a day answering questions for free on StackO!!! Give people a digital biscuit and they will roll over and beg for it. – T Nguyen Jul 12 '11 at 1:26

You must log in to answer this question.

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