I'm only posting this as a discussion point. Since I think it's healthy for a community to discuss things like this. Even if the idea in particular is perhaps a bad one.

This is an idea for fastest gun in the west.

What if there was a mechanism of some sorts that would allow a person with an X amount of rep to claim first answer to a question?

He would then have an arbitrary length of time to answer the question. If he does so within that time limit. His answer would be posted as the first answer.

If he does not, he would suffer a reputation penalty.

He could at any point within the limit cancel the claim and then anyone else could grab the claim.

This mechanism would only be active if there is no answer to the question. And only one claim can be done per question. And a user can only have one active claim in the system.

I would love to hear from you guys if you think in a system like SO if this could work. If so, what values would you place on the variables above. If not, why?

5 Answers 5


I find this is a horrible idea.

Users with high rep, don't need help getting more rep. This just discriminates against newer, lower-rep users (because, let's face it, being the first answer is a huge advantage).

  • Good point. How about if you adjusted the rep setting so only people with X to Y rep could use this? So high and very low rep people could not use this. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:47
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    Being the first right answer is a huge advantage... Commented Aug 3, 2009 at 0:44

I'm not sure that i see the point... Let me see if i understand what you're proposing:

You happen upon a question, and reserve the first spot. Then begin writing up an answer. You have some idea of what the answer is, but need to test your idea, so it takes you a while...

Then i happen upon a question. I know the answer, type it up, post it, and it shows up - first and only answer.

Ten minutes later, the OP hasn't returned to accept or dispute my answer, and no one cares enough to upvote it. You, having finished testing your answer, post it. It shows up above mine. They're both good answers, but now yours sorts first. Eventually, the OP returns, sees yours first, confirms it's correct, and accepts it.

I just wasted my time.

Alternately, if someone had up-voted my answer prior to you completing your answer... or the OP had shown up and accepted it... i'd have held the top spot anyway under the default sort conditions. Same situation we have now.

Alternately, if i'd rushed to post a quick answer, and posted a lousy explanation as a result, the OP might have disputed it, down-voted it, or otherwise dismissed it... and then read and accepted yours. Same situation we have now.

Finally, if i'd rushed a quick and dirty answer in, but immediately edited it to add more info / a better explanation / snazzy drawings... and took only 4 minutes 59 seconds to do this... But you'd finished your answer in less time... Then you'd hold the top spot, while my gaming would have been in vain.

IMHO, this is the only scenario where what you propose holds potential for some improvement over what we have now.

So, we get one scenario where the new system is arguably worse than the existing system, and one where it's an improvement. Pretty much a wash, IMHO.

There's been a re-occurring suggestion for "... is writing an answer" notifications. I suspect this would have the same potential advantage (allowing users to avoid stepping on each other's toes), without either the complexity or the potential downside of this one. Of course, there are other downsides...

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    +1 Very well done answer Shog9 :) I like these kind of discussions. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 23:14

The point is that we all have equal footing to answer questions. Why put the barrier to entry of our community any higher? A newbie's answer is given as much weight as that of Jon Skeet's, as far as the system is concerned.

Putting something like this in place would give the notion of elitism and egalitarianism that really has no place on a user-generated Q&A site.

Secondarily, it takes away competition, and that's just part of the fun!

  • That's why I didn't specify any of the variables. It could be that low rep users would benefit from this as a boost to begin with. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:52

I definitely think it is an interesting idea, but I would be afraid that there are too many things which could potentially go wrong with it (or provide unnecessary advantage to a certain group of users no matter where you set the range) for it to be of consideration.

  • That's why I posted this as a discussion so we could discuss and learn why this is a good or a bad idea. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:52


First off, It would eventually be a battle of who has the fastest browser. Not even reactions, just the fastest browser. Because someone would decide to write a greasemonkey script that let you click on a question title and claim it as fast as possible.

We are programmers ... We do stuff like that.

Even without scripts, it would be annoying because all the new questions would be locked up almost immediately.

Someone could claim 5 questions at a time and provide a 15 word BS answer, get their rep back, delete the answer, and go about their way. This would be extremely annoying if someone decided that they wanted to have first shot at every question.


  • Only allow one claim per question.
  • You lose 10 rep no matter what, but if you answer gets picked you get 25 back
  • Give the Asker an option to make it a 'Fastest Gun' mode. You must have higher than X rep to enable it though.
  • The idea is that if you claim, the claim is gone. I perhaps didnt detail that enough in the question. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:50
  • You said that if you give up a claim, the other people can reclaim it. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:51
  • If you claim, no one else can. If you give up the claim, someone else can take it. But the whole system is only active when there are no answers. So if someone answers and the other guy gives up the claim. Then the claiming functionality would go away. Same if the timer runs out and there are answers. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:55
  • Fair enough, I updated with my new take on it. I still think it would just turn into a 'who can get the claim first' thing. Commented Aug 2, 2009 at 21:57

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