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Fastest Gun in the West Problem
How can one answer questions in SO so fast?

I've been a member in SO for quite some time but I'm using it extensively for a couple of weeks. One thing that makes me go crazy is the speed at which an answer is provided to an open question: It's faster than the speed of light, literally. I must admit that in 95% of the cases, people who answer in no time answer precisely and in a professional manner.

Nevertheless, in 6 out of 10 questions related to my scientific field, I know the answer but I'm discouraged from publishing it because as I type I realize that somebody else has already answered closely to what I was thinking to answer. So I rollback, close my pc, drive away to some isolated place and start crying ( ;) )

On one hand this is very good for people seeking answers to their problems. One the other hand and regarding the SO's 'Reputation System' I have to raise a concern regarding its overall justice: Why the fastest can ever survive?

I know that this is more rhetorical question than a real one but I need to take feedback from the SO community before I quit my job ;)


Thank you all for your answers. I would imagine a more fair 'Reputation System' being to group all of the answers that really handle the topic in question (and obviously aren't copies or each other) to be flagged by a human-semi human-or bot-non-human and be marked as "Accepted" as soon as the user made the question marks any one of them or get rewarded an 'upvote' if anyone upvotes one of this group. Just thoughts nothing more.

  • 7
    Related to fastest-gun-in-the-west
    – juergen d
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:33
  • 5
    @juergend: damn you FGITW! You beat me again. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:34
  • 2
    "faster than the speed of light, literally" - literally - O RLY? ;-)
    – deceze
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:41
  • @deceze literally is used here metaphorically in order to emphasize the metaphor
    – pankar
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:43
  • 1
    Uhm, it's not really metaphorical either, it's just wrong, informal usage. That's a discussion for english.stackexchange.com though. Not meaning to extend this to a serious off-topic discussion... :)
    – deceze
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:46
  • @alex My question is more about the text in bold above rather than on how can the answers come so fast.
    – pankar
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:52
  • Might be, but it still should be closed; In my opinion, any of the close reasons would fit this question.
    – alex
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:54
  • There are quite a lot of questions out there which exist unanswered for much longer. I have a couple of email alerts I use on niche tags that I tend to answer several days after they were posted and I'm normally the first person to answer then.
    – Flexo
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 11:02
  • 1
    If you dislike it (I do), then Make first draft of a new answer part of the permanent revision history might want your vote.
    – Arjan
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 11:17
  • 2
    I felt the same way in the beginning but learned that even so, I can squeeze points just fine. Patience is the keyword. :) Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 12:06

3 Answers 3


I can feel your pain but I found a simple solution that works for me - I no longer care about my reputation and I focus on giving extended answers to the topics I am really good at. Sometimes I even answer to questions that already have an accepted but low-quality answer (by my own measures). I do feel uneasy editing others' answers and prefer to write new ones on my own and only downvote obviously bad answers.

Full disclosure: I've been in the academics in Eastern Europe for more than 10 years. It does help a lot in developing the habit of basically giving away knowledge for free without expecting proper credit back in return :)

  • 6
    Have an upvote, Sir.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 11:41
  • You make it sound like a bad thing. Knowledge should be free, everywhere. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 12:11
  • People are required to give you attribution when using your knowledge, which I would classify as proper credit. They are not required to give you reputation points, however. :)
    – yhw42
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 13:16
  • Maybe this is the best "solution" to the "problem"...
    – pankar
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 13:58
  • @yhw42, may be "credit" was not the appropriate term here... What I meant is "something that you get back in exchange for what you give". It could be proper salary, choco-cakes, reputation points, emails with lots of smilys, etc. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 14:14

Add an esoteric combination of tags, that you know a lot about, to your favourite tags and browse those questions.

  • Thanks. I already know that but it will not help me towards the direction of becoming the Usain Bolt of SO
    – pankar
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:47
  • 3
    @pankar just copy and paste the first answer that appears and then claim they copied you. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 10:55

Speed is indeed a factor, and the fastest correct answer tends to profit most from the question's initial exposure.

However, over time, the best answer usually wins (ie. is slowly but constantly upvoted towards the top).

Take your time, do research, add meaningful links, and explain things well. In the end, it will usually be honoured by the community!

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