One of the odd patterns I've noticed on SO goes something like this:

  • Person A asks a question.
  • Person B very quickly delivers the minimum viable answer, with minimal explanation.
  • B's answer starts to receive votes for being 'correct' even though it may not actually help the poster due to its sparseness.
  • Person C started composing their answer at the same time as B, but instead delivers a detailed, well thought out reply with examples and explanations. They receive fewer points due to the time difference since they took longer to compose their answer.
  • Person B then later edits their answer to include more detail to a similar quality as C's. People tend to be more generous with points to the earlier answer so the effect continues.

This strikes me as a cheap way of gaming the system for points by just making sure you have a 'correct' answer as soon as humanly possible to be available for votes.

My question is whether or not this is a behavior that should be discouraged or not, and if so - what could be done about it.

If there is a consensus that this is to be discouraged, I'd like to suggest that for very new question, for the first 15 minutes or so - answers given appear in a random order, and the number of points for each are not shown (except to moderators) and only the voting arrows appear - this would eliminate this kind of pattern I've identified and encourage higher quality answers out of the gate by eliminating order effects and the first poster advantage.

  • You might want to search Meta for "FGITW" or "Fastest Gun in the West".
    – Bart
    May 10, 2013 at 12:47
  • 4
    That is known as the Fastest Gun in the West: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9731/…
    – Josh Mein
    May 10, 2013 at 12:47
  • 3
    I'd love to know how someone is expected to know to search for that specific term before this question. It's not something I'd seen referenced before on SO.
    – PhonicUK
    May 10, 2013 at 12:49
  • 5
    Noone is saying you were supposed to know about it. We were just letting you know it exists. If you wrote your comment because of the downvotes, they are most likely because you seem to want to discourage quick answers.
    – Josh Mein
    May 10, 2013 at 12:50
  • What I really want is to encourage reward of detailed answers, although this almost certainly comes with discouraging quick answers.
    – PhonicUK
    May 10, 2013 at 12:53
  • As long as the short answer is improved, I don't see a problem with it. But if the answer is abandoned (for quick points) and the poster answers the next question this way, I don't like it. (but that is a different problem) May 10, 2013 at 12:53
  • 2
    @PhonicUK The consensus on this "problem" has long settled on the idea that it's "not a problem". Just read through the various discussions on the topic and you'll get an idea why that is so.
    – Bart
    May 10, 2013 at 12:56
  • If the FGITW crowd (which I merrily join on occasions) are gaming the system, then the solution is to game them back. Organise gang raids to upvote quality answers. Build queries to identify potential ones, develop browser plugins to lead people to them, make a Facebook group to draw attention to them (include questions and name it the Upvoteworthy Knowledge Defence League - sounds very wrong, though!), use the CC licence to build your own website (attributed) with only quality content. For (nearly) every problem on SO there is a mirrored opportunity.
    – Monolo
    May 10, 2013 at 13:40

3 Answers 3


In no circumstances do I want to discourage very quick, short, useful answers. One of SO's biggest strengths is people can sometimes get their questions answered in 30 seconds.


This is not a problem.

This strikes me as a cheap way of gaming the system for points by just making sure you have a 'correct' answer as soon as humanly possible to be available for votes. (emphasis mine)

That's a good thing! The person who asked the question then has an answer very quickly.

The person who posted the quick answer then edits his answer, making it better and better. Think of it this way: would you rather have a medium quality answer within seconds that turns into a high quality answer in a couple of minutes, or wait a couple of minutes with no answer at all before a high quality answer appears?

  • +1 Good/quick answers often turn into great ones over 5-10mins or even less.
    – nickhar
    May 10, 2013 at 13:28

If the fast answer is correct, then there is no problem.

The problem is the fast answer is actually incorrect, but looks correct at first glance. Some people just upvote it without checking the question and the answer carefully. The result is that the fast answer gets a number of upvotes for being the first.

The answerer can later change the answer to a correct one (if he is lucky enough to be informed before a rain of downvotes comes in). He stays at the top even though the earlier votes are for a (completely) different answer.

Source: myself as the fastest gunner.

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