I think there's a trend and am curious if others disagree:

The first person to respond to a new question has remarkable power of influence over everyone else who looks at the question.

If the first response is negative, then everyone else follows suit, similarly berating the asker for being too lazy or stupid to find an answer on their own. When a question gets a downvote to start, it's got to be a unusually good question to recover from there. It is only someone with authoritative knowledge, or rep, who can reverse such momentum once started.

If the first response is positive, then the herd follows, similarly encouraging the asker to provide more details, or take special note of some small portion of the documentation, or how to devise an adaption from similar questions. Even if it doesn't get an upvote, a positive sounding comment will garner others to cut a clueless idjit some slack.

Not that I would do such a thing, because I am always very patient and encouraging toward others, but I imagine it can be quite entertaining to direct a torrent of derision upon some poor unsuspecting school kid in response to his or her junior year homework question. Or, alternatively, to inspire love and happiness by gifting some of ones precious moments to compose a learners hint, or even to provide the full answer.

So, question is:

Is the power-of-the-first-responder a phenomenon that exists? That needs to be addressed? If so, how so?

  • 1
    Very interesting hypothesis (+1), I am curious about this as well, do have any specific examples for this?
    – user273376
    Oct 27, 2014 at 8:59
  • 1
    We'd expect that a good question is more likely to get a positive first response and a bad question more likely to get a negative one. Probably, we'd also expect a positive first response to more likely be on a good question and a negative first response to more likely be on a bad question. If you put those two together, you'd expect positiveness of the first-response and n-th response to be correlated. That plus confirmation bias, we need data to be sure the effect exists.
    – derobert
    Oct 30, 2014 at 20:26


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