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Would it be possible to program an alert where a bar would pop-up (similar to "A new Answer/Comment has been posted click to load") which would show if a user is currently writing a comment or writing an answer? Seems to be a decent number of "quick answers" where two people give a very similar answer at the same time not knowing someone else is already working on a solution.

See Fastest Gun in the West Problem for more on how this can be helpful for "quick replies" versus "thought out replies".

marked as duplicate by random, James, ShaWiz, Martijn Pieters, Troyen Dec 4 '14 at 6:54

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    And why is that a problem? What would it solve? How will it improve the quality of the posts/answers/comments? – rene Dec 3 '14 at 18:54
  • I guess it is more applicable on the coding sites where an answer might require large amounts or time to accomplish only to be answered by two people. Then it is a crap shoot which answer is accepted by the question creator. This defeats the purpose. – Chrismas007 Dec 3 '14 at 18:57
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    User A and user B start typing answers. They both get the notification. They both decide that they don't want to chance it. So no answer is posted. – Louis Dec 3 '14 at 18:59
  • One would get the notification before the other unless they both started simultaneously. Then they wouldn't see the notification because they have already started on a reply (would only be before starting a reply that an alert on "Person Typing" would appear) – Chrismas007 Dec 3 '14 at 19:00
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    "Then it is a crap shoot which answer is accepted by the question creator. This defeats the purpose." ... no it doesn't. So you end up with two good answers, saying the same but in their own words. There's no harm in that. And as for acceptance, that's up to the OP anyway. All others can still upvote. Once again, no harm done. I think you're trying to solve a problem which doesn't really exist. – Bart Dec 3 '14 at 19:02
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    @Bart Well, the harm is (potentially) wasted effort. That is a cost, even if it's a cost that you feel is worth paying. – Servy Dec 3 '14 at 19:03
  • Check out my edit regarding the linked post that says this problem does exist (in a manner of speaking). – Chrismas007 Dec 3 '14 at 19:03
  • @Chrismas007 The main problem when discussing FGITW is people posting low quality answers in order to beat other people, rather than taking their time and posting a quality answer. It's not (so much) about people wasting their time working on the same problem. – Servy Dec 3 '14 at 19:04
  • Not necessarily @Servy. Unless very trivial some phrasing (even if ultimately the same) might mesh better with the understanding of some than others. And if we do end up wasting a bit of time ... meh ... I guess I've wasted far more here than I care to count anyway. ;) – Bart Dec 3 '14 at 19:04
  • You might not fell it is a waste, but others might. But adding a feature like this doesn't harm any one does it? – Chrismas007 Dec 3 '14 at 19:06
  • @Bart Yes, you're quite right that people duplicating effort has the potential for adding value. The point is that that value isn't free. You're not getting the additional information, or perspective, or phrasing, at no cost. You're getting it at the cost of additional effort from users. Whether the added value is worth that cost is debatable, that the costs exists is not. It's also going to vary; multiple answers can be worth the cost of the added effort in some cases, and not in others, so there is potential harm, that potential harm is where the value added isn't worth it. – Servy Dec 3 '14 at 19:06
  • Given that developers have to spend time on it @Chrismas007 ... not necessarily harm, but cost/benefit and priorities ... – Bart Dec 3 '14 at 19:07
  • @Bart "Cost" and "harm" are synonymous in this context. – Servy Dec 3 '14 at 19:08
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    @Chrismas007 It harms the asker's chance of actually getting an answer. By displaying a notice, you are actively discouraging other users from starting their own answers, and becoming dependent on that first user to actually finish their answer. What if that user gets half way through and goes "oh that's so bad erase erase erase" or, if you're like me, decides it just isn't worth posting. There are so many situations where that answer might not get posted and you end up with questions just sitting there where someone is "supposedly" working on an answer when they're not. – animuson Dec 3 '14 at 19:08
  • I guess the larger question is do duplicate answers benefit the question maker or the historical database of searchable questions? Do people who search for an answer check other answers or just the accepted answer? If you are going to make the question maker choose an accepted answer, it should be the best (which is the "crap shoot" from dup answers) – Chrismas007 Dec 3 '14 at 19:09
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I do not agree with this feature request.

People already abuse the grace period by posting something like "Preparing an answer" and then work on an answer. They do this to discourage other answers and so that their own answer appears first, chronologically (so the others look like copycats). If they can finish it within the grace period, it will look like their answer was the final version all along.

The feature you propose would add opportunities for similar abuse of the system. Let's say I see a question I know I can answer but it will take a bit for me to get the answer together, and I don't feel like rushing, or maybe there's something not SE-related that is more urgent to me right now. Ten minutes from now I'll be ready to actually start writing the answer. The first thing I should do to game the system is start messing with the answer field so that the system notifies everyone else looking at the question that I'm writing an answer even if I'm not actually hurrying to write it. By doing this, I increase my chances that when I do actually finish my answer, on my own schedule, my answer is going to be the only one posted.

SE developers could deploy countermeasures to make this more difficult than just typing a space in the answer window but I'm pretty sure all such countermeasures could be circumvented with a user script. Moreover, the nice little notification feature that seemed so simple to implement would turn into something much more complicated once the countermeasures are added.

  • I would propose some sort of continued typing/editing to be eligible for the alert. And if someone is really going to write a script to get around that, they must be truly desperate. But I agree with your overall concept. – Chrismas007 Dec 3 '14 at 19:37
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This is completely confusing and off-putting. No-one would know whether to stop, keep typing, wait to see if someone submits a decent answer, or what.

Unless you can somehow stop "bad answers" only, we don't want to put people off answering. Let those answers come through, dupes or not, and let the OP and community decide which is the best via voting.

Answers are not just to answer the OP's issues, they're to provide future ref for others, and so multiple answers are fine as long as they're decent, add something new (even if just a different approach), are correct, and are topicnessly sound.
If not, they don't get voted up, or they get voted down.

Sometimes a subtle difference between similar answers is what made me understand, or one specific approach better suited my scenario.

Good vs Evil

If two good answerers are writing, and one stops as they believe someone else is sorting it, we lose a good answer. If they both stop, as we cannot realistically notify when someone has "stopped" writing, then we lose two (or all) good answers.

Also, it's possible one of the multiple users typing an answer is writing a "poor" quick answer just to get in first to snaffle the rep, and they would certainly plod on and post their crap answer.

Then we end up with less choice to vote up or down.

See Fastest Gun in the West Problem for more on how this can be helpful for "quick replies" versus "thought out replies".

Quick answers can be good - depends on the question, the answerers typing and thinking speed, etc.

And, your proposal would make FGITW worse.
With "bad" quick answers, where a user slaps in a quick response just to "get there first", when that user suddenly see a message "Someone else is typing an answer" then the heat is on and they're gonna speed up.

So upon seeing the notification and a race, they likely post their answer abruptly, with potentially less info as they don't bother writing the additional info/advice they might otherwise have.

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