10

Due to SE's ordering algorithms, it appears that the asker's selected answer usually appears as the first, followed by other answers in descending order of points.

It therefore appears that late answers have a hard time rising to the top, even if they are objectively better, since relatively fewer people scroll to the bottom. Of course, this is a necessary evil.

If a "late answer" is defined as the link, what proportion of them end up rising to the highest ranking answer? (asker changing the selected question doesn't count, since it does not suffer from the problem). I understand this would differ based on the SE site, so specific site and general SE statistics are all reasonable answers to this question.

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According to this query :

There are 36,829 answers that were posted on Stack Overflow 30 days or later after the question was asked to questions that already had at least 1 answer posted within 7 days of the question being asked,

and the late answer

  • was chosen as the accepted answer
  • most likely has the highest score currently or tied for highest scoring answer

According to this query :

There are 46,968 questions that were posted on Stack Overflow that have an accepted answer within 7 days of the question being asked, and at least 1 late answer that has a higher score than the accepted answer.

To put this all into perspective, Stack Overflow has about 14.5 million visible answers and about 8.5 million visible questions, but only 686,809 questions have at least 1 answer posted within 7 days and at least 1 answer posted 30 days or later of the question being asked.

Then to add to this mess of data even further, there is 233,675 questions in which there is maybe or maybe not an accepted answer, and in which the late answer has higher score than new answer left within 7 days.

So to answer your question "What is the proportion of late answers that overtake earlier answers?", it is anywhere between 5% and 35% depending on which factors you choose.

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