Is there a way that compensates for answers that are made several days apart but the older one has more up votes for simply being older? It seems logical that the oldest answers to a question have the most views, and if clearly good or bad, the most positive or negative votes.

One example is this question. The highest voted answer has +310 but was made in 08. While it's not completely objective, it certainly seems unfair that all answers that are less than a year old have less than +10 even though they seem comparable to the +310.

If there are several answers, since the default view is to arrange answers by votes, this further lopsided the attention to the highest voted. e.g. the ones with the highest votes will continue to be read and therefore receive more votes.

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    All other things being equal, older answers get more votes because they help more people over time. Votes are strongly correlated to views: more views, more votes; more time, more views. – user102937 Sep 10 '15 at 19:11
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    @RobertHarvey yes and this is the problem. Votes should be correlated with good/best answers. – Celeritas Sep 13 '15 at 18:51

The best way to get more votes for a later answer is to do a genuinely better answer. You shouldn't get promoted just for being newer any more than you should get promoted for being older. It sometimes helps to explain why your newer answer is better than the other one (but keep that part small; remember, be a good answer first or you won't merit voting up at all).

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    Yeah... in a perfect world... but on a ton of SE sites, no quality of answer will get more votes than an established answer... People just don't pay attention to new answers to old questions. I've seen answers that are wrong with 20 upvotes and my answer with the actually correct information get four or five... – Catija Sep 10 '15 at 16:22
  • @Catija just 20? – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:32
  • @user121330 I don't use Stack Overflow... 20 upvotes is a lot on the sites I use. – Catija Jun 7 '17 at 18:33

The default view is to arrange answers by votes as you already noticed yourself. The reason for that is because in the SE network:

Good answers are voted up and rise to the top. The best answers show up first so that they are always easy to find

Nowhere is there a goal to have a fair distribution of votes among the answers. And as posts don't have feelings I'm not sure if emotions like 'fair' and 'unfair' really matter for posts.

Why users vote is sometimes a mystery but the majority of them up vote posts that seem useful.

You have one example where an old answer got a lot of up votes. There are other examples like this one where the accepted answer doesn't have the highest score but was posted later; it became the accepted answer after two other answers were accepted earlier. There is even one, now deleted, answer that got accepted and had 54 up votes (13 down) and was accepted, while it turned out to be plain wrong. I'm sure I can find other examples.

So you might wonder if it pays to answer questions with many and/or high voted answers. I think it does if there is a better/more elegant solution today as opposed to when the question was asked. But you won't get instant up votes for that. Instead you can leave a comment on the question or accepted answer to 'advertize' your new solution, you can link to your answer, when appropriate on new questions or share your answer externally to the SE network so your answer attracts more views and with that some passer-by up votes.

tl;dr I think the current way of presenting the answers is fine given the usefulness of that view for visitors of the site that are not necessarily members of the community. Those visitors are interested in the answers that were deemed useful by the community and/or the OP (if there is an accepted answer).

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  • I think your answer is wrong, but if I put a competing answer here, it's on the bottom of the page, and nobody's going to read it - especially people looking for answers (who might not have any idea what's right or wrong anyway). – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 0:21
  • Downvoting just feels petty to me. Anyhow, Thanks for the advice. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:32
  • Wrong answers need to be down voted @user121330 – rene Jun 7 '17 at 19:04
  • @user121330 think of downvotes as a way to educate people, like parents educate their children by giving them punishments. The goal is positive, not negative. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Jun 7 '17 at 19:17
  • @ShadowWizard I love thinking of people as children - it adds to my ... arrogance? Paternalistic nature? Condescension? – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 19:23

There are tons of ways to do this, none of which have been implemented by SE. If I was designing the site, you'd get a different version if you came in from a search engine (including the SE search tool, adorable as it is) (looking for answers) than if you were trawling / pruning SE (looking for questions). Obviously, you could switch from seeking to trawling fairly easily. The trawlers would get answers without the context of votes, and have the responsibility to up-vote or 'I don't know'. The seekers would get the most up-voted (per time on SE) answers on top. If the trawlers found a problematic answer, they could ask for [trawler/pruner] community attention to build a consensus to edit, combine, remove or flag as inaccurate or opinion. This way, you get to retain the democratic aspect of the site, but the best answers will rise to the top rather than merely the oldest. This system would require people to be honest about where they are at, but there's an implicit assumption of honesty already.

Another option might be to normalize the number of votes against the number of page views. Just to review, normalization is just division, so if an answer has 12 votes and it's had 100 page views, it's at 12%, whereas if a new answer has 2 votes, but it's only had 4 page views, it's at 50%, meaning it'd be on top.

I could come up with ways to deal with this all day.

Incidentally, this answer is almost 2 years older than the competing answers, so think of it as a test. The question asked if there were ways to address this (not whether they were a good idea, and not for a defense of the status quo). By definition, there are always ways to do something differently.

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  • I don't sort answers by votes anyway, so this answer already is on top... and I'd b pretty peed if the sort order I intentionally set was overridden by the method I got to the page (and who's to say people using search are looking for answers... I search for questions all the time) – Cai Jun 7 '17 at 18:37
  • @Cai I think we're in agreement here - I search for questions all the time as well (though I do need my fix of answers from time to time) ;) Is the downvote because you only read the first half paragraph? – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:46
  • This doesn't solve the problems at all. In your site you're still showing the highest voted answers at the top, which means those will be read first, and therefore will get more votes. You've done nothing to solve the problem. – Servy Jun 7 '17 at 18:46
  • @Servy It's normalized to how long the answer has been up. It shows a measure of how many votes per time. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:48
  • I'm not sure how we're in agreement... your suggestion seems to rely on sorting people searching answers from people searching questions; I don't see how that is helpful or even possible – Cai Jun 7 '17 at 18:48
  • @user121330 So first off, if that's your solution, then you should actually focus on that in your answer, rather than just mentioning it offhandedly in a parenthetical of an otherwise unrelated answer. That said, it still doesn't remove the problem, as an old answer with lots of upvotes will still have more votes per time than a new answer with no votes. It would help a newer answer rise a bit faster, but it will struggle to rise at all because it'll struggle to get views because everyone is reading the older answer with tons of upvotes instead. – Servy Jun 7 '17 at 18:50
  • @Cai I'm obviously being unclear here. Seekers get to see the answer with the most votes per time on the site. Trawlers don't get to see any votes. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:50
  • But who are seekers and trawlers? I'm saying that distinction isn't possible or helpful, regardless of what you show them – Cai Jun 7 '17 at 18:51
  • @Servy No, the trawlers don't get to see the votes and they have more power to change problematic answers. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:51
  • @Cai The people who are looking for answers (if you come in from a search engine) are seekers, and you and I are examples of trawlers. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:52
  • @user121330 It wouldn't matter. People coming from google are going to upvote the top answer, which will be the old answer with the most votes, which will give it more votes, keeping it at the top. That's the same in your system as it is in SO now. If you're just going to have people edit other people's answers to change the content when they think it's wrong, unlike how SO handles editing now, then there's no need for multiple answers (or voting) in the first place; at that point you just have a wiki, like wikipedia. – Servy Jun 7 '17 at 18:54
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    @Servy, I'm not sure you see how normalization works. If I put up an answer and 2 people vote for it today, it's going at 2 votes per day which would be more than the 730 votes for a 1 year-old answer. If we compound it per week, that's 104 votes on a 1 year old answer, and if we compound it on a per month, that's 24 votes. Setting the right compounding time would be tricky, but we could easily set it up so that the newest answer was the first. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 18:56
  • @user121330 You're assuming that 2 people read past the 730 vote answer and upvote it, rather than reading the 730 vote answer, because it's first, upvoting it, and not even reading the 0 vote answer underneath it. That's not even getting into the fact that an answer with 730 votes over a year is much more likely to be a good answer than an answer with 2 votes over the course of 1 day, so you're much more likely to end up showing people worse answers in the rare cases where the two systems actually differ in the first place. – Servy Jun 7 '17 at 18:59
  • @Servy I don't disagree. Perhaps the compounding factor is views rather than time. It really doesn't matter - SE already does this except that they compound over all time. They've chosen to prefer old answers. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 19:06
  • @Servy Also, the trawlers don't get to see the vote preferences - those are just for people who are looking for answers, so we would expect that any flat wrong answer, highest voted or not, would be addressed by the trawlers. – user121330 Jun 7 '17 at 19:07

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