Chronology Independence is a concept I'm introducing related to the correlation between answer popularity and the order and gaps in time between answer submittals.
Imagine three nominees for the board of business B, named X, Y, and Z. X and Y are on the ticket. Z is overseas at the time. Everyone votes. X gets the most votes and Y is close behind, so they are both admitted to the board.
A year later, Z indicates that she/he has returned, but Z receives no votes because X and Y are already filling the roles required and none of the voters get any notice that Z might be a good board member. If X and Z had been on the original ticket, Z might have received the most votes. Therefore the vote is Chronology Dependent, which does not favor the optimal selection in all cases. This is the case with StackExchange.
This question was hinted at before in multiple questions including this one, but it has not presented in a way that clarifies the cause and counterproductive result.
The uninterrupted default featuring of what may be significantly inferior answers due to answer chronology alone does not help the effectiveness of SE communities. A new answer that demonstrates excellence to the community does not have a very high probability of percolating to the top ever, even if previous voters would have voted for it if the chronology had been reversed.
Consider probability and how it plays out in this series of events in time.
- A question is submitted.
- A set of answers are provided, one of which appears to the community to be best.
- Because of the key word makeup of the question and answer, the question and answer receive much attention and the votes run up.
- A year later, someone with expert knowledge or significant experience answers.
- By any reasonable criteria the new answer is excellent.
In this case, the new answer has a low probability of ever rising to the level it would have attained if the chronology was favorable. Those using the exchange to find answers are not inclined to read all answers, certainly not ones with zero votes. Even if they were bright enough to divide votes by number of days since the answer's post, new answers would be dismissed.
The bottom line is that statistically, few bother to read answers with a zero score. The previous voters are not notified or otherwise encouraged to reconsider their vote.
What is the result?
The answer is dead solely because of the lack of temporal alignment between question activity and when what might be a superior answer was posted.
In my areas of expertise, there are a very large number of questions with inferior answers checked and with dozens of votes when a later, vastly superior answer hangs well below the fold with zero votes. Consequently, people are using inferior answers to make decisions and build things.
Some features or incentives that could correct this large problem include
- High incentive for comparing new answers to old winners, and
- Automation to feature a new answer after a gap in activity and notify the previous voting participants.
Neither of these would not damage the reputation of prior contributors, they could improve what I would like to term Chronology Independence. You may have better ideas, which I encourage and will gladly accept as edits.
Does anyone else see the social net statistics at play here in the way I describe?