I seem to have noticed a bit of a trend where a posted question will very quickly get an answer, but a very poor one. It would seem that some people are "camping", waiting for new questions to be asked, and then jump on them and try to get an answer submitted ASAP, presumably in hopes that it will get marked correct.

Now this would be fine if the answers were correct, but I find that they are often extremely weak answers. And this is just speculation on my part, but it seems like once a question has one response, traffic to it drops dramatically.

I don't really know exactly what to propose about this....it seems there are several issues with undesirable behavior from people trying to gain reputation. I wonder if increasing the weight of downvotes might be the answer, or maybe even making their weight exponential, ie: 1 downvote is no big deal, but 4 downvotes is a very big deal?

My point is to try to do something to get rid of people that are posting answers that are just not very good at all, and they know it, but they are hoping that by having "many lines in the water", they might catch an extra fish here and there. I think this type of behavior should be discouraged on SO.

  • 1
    Do you have any examples? Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 22:48
  • 9
    Fastest gun in the west problem.
    – mmx
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 22:53
  • 5
    "Fastest water-pistol in the west problem"?
    – dbr
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 23:20
  • 4
    That's not water. Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 0:43
  • That type of behavior should be discouraged yes, and the behavior of accepting answers should be encouraged, hint hint. Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 23:12

11 Answers 11


If the fast answer is a bad answer, then downvote it. If it is a decent answer (i.e. it answers the question appropriately) then I don't see a problem.

If you originally mark up an answer that is fast but then you find another answer down the road which is much better, feel free to remove your upvote from that other answer and give it to the new answer (or just keep upvoted because they are both technically correct).

When people stop getting rewarded for posting fast and inadequate answers, they will stop doing it. As long as they are being rewarded for it they will keep doing it.


I think the voting system takes care of this nicely on the areas with a lot of interest, not so well on the areas with less interest.

  • You are exactly right, this is only an issue on low traffic questions...but there, it seems to me, that it is a problem.
    – tbone
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 22:59
  • Seconded, this is my experience as well. Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 0:09
  • 1
    Thirded, noticed this too.
    – Alex Angas
    Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 10:04

The pattern I've noticed is similar: fast posts to get in at the top followed by more substantial detail within the free edit period.

I see where jeff is going with the free edits, and I appreciate being be to fix mistakes without dropping my page ranking :P but I suspect that going the opposite way and actually disabling edits (or posts appearing) entirely within the first 5 minutes or so would produce better quality answers because you may as well spend the time getting it full and correct then.

  • +1 on this one, even though I have used the quick-edit feature some times. Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 6:17
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    I like that, actually. And I could even imagine doing that myself as well. Not to get to be the first, but just as experience shows that many people might respond. Spending a lot of time typing an answer, not knowing if someone else is working on something similar at that very moment, is frustrating to me. So, to me, people letting me know where they're going is not too bad then. I can then comment on their answer rather than typing my own.
    – Arjan
    Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 16:13
  • 1
    A big amount of my answers are of the "quick correct answer plus details within the 5 minutes" type. I don't see why this is a bad thing as long as the final answer is correct and detailed. The upvote/downvote system takes care of anything else. Commented Jul 11, 2009 at 0:16
  • @Paolo: Amen. If it's something like a quick snippet of code, I will post the code quickly and then edit the explanation/links/other info in. It's immensely useful, because I have to do a Google search to get supporting documents. Why wait on me to document my answer when the upvote/downvote can tell you right away if it's correct, and then I can explain why it's correct a minute after that?
    – Eric
    Commented Jul 11, 2009 at 1:42

Could it help to somehow encourage people not to accept a particular answer until some minimum amount of time (e.g. 1 hour) has passed since they posted the question?

  • 1
    I wait for the questions to come to me through the RSS feeds, so there are many which already have an accepted answer by the time I see it. Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 3:08

I'm going to take a risk and answer this question (about answering questions first) first.

I think that the voting system, as it stands, is itself is a fairly good incentive for providing good answers. In my own experience, I've been hanging around SO for a few weeks, and have been fairly hesitant to offer answers until understanding the culture a little.

I am, however, intrigued by the possible weighting of additional downvotes (and maybe the reverse for upvotes)... but multiple downvotes may indicate a further problem suitable for flagging.

  • Well, I thought I was first
    – Feckmore
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 22:54
  • 3
    lol @ "take a risk and answer first"
    – tbone
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 22:57
  • 1
    Traples: lol! Can you read your first sentence three times quickly?
    – mmx
    Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 0:42
  • 1
    Please don't confuse me... I'm having a hard enough time here.
    – Feckmore
    Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 1:26

Ok, so down vote the bad answer and upvote a better one. What is the problem?

  • The answer to your question is in the post.
    – tbone
    Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 15:22

So what if someone has answered the question first? You can still post a better answer if there is one. Maybe if the first answer gets accepted, you need to think twice about posting your answer.

To be honest, even after I accept an answer to my question, and someone posts a better answer (in terms of better performance or better code), I accept the new answer and let go off the previously accepted answer.

I still have a couple of Q posted almost months ago in my list which are unaccepted because I need to try out the better solution before marking it as accepted.

To accept not-so-good answer when some one comes up with a better one seems unjust to me.


To answer your question: no, I don't think it's a problem. Quick answers that are bad/wrong will still get downvoted (or at least they should). Good/helpful answers will get upvoted.

I actually think it's a good thing just like the fastest gun in the West "problem" isn't really a problem. All of this means the question asker is much more likely to get an answer quickly. What other site out there can you ask a question and get a response in a useful time frame (being a few minutes typically)?

Forums are useless. Most people don't post on them because it takes days to get a response when you typically need one now. likewise if someone finds an answer to their own question in the interim, there's not much incentive to go back and answer their own question for the people who will come later and find it.

Clearly we do have question camping but think about it for a minute: you have hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are actively looking for questions to answer. Where else can you say that for programming questions?


I think that fast answers often help getting the question formulated well. The first answers often raise some issues that, once addressed when the author (who's probably still around) enhances the question, makes the later answers better (especially if the first answer is not adjusted to changes in the question).

Fast answers also might stop people from posting their questions on multiple sites.

Maybe the default sorting should be "votes" rather than "oldest"?

  • On the other side of the coin, questions for clarification, etc. should be comments on the OP, not answers. Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 17:27
  • You're right. (Though even without specific questions, an answer may make the author realize that the question is wrong.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 17:42
  • That's true too... though it requires some level of abstract thought, which may beyond those who write the truly bad questions... Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 18:28

What I have noticed is this, people jump on an unanswered question very quickly and blot down something very small, one sentence or a link at first. This shows up as an answer when other users are just browsing and it defers users from going into those questions because they think there is an answer there. While that is happening the initial answerer edits his answer and expands it.


There are a lot of answers in the "the voting system works, just down-vote it if its stupid or up-vote the better answer".

The idea works in principle, but it seems that more often than not the first answer(s) garner more rep than the later answers even if the later answers are more accurate. It seems that after a certain point some sort of odd inertia kicks in and people go 'gee, this has 11 up-votes, it must be better... I don't know how but maybe the other 11 people know something I don't.

Its amazing the effects of peer pressure... and now the real question: will this get no votes because I'm off, or because no one agrees, or because no one wants to admit that this is a real problem?

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