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Often, if finding myself scrolling through very long answers (e.g. covering more than one screen scroll), so many good and updated answers are somehow pushed to the bottom by these verbose answers. I was wondering if introducing a read more button for long answers could improve the discoverability of new answers and improving the overall reading experience.

Finally, a read less button at the bottom of the answer could also solve Move the vote button feature request, allowing you to get straight to the top of the answer where the vote button is.

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    I had asked a similar question. I would also prefer to see snippets of long answers by default, and only on clicking 'read more' should I see the rest of that particular answer.
    – NVZ
    Sep 8 at 11:10
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In case one wants to see the new answers first (or more likely most active, i.e. last edited) there is already a way to achieve that:

Sort by last active answers

So the main reasoning here (see updated answers) is less relevant. This request is "nice to have", but I'm afraid not much more, due to the above feature that already exists.

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  • Thanks for the answer, I know this feature but I usually don't use it because I found it doesn't give a good tradeoff between the most accurate answer. I would prefer to have a method to effectively scann the larger number of answer...
    – G M
    Sep 8 at 10:45
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    I think the feature will be more useful to see all answers at a glance, than for finding newer answers.
    – GoodDeeds
    Sep 8 at 10:45
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If you were to introduce such a feature at this point in time, how would you decide what part of the answer to display as excerpt for long answers?

I know enough answers that start with re-iterating the problem and dissecting that. The "solution" would then be in the last part of the answer. If you arbitrarily only show the first X lines of an answer you are effectively blocking valuable content from being visible. I think that is a horrible idea!

If you wish to view two answers simultaneously, as for example bad_coder said. You can just open two instances of your browser side by side, each displaying one of the answers.

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  • While that's a legit concern, there could be workarounds. Perhaps within the typing box there should be a marked area that shows the extent of the written text that would appear as the snippet by default
    – NVZ
    Sep 8 at 11:12
  • Switching tabs (I usually have dozens open) is less convenient than having 2 answers filtered in one tab.
    – bad_coder
    Sep 8 at 11:21
  • But you can always see the full answer, this would somehow suggest to the user to write the most useful content at the beginning and then expand and explain.
    – G M
    Sep 8 at 11:28
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    It would encourage answerers to put the most important information first. Sep 8 at 11:45
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    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q while certainly true, in more technical writing that is less common. People usually first describe the background / set the scene, before writing the actual answer itself.
    – Luuklag
    Sep 8 at 12:06
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    @GM and what should we then do with the millions of existing answers. Should they all be revisited and edited to change the order in which they were written?
    – Luuklag
    Sep 8 at 12:06
  • @Luuklag you are right but in technical writing usually there is an abstract that is used just for the same purpose. Understand if it is worth to read the whole content
    – G M
    Sep 8 at 15:52
  • @GM such an abstract is usefull when the piece is of a decent length, multiple pages for example. For a single answer that is not usefull.
    – Luuklag
    Sep 8 at 18:10
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so many good and updated answers are somehow pushed to the bottom by these verbose answers.

No, those answers are 'pushed to the bottom' because they have less votes than the verbose answer, not because the verbose answer is longer. In theory, this should mean those answers, when posted at approximately the same time as the verbose answer, aren't as good as the verbose answer, or they would've gotten more votes and floated to the top instead.

I realize this isn't always true for old questions and/or outdated answers, but there's a whole project focusing on those already, and I don't think showing only bits of existing answers is going to help in determining whether something is outdated or not. Especially not as long as users include updates at the bottom of their answers, which I personally see happen way more often than updates added at the top. In cases of updates like that, an answer becomes longer the more it is updated, but the most relevant information would be hidden by a 'read more' button.

Also, on more subjective sites one rule of a 'good subjective question' is that "Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.". Limiting the size of the answer shown on such sites, and hiding parts of them behind a 'read more' button, goes against the spirit of that rule: Why encourage writing longer answers with sufficient back up and sharing of experiences, if all that's going to be shown is a first few lines? Answers should be evaluated in their entirety, and not just on the click-baityness of their first few sentences.

One more argument, related to the one above about the click-baityness of the first few sentences: As a moderator, I regularly see votes reversed because they are cases of robo-voting to earn badges, votes for a specific user, or sockpuppet voting. The reason all of these forms of voting are 'offenses' that will get you at the very least just a message and vote reversal, but also likely a suspension, is that these votes weren't made for the content of a post. If parts of answers are hidden behind a 'read more' button, clicking that button becomes an 'impediment' to fully evaluating the content of a post before voting.

I was wondering if introducing a read more button for long answers could improve the discoverability of new answers and improving the overall reading experience.

Given the arguments outlined above, I don't think a 'read more' button should become some sort of default situation. Newer answers aren't by definition 'better', and new answers can already be easily discovered by sorting, like Shadow's answer outlines.

It also wouldn't improve reading experience, at least for me having to press a 'read more' button interrupts my reading. Together with the potential downsides described above, I don't think a 'read more' button and the one or two scrolls it might save will be beneficial.

Finally, a read less button at the bottom of the answer could also solve Move the vote button feature request, allowing you to get straight to the top of the answer where the vote button is.

In that case though, instead of having people first click 'read more', and then 'read less' again, just following the original feature request, or perhaps just having the vote buttons visible all the time (make them scroll down when you scroll through a longer answer?) are probably still better options than first having to introduce a 'read more' function just so there can also be a 'read less' one.

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  • Thanks but "those answers are 'pushed to the bottom' because they have less votes than the verbose answer, not because the verbose answer is longer" not necessarily if the question is old updated answers don't have the chance to be read and evaluated...
    – G M
    Sep 8 at 15:47
  • "In cases of updates like that, an answer becomes longer the more it is updated, but the most relevant information would be hidden by a 'read more' button." I think that this approach could encourage writing the update at the top as I think should be a good practice
    – G M
    Sep 8 at 15:49
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I have to say this is an interesting concept that I haven't seen posted before - a "read more" on answers.

A "read less" button to collapse everything in the thread might be an interesting option for some users. An example use case:

  • Having only 2 answers open among 20 in a thread, without results in between causing an overhead in scrolling. Because you positively aren't interested in the remaining answers.

It's a prevalent functionality in IDEs for good reason.

Personally I prefer having all answers served in full at first to see at a glance what I might be interested in. But I may be biased by my browsing habits because I do prefer everything hierarchically collapsed in my IDE when I first look at a large file.

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    Yes I think, however that most of the answer could be read without the read more button. This could simply avoid seeing all the comments and forcing the user to be more concise at least in the first part of the answer.
    – G M
    Sep 8 at 10:48
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    @GM forcing conciseness isn't the aim. In some cases the perfect answer is a one-liner but in complex cases you want a comprehensive essay - with lots of code snippets, quotes and screenshot. I think the main application of this would be a selective reading filter that reduces scrolling time. Encouraging conciseness in the intro is of little gain if posts don't follow up with quality content.
    – bad_coder
    Sep 8 at 11:22

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