Edited #3 Hey guys I surely have to refine my post in many aspects but my initial thought was this one: Even if google answers failed that does not mean that in a couple of years will not appear a service coming from a huge community such as facebook or google promising: "Questions answered in 15 or 10 or 5 minutes or just in time answers"... I do not say that they will find an AI algorithm answering automatically questions but I believe they have already implemented a super AI algorithm finding from their enormous meta-user data who has speciality in what sector of knowledge and who can answer a particular question in 15 or 10 or 5 minutes or just in time and through their billion users will find at least 1000 major users specialized in that subject of that specialized question... And among that 1000 major users which will be notified (facebook) or recieved an email (gmail) to answer that question, statistically at least 1 of 1000 will do it successfully in the proper time (When I refer to time I mean the time that takes in Stackoverflow for a user to accept an answer)... And their reward maybe more valuable than reputation, maybe a medal on their WALL or promotion of their paper in google scholar...

So my own (and maybe I am wrong) point to view is to take time under consideration before it is late and find ourselves asking what time is it in Stackoverflow... I will really be happy to be proven wrong from you and from history because I am concern about Stackoverflow.

Edited #2: It seems to me that I have to give a real, actual example: Right here I found a similar problem with my experience in database programming. It seemed to me that was a problem very similar to one I solved many time ago... Later I found out what exactly the question asks and it finally was too much different... I launched mysql and I found that it is very difficult for that question to be solved except if I would use dynamically cursors in the loop of a stored procedure... When had the above sub problem solved I was bored to launch again mysql because I was in vacation so that question is still unanswered but I got a vote for just providing a link.

If there were a user that launched Mysql (at the same time I was trying to figure out how to use cursors in stored procedure loops) and wrote down nested cursors in stored procedure loop in a couple of minutes and the question is very speciallized and the only person who is interested voting the answers is the one who asked (as it happened) and that brilliant programmer took a vote as I did YES IT IS UNFAIR FOR HIM to gain equal reputation to mine

I am studying several years human productivity and I am working on that issue trying to improve productivity through software.

Since in Stackoverflow so many questions are asked and answered about "just in time" coding in interviews and so on, I had an idea these days which I hesitated to propose due to it's most probable rejection.

Nevertheless I can't stand but writing it down.

I believe that user reputation could be calculated (according to it's votes of-course) in accordance with the time that took the user to post the answer.

That is the time between having read the question and the moment the button: "post your answer" is clicked. Surely there is an unpredictable factor which is the time that took the user to read the question and even if one adds a button labeled: "I've just read the answer" and then the interval between clicking that button I just mentioned and the other button: "Post your answer" is calculated, surely one shall cheat...

So I think that there could be an estimation how much time it would take for a user to read a question by the time he clicked the question, deduced from the words (even the links) of that question.

To be more specific when a user posts his answer there is a timer that counts the time between clicking the question and posting the answer. Right then the automatically estimated time: how much it should have taken to read the question, which for once again could be automatically estimated from the number of words or some other characteristics (some factors that we can all try to figure out such as the number of links provided) so this estimated time is subtracted from the previous time interval (between clicking a question and posting an answer).

That could deduce a better estimation for a programmer's skills and after that whole process a coefficient could be estimated which would be multiplied to the reputation that the answer gained from it's votes.

If the majority, including me, agree that it is a strict or cruel way of calculating reputation there should be a checkbox in ones profile for him to choose if he accepts that particular pattern of being his reputation calculated or instead prefers the classic way.

It is an amazing joy for me developing software that concerns productivity so it would be a great pleasure to help the stack community in such an effort, despite the fact I am pretty sure my proposal will be rejected.

I thought that the above complex system of estimating a-priori the time that takes to read a question could be simply skipped by solely counting the time between clicking a question and answering that question so as to deduce more simply that coefficient but various practical problems emerge using that approximation, except if you propose some features on that surely simpler way.

Thanks for your patience ;)

PS: I did not mentioned it because I took it for granted. The whole idea surely concerns comparison between times (and of-course votes) between all answers in that question... It does not concern individual calculation, the individual calculation of reputation is formed from existing voting system...

Edited 1: I had another idea too and I enjoy it a lot!

The collection of times that took all users to answer a particular question can also tell us(after finding a proper pattern) about the quality of the question except from the programming skills of users that answered that question. Question votes will be surely in that pattern, too.

The final aspect which (in my personal point of view) could merge successfully all above is this:

The user that posts a question has the choice to turn on the "time pattern mechanism" for the question, because the time that is going to take the users to answer his question matters for him. Besides that and independently each user has the choice for his reputation to be evaluated according to the "time pattern" or to be evaluated as classically.

The time pattern mechanism now works for and only for those questions that have the "pattern" turned on and in those questions it works for those users who had turned on the mechanism in their profiles, too. So now that "time pattern mechanism" should be a mathematical function (probably using AI) which we can all together try to find it out that takes as input times and votes (as described above or somehow) for all the answers in a question and finally gives an output score(some people call it reputation) --most probably a coefficient multiplied to votes -- for each answer but for that question, too!

My next "major proposal" (major in negative votes ;) ) concerns voting system... Stay tuned :)

  • "Fastest Gun in the West", here we come... – mmyers Jul 20 '10 at 21:09
  • You want people to get more reputation based on the speed that they answer questions? Or at least be scored differently based on time? – jjnguy Jul 20 '10 at 21:11
  • Even if this were a good idea, implementing it in a way that's not easy to game is pretty much impossible. People could have a separate browser just for viewing questions, and switch to the one they're logged in on just for copy/pasting pre-written answers so they can answer the question 2 seconds after the page loads. On the other hand, people that open multiple questions at once and answer them sequentially get screwed by this – Michael Mrozek Jul 20 '10 at 22:25
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    So you're saying that because someone took the time to write well, research, compile info/links, think things through, that they should be penalized? Uh, bad idea. Banging out the first thought that comes out of your brain is generally a BAD idea. – Dhaust Jul 20 '10 at 23:48
  • "So you're saying that because someone took the time to write well, research, compile info/links, think things through, that they should be penalized?" My answerQ: no they should be rewarded if they have done it faster than others BUT YES I think they should penalized if they took them one month to find the answer... – Novemberland Jul 21 '10 at 12:20
  • @Novemberland: How would it detect that it took a month, unless they had the page open (and didn't clear cache/cookies/data) for an entire month. On another note, if you're keen on continuing this, I think a better measure would be to start a timer when they click into the answer textbox. That would elminate the problem of adjusting for relative reading speeds. – devinb Jul 21 '10 at 14:16
  • @devinb: I agree with you, that's why I asked how time in StackOverflow counts: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/57765/…. I also think that the whole approach of reading time measured may be skipped but I have written in my ipod some problems with that, I do not remember them all now, but one of them I think I mentioned is that the user can cheat if has prepared the answer before clicking into the answer textbox and just copy/paste it. Any ideas accepted! – Novemberland Jul 21 '10 at 14:31
  • @Novemberland well that's part of the problem that I didn't even mention in my response, is that pretty much every implementation of this idea could be gamed. Also, the example section of this question (right at the beginning) is a little hard to understand. Could you possible rephrase that section? – devinb Jul 21 '10 at 14:35
  • @ devinb: "I think a better measure would be to start a timer when they click into the answer textbox." I've just mentioned if the timer starts by that clicking there is no information what the user did before and just pasted a prepared answered. It is hard to explain the first section since that links show what I mean, but I will try to rephrase – Novemberland Jul 21 '10 at 14:51
  • In the first section, I don't understand which user (you or him) deserves (in your opinion) the higher rep. – devinb Jul 21 '10 at 17:50
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    @Novemberland: your proposal is really hard to read; please consider editing it for grammar or running your subsequent posts through a grammar and spelling checker. – Ether Jul 21 '10 at 18:34
  • @devinb: I mean he deserves – Novemberland Jul 22 '10 at 13:34

This is a bizarre and certainly detrimental suggestion.

Case Study

A NASA Life-Support-System engineer and a coffee break flash game programmer are asked an identical fairly simple programming question.

Who will answer first? Lets assume they have a similar level of programming skill. However, the stakes of being wrong are completely different. One of them has to be thorough or millions of dollars will be wasted and people will die. The other of them has no such incentive to perfection.

Your suggestion would indicate that the Flash programmer is more competent simply because he answered quicker.


  1. Appealing to the audience will be rewarded
    It is fairly easy for me to very quickly create a glib answer. It will get upvotes. It will also be quicker, which makes it the "perfect" answer according to your system.

  2. Thorough answers are punished
    When I answer, I try to approach the question from as many angles as possible. My answers have less broad appeal because it takes much longer to read, however, to the OP they are (arguably) more valuable. The OP has incentive to read all the way to the end, so the length isn't detrimental to them. I expect fewer upvotes because fewer people will read to the end, however, your system would also punish me for taking longer to write my more thorough answer.

  3. Speed != Skill
    If I answer a question supremely quickly, it is because I had the information off the top of my head, probably because I used it quite recently. Everything else, I have to look up. When I answer off the top of my head, it has a higher chance of being wrong in some slight (but possibly critical) detail. When I look it up, it is usually 100% accurate (to the source at least). Your system would reward the people who are not bothering to look things up. The incentive to be 100% correct would be buried beneath the incentive to be first.

There's more, but I want to ship it quicker.

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    +1 for having the last line be both relevant and amusing – Pops Jul 20 '10 at 21:32
  • I agree in some aspects with you but believe me on this because I have wasted much productive time of my life to find it out: Speed == Skill. – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 21:35
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    @Novemberland. I can categorically assure you that I can generate an incorrect answer to any question faster than you can get the right answer. – devinb Jul 20 '10 at 21:40
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    @Novemberland: I suspect you have it backwards. Skilled programmers are often fast, but not all fast programmers are skilled. Therefore, Speed != Skill. – Bill the Lizard Jul 20 '10 at 21:40
  • @Bill the Lizard: I can't explain that which took me years to find out it in a richtextbox but I think I took under consideration the votes that show if that particular answer is skilled... – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 21:43
  • @devinb: Yeah, existing voting system can really prove that but my proposal concerns taking voting system primarily under consideration... – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 21:47
  • @devinb: You are wrong. It will not punish you it might reward you if you answered faster than other users... – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 21:51
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    For any software problem of non-trivial complexity, the best answers take longer to write. – Rex M Jul 20 '10 at 21:58
  • Why it is not taken under concideration that time will be in accordance with votes? For example if an answer has 300 votes, time factor will be accumulated properly. – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 22:04
  • There's more? And you said I write too much... – Grace Note Jul 20 '10 at 22:45
  • @Grace That's because when I write, it is stuff that people need to hear. =P And When did I ever say that you wrote too much?!? I'm a big fan of your writing! – devinb Jul 20 '10 at 23:01
  • Haha, true, true. I do write too much, though. Also, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/55356/… (I'm aware you meant it in good fun, and I took it as such). – Grace Note Jul 20 '10 at 23:25
  • @Grace Fair enough. I'll bet my words-per-answer is higher though. I'm pretty sure there's a dataexchange query for that. Let's Race! Who can write the longest novel that still gets upvotes. – devinb Jul 21 '10 at 0:44
  • devinb and @GraceNote -- I know it's a little late, but check out data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/266669/… -- that just may be what you're (or, "you were") looking for. – MTL Feb 2 '15 at 15:21
  1. Reputation is not a measurement of programming skill, but of your contribution to the site.
  2. I wouldn't want to discourage people from answering old questions by shifting the weight of points towards new questions.
  3. I don't think we have a problem in the first place. Questions are answered quickly, and answer quality is sorted out through voting.
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  • I tryied to make not a cruel proposal, a coefficient could be calculated in the way above and then multiplied with reputation taken from votes, if and only if the user choose so with a checkbox in profile or preferences... – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 21:26
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    @Novermberland Then you'd have a 2-tiered reputation system. That's WILDLY unfair. – devinb Jul 20 '10 at 21:29
  • @devinb: I don't agree with that, if the coefficient is properly designed and freedom of choice taken under consideration... – Novemberland Jul 20 '10 at 21:41
  • @Novemberland: There is another factor. Complexity kills. The S[OFU] sites are fairly complex already. Introducing a voting and evaluation system along the lines of your proposal would leave many users scratching their heads and muttering "WTF?!", fairness or "efficiency" issues aside. Reputation is not for measuring skill or efficiency, it's a reward system geared to provoke answers - and a mechanism to order them by relevancy. Nothing more, nothing less. – Tomalak Jul 20 '10 at 21:59
  • @Tomalak: see my last edit – Novemberland Jul 21 '10 at 13:12

Answers that are both fast and good already enjoy the advantage of being the first right answer. They're very likely to get an upvote or two before any other answers are even posted. That will position them in the prime spot at the top of the page, netting them even more upvotes. Why do they need even more advantage than that?

Edit: If you're interested in experimenting with different scoring algorithms, you might want to check out the Stack Exchange Data Explorer so you can try your ideas out with real data.

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