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I've noticed this happening quite a bit, and was wondering if it's really in the spirit of StackOverflow.

Someone posts a question, which is very quickly answered by someone with what initially seems like an authoritative answer (but is actually incorrect or lacking in any real depth or thought).

As other people begin to post answers which they have taken more time over, the person who posted the first quick-fire answer begins to edit their post to take elements of everyone else's answer and incorporate them into their own.

The result is that the person who initially posted a wrong answer ends up with what looks like the most comprehensive and correct answer in the thread.

I don't care about the reputation side of it, but it's frustrating to see people doing this to seemingly just get ANY answer in ASAP, rather than taking time to consider what they're actually posting.

How could this be addressed? Maybe a time-limit on edits? Or a set amount of edits allowed on a post?

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    Example, or it didn't happen.
    – nb69307
    Jul 29, 2010 at 9:44
  • I don't have any examples to hand, it's just something I noticed when watching a few questions over the last number of months and I had been mulling over posting about it here on meta. Jul 29, 2010 at 9:49
  • Well, you could post a [feature-request] for the time-limit on edits Jul 29, 2010 at 10:27
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    Proving it happened can be hard. If you get your edit in within the first 5 minutes it is impossible for someone to prove to someone else that you edited your post even if they saw it happen. Well maybe diamond mods can see those edits in the edit history, but I cannot.
    – Mark Byers
    Jul 29, 2010 at 13:01
  • @Mark I think the 5-minute edits actually change the original revision in the database, so diamond mods wouldn't be able to tell either Jul 29, 2010 at 17:00
  • @Tobias, please post it so I can -1 it. :D
    – badp
    Jul 29, 2010 at 20:36

4 Answers 4

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What you are seeing is often described as the fastest gun in the west. Its not always intentional, some people are just too eager to click the submit button and think of more things to add just a few minutes later.

More than 8 edits, past the five minute editing grace period and they've edited themselves right into community wiki.

Mostly I just enjoy spending time and working on my own answers, I'm known to edit each one at least three or four times until it seems 'just right'. I never try to be the 'first one', but sometimes that does happen.

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  • Ah, didn't realise it was already well discussed enough to have a name :) I understand what you mean about editing an answer to get a sense of completeness from it, but some people abuse this a bit. Like I said in my comment to Kobi - tough to judge, but ultimately the current system probably serves the person asking questions better, which is what it's all about I suppose. Jul 29, 2010 at 11:03
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The main point of SO isn't ranking the Users by points, it's providing a reference for the community, so if an answer is wrong or incomplete, it should be changed and updated to become a full and complete answer.

Most people probably don't do it on purpose, but even if they did answer quickly on purpose and then edited their question to make it perfect, that's ok. They game a few points, but who cares? The important things is that what is left for posterity is a full and complete answer and not a partial or incorrect one.

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SO answers serve two main purposes: to answer the OP's problem, to serve as a reference for people coming later, and to allow us to show off. SO answers serve...I'll come in again.

If a single answer is continually edited to be the best it can, the OP benefits slightly, and the person coming later benefits a lot. The annoying feature is that somebody who may not appear to deserve it is getting upvotes and rep.

Personally, I think that somebody who's willing to work hard at making their answer the best deserves some recognition. I don't think this is a big enough problem to warrant changing the system.

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  1. It's OK to be quick.
  2. It's OK to be wrong.
  3. It's OK to delete your answer when you realize you're wrong, and other answers exist.

It's hard to judge though. It's possible the person realize s/he's wrong, and spend a few minuted updating the answer, while other answers pour in.

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  • I guess you're right, it is difficult to judge this. I guess it comes down to the question of what does more harm - people "gaming" the system, but high-quality answers still being produced, or restrictions which make things "fairer" but might limit the overall quality and ease of use of answers. Jul 29, 2010 at 11:01

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