I often find myself in a spot of trouble, and when I have minutes left to fix it, I sometimes turn to SO/SF to start the "community help process". I suppose a tag like "urgent" or "immediate-attention" could enable contributors with spare time easily find the most desperate situations, giving more attention to those issues and solving them quicker. Or could this be a special tab on the home page?
I am very much against this idea. Stack Overflow is meant to be a repository of information. It is NOT meant to be a place to farm out your work to.
If you have something urgent, your time would be better spent asking the people around you, or figuring it out for yourself. On SO, because the answers are provided wikipedia style (anyone can answer) you can't guarantee it is correct, so if you are on a time-crunch the first answer could be completely wrong, and might destroy your application.
Of course that could happen if you were doing your own work too.
All questions are equal on SO, one person should not be able to skip the line or get special treatment just because they didn't manage to get everything done beforehand.
And, my sympathies go out to them, lord knows I've missed deadlines. But the point is that SO is not a technical-help phoneline that you can immediately get gratification from.
I know exactly what the first thing I'm going to do once this starts happening. ... Hide everything tagged urgent.
If you really want the information from me right now, I expect to see a check. You do realize that the people who are paid to be on-call 24/7, usually get paid better than people paid to work 9-5.
Whats more, what happens if you don't get an answer? Do you keep the urgent tag until it is answered? I can just see it now, hundreds of questions tagged urgent, that have been that way for years.
Do you want to know the first thing that goes through my mind, when I see the word urgent? The first thing I think, is ... well you better get started on that, I've got other things I could be doing. I mean I have my own problems that I should be thinking about, I don't need to start worrying about your problems as well.
Do you really think that your problem is more urgent to me, than my own problems?
One thing that StackOverflow (and I presume the other sites will in time, if not already) are great for is immediacy. Some questions can get answered in seconds, literally.
The best thing to get a quick response is to give as much information as possible in the clearest manner possible.
Example: If you have a question about how to write a particular SQL query, the following information is essential in getting you a super-fast result...
- Easy-to-read schema
- Sample data set
- Desired output
- Query you already have (if applicable)
By providing that type of information, it is very easy for someone to see what you are talking about and get to work immediately answering the question.
I think that some kind of immediacy flagging is inevitable, because I see these sites as rapidly growing in popularity, and a smaller crowd of people that want to be "online" and answer things interactively. Probably, on a more intermittent basis, people will be desperate and post urgent questions.
Obviously, you need to discourage people from posting everything as urgent, but there are features like auto-timeout and high karma pricing that could make this work.
The reason I think tagged discussions is better than a chat room, is that chat rooms are not threaded, and if you have too many open items, the place becomes a mess.