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[This would probably cause some controversy, but let's see what people think. I am certainly in a conflict of interest when asking this, but I try to be fair.]

I'm all for receiving good answers to questions, and I appreciate the effort of the people that stepped up for moderation, but as a new user I've had quite a lot of "Oh, I know this one" moments when browsing through the questions, just to see it first answered and accepted (correctly, no less) by a community member that has reputation in the 4-digit range, with other good and helpful answers by not-so-prominent community members that have only a few answer bumps, and rarely do those get accepted. Of course, that is a feature of time-spending on the site, but still there's a feeling of being at a disadvantage, especially if you only check for new questions occasionally.

My question (or rather, topic of discussion) is:

Should top members of the community refrain themselves from answering easy and obvious questions, giving a chance to the others to show their skills?

There's probably no way to enforce this, but it's a matter of self-policing. I would suggest a "grace" period of, say, an hour or two, when top contributors should not answer beginner questions, and after that it's fair game for everybody. In this way, questions will still get good answers in a timely manner if nobody steps up to it.

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    Nice idea, I like it. – Jukka Suomela Aug 18 '10 at 21:39
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    I too have noticed this. It's especially painful at the very beginning where you see someone has posted an answer that is slightly wrong and you want to comment, but you don't have enough reputation to do so. And, of course, reputation is hard to get if you don't spend hours constantly refreshing the web page looking for questions you can answer. I found it extremely off-putting to find the majority of the questions answered by the same 3 or 4 people. – TH. Aug 18 '10 at 22:05
  • Does anyone know whether SO has an official policy on this? – Caramdir Aug 18 '10 at 22:11
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    @TH.: If you see a wrong answer, that is a chance for you to write a better answer. – Caramdir Aug 18 '10 at 22:14
  • I agree that I currently spend too much time on this site. I'd like to write some thoughts on this, but it is late and I can't seem to formulate straight English sentences anymore. So maybe tomorrow. – Caramdir Aug 18 '10 at 22:19
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    @Caramdir: In broad strokes, the answer that I'm thinking of was correct. It was only slightly wrong in minor details. Writing a new answer that duplicated almost all of another's answer seems intellectually dishonest. – TH. Aug 18 '10 at 22:21
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    Just to add that many of the 'experienced' people are coming from backgrounds where there is no such thing as 'reputation' other than 'this person has answered a lot of questions'. So I think it will take a little while to get the right approach. This is a beta, after all, and so I hope we can all gain experience and make things work better all round. – Joseph Wright Aug 19 '10 at 7:03
  • Nothing to add, but just to say that I totally agree with the suggestion. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 19 '10 at 8:41
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Good point! I find myself spending much time on the site - and because solving problems and talking about TeX is fun, I'm quickly working on a new answer. I guess I have to restrain myself.

After some time, when the site has grown, questions may occur more frequently and in higher number, much do deal with. Today, in beta time, many experienced users have found the way to this site, perhaps not yet so many questioners.

So, what could we do today? Some thoughts.

  • Ask interesting questions. For everybody there might be an interesting question, even if he could figure it out himself in some time. Questions don't compete the way answers do, and good questions will be voted up. And rightly so. They lay the foundation for good answers, building our knowledge base.

  • Use up your vote limit. Vote early and often.

Looking at the questions of today and the previous 4 days, all of them are voted between 0 and 9, mostly in the lower range. I suppose if a reader of a question would think it's worth that he would answer, he would vote the question up, even if another user already answered. @mindcorrosive: you've used 8 votes until now: how many of them to questions, how many did you find interesting?

  • Let's vote for interesting questions. Perhaps look backwards, are there well-formulated questions to interesting subjects worth another vote? This also encourages other users to write good questions.

  • Vote for answers that contain good points. Not just for the best. Even older questions might have got further valuable answers - look out.

As Scott said, we're still in beta and setting the standards for voting.

What could I do further? I'll try to slow down. I'll try not to compete for easy questions as long as they get profound answers in a timely manner. And of course, I'm daily giving my votes, giving rep for good contributions.

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    Thank you for your understanding! I thought people would get cocky about this, but I see I was wrong. I am very glad that I have a chance to participate early in what could become a great TeX community. – Martin Tapankov Aug 19 '10 at 5:29
  • To your question -- I've mostly tried to vote up answers that are complete, well-structured, and educated, but I also found a few questions that I didn't know the answer of, but was struggling with at some point. So I upped those as well. – Martin Tapankov Aug 19 '10 at 5:30
  • I've been aiming mainly to comment on questions or do 'tidying' for the past few days. I will be making sure I vote for lots of questions :-) As Stefan says, it's likely that we are getting mainly rather experienced users at the moment. – Joseph Wright Aug 19 '10 at 6:03
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Not much to add to Stefan's answer. This is mostly what I wanted to write yesterday. I (and probably also the other four-digit rep people) wanted to make this site attractive for question-askers by quickly answering questions, but haven't really realized that this will make the site less attractive for new question-answerers.

To second Stefan: Vote often. I think the number of votes questions and answers get has actually declined since the start of the beta. If an answer says something useful (and on-topic), vote for it, even if it is not a complete answer in itself.

Also, as a question-asker, do not accept answers immediately. Lately I have seen several answers with a suboptimal accepted answer. Questions with accepted answer are ignored by many people. This is bad for the question-asker because they miss out on better answers and more upvotes. It is also bad for the question-anwerers who add a better answers because they will get less upvotes. (Yes, I was previously of the opinion that answers should be accepted soon, to avoid wasting brainpower, but I see now that at least at the current stage this is not optimal.)

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    +1 on the "do not accept answers immediately" bit. – Martin Tapankov Aug 19 '10 at 9:28
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I'd also like to record my support for this. For this site to survive, it has to be one where the same group of people who ask questions are also those who answer them (broadly, that is). If only a small group of people are answering all the questions then it becomes more like an "ask an expert" site and I don't think that that's the intention for the SE sites.

In the very early stages, the primary aim was to populate the site to make it look like what is was meant to be: a place to ask and answer questions. Maybe now we're into the "community building" phase were we have to think a little more about what our actions (as high-rep users) say about this place and how we can make it as welcoming as possible.

I'd just like to add one thing. I certainly wouldn't class myself as an expert, I'm just a problem-solver. If you ask me a problem (or even mention it in my site) and it catches my interest, then I just like solving it. Because it's fun! From my reputation, it may be that that's indistinguishable from expert so I'll try to hold back a bit. I certainly don't want me having fun to stop anyone else from joining in. I'll even let Caramdir answer a few TikZ questions ...

(added) I meant to say: it's important that we have experts here, but they should be more like a safety net. So, in my opinion, the site is working well when there are lots of people answering lots of questions and lots of the answers get "that's just what I would say" from one of our resident experts. Knowing that there are people who know more than I do means that I can risk being wrong - if I am, then someone else will come along and say so. And when I feel safe with being wrong, then I'll be right more often - if that made any sense!

  • How nice of you! ;) – Caramdir Aug 19 '10 at 13:59

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