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It is a pity that the new answers to old questions page is only visible to moderators. It is easy to ignore the third or fourth answer on an old question. However, there is potential for extremely valuable material in these questions, as they presumably represent a third or fourth significantly different viewpoint or significant addition.

Answer ratio is one of our metrics which could still use work. This is a little odd, since a site like this is less likely to be well served by single answers than some of the more scientific sites, even though some of you are good at giving fairly comprehensive answers.

I've recently answered several old questions myself.

Each of these answers has only received one upvote at this time; most of my answers have at least two upvotes and many of them have four or more. Now, the few number of upvotes on these answers is neither here nor there in itself; if they aren't worth more upvotes than that, why, certainly don't upvote them! I am not offended by that. However, my concern is that this is because few people have actually seen them—and then I wonder if this isn't something which will discourage further treatment of old questions which still have discussion value.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is there a way to create a feature that all users have access to which will show recent answers to old questions?

I will probably continue to answer old questions when I have something to contribute whether or not they receive much attention; I find it a valuable exercise. Nevertheless, it would be nice to think that a fair number of people might see them.

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    Of course answering them bumps them to the front page - but you could consider posting them in the chat room to for more exposure? May 16 '12 at 22:39
  • @JackDouglas Yes, it does bump them to the front page, but I wonder if people familiar with the question don't just think, "Oh, I've seen that before," and people who haven't seen it before get bogged down in the amount of material above the new answer...? The chat room...you know, I've never checked that out, that may be worth a try.
    – Kazark
    May 16 '12 at 22:45
  • I have a confession to make: I haven't been reading the site this week. At least not as regularly or thoroughly as usual. I also haven't been voting (since I haven't been reading). Answering old questions is a good idea and I would like to encourage you to continue working on it. (But none of that answers this question.)
    – Jon Ericson Mod
    May 16 '12 at 23:52
  • @JonEricson I did have the sense that the site usage was lower this week...that's forgivable of course. I believe in having a life. :)
    – Kazark
    May 17 '12 at 1:16
  • @GoneQuiet That is very useful to know, and probably will work in most contexts, so thank you! It isn't foolproof though because if I post an answer, then edit someone else's answer, that link will take me to the edited post rather than my own post.
    – Kazark
    May 17 '12 at 4:16
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    @Kazark, I know I missed a couple of your answers because you usually are editing the question or other people's answers when you're posting a new answer too. I would click the question and see "Edited by Kazark" and think that was the change that bumped it up. Usually I guess it's a retag. Monica's tip is good to know, though.
    – Soldarnal
    May 18 '12 at 14:55
  • @GoneQuiet That's probably the simplest solution.
    – Kazark
    May 18 '12 at 18:43
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I think this is a subset of the Fastest Gun in the West problem. Only our timescale is months, not seconds. (So we have the Fastest Glacier in the West problem instead.) In a nutshell, the first answer to a question has a slight advantage if it even looks correct. Each subsequent answer will face the twin problems of starting with fewer votes and being sorted lower on the page for 2/3s of the sort orders. (While it gets sorted to the top of the active sort order, there's no way we can force people to use that option and I don't think it's a good default.) Because of human psychology, this can be a very difficult hurdle to overcome.

Unfortunately, Stack Exchange has generally locked the preference for answering quickly into the system itself. When it comes to programming questions, that's actually a really good idea—if I'm struggling to solve a technical problem and I get a hint of how to solve it within a minute or two of asking, I'm really happy. But for Bible questions, the answers are literally eternal and there's no particular urgency to get an answer.

So far, Stack Exchange has been reluctant to change things for the benefit of smaller sites. Truth be told, they are probably making the right call. The fact is sites like ours are never going to be more than a tiny, incremental contributor to the network's overall success. (That's whether you measure by traffic, revenue, or the vague "making the internet a better place".) So if we want to get some developer support, we need to make the case that it will help other sites on the network (and Stack Overflow in particular). That's not an easy task.

Further, I can't think of a good technical solution to the problem. On the other hand, I think there are some cultural solutions:

  1. Use your vote.

    My philosophy is to be very liberal with my votes. Since day one, I've striven to cultivate a wide range of answers by voting up everything that I can. I try to reserve my downvotes for just plain wrong answers. Every time you up vote, you help make someone else feel a little bit better about their contributions and, in turn, encourage them to vote on other people's answers.

  2. Comment.

    Personal comments are even better at making people feel good about their work. My favorite comments are things like:

    "It doesn't say anymore than the original": but it might say less. Your average reader is going to say, "What in the world are tachash skins?" and the resulting confusion is a sign of lessened communication. I think transliteration is a cop-out. But good answer anyway +1.—Kazark

    That makes clear that the answer deserves a vote even if the reader disagrees with the conclusion. Happy users vote and stick around the site longer. (See #1 and #7.)

  3. Offer bounties.

    I have to thank Richard for modeling this for me. Once I got enough reputation (and 4000 will probably be enough for most people until we get close to graduation), I realized that I could reinvest my excess reputation into the site by offering bounties for good, unanswered questions or to reward under-appreciated answers. It doesn't change the sort order (maybe it should) but it does accomplish some of the goals of #1 and #2 and provides a visual clue that under-appreciated answers deserve a second look. In addition, the bounty itself brings attention to the entire question and all answers for 7 days.

  4. Change your accepted answer when a better on shows up.

    Obviously only the asker can do this. But when a new answer to one of your old questions pops up, consider changing the accepted answer. (Please don't hassle people about their accepted answers however. If they liked another answer better than yours, that's their prerogative.)

  5. Point out good answers in chat or on meta.

    One thing I've learned from reading MSO is that mentioning a post there will bring lots of attention (both negative and positive) to the post on the original site. I try to read every post on BH.SE, but even so I miss (or gloss over) some answers. But if you drop a note here or put something in chat (hey, let's use that resource!), we will take a closer look. Of course, the subset of users on meta and chat are also likely to be the subset who have already voted on a question. YMMV.

  6. Link to good answers.

    I've had great success by reusing old answers in answering new questions. If an answer to question A also touches on an issue raised in question B, you can double answer A's exposure by dropping a link to it in answer B. I have started thinking about making my answers more widely applicable for just that reason.

  7. Wait.

    Ultimately the only real solution is to let the voting sort itself out over time. If all goes well, we'll have more users in a year than we do now. With more users comes more votes. With more votes comes more clarity on which answers are better than others. Look at my profile on Stack Overflow. I'm in the top 5% of users even though I quit contributing there two years ago. I still get an upvote or two every few days on answers that I've long forgotten. We are in the first inning of this site and unless the game is called for rain, we have plenty of time for the cream to rise to the top. (Mixed metaphor alert!)

Summary

If we make this a generous place and we keep getting new users, then this problem should work itself out over time.

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  • I guess this is a good lesson: don't quit reading just because the first answer seems good. There might be a better one hiding below.
    – Kazark
    May 24 '12 at 19:39
  • It's also nice to know that our top BH.SE guy isn't all about reputation. It's like meeting a guy at a bouldering gym who can do V13s but talks to you just like any other guy even though the best you've ever done is a V5.
    – Kazark
    May 24 '12 at 20:04
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    @Kazark: I have no idea what that means, but I'll take it as a compliment. ;-) But seriously, bounties help me keep extrinsic motivation in perspective.
    – Jon Ericson Mod
    May 24 '12 at 20:52
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A very similar question was just raised on Christianity SE by Nathaniel: How can we encourage high quality new answers to old questions?.

He proposed (and created) a chat room to bring such posts to the attention of a broader audience. It seems like a really good idea to me, so I pass it on here in case BH SE members would like to make use of it and/or create a similar room here.

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