I've found that on questions with many answers the highest voted answers are usually those that were posted first.

When I'm short on time and I go to a page with a relatively new question, I'll read the question and then the first answer. If its a good answer, I'll upvote it. If the next several answers have significantly fewer votes than the first, I assume they must be of lower quality and don't bother to read or upvote them. The first answer (or two) thus continues repeatedly to get more upvotes even though it may just be getting more upvotes because it's newer. Other high quality but newer answers are skipped because the vote totals imply them to be of lower quality. I assume that many other users of this site probably follow the same behavioral pattern as me when reading and voting.

To help ensure that the best answers get voted to the top, rather than just the answers that appear within the first few hours, I would like to propose a feature request:

For the first 48 hours after a question is posted, the number of votes on answers should not be shown. (Instead a message explaining that the vote totals will become visible in n hours should appear instead.) Vote totals for your own answers and for answers to your questions would always be visible to you without having to wait for the 48 hours to pass.

As is currently the case with answers with equal numbers of votes, all the answers would be displayed in random order. This randomized ordering of the answers when people visit the page throughout the first two days should help to ensure a more even distribution of voting. After those first two days, the vote totals should be shown, thus giving future visitors an actual record of what the "best" answers to the question are.

  • FWIW, this question is one that inspired this feature request. – Graham Herrli Jan 5 '14 at 17:27
  • It's a common complaint really. Known as the Fastest Gun in the West problem and has been discussed quite a bit over on the main Meta stackoverflow site as seen on that link. I quite like this suggestion really (although doesn't address the issue that new great answers to really old questions will still suffer from this problem). – JonW Jan 5 '14 at 18:38
  • @JonW. Thanks. That's a related issue, but it's only 1 component of a 2-part issue I'm trying to solve with this feature request. [Problem 1] The Fastest Gun in the West says that hurrying to create answers when the post is first created causes the answers to be of lower quality. It's particularly a problem on SO, where new answers disappear from the top page after the first couple minutes. – Graham Herrli Jan 5 '14 at 19:12
  • [Problem 2] A different problem occurs on a longer time scale, such as that more common to the UX.SE. Even without the Fastest Gun problem (meaning even if everyone who saw the post in the first couple minutes took time to read it thoroughly and post a thoughtful response) anyone who could only visit the site for a limited time window each day (and who thus only encountered most new question hours later) would likely not be upvoted because the other answers are already upvoted. – Graham Herrli Jan 5 '14 at 19:13
  • 1
    Reddit has implemented this as an option and several subreddits use it now. Anyone know if this has caused any apparent change in voting/posting behavior on any of the subreddits? – Ben Brocka Jan 6 '14 at 14:14

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