Suggested Improvements for Stack Overflow

Published on February 14, 2012

My last post dealt with a few issues I encountered during my first 30 days of using Stack Overflow. I would now like to propose a few ways I think some of these can be smoothed over. This will be my final post on the Stack Overflow topic; I think I’ve pretty well worn it out.

Hide user scores by default
New users shouldn’t see other people’s reputation scores by default. If the primary goal of scores is to identify the most “helpful” users in the community, use a color-coded or sliding scale graphic instead. Perhaps low-scoring users are on the “cool” end of the spectrum, while high-scoring users are on the “hot” side. Hiding scores by default seems to me to be an easy way to take away some of the competitiveness, while leaving some sort of means for determining a contributor’s “worth” to the community.
Implement a back-off for power-users
The more “powerful” a user (i.e. the higher their score), the longer they should be locked out from answering new questions. A delay of this sort doesn’t need to be giant; a few minutes would suffice. For example, perhaps new users can answer questions immediately, an “average” user can’t answer new questions for three minutes, and power users are locked out for five minutes. This would encourage newer users to answer the newest questions, and would make it harder for power users to snatch up points for simply being the fastest on the block.
Implement a delay for accepting answers
If a back-off delay is implemented, clearly an answer acceptance delay is needed. Let’s say that answers for new questions cannot be accepted for 10 or 15 minutes after they are asked. This would give everyone a chance to form well thought out answers to the questions asked, and would help keep new users from gaming the back-off delay.
Create a better user manual
Hire a competent writer and create a better user manual. This should be self explanatory.

If you have thoughts on these suggestions, I’d enjoy hearing them.

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