I've observed in my (admittedly quite short) time here that old answers have an extremely strong advantage over new ones. I'm not really talking about the "fastest gun in the west" problem, in the normal sense of bias toward the first of two answers posted a few minutes apart. I'm talking about age differences measured in months or years.

As a general principle I don't think this bias a bad thing, as it promotes stability and prevents lousy new answers from gaining much visibility (as is the case in wikis, for example).

However, it seems to me that this characteristic of SE sites often causes Age to overpower Quality as the primary determiner of which answer(s) appear at the top -- even when a question has no accepted answer.

Thus, users who contribute high-quality content are incentivized to focus their answering efforts on brand-new questions, rather than providing answers to old questions that have only mediocre answers that have collected upvotes over the course of years. This incentive means that old, highly visible questions that could stand to see some improvement are not likely to get it.

In the interest of promoting the overall quality of the site, thus, I'd like to recommend that everyone recognize the efforts of those contributing high-quality content to old questions: these users usually earn little rep for their contributions, relative to their quality. I'm sure there are a number of ways this recognition can be given, and I'm open to suggestions.

  • 2
    This is one of the uses of bounties
    – wax eagle
    Jul 27, 2015 at 15:14
  • @wax eagle Offering a bounty on an old question certainly could attract new good answers. It wouldn't, however, directly cause an answer to rise towards the top of the stack.
    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 27, 2015 at 20:53

3 Answers 3


I have created a chat room for promoting new answers to old questions.

I'm proposing the following guidelines:

  • Anyone is welcome to join
  • Users share links to new, high-quality answers written, by themselves or others, in response to old questions (i.e., those 30+ days old)
  • If desired, users can provide a brief comment as to why they think their answer provides something that older answers to the same question fail to do
  • Users, either periodically or when sharing their own links, review the links posted by others and vote as appropriate.

The intent here is not to form some sort of cadre where everyone upvotes everyone else's work, regardless of quality. If you get the impression that's happening, feel free to join the chat room and downvote accordingly! The hope is that people who share my concern and contribute high-quality content can work together to improve the overall quality of answers to old questions and push higher-quality answers toward the top.

Update: From the date of this post until the end of 2015, 106 answers got additional visibility by being posted in this chat room. If you haven't checked it out recently, I'd encourage you to do so!

  • 2
    This is a great idea. Other sites should pick up on this.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 25, 2015 at 19:30

I notice there are two paradigms used by different sites at SE, with advantages to both. Here at Christianity, we display in chronological order, which encourages stability and also gives prominence to whoever was willing to answer first. Over at BH, the answer with the most points works its way to the top, subject to the accepted answer always at the top; this means that a good, late answer will eventually get more prominence.

If prominence is the reward that will encourage good answers to old questions, perhaps we could consider adopting the BH model.

  • 1
    I don't think this is correct, per this. See particularly the first comment on the question and the accepted answer. Jul 29, 2015 at 13:00
  • @Nathaniel You may be right, but I'm not sure. I took it that when Dick said "points" he means "the content has more points that address the question".
    – user3961
    Jul 29, 2015 at 15:14

Another option could be to flag all new answers (excluding answers with nett downvotes) to old questions (eg over 1 year) with a colourful banner "New Answer" for one month after first entry.

  • I don't really like the idea. More burden on mods to evaluate content that would be worthy enough to get this banner.
    – user3961
    Jul 29, 2015 at 15:15
  • If this were automated somehow, I could see this as beneficial, but I suspect that that would require development effort... which doesn't seem promising. Jul 29, 2015 at 18:05

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