On this question, the sequence of events was:
- Buffy, Guest, and I all submitted answers on literally the same minute.
- Buffy's answer was immediately upvoted, and from there people piled on. Within a ~day, he was ahead by 40 votes; I think the score was something like 100-60. Our answers are very similar, so it's a bit strange that there was such a difference (I blame the dog picture...).
- Then, OP accepted my answer, meaning that my answer is displayed first, despite having fewer votes. The gap quickly began to shrink, and a few days later, I am ahead by 10, 216-205.
Since neither of us over edited our answers, this is a clear illustration that the top-rated answer gets a huge bias. [For that matter, I've seen similar behavior in close voting -- hard to stop the close train once it gets rolling -- but that's a separate topic.]
Of course, I don't particularly care about my imaginary points, but it does seem like an obvious weakness:
- Better answers submitted after ~10 votes are in are unlikely to be read
- This affects new users who can't even comment yet
- As Buffy points out, the same is true for downvotes too (though it seems like we downvote less on this SE than others), and arbitrary downvotes are a sure way to discourage new users.
We've discussed this before, but I guess my questions are:
- What could we do, mechanically? Does SE support solutions like hiding the vote totals for the first few hours, or is there simply nothing that can be done without getting the powers that be to write entirely new code?
- If we do have the power to make such changes, has the community already decided not to? The questions I linked seemed open to such changes, but nothing happened.