I am fairly new to Academia SE and have found it to be a great resource and a nice and respectful community. My issue is the following:

I have noticed that a lot of questions get answered very fast (within an hour of posting the question) by what I would call veteran users with high and very high reputation, often resulting in them having the highest voted or even only answer — because some questions require only one answer and subsequent users will not want to post an identical one, or I guess also, because the earlier an answer is posted, the more people will read it in the end. This is especially true for "easy to answer" questions, that is answers that a lot of people might be able to answer, simply because it isn't related to a specialty or to the inner workings of a specific institution or country.

These questions might be answered competently by quite a few users (also new ones), and I wonder if it would not be fair for veteran users (who don't really need the reputation boost that a well received answer might bring anymore) to wait a bit longer when answering those kind of questions that are easier to contribute to, to give newer users (who might not visit the site as frequently) the chance to answer first and in turn earn reputation that will enable them to act and interact more with the site, growing the community.

This question is by no means intended to offend those veteran users or to disrespect their often brilliant and helpful insight.

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    This is linked to a more general problem known as the Fastest Gun in the West. See also this post. Commented May 20, 2021 at 13:15
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    A separate, but related, issue on SE more broadly is that highly-difficult questions generally receive fewer views, so answering such questions is more work for less recognition. There have been many suggestions to introduce difficulty ratings, but so far nothing has been adopted (except for the bounty system).
    – cag51 Mod
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 17:47
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    I won't call any out, but I have seen high-rep users post highly similar answers to other answers that then surpass the lower-rep-user answers (here, I'm hypothesizing that's because of their high rep). There are places where I wish these high-rep users would just let those answers stand. Commented May 24, 2021 at 19:31
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    I kind of get where this is coming from. However, in many (most?) cases those 'high-rep' users gained their high reputation by being generous with their time and answering lots and lots of questions over a long period. It's not that high-rep users are hogging the easy questions; it's that the users who have the time and inclination to address easy questions quickly are the ones that accumulate the highest rep.
    – avid
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 10:49
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    It's not always the case, avid. There is a particular user, who will remain unnamed, who has, in more than one SE, specifically targeted HNQ questions and answered without regards to community standards or practices, simply to achieve 20k+ rep, in less than half a year, in every SE where he is a regular. Who then does as is intimated here by the OP. Yes, I realize this is an (unsubstantiated) claim beyond what this OP is discussing, but I just wanted to point out the other extreme.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


Being one of the chief "offenders" here, let me comment. I'm grateful to the OP for not singling me out, but, yes, I answer a lot of questions and do so fairly quickly, but that is just a consequence of how I use the computer generally, as well as how I used the net to teach my classes before I retired.

But I see the purpose of this site as providing help to those who ask questions, not building up rep for those who answer. Some of the questions reveal desperate needs of the writers and I want to provide help when I can. In those situations, at least, waiting seems like the wrong result.

Being very old and having held a wide variety of positions I have a lot of experience in some things. Thus, there are a few "lanes" that I occupy on this site. I'm happy, of course, when I get positive feedback for some of my answers and also happy when some of them cause controversy.

I also suffered some of the same setbacks that people ask about here as my career wasn't always especially smooth, requiring compromises.

However, I rarely answer questions to repeat what others have said unless there is a still-missing point that I think should be made. Nor will I down vote a post simply because I disagree with what is said - unless I think dangerous advice is given.

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    "Nor will I down vote a post simply because I disagree with what is said" If you want to provide help and you see a wrong answer, the helpful thing to do is to downvote the answer and upvote a comment that says why it is wrong. Commented May 26, 2021 at 12:05
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Disagreement doesn't necessarily imply wrongness. E.g. I see answers I disagree with for cultural reasons, but I don't down vote them because I understand that they are just a different point of view due to different culture, age whatever. I down vote when I see answers that are wrong in the sense of being harmful or because they give information that according to my experience is plainly wrong, or not sufficiently contextualized. Commented May 27, 2021 at 8:51
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    @MassimoOrtolano Yes, I think your approach makes more sense than Buffy's. Perhaps Buffy just didn't explain it with as much nuance. Commented May 27, 2021 at 10:11

TL;DR. It is true that we want to continue to build up a large and diverse community rather than relying only on a small number of power users. At the same time, our priority is in producing good answers; if the power users provide timely, high-quality answers, I would certainly not want to tell them to stop. So, it is really for individual members to decide how they can best leverage their valuable, limited time. ​

More thoughts....

  • I'm not sure I agree with "some questions require only one answer and subsequent users will not want to post an identical one." It's true that we disallow essentially-identical answers, but most questions can still benefit from multiple answers. Even answers that essentially agree might differ in their justification, presentation, or emphasis.
  • High-rep here is only loosely correlated with high academic rank. High rep users are not necessarily qualified to answer difficult questions. Further, if we disallow/discourage veterans from answering easy questions, there is no guarantee they will start answering harder questions.
  • This is a network-wide issue; there is nothing really unique to Academia.SE about this. As such, perhaps this discussion belongs on the main SE.
  • Enforcement could be pretty much impossible. Even if we as Academia.SE thought of a brilliant metric and everyone agreed to it, we could not technically implement it, and I don't think we could enforce it with sanctions or by deleting answers either. And it only takes a few veterans to flaunt the best practice before all the others (rationally) decide there is no point in them following it, either.

Suggestions for new(er) users who feel as you do:

  • Go to the home page rather than relying on hot network questions. The newest questions tend to have no highly-upvoted answers, so there is still time to get an answer that is noticed.
  • Consider formatting your answer. This answer, for example, has bold text and bullets. Such answers are a lot more readable than a wall of text, and will get more attention even if they are not the first answer.
  • Consider the backlog -- we have over 1000 questions with no upvoted answers at all! Many of these are asking for specialized information that most users will not have, but there may be some that you can answer. The SE network explicitly encourages answering old questions; I would love to see us clear our backlog.
  • Think more broadly about what you can contribute to answered questions. While we don't want duplicates, we are very happy to see additional answers with a different point of view, even if the key points and conclusion are the same.

to give newer users the chance to answer first and in turn earn reputation

You only need one reputation point to post questions and answers. The other "privileges" you can earn are really not worth seeking out. I just checked the list and most of the privileges I have are ones I did not know I had and will never use.

A substantial portion of the "easy to answer" questions are really duplicates. Another substantial portion attract a few terrible answers.

If, for some reason, you really want to earn reputation, I suggest asking high quality questions. This also gives you the first shot at answering your own question if you check the "answer your own question" checkbox.

  • So you are ok with not posting comments on other people’s posts? Or not being able to use chat.SE? Or not being able to flag a terrible post (i.e someone spamming “dingalingalingaling”)? Commented Jun 26 at 19:17
  • @TheEmptyStringPhotographer I totally refuse to use chat. It's the opposite of the point of this site. Comments are a little useful. Flagging is less useful. Commented Jun 27 at 3:29
  • Without flagging, lots of spam posts would stay on this site for a long time! Commented Jun 27 at 6:44

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