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TL;DR: Stack exchange incentives discourage answering/improving old questions that have an accepted answer. Would highlighting new answers help with this?

I've answered 2 questions that were over a year old and already had 3 or more answers. In each case I did this because I thought I had a substantially better answer for games in which I have a lot of experience. The mechanics of stack exchange make new answers buried beneath many other answers and thus not noticed. The new answer is unlikely to be accepted as the question originator is often no longer participating in the site, or even if they are don't get voting information to help decide if the new question merits acceptance.

Stack Exchange was initially conceived for developers who had objective questions with typically one objective answer. But the way Board and Card Games has evolved, questions about strategy are popular and typically have multiple possible answers. Furthermore, rules change over time which can change the correct answer to a question (see What to do when an answer is no longer correct?). As rules change, and more importantly as new people join the site who may have different (and sometimes better) strategy ideas, it would be great if there were a way to temporarily highlight a new answer so it could be seen and considered. If not bubbled to the top, perhaps a brightly colored link to the new answer that lasts for 3-6 days. This would provide an incentive for people who think they have a potentially better answer to post it to an older question - they'll know that there's a real chance people will see the answer and vote/comment on it.

Examples:

What are good placement strategies for Stratego? (I believe I can beat someone who always uses the strategy of the top answer at least 80% of the time, so I provided a competing answer)

What are the key strategy differences between Settlers of Catan and Seafarers? (I agree with the top answer but it is not even close to comprehensive, so I provided a more comprehensive competing answer)

Based on the reception for my answers to these questions (few views, few votes, no comments), I am inclined to not answer old questions in the future (that have more than 3 answers already). I would imagine more seasoned participants figured this out long ago and never bother trying to come up with better answers to old questions.

I'd like to hear from others whether it makes sense to highlight new answers to old questions (at least temporarily), thus providing more incentive for people to come up with better answers to old questions. This could lead to more improvement in older questions than currently happens. Obviously, if most people feel this would not improve site quality, then it's not worth doing.

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As others have mentioned, this is and is unlikely to change.

However, I would like to encourage you to selectively answer old questions at least occasionally if you think you can provide a better answer.

Reasons:

  1. Make the world a better place. This is the big one. Traffic here is continually inching upwards and what seems to be a low-view question now may change in the future.
  2. There are incentives! These are some of our more difficult (yet still achievable) Badges
  3. Your answer could spark a revival in the question. It will get bumped to the front page and evaluated fresh.
  4. Your answer could spark a revival in the game(via the tag) on the site. I've received 1 upvote for 3+ questions at a time quite frequently. I assume that is when someone discovers that "Yes, B&CG does cover that game, cool!" and goes thru reading all the old questions we have. Folks are more likely to get this serendipitous discovery from our front page questions.
  5. The questioner may switch their accepted answer (or award it for the first time) - Although this is pretty rare, I have lost several accepted marks from people who came in much later with more comprehensive answers than mine were. I've also gained a couple by coming in later too, it works both ways!

If your goals are strictly the gameification, then perhaps old questions are not the best "bang for your buck", but I think a few well placed answers to older questions can benefit the site and yourself just fine.

Now I'm going to test my theory by inserting this answer to your 5 month old question :)

  • @user1873 - lol, No harm in trying! – Pat Ludwig Sep 25 '12 at 1:41
  • @user1873 - Do you like my shiny new necromancer? :) Sorry, couldn't help showing off! – Pat Ludwig Sep 26 '12 at 13:32
  • I am quite impressed. As a moderator though, your answers will recieve more attention and upvote because of that little diamond. The same is probably true of 10k users. Joe would have a much harder time gameifying points in this way. – user1873 Sep 26 '12 at 15:48
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There are three sorting options for answers:

Active, Oldest, and Votes.

Until your answer gets some votes, it will be lowest on the vote view (obviously), but not all users sort this way. If I see that a question on the mainpage with a relatively old OP, I often toggle between active and votes.

  • Never noticed that before. Just tested "active" and it showed the accepted answer first, and then sorted by most recently active thereafter. I wonder how many people know to do this? Before you pointed this out, my method was to manually scan for answer dates and edit dates, which is obviously cumbersome. I've learned that given identical numbers of votes, a recent answer on average is better than an older answer, which makes sense given that it had fewer views, and thus fewer voting opportunities. – Joe Golton Apr 25 '12 at 18:28
  • +1 this works the same all sites around so you should get use to it to know that ;) – gbianchi Apr 25 '12 at 19:47
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A new answer pops the question on the main page, and clicking on the edit time takes you to the new content. Plus, as The Chaz said, you can sort explicitly. I think these affordances provide enough navigation to the newest answers.

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