I have observed a very established user (10k+) practicing this: They first write a one line answer to be the first answer, then edit it changing the whole meaning of the answer adding a lot ($10$ lines at least).

My question is:

Is it a good practice to write a line/a word's answer and then editing it after just to produce more upvotes? Is there a valid reasoning for so?

Not only votes, but also "Enlightenment" badge which is given only for the first answerer (in case he qualifies). – Asaf Karagila Jan 12 '13 at 12:29
How long between the first line and the addition? If only a few minutes, maybe that is a good way to do posts here: write a small amount, post, then continue working on it until it is finished. Perhaps posting a few drafts along the way. For use by those who don't have a LaTeX engine always running on their own computer they can check things on. – GEdgar Jan 12 '13 at 13:10
@GEdgar: This is what the editing sandbox is for. – Asaf Karagila Jan 12 '13 at 13:25
Not that it really matters; but, that no edit history is shown (or even kept?) for five minutes doesn't help matters to discourage this type of behaviour. – David Mitra Jan 12 '13 at 18:47
It might be something like in this suggestion, i.e. not necessarily for the purpose of gaining votes, but to make other users that the question is being answered. – Martin Sleziak Jan 12 '13 at 19:13
@Asaf: I hope I am not this editor (!) but I often edit my posts a few times. I don't think the "edit sandbox" is mandatory in any way, unless there are complaints about too many edits to the same question. – Carl Mummert Jan 13 '13 at 17:55
@Carl: Oh, you're far from whoever I had in mind. I also have no objections to people editing once, twice or even three times. It's the issue when people post very incomplete one-liners in a method that seem like gaming. – Asaf Karagila Jan 13 '13 at 17:56
Yes, very incomplete one-liners are no good. I try to make my first post answer the question, but then I often go back and add more detail or correct any typos. For example, the last paragraph of this answer was added in a separate edit, although it doesn't show up in the history: math.stackexchange.com/a/276928/630 – Carl Mummert Jan 13 '13 at 18:01
The Mathematica StackExchange had a discussion about the same kind of behaviour earlier, which may be interesting to the folks here: Is posting an incomplete answer then immediately improving it helpful or aggravating? – Rahul Jan 13 '13 at 23:17
What the OP describes could in part be the Fastest Gun In The West problem. The problem with trying to solve this problem is that we inevitable will run up against Goodhart's Law. – Willie Wong Jan 14 '13 at 12:10
Another reason for doing this might be that it makes the OP aware that an answer is being composed. So perhaps a user will think a bit before deleting their question. A problem of questions being deleted during composing the answer was discussed a few times: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/3338, meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/13112 and meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/22812 – Martin Sleziak Mar 15 at 22:54
up vote 17 down vote accepted

I don't like how the question is posed now: it blends a fact (answer not posted all at once) with speculation (intention of the answerer). A better question would be

Are there ever valid reasons to not post an answer all in once?

To that I would say: yes, for example the following:

  1. Short version of an answer may enable the OP to obtain full answer on their own, which is likely to be of more benefit to them. Afterwards, the full answer can be posted for the benefit of others reading the question, and as reassurance to the OP.

  2. The more elementary questions tend to produce duplicate answers. While duplicate answers are not as problematic as duplicate questions, they represent an effort wasted. Google Wave (remember it?) went as far as letting collaborators see what others are typing in real time. While SE does not have this technology, incremental posting of an answer is an approximation to it.

On the philosophical level, I'd prefer it if the process of answering a question was treated as collaboration rather than competition.

Unless I intend to write a very short answer, I don't see how duplication of effort is a problem. On the contrary. Even if two people write extensive answers to the same question, and they write them similarly, it might give a welcomed insight. – Asaf Karagila Jan 12 '13 at 21:06
I'm sorry, I am bad at framing questions. – Parth Kohli Jan 13 '13 at 10:48

While this can be somewhat of a votes-seeking or badge-gaming behavior (especially if posting a very incomplete answer), it is not necessarily the case.

I know that sometimes I see a question which I can give a short and immediate answer (because I'm browsing from my iPhone, or because I have to run to class), that I may want to expand later. But the short answers are always complete answers.

My opinion is that we should condemn posting incomplete one liners.

+1 "it is not necessarily the case." I'd venture that it is not usually the case. – leonbloy Jan 18 '13 at 0:15
But now the question is: what is incomplete? a very sketchy answer can be regarded for some readers (including the OP) as incomplete. – Matemáticos Chibchas Jan 22 '13 at 3:26

Another problem that can occur is two or more people spending many minutes writing a long, complete answer, only for all but one of them to be "scooped" by the person who finished first. I can see how planting a flag in the ground to signal that you are working on an answer makes sense.


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