Why are new users allowed to post late answers to questions from so long ago? Most of the times it's not even useful and it clutters up the Top Questions page.

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See also: Automatically protecting popular questions after a given amount of time. A protected question doesn't accept new answers from users with less than 10 rep, but questions are not currently protected automatically. –  nhinkle Jun 9 '11 at 20:58
    
@nhinkle - they do get autoprotected if 3 answers by low rep (<50) are deleted. –  Sathya Jun 10 '11 at 4:23
    
I know, I didn't have time to write a full answer than as I was on the way out the door. Thanks for the added info @Sathya. –  nhinkle Jun 10 '11 at 5:21
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The main point of superuser and any forum, is to provide a good database of questions and answers. So even if the person asking has already found his answer. And anyhow, still an incredibly strange question, surely somebody with 1690 rep points seeks to improve his knowledge? So if he has a question and an answer is posted a month later then it's something new to add to his knowledge. –  barlop Jun 10 '11 at 22:32
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4 Answers

up vote 27 down vote accepted

I don't have the stats to support this, but I honestly don't know if I'd call late answers to old questions mostly not useful. Whenever I review late answers, there are maybe two or three out of twenty that are worth deleting (because they're not an answer or just poor).


But all the other answers have a right to be there and shouldn't be blocked just because there is a possibility the answer might be bad. If you asked a question and waited for a solution, would you appreciate having your post locked (even passively) and risking that the only person who knows the definitive answer can't even tell you because they first need to gain some reputation?

I'd find that frustrating, both

  • from the side of the person who asked the question – because they might miss a helpful answer and don't even know – and
  • from the side of the person who answers – because they think they have something to contribute (otherwise they wouldn't care to sign up) but are hindered.

I think we have good enough review processes that clear out unnecessary answers. There aren't that many "late answers" and they can be easily reviewed by our moderators and people with access to the review tools.

Also, as @nhinkle said, some questions that attract bad answers are protected anyway.

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I'd agree with this. Why rule out the possibility of a better answer just to avoid potential bad answers. As long as a late answer can be flagged, the it seems like the system should still work. –  Kirk Jun 9 '11 at 23:18
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When I first started using this system, I tried to answer a question. It was very frustrating for me because the system was rejecting an answer I had put quite a bit of time and effort into answering. So, out of frustration I posted my answer as a question, and then I found out that the question had been closed. I think there should also be a grace period after closing where a moderator gets to review answers before they appear to everyone so that good answer aren't lost (I think that sometimes an answer can still be useful for a seemingly bad question that was closed). –  Randolf Richardson Jun 10 '11 at 1:13
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"When" an answer is submitted shouldn't be used as a means of judging its quality. –  Randolf Richardson Jun 10 '11 at 2:27
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@Randolf I was exactly thinking about these situations, thanks for explaining! –  slhck Jun 10 '11 at 7:48
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You missed out "from the side of people looking for questions with good answers".. It's a rather important "side" –  barlop Jun 10 '11 at 22:59
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As a recent example, Apple will finally allow multi-user remote desktop via VNC in the upcoming version of OS X. @Arjan added a very late answer to a topic asking for something just like that. –  Daniel Beck Jun 11 '11 at 9:33
    
@Kyle Indeed, the current system works, and with good mods and users reviewing and flagging appropriately, things work. Just needed some clarification on that matter. –  paradd0x Jun 11 '11 at 16:53
    
I've personally found some "late answers" useful, for instance when they mention some new language or OS feature that didn't exist when the question was asked. I've also written one or two where I've simply generalized the solution which generally takes longer than develop (and test!) than the ones more quickly made. I don't think anything with the current system is broken and in need of fixing. –  martineau Jul 20 '12 at 10:40
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Some questions/answers are not static meaning that over time a better answer may surface. Since we encourage posters to search for previous answers, it seems we'd want to allow new answers to old questions.
I recently stumbled upon a 2 yr old AD question where a new answer represented a change in technology since the original question was posted.

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Well, consider this question.

Skype status showing always online

It was asked July 22 2009. Notice when the correct answer arrived -- April 11 2010!

So by your logic, we should have shut down that question after a few months and we never would have gotten an answer...

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I'm not saying some answers aren't useful. Especially since things change. But it appears, to me at least, more often than not, new users post late answers that are basically what other users posted previously. –  paradd0x Jun 11 '11 at 16:52
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Eventually, though, another option is to not allow (somehow) new user to post answers to (somehow) old question with accepted answers.

As I remember, while I worked for a BBS in the telephone era, the rule was that however old you are in the system, however old posts (the ratio could be adjusted, obviously) you could reply to and thus raise its discussion. It may not be 100% appropriate (or even 1% appropriate) here, but it's a bright idea.

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This is what the linked topic discussed. And since quite a few people accept answers that are insane workarounds, where a proper solution emerges a while afterwards, it'd hurt the network. I wouldn't consider the handful of non-answers a severe enough issue for such measures. –  Daniel Beck Jun 12 '11 at 16:40
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