14
$\begingroup$

This is my first time here on meta, so please bear with me if somehow the question is not adequate.

I've noticed an unhealthy influence of the time of the day a question is posed over its number of answers/views/votes, based on personal (i.e. subjective) observation.

If I pose a question when it is night on most of America and Western Europe, then it gets less attention. If I pose it a sunday night, that makes it even worse.

I don't think this is healthy and I don't know if the site has any way to circumvent this.

I believe this has already happened to me. Most recently, I believe this question Why isn't the perfect closure separable? which I posed last night, is way more interesting than the question I asked before on perfect closures, but it got a lot less attention...

UPDATE: I believe I have been misinterpreted. I see some answers and comments talking like I'm some lazy person who wants more attention at the expense of others bothering themselves to attend to my whims. This was not at all what I was meaning. Of course it's absurd to pretend people change their schedules in order to get to see all questions at all time. I thought there might be a way questions get lifted to the front page, either automatically or manually (by those with enough power).

I see some have read my use of the words "unhealthy" or "unfair" as a rant; that was not my point. I think we all agree that in a perfect situation, whether you live in the middle of the Pacific or in GMT wouldn't have an impact on the reach of your question. I was hoping maybe someone would come up with technical means to counter this issue.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Additionally, there aren't that many people who'll take the time to browse the "Questions" tab to look for "interesting" questions... if it's no longer on the front page, most people don't bother with it. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician May 2 '11 at 16:53
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ As far as "circumventing", you can "bump up" your question during peak hours by editing it somehow. There is a limit to this, as too many edits will convert it into a community wiki question, but if you feel the question got missed because it was posted during "relative downtime" and it got 'shuffled out of sight' by questions later, this can try to short-circuit this. But, really; is it more fair to ask me to stay awake into the wee hours of the weekend so as to pay more attention to questions posed during those hours? $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin May 2 '11 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Arturo: of course I'm not asking that of you, or anyone. I believe I have been misinterpreted. I never meant to imply that we should "change users habits", that is an absurd idea. $\endgroup$ – Bruno Stonek May 3 '11 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Bruno: But you did complain that you felt it was "unfair" that questions posted during down times received less attention. If you did not mean to imply you were asking that people pay more attention during down times (or less attention during peak times), what exactly were you hoping would occur? $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin May 3 '11 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Arturo: As I said in the Update above, to get those questions to get more attention, not by changing the users's habits, but by some technical review of the system that prints the questions on the first page. $\endgroup$ – Bruno Stonek May 3 '11 at 2:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "I thought there might be a way questions get lifted to the front page, either automatically or manually (by those with enough power)." - for "automatically", the Community user will bump questions with no upvoted answers from time to time; for manually, edit your question to include any progress you've made in attempting to solve it, or offer a bounty. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician May 3 '11 at 7:20
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Dear Bruno, I appreciate your question; I (and surely others) have noticed the same phenomenon. As others say, there is not so much to be done, it seems, other than to try to bump your question with an edit during the middle of the North American day, or to offer a bounty. (With regard to your particular question, I was thinking of a good way to answer it, and got myself a little confused; when I'm unconfused and have time, I'll try to answer it if no-one has given a satisfactory answer in the mean-time.) Regards, $\endgroup$ – Matt E May 3 '11 at 14:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bruno: I'm not sure if you get a notification when an answer is edited, so I'm letting you know that I've edited my answer. Regarding your suggestion of automatically lifting questions to the front page, this is already done - just not frequently enough so that it would be annoying. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan May 4 '11 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: Just to let you know, answer edits do (unfortunately) not notify the question asker. So it was indeed good that you left that comment. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt May 4 '11 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ I put some links here, that match your observations. Maybe you can use them to schedule your questions. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – draks ... Feb 24 '12 at 10:28
22
$\begingroup$

There is no way to circumvent this. We can't force people to pay less attention to math.SE during peak hours or more attention away from peak hours. That's what you sign up for when you ask a group of strangers on the internet to help you out for free. If you want reliable service, you should probably pay for it.

"Fair" doesn't seem like the right word to use in this situation. When you signed up, nobody guaranteed that your questions would get equal billing relative to other questions. StackExchange has no responsibility to ensure that this happens. What you get is nothing more and nothing less than the capacity to post questions whenever you see fit.

Edit:

I thought there might be a way questions get lifted to the front page, either automatically or manually (by those with enough power).

Questions are lifted automatically to the front page; if a question doesn't have an upvoted answer, then the community user periodically bumps it until it does or gets closed.

$\endgroup$
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ I'm surprised by these responses. It's just an observation that timing has a significant impact on visibility of questions. That means the attention a question receives can be significantly influenced by a factor other than its usefulness or interestingness. Depending on the goal of SE, this could be viewed as a flaw. There are site functionality changes that could be made to diminish this, and pros and cons to such changes. I think the potential effects and how they fit with the intended purpose of SE is a reasonable thing to discuss. Though, I think it's a SE issue, not math.SE. $\endgroup$ – matt May 3 '11 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ @matt: probably, this should be brought up on meta.SO. Yes, I suppose that the bulk of this site's users are tightly clustered about certain time zones... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician May 3 '11 at 10:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @matt: yes, it's an SE issue. I don't see how we can do anything about it here. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan May 3 '11 at 13:03
11
$\begingroup$

This doesn't seem to be a problem so much as a reflection of when the community is most online and active. Short of asking people to change their schedules (which I don't think users would be willing to oblige), I don't really see a way to change it.

If you are interested in getting the most attention/discussion, then I suppose you'll want to post the question at a "peak time", whenever that is. But I've found that most questions will get at least one answer sooner or later.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ But I don't think I should be waiting with my question written in a text file to post it when time is right... It doesn't seem fair, especially for people living on other time frames. $\endgroup$ – Bruno Stonek May 2 '11 at 15:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bruno, the point really is: Even if this is a problem (I didn't think about this), can anything be done about it? $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt May 2 '11 at 16:09
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Bruno: And what exactly do you believe would be "fair", and how would you do it without demanding that other people do what you think you should not have to do? (Because the only way I can think of making it so you don't have to wait is somehow require/ask/demand/request that other people check in on the website atm times when they are normally not inclined to do so, so that you can get attention whenever you want attention. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin May 2 '11 at 21:02
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are statistics available as to what exactly are the peak and off-peak periods on this website? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 3 '11 at 0:47
9
$\begingroup$

There is a lot of luck involved in how your question will be received, not just because of time of day or week, but also because of who happens to be using the site more during a given week, and probably lots of other factors. There are also different tastes; the question that seemed more interesting to you might not be so to other users.

There are ways to bring more attention to a question that was not posted during peak hours. One would be to edit your question, say to add additional relevant thoughts or background that might be helpful, if anything has come up since you originally posted. You could even make relatively trivial edits like adding a relevant tag. Each edit bumps the question to the top of the front page. It may be frowned on if done in excess, but an occasional useful edit shouldn't hurt.

You can also add a bounty on your question. Details on that can be found in the FAQ.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

It seems to me that in non-peak hours there will not only less answerers, but also less competing questions, so the only way that this is an issue is if you are in a geographical region that has less answerers than other regions (or maybe few inhabitants at all).

Why it should be unfair that it is harder to get answers if noone in your longitudinal region wants to answer question and you do not adapt your posting schedule is unclear to me. I have posted in many places where I was in a longitudinal minority and I simply feel happy to live in a century where this kind of exchange is possible, even though it is admittedly really hard to fully participate in flame wars if you always come in non-peak hours.

I actually do browse through questions (and I happen not to be interested in your particular question), but I certainly do not feel obligated to do so.

I am also surprised by the word "unhealthy". What exactly do you mean by it?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 'unhealthy' = 'not in my interest' $\endgroup$ – Mitch May 3 '11 at 15:49
6
$\begingroup$

Personally, I don't see this as a problem at all. I'm not compatible with American timezones, and I don't have any difficulty asking questions, answering questions, or otherwise using the website. Yes the observations you make are true (to an extent), but I just don't see this as a significant problem.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .