[Journal] How Do Users Revise Answers on Technical Q&A Websites? A Case Study on Stack Overflow


To ensure the quality of its shared knowledge, Stack Overflow encourages users to revise answers through a badge system, which is based on quantitative measures (e.g., a badge is awarded after revising more than 500 answers). Prior studies show that badges can positively steer the user behavior on Stack Overflow (e.g., increasing user participation). However, little is known whether revision-related badges have a negative impact on the quality of revisions since some studies show that certain users may game incentive systems to gain rewards. In this study, we analyze 3,871,966 revision records that are collected from 2,377,692 Stack Overflow answers. We find that: 1) Users performed a much larger than usual revisions on the badge-awarding days compared to normal days; 25% of the users did not make any more revisions once they received their first revision-related badge. 2) Performing more revisions than usual in a single day increased the likelihood of such revisions being rolled back (e.g., due to undesired or incorrect revisions). 3) Users were more likely to perform text and small revisions if they performed many revisions in a single day. Our findings are concurred by the Stack Overflow community, and they highlight the need for changes to the current badge system in order to provide a better balance between the quality and quantity of revisions.

IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering