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A problem in answering questions arises when several people try to independently answer a question, and in the middle (or the end) one understands the situation.

The case happened to me, and several other people (See Ryan Williams' comment to Robin Kothari in this post).

I suggest adding a "Claim" mechanism, which works as follows:

  1. Upon deciding to answer a question, on clicks some "Claim" button.
  2. The word "Cliam", the name of the user who claimed the answer, and several other useful information appears beside the question for some predetermined time (say 20 mins), or until the claimer presses the "Post the answer" button (whichever happens first).
  3. Everyone else who sees the "claim" notice can decide to wait, or ignorantly answer (based on personal tastes, claimer info, remaining time of the claim, etc.)
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    $\begingroup$ the system rudely erased my comment. I wanted to say that this discussion, irrespective of the merits, needs to happen at meta.stackoverflow.com - we don't have the power to change the software $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Sep 14 '10 at 0:05
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You can simply leave a comment to let others know that you are going to write a long answer (and perhaps already hint in one sentence what kind of solution you'll provide). No need for any additional mechanisms.

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To be honest, I really think the idea runs counter to the structure of the site. The idea behind stackoverflow and its derivatives seems to be that multiple answers are generated and the cream float (or are voted) to the top. Claiming a question in the manner you suggest would seem to strongly discourage multiple answers, and would increase the response time, so I don't really see the benefit other than perhaps boosting some users rep and possibly reducing redundancy (which I don't necessarily see as a good thing).

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  • $\begingroup$ it's a moot point. we can't change the software unless the SE overlords do it. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Sep 14 '10 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I know. Somehow felt the need to respond though. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 14 '10 at 22:12

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