The users that make up the upper echelons of Stackoverflow have several hundred thousand reputation points, have answered tens of thousands of questions and have gained notoriety because of it. How did they get there? Let’s talk with a few of them.
A good answer does try to address all the questions asked in the main question, or explains why some of them are not relevant (usually based on mistaken assumptions by the OP).
Often, a quick answer gets points, but later needs to be expanded. Classic case in point: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/227897/solve-the-memory-alignment-in-c-interview-question-that-stumped-me/227900#227900. I gave a quick answer, and got a lot of up-votes because it was basically right and succinct. Then I was asked for an explanation, so I added that, and the explanation has grown. And some valid nits were picked and the answer fixed. For a long time, it didn't benefit me much; I'd edited it enough that it became CW under the old stringent rules. Fortunately, they've agreed to allow such answers to be made non-CW and retrospectively credit the points (so I jumped several thousand points when that change was made).
I can paste these into a comment when the question needs fixing. I have a pair of scripts 'posixfun' and 'posixcmd' that generate a reference to the POSIX specification for a command or function given its name:
$ posixfun wait [`wait()`](http://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/functions/wait.html)
$ posixcmd wait [`wait`](http://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/utilities/wait.html)
These make it easy for me to paste suitable x-refs into my answers. And I use compilers, and git, and uncrustify, and valgrind, and various other commands to check code etc. I do keep a record of important answers in Git. For example, the 'extern variables' answer has its own branch and all the code in the question is in the branch, and has been compiled, linked and run.
So, while I'll largely be organizing and coordinating other responders, possibly devising ad hoc programs to make them more efficient, &c, I'll likely also find some time to become moderately active again myself -- only it won't have to be all during evenings, weekends, and smoking breaks, but, part of my work (as long as I focus mostly on Google Cloud Platform components). I suspect the reason I was actually "internally head-hunted" for the new role may have something to do with my SO reputation, so that won't come as a surprise:-).
Allan Chandler (paxdiablo)
Also an hour or so after work, many days. Sometimes, I'll spend more time if I'm in the groove, one consequence of which my wife long ago started referring to it as "Dear Pax".
It's also not just a one-way thing. My answer-to-question ratio may be about 50-to-1 but those 150-odd questions I had answered were a great help to me.
My employer at the time had a policy of give-back and getting their employees to contribute to social media so it was an easy way to demonstrate that I deserved more of the bonus pool.There WAS a time in there, probably somewhere between 10K and 100K, when I considered ranking to be important. But not so much now. For one, once you hit 100K, there's not much difference in either ability to do stuff, or the attitude people take toward you. Secondly, once I realised the chance of reaching number one would mean passing Jon Skeet, I gave up :-) That guy is prolific.
I'm also a big believer in animal welfare, having rescued a dog from the local shelter a couple of years back. It's been great for the kids but, more importantly, for the dog.
Jean-Baptiste Nizet (jb-nizet)
I already answered questions during the good old days of nntp, in the comp.lang.java.programmer newsgroup, and thought I could start doing it again on stackoverflow, on various programming subjects. The high ranking came because I got caught in the game and addicted to the site, answering more and more questions, and coming back every day finding for questions to answer.
Just as good questions, good answers usually contain explanations and code, not just explanations or code alone.
A good answer explains what the problem is with the original code or design before giving a solution or alternative. Simply explaining the problem is usually not enough, although it's the most important part of the answer. Simply giving a solution or alternative doesn't educate the asker. It simply shows you know better than him/her.
And finally, a good answer gives references to the documentation or specifications when possible, both to explain why the original code isn't correct and why the new code fixes the problem. But most importantly, to show the asker that reading the documentation is useful, and allows learning things and becoming autonomous.