tl;dr:

Please vote more; both up and down.

Why you should all (ok, almost all) vote more:

Admittedly, when it comes to voting, I'm a bit like the porcupine in the Dilbert cartoon at the end of this post...

But Iain's comment the other day was dead on:

what we need is more people who are active in voting ( all aspects
thereof ) so that we can effectively police the quality issues we have

(From the discussion about question quality, how we respond to crappy questions, and so on - starts about here in The Comms Room)

Someone who votes every other day, and manages 11 votes each time, will rack up just over 2000 votes in a year. There are only 5 people who've done that much voting so far this year (yay!), and a grand total of 13 who look like they might get there by the end of the year.

That's pathetic.

The thing I find the most confusing about how other people vote (or don't) is: If you think a question is good enough to deserve an answer and you take the time to provide one, why don't you vote it up? There are tons of questions with good answers by high-rep users with 0 votes. WTF?

Looking at the other situation that was discussed in chat: if you're willing to take the time to comment on a bad question, why not take a second more and vote it down, too?

The official rule, repeatedly discussed and confirmed on Meta.SO is that you don't have to comment when you downvote. It's nice to comment if you can point out what's wrong with a question, but it's optional (no matter how many people post "Why the downvote?" comments on their questions).

There are a couple reasons why you should vote first, before thinking about commenting:

  • Questions with no answers and negative scores are automatically deleted. This is probably the most important reason for downvoting: the crap will go away automatically if it's downvoted.
  • Although people complain about downvotes without comments, they can't accuse anyone who does it of being mean or snarky, and if they complain on a meta site, they'll get the official answer I mentioned above. They also can't take it as personally because they don't know who did it.
  • Another consideration might be that comments can be deleted pretty much on a whim, because by definition comments are not considered valuable content. So if you're going to expend any effort in making the site better, comments are a less permanent way of doing it.

Just as important as downvoting the bad questions is upvoting the good ones. If just a few more people would upvote questions that are clear and on-topic and get a couple good answers, those questions would stand out far more than they do now.

It's not necessary to spend a lot of time thinking about whether a question deserves a vote, you can do it this simply:

  1. is it on topic?
  2. is it clear? (do you understand what they're asking?)
  3. would you be interested in seeing an answer? or do you think any other SysAdmin would be interested?

If you answer yes to all three, vote it up! (And if it's no to 1, vote to close. If it's no to 2 and/or 3, edit or downvote or vote to close.)

What we have now is situations like this. Most people who will read this know that ewwwwwwhite's answers are generally awesome. But fully 1/4 of them only have one vote, and on this particular page, 1/3 of the questions were upvoted by the same person! Maybe not all of these deserve 10 votes, but certainly a few of them deserve more than one. Where are the rest of you?

I picked ewwhite because I know he's got lots of good answers, but I got similar stats (including the same person being responsible for 1/3 of their singleton upvotes) from a few other high-rep users. The point is that there's good content that's crying out for more votes.

This isn't a rant

Obviously, I think about voting a lot. What drew me to SF in the first place was the voting system: the value in SF (and other SE sites) is that it's easy for people to vote good content up and bad content down. And when you get a group of similarly-minded people doing the voting, the really good stuff will quickly stand out, and the crap will sink to the bottom and quietly disappear.

(I learned today that if you're logged in to Amazon, you can search for a specific page w/in a book. This is from the 2nd Dilbert book published, I think it and the third one are still the best.)

(And in case you've forgotten why this cartoon is here, recall that I started this essat with: "Admittedly, when it comes to voting, I'm a bit like the porcupine in the Dilbert cartoon..." )

Vote, you F^%$#ers! Vote!

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"This isn't a rant" Well yes, it really is. –  John Gardeniers Oct 6 '12 at 11:16
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I almost voted on this, but then I realized it is not a question ;) –  Milan Babuškov Oct 11 '12 at 16:26
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Meta is different: meta.serverfault.com/faq#vote-differences –  Ward Oct 11 '12 at 16:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Honestly, as much as more voting would be good, it's pretty easy to see why it doesn't happen - not enough incentivization, it's more difficult than it needs to be, and there's no way to grow the number of votes you get per day.

To what John said, it's easier to downvote, because it's easier to spot idiocy than it is to recognize genius in an area outside of your expertise. That is what it is, and is hard to mitigate, but when you add the disincentive to answer downvoting into the mix, it's easy to see why a lot of people don't vote - if they're being responsible and only voting on what they know, then you'd expect that most people might not see enough new stuff in their areas of expertise to use up a significant amount of votes. And, of course, that's part of the issue there - the default question/answer filters are predisposed to get what's "new" in one way or another, which limits activity on old questions or answers which may be deserving of attention. And that's a big part of the reason that ewwhite (and any other high rep user) has pages of answers with a low score - in order to get a bunch of upvotes, your post has to get a bunch of views first. Answer a low-traffic question, end up with a low score answer, and that's just the way it is.

The fact that there's essentially no reward to voting, like there is to editing, answering, asking, and practically every other activity (there's even a silver badge for commenting, despite comments being basically considered valueless by the SE overlords) also doesn't help, nor does the fact that it's harder than it needs to be. There's all kinds of ways to sort questions and different review queues, but there's no way to sort questions or answers by (for example) unviewed or unvoted on. If I was inclined to go out of my way to "use up my votes" for the day, (for no benefit), my best bet would be to jump to page 20 of some view filter and start randomly clicking on questions. Not exactly convenient or ideal.

Frankly, we can complain about it, but we're largely limited to cursing the darkness on this one. Proposals to earn additional votes, incentivize voting or alter the current voting system have been dismissed out of hand on mSO, and I can't help but be convinced that the same fate would befall new or revived proposals, or even feature requests in the line of voting.

I read on mSO, or the SO blog somewhere, Jeff Atwood encouraging people to vote more, because rep is the currency of the StackExchange network... and he's right, but more importantly, it's not treated as such. It seems like both rep and voting are treated as kind of an afterthought (certainly not with the attention they need if they really are the currency of the network), and I don't see any possible way to address the problem you're ranting about at our level. It's going to require action by those in control of SE, and that's really about all there is to it, as I see things.

So, good effort, and I guess I agree, but I hope you found writing that cathartic, because that's about the only thing I can see coming out of it.

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Voting should be considered a social good. If we want the site to succeed we need more people involved. The only way to do this is to encourage them with voting. –  Iain Oct 7 '12 at 9:54
    
@iain I agree, and I do my part. When it comes to getting others to do their part, however, as I said, I think that's a problem that ultimately needs to SE team to address if we want any meaningful progress. –  HopelessN00b Oct 7 '12 at 16:33
    
On the topic of incentive, when I reached 15K the only difference I noticed since 10K was that I am now able to protect questions (which I don't think I've done yet). If/when I get to 20K I'll receive one new "power", although it's one that I'll be less likely to use. In other words, for all real practical purposes I'll be no better off at 20K than I was at 10K. For that matter, I was actually better of before 10K because at least then I didn't have to see all the deleted crap. As for voting, I vote honestly, which I believe is far more important than the number of votes I cast. –  John Gardeniers Oct 8 '12 at 6:22
    
You've made a bunch of good points... A few comments on some of them: Your point is still valid, but I don't think it takes genius to recognize good posts, especially since most SysAdmins have a pretty wide range of experience. I read almost all questions, so "how to find good stuff to vote for" isn't an issue for me. For someone who's looking to cast some votes, a really easy way to find worthwhile questions or answers is to look at the answers from any high-rep user. –  Ward Oct 13 '12 at 23:39

We really do need more people to be active within our community and the only way we can realistically do this is to vote more so they level up and use their privileges.

Some time ago I asked the team for some stats on our Close->Off Topic voting. In the 3 months to June 2012 we cast 3524 OT votes closing 821 questions.

  • 11 people voted >100 times casting 1824 votes ~51%
  • 11 others voted between 45 and 99 times casting 699 votes ~19%
  • 16 others voted between 20 and 45 times casting 505 votes ~ 14%

SF has about 275 people who an cast close votes, less than 40 choose to do so with even minimal regularity and as few as 11 people are doing the bulk of the work.

This really isn't a situation that can be good long term for our site. We need to spread the load.

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Just to drop my 2 ct here - not all people capable of close-voting are really convinced that close-voting questions on a large scale is a good thing. –  the-wabbit Oct 8 '12 at 14:39
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@syneticon-dj: This isn't anything to do with the large scale purges we've had ~ this is just day to day review management of the new questions we get. –  Iain Oct 8 '12 at 15:27
    
If the day to day housework is done there should be no real need for large scale purges in the future. –  John Gardeniers Oct 8 '12 at 22:07

If you think a question is good enough to deserve an answer and you take the time to provide one, why don't you vote it up?

Just because I post an answer doesn't mean I think the questions is necessarily any good. The two do not go hand in hand. I downvote questions more often than I upvote them and the reason is pretty simple. You don't have to know much about a topic to be able to recognise lousy questions. OTOH, To recognise a question worthy of an upvote in general you do need to know the topic.

Most questions I see are either outside my area of expertise or they're pretty ordinary at best but when I do see a worthy question I don't hesitate to upvote it.

BTW, I hope you obtained the necessary written approval for using copyrighted material.

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When I read @wards request this morning I just knew people would focus on that statement. I disagree with it too but I do agree with the request as a whole. More people voting more often in all aspects of SF is require for us to improve. –  Iain Oct 6 '12 at 19:37
    
@Iain, that topic has been discussed before and everything I said last time still applies. More voting will not improve SF. That's just a load of nonsense. People don't come here to count votes, they come to solve or help solve problems. If the number of votes effects whether or not people participate then I can only say it's time for them to grow a pair end get a real life or stay away and stick to WoW. –  John Gardeniers Oct 6 '12 at 22:35
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@JohnGardeniers You're entitled to your opinion, but it shows a fundamental failure to understand or consider human psychology. Even meaningless points in meaningless endeavors have an impact, because we've been programmed over billions of years to believe more is better than less. And when talking about a decisions on where to waste one's idle time, frankly, a place like this needs any edge it can get, or why would anyone waste time here over a movie or a video game or a book (etc.)? –  HopelessN00b Oct 6 '12 at 23:18
    
+1 for "questions I see are outside my area of expertise". –  Alexander Janssen Oct 8 '12 at 17:42

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