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paucity

ˈpɔːsɪti

noun the presence of something in only small or insufficient quantities or amounts. "a paucity of information"

The active community on Server Fault is tiny, most people come here to ask questions not answer them. Voting is allegedly the lifeblood of SE.

This question is directed at the active members - people who spend time reading questions, answering them but largely not voting.

I see lots of correct answers with 1 perhaps 2 upvotes and a checkmark - most of those votes will have come from the OP (upvote and checkmark).

I see people editing questions and answers for typos and formatting but they don't bother to vote on them even though the answer is correct and has a checkmark.

Today (29th June) is day 180 of 2014. As of now only 10 people have (on average) voted more than 5 times per day this year. Most people have voted somewhat less than that.

So why is that ?

Why don't you an active member of Server Fault bother to vote on people's answers1?

What can people do to make you want to upvote their correct answers ?

1 I've mostly focussed on answers because I can understand not voting on questions, they are largely, poorly researched etc but don't get hung up on that.

Reference: User Voting Records for Server Fault

  • 4
    I had never seen the voting records page before. Boy, am I surprised! – MadHatter supports Monica Jun 30 '14 at 8:55
  • 2
    While a checkmark implies some guarantees that the answer is correct, it's not a certainty. Also fixing (obvious) spelling or formatting issues is very easy, but reading the whole answer and decide if it's worth a vote is not so easy. Especially if it's not quite my area of expertise and the answer doesn't provide sufficient explanations. – Cristian Ciupitu Jun 30 '14 at 16:17
  • @CristianCiupitu you are not within the group of people this question is targeted at but your voting record is erm yeah. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 16:48
  • 1
    BTW @Iain - this is how I feel when I get notifications of a "popular question or answer". 1k views and only 1 or 2 votes? I know there's a lot of anonymous viewers but still... – TheCleaner Jul 2 '14 at 14:15
  • 4
    @TheCleaner I think that people have forgotten that voting is community verification of the answers. Right now I don't think ServerFault is much better than a a random blog on the internet. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 2 '14 at 18:57
  • 1
    I first read the title as "On the paucity of vomiting" and thought "Well this will be refreshingly unique!" I clicked and am now disappointed. – Wesley Jul 6 '14 at 2:29
19

Why don't you an active member of Server Fault bother to vote on people's answers1?

I guess it's this:

  • I usually only view questions I personally care about, which by the time I wade through all the stuff that's not a favorite tag but shown to me anyway isn't too many. At this point I'm already pretty disengaged.

  • I usually care about questions which I find interesting also.

  • I usually find them interesting because I don't know the answer myself.

  • Which means I can't really upvote the answer as I don't know that it's correct.

Sometimes I'll enter questions I know the answer to and upvote the correct answer or drop an answer myself if no one else has, but only really when I actively decide to do a spell on SF. The majority of the 3-4 times a day I drop by I'm looking for interesting questions on lunch break, or before / after hours. In those instances the non-favorite tagged questions just obscure anything I cared about in the first place. I believe there's a specific url you can use to filter that stuff out, but that's roughly about the point I stop caring and just go onward to the next website.

I guess that personally SF is a place I primarily come to for learning. Answering and helping people is a nice side effect, but the main reason I'm here is to see the answers to things I didn't already know and try and gain knowledge. That gravitates me towards answers I can't actually upvote.

  • 9
    Which means i can't really upvote the answer as i don't know that it's correct. - this is my reason too. I upvote stuff that I can be reasonably sure is correct, but there are so many silos of information in sysadmining that I only only my tiny little section of the world. – Mark Henderson Jun 29 '14 at 21:46
  • 4
    I mostly agree with you guys, but I also upvote answers which look like they could be helpful, and which are well written, even if I don't know if they solve the problem, I think they still deserve an upvote. – MichelZ Jun 30 '14 at 5:33
  • I wouldn't have put you in the group that this question is aimed at, thanks for your answer. I agree about wading through stuff you don't want to see it's less than useful. If you learn something then you are presumably accepting the truth of an answer as is or are confirming it's veracity independently - isn't that worth voting on ? – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 6:18
12

I've made 682 votes so far this year, roughly about 4/day. However, I've trailed off considerably over the last 2 months, both in voting and in activity.

For reference, I asked a similar style question here last year: Sure, we like the IDEA of voting, but we are poor in our actions

as a follow up to: Is ServerFault doomed? Not if we all vote more!

So to answer your actual questions for me:

Why don't you an active member of Server Fault bother to vote on people's answers?

Overall, I try(tried) to. But I also tend to only vote on answers that I actually know something about and can agree that the answer should (or shouldn't) work for the OP. Which is different than my voting style for questions, which is based more on the content, wording, and overall value of the question here on SF.

So, what's changed? Well, honestly it's a combination of not being as active on the site itself over the last 2 months, as well as a sort of lack of motivation/incentive to vote period. It's not a "what's in it for me" attitude, but the focus for me on SF has been more through active participation in the Comms Room then it has the main site.

What can people do to make you want to upvote their correct answers ?

Well, I don't think the people that are answering the questions can really do much of anything. My motivation to vote or not vote isn't necessarily based on the answerer but on the answer itself. Yes, I do tend to upvote answers from well-known members, especially if the Question/Answer comes up in the chat room, but the deciding factor is more along time/self-effort to even look at the Q&A main site. When I have time for SF, I either do it in the Comms Room or on the main site. Often chat wins out. If I'm on the Main site, I will first look for questions I can answer, then look at questions, then look at answers. Often always in that order. Selfish? Possibly...

Here's where the site involvement frustrations lie, IMO. You have a site that uses voting/points/badges as incentives/fun. Good enough...and most people will gravitate to something that even appears to be handing out points/awards/etc. Take away the voting/badges/chat/privileges/etc. and the site becomes very dry and almost certainly would become a giant question dump with very few active "answerers" sticking around just for kicks.

So, what's the answer to the riddle? No idea...we've discussed it numerous times and I don't know if there is a magic formula. Site marketing, fresh users, points contests, the funny little things like the unicorn points, etc. all get tried here and elsewhere, but often they are only temporary boosters if that.

  • What prompted this question is something I have noticed recently, and I think you have to get to fairly low levels of voting to notice it is this. An answer will be provided early on in the BST/CET day and it may attract an upvote. later in the day there will be more activity and the people who provided that activity (an edit, a comment etc) will have known that the answer was correct but they didn't upvote it. I'm trying to find out why a correct answer with (perhaps) a single upvote wasn't worth a second or a third. What is it about SF that makes people, so stingy with their votes? – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 14:06
  • I can be reasonably confident that the people who provide the activity didn't provide the original upvote because they will most likely have been asleep. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 14:09
  • @Iain - in that regards, I see no reason not to vote. Hopefully it wasn't me, but going forward I will definitely be diligent in that regard. If you have taken the time to edit or comment then yeah, you should be voting on that question/answer IMO. – TheCleaner Jun 30 '14 at 14:48
  • It is several people probably quite a lot. I don't know if you do it, we don't inhabit the same tags. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 15:08
  • 1
    Gotcha, and I don't think it is "stingy with their votes" but laziness. I doubt they are holding onto their votes like Scrooge McDuck. If they are in chat, call them out on it! We could use the drama! – TheCleaner Jun 30 '14 at 15:11
7

I know you're not talking about me, because even though I've been busy/distracted/absent much of the past two months, I'm still #1 for the year.

There've been previous questions about this but not focussing on answers. My thoughts (on why it's EASY to vote and most of you are doing it wrong!)

  • Up and down voting on answers mean: this answer is or isn't useful. An outright wrong answer usually isn't useful, but I have no problem judging an answer to be useful even when it's about technology I don't use much. My simple test is: do I understand the answer and does it tell me something?

  • Given the huge steaming piles of crap that come through as questions, the best way to find good questions and answers to learn from (and to vote on) is to read questions that high-rep users have answered. AFter reviewing, I can easily use up the rest of my votes on answers by high-rep users (and, often, the questions they've answered)

  • Yes, I'm not talking about you however, this doesn't answer the question I asked. I really do want to find out why people who obviously spend a lot of time here don't bother to vote. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 10:05
6

Heres my frank answer(s). I'm not by any stretch suggesting these are reasonable answers. But, thats how content consumption goes on the internet.

Questions

  1. I've seen so many of the same question (or thereabouts, or it doesn't interest me).

  2. I see a question that has potential but I want it to 'fill out' a bit more before I upvote it. Then promptly forget about it.

  3. The question is poor. I can basically deliver harsher 'justice' by close voting it, plus there is no cost to my magic internet points.

Answers

  1. I'm spiteful that someone got there first.

  2. Sometimes I can behave like a freeloader when in autopilot.

  3. The answer is 'obvious' or 'not creative', typically unremarkable.

  4. Like most people -- I find it more difficult to praise than to criticize, especially when you've seen many of the same questions posted.

I am more inclined to upvote an answer which is well formatted and easy to read.

I never downvote answers and very quickly you learn not to do it. The only people who tend to answer are regulars and they become very confrontational if you downvote them. Its not worth irritating your peers because they will likely remember that when it comes to upvoting me on an answer later on. The 'active' community is small enough that this is actaully something to take into consideration.

Resolutions

  1. I need to stop being a lazy selfish whore on the internet. I should actually upvote questions and answer more and make an effort to do so.

  2. For the most part I focus on the questions that interest me and forget to upvote the ones, that -- whilst possibly well written -- I just forget about.

  3. Dont count it against me if I downvote. Its free to flag and vote to close, sometimes a 'hint' by downvoting is likely a better way to do it, but that comes at a personal loss to my magic internet points.

  4. Give me a tab of 'questions you recently viewed' so that I might go back to the ones I checked recently.

  5. In all of the review queues, give me the opportunity to upvote and downvote. The close queue does not let me do this. Its stupid because it almost forces me / encourages me to close vote things.

  6. I actually prefer the review queue 'view' where I go 'next', 'skip', 'do nothing' etc even for standard questions, rather than being barraged with lots of questions at once. All the activity on the main page often makes me feel like I have to rush around the questions being offered to find one I feel I can give proper attention to. Given a full question without my screen real estate being hampered by lots of other questions actually allows me to focus and evaluate a question on its merits/downfalls more and perform some action against it.

  7. Get the chat RSS feed to start recommending me questions. I'm more inclined to take more of an interest in questions that are recommended to me than have to put in mental effort to find a question that is of interest to me.

  • 5
    On the last paragraph of your "Answers" section. I sure hope this isn't truly holding you back from voting. As you say, they're stupid points. If you see one of the regulars give a clunker of an answer, slap a dv on that sucker and tell them why. Chris S did just that to an incorrect answer I made earlier today, and I'm very glad he did it. Don't worry about alienating me or anyone else. Do what's right for the site, and all will be elevated because of it. – EEAA Jul 1 '14 at 0:47
  • 2
    Just vote as you see fit and if that makes a regular sit up and think so be it. TBH most of the regulars (at which this question is aimed and who are being shy at coming forward) either wouldn't notice a DV or would go and investigate and improve/withdraw as required. I can't say I've ever seen a regular get truly irritated by a DV either. Don't let someone 'beating you to it' put you off either IME your answers are usually more vote-worthy than others and will over time accrue more votes. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 1 '14 at 7:27
  • 2
    Addressing points 5/6 in the Resolutions section, you might conside the virtues of tabbed browers. My standard technique for dealing with queues is to middle-click on each question, to open it in a new browser tab. I then review the question in that tab, where it gets a whole screenful as you want, up/downvote if I see fit, and make a decision about closure. I then close the tab, which returns me to the queue tab, and vote accordingly. Lather, rinse, repeat - and it adds about half a second per question. – MadHatter supports Monica Jul 1 '14 at 7:46
6

I voted!

I voted 565 times and counting this year. That's what, 4 times a day? It's close to your (arbitrary, I think and mean without offense?) threshold of 5.

I recently introduced a coworker of mine to stack overflow's voting system by cajoling them into answering a couple questions, seeing that they got enough rep to upvote, and then compelling them to upvote every answer they found in their erstwhile programming-heavy days.

I'd do the same for our sysadmin, but I think it might not be a useful activity, since if I'm right they have voted just over once a day on this very site. Perhaps they could click the up arrow a little more on things that helped them in their daily grind (on both the question and the answer!).

And there, we get to the crux of it. I review. I like this site and I like the more active members of it. But, day to day, I don't feel too strongly about the things that keep getting asked here.

If I find an answer good, or a question insightful or generally useful, I will upvote it. However, I'm not going to read through repetitive questions on basic things, or read Q&A about things I am never likely to encounter in my somewhat atypical work, just for the sake of validating correctness. I want something more out of it too: to learn something useful. So, I vote on the Q&A that gives me that, and I vote (usually down) in the review queue where allowed.

  • Thanks for your answer. Yes it is very arbitrary, I just picked 5 to see where it landed and was saddened. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 6 '14 at 20:39
2

Some reasons why I don't vote.

  • I don't vote on duplicate content.
  • I don't vote when the question/answer is poorly written or formatted.
  • I don't vote when the issue is overly specific and does not contribute meaningfully to the broader community.
  • I often do not vote when there's already an accepted answer.
  • I don't vote on questions or answers that are readily available in official documentation.

I basically see voting as recommending an answer to a user where the question has been unanswered.

Also I tend to spend my efforts trying to answer unanswered questions. As such, voting in this context is often not required.

  • Ok so that may seem a bit harsh but your answer isn't really what I'm looking for. With regard to duplicates, search and the ability to find them is a complete mess which does need to be resolved. You may be interested in meta.stackexchange.com/questions/232242/… and it's linked/related Q&A – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jun 30 '14 at 19:12
  • I've updated my answers to give more specifics. However, I still think that duplicate content lowers user engagement. If you could funnel all of the questions about a specific issue into a great Q&A, I would be more likely to vote on that great information. – jeffatrackaid Jun 30 '14 at 20:49
  • Like @Sirex I wouldn't have put someone with such a low participation in the group that this was aimed at so thanks for your answer. Why don't you vote when there is an accepted answer ? I can understand not up voting a question which is trivially answered by reading the docs (I'm he same), but why is the answer provided not worth voting on ? – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 1 '14 at 7:17
  • 1
    I basically see voting as recommending an answer to a user where the question has been unanswered. Once the user accepts and answer, I don't see much reason to vote. Why participate if the contest is over. Perhaps it is a wrong headed view about what voting means but I doubt I'm alone in this view. – jeffatrackaid Jul 1 '14 at 16:17
  • 1
    Yes I think you may have it wrong then. The checkmark is (usually but not always) the OP saying this is what worked for me. The voting is community oversight. Without it we're really no better than a random blog on the internet. Remember, we're not just here for the OP, we're here for all the peopel with the same problem who arrive via google. The voting is or t least should be, an indication to then that the community thought the answer was good. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 1 '14 at 21:54
  • @iain out of curiosity, what's your metric for participation ? – Sirex Jul 2 '14 at 19:48
  • @Sirex The only publicly available information is reputation and voting records as supplied under the user stats. SE have said on several occasions that there is a strong correlation between reputation and time spent on site. So to gain rep/vote that's a measure of participation so low rep + long membership = lower participation and high rep + short membership is higher participation with a spectrum in between. This question really was aimed at the latter group who like their voting are conspicuously absent. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 2 '14 at 20:09
  • tbh i'm not convinced that's really enough information to draw conclusions from as most people's participation would vary over time surely ? I know mine definitely dropped hugely after about the first year or so. The answer I put is more or less why that occurred for me, and perhaps others too. – Sirex Jul 3 '14 at 19:52
2

I actually vote less since I took up the diamond. I thought I did, and the numbers do bear it out.

So, I don't vote on:

  • Questions I don't understand
  • Answers I don't understand

I also don't usually vote on:

  • Questions I'm hammering closed
  • Any post I'm deleting outright

As there seems to be little point.

I do try to vote on questions that I find interesting; if it interests me enough to try to research it, or even post an answer, then it almost certainly deserves a vote. Up most of the time; on rare occasions such a question gets a downvote.

I also vote on answers that I'm relatively sure are good, or from which I learned something.

For me, one big issue is that I spend a good percentage of my time on SF reading, closing and deleting the crap that most of you would rather never see. I think I have less time for reading questions for my own edification.


If you want me to vote on your stuff, you first have to get me to read it. That's the hard part. I seem to read very little of what's posted on SF these days, unless it gets flagged... Then you have to get me to not want to delete it outright and nuke you from orbit to be sure. After that it's just write a good question or a good answer that I know enough about to be able to make a judgment call on.

  • Perhaps you should allow your moderation colleagues to take some of the load - I'll bet you're top of every metric over the time period you've been a moderator. What do people need to do to catch your eye then? – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 9 '14 at 6:45
  • #1: Write a really good question title. – Michael Hampton Jul 10 '14 at 0:59
  • As I'm primarily focusing on answers that doesn't really help. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 11 '14 at 6:39
  • I'll probably never see a great answer to a bad question. And I don't often read even mediocre questions. Good and really great questions, though, get lots of votes from me. As do their answers. I think we're back to the paucity of good questions... – Michael Hampton Jul 11 '14 at 12:57
-7

Personally I've only ever voted for answers which I thought were really good. If its marked as the answer, why vote? Its the answer, the poster has accepted it as the answer, why would I say any more? If I see a response and I think 'hey, now thats clever, that would never have occurred to me' or the response has saved me a lot of time, then I would vote. Its kudos for being a really good answer, not a 'yeah, that looks like the right answer' vote.

In real life you wouldn't recommend a brand of beer to everyone you meet just because you drank a glass, no? Its beer, its ok, but unless you think its outstanding you don't recommend it.

-8

You guys also have to check the status of the question/answer. Once it has been edited too many times, it will automatically turn to community wiki and voting will no longer have any effect. At least that's what happened in the past, dunno if it has changed now (since I haven't followed it so much recently).

  • 2
    This doesn't answer the questions I asked.CW is the same as it was and it's not an issue here. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jul 1 '14 at 20:11
  • 1
    Also, the Auto-CW thing has been disabled. Once a Post hits that tripwire it's flagged for Mod review, but nothing else. – Chris S Jul 9 '14 at 15:05
  • Really? That's the best news I've ever got the last weeks. However, I'm afraid this won't apply to any of the other SE sites that I'm a member of. – syntaxerror Jul 11 '14 at 20:47

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