7

Let's suppose there's a good question and two or more correct and well elaborated answers. They can even complement each other. But I like one better than the other.

Should I upvote both of them, as they answer the question, or just the best one?

  • This is a good question for meta.SE. I'm surprised something similar hasn't been asked there yet. Would you like to migrate this to there? – Mitch Feb 4 '13 at 20:47
  • Sure, why not? But I don't know how's this migration thing work. – Androiderson Feb 4 '13 at 23:44
  • Use the 'flag' button on your question and ask 'can you migrate this?' – Mitch Feb 5 '13 at 0:05
  • No need to migrate. This question was raised here and is relevant to this community. There's zero benefit to migrating it to the larger meta site where few future ELL users will see it. – Adam Lear Feb 11 '13 at 16:25
10

When I hover over the upvote button, I read this prompt:

This answer is useful.

That doesn't sound like an exhortation to pick a "best" answer, or to differentiate a few better answers as standing out from the rest.

For that reason, I don't cast my votes as a means to differentiate between the best answers to a certain question; instead, I use them to recognize what I feel are particularly good answers. It's quite conceivable that I might read four answers to Question A, and vote none of them up, and then three answers to Question B, and vote all of them up.

Language isn't quantitative. A math question might have a single correct answer, yet a language question might have several equally legitimate answers, all of them quite different from the others.

More importantly, there are several reasons an answer might be considered "useful", and therefore earn one of my upvotes. Perhaps the answer matches the answer I would have given, in which case it has saved me the time of typing out an answer. Perhaps the answer teaches me something I didn't know before. Perhaps the answer examines the question in a way that I hadn't considered. Maybe the answer shows exemplary research, and therefore serves as a model answer for new members of the community. All of these show a degree of usefulness in one way or another, and I don't see why I ought to be constrained by a self-imposed quota on the number of upvotes I give, especially not in the case when a small handful of people give very different – but all very useful – answers.

The (sometimes unenviable) task of selecting the "best" answer from all those given rests with the O.P., not on those who are reading and learning from the discussion. The O.P. must select one, and only one; thankfully, I'm not bound by such a restriction. I've benefitted from remarkably thorough responses, impeccable explanations, and clever solutions to vexing problems. In cases where I've been lucky enough to enjoy more than one such answer to the same question, I've never felt like a judge at a talent contest, torn between casting my lone vote to the singer, the pianist, or the violinist; instead, I'm a member of the audience who can give a rousing ovation to all three performances.

That said, I try not to give out upvotes like candy, either; I try to save them for answers that are particularly well-crafted, spot-on, or brilliant.

Let me conclude by saying that voting is a privilege, and we all get to exercise that as we see fit. Some of the other folks have explained a different voting philosophy, and that's fine with me – anyone who holds such ideas are welcome to keep them. I'm just explaining my personal view on the matter.

7

If the SE system only allowed you to vote for one out of all answers, then that would be a decision enforced by the software designers.

Since the SE system does not enforce it (i.e. it is possible to vote for more than one at a time) then it is a behavioral choice. You may want to force yourself to vote for at most one at a time if it bothers you that this system is not like voting for a political candidate.

At SE, multiple responses are encouraged, voting for good answers is encouraged. If here is more than one good answer (and it is very possible), then go ahead and vote for all that you like.

6

Up-voting is subjective. You could up-vote both the answers, if you think they are both correct, and there are other questions that are less correct, or answer the question less precisely than the other answers.
If there are two answers, and one question is preferable than the other one, I would rather up-vote one, instead of voting both the questions.

The purpose of up-voting is simply making the best answer stand up between the other questions; if you vote all the given answers, the best answer will not stand up.

  • 1
    But shouldn't two good answers stand up from, let's say, two others not so good answers? – Androiderson Feb 4 '13 at 17:55
  • 1
    If there are more than two-three answers, yes. – kiamlaluno Feb 4 '13 at 17:59
  • 1
    I think the best answer will stand on its own, with or without the upvotes. In fact, sometimes the best answer is a later answer – one where more time and effort was put into the response – yet fewer people had the chance to read that answer, because newer activity had diverted attention away from that particular question. Also, I'm not sure I agree with your stated purpose of upvoting, but you're entitled to your opinion, so my disagreement isn't meant to imply that my ideas are right and yours are wrong – I'm merely noting that we have differing views on this matter. – J.R. Feb 4 '13 at 19:16
  • One of the main purposes of votes is making the best answer appear first; that is the reason why by default the answers are ordered by votes. If the purpose of voting was not making the best answer stand up, then the default sorting would be different. – kiamlaluno Feb 4 '13 at 19:42
  • 1
    Interesting. Maybe that's the initial default ordering, but the SE site remembers which way you decide to order your responses. On ELU, sometime in the past – apparently rather long ago, probably months ago, at least, so long ago that I couldn't even remember which view would be the "default" – I clicked on the link that says oldest (the one adjacent to the one that says votes), so I always see the answers in the order they were given, independent of the vote counts. As the saying goes, "Different strokes for different folks," I guess. – J.R. Feb 4 '13 at 20:32

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