This issue has been addressed scores of times. How can we improve our voting system? touches on some of the concerns which were exemplified today in two ELL questions (votes at the moment of this writing are in parens):
- The ambiguous "he is buried" (4)
- When a girl mentions her girlfriend, does she mean it like lesbian girlfriend? (20)
The voting model serves SE very well, it seems to me, in most of the areas of interest served by its sites. In the case of ELL, though, our objective is supposed to be the creation of a database of useful Q's and A's on English, with the emphasis on material which benefits EFL students. It is surely helpful to a learner to understand that "girlfriend" does not always mean "lover", but it seems to me that an interesting question about voice and the copula is of wider use and benefit to such a student than a mildly provocative discussion of the reluctance of men to refer to their male friends as "boyfriend." (Not to mention that the male repressed homosexuality evidenced by this reluctance is a better fit for cogsci.stackexchange.com than for ELL!)
As was pointed out in commentary, the second question above certainly has value to a learner, but its high popularity put me in mind of previous (and better) examples. The point here is not just the high vote count for the second, but the disparity between the two vote counts.
Isn't there anything we can do to prevent the occasional elevation of questions whose popularity is based as much on their subject matter as on their value to the learner? For instance, can we provide moderators with some form of "enhanced up/down vote" which could be applied judiciously in such cases?
(That is a seat-of-the-pants idea and may not pass muster, but this seems to me an important and obvious flaw in the "popularity" model that we could well consider addressing.)