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Recently, I've noticed a lot of questions that follow every recommendation we give as a community, as in:

  • They show preliminary research effort
  • They are not careless in (however much) grammar (the asker already understands)
  • They focus on a single issue
  • They explain what aspects of the situation the asker currently understands
  • They point as specifically as possible to what is not understood
  • They provide sufficient context for others to understand the nature of the issue

And yet, these questions go un-voted-for! It's my opinion that this should change.

I'm guessing this comes down to either different upvoting criteria or lack of interest. In this post, I'd like to offer encouragement against the latter and open the floor for discussion on the former.


Encouragement (against voting apathy):

There are a lot of reasons that more voting helps everyone. Here are some:

1. Guidance and support for new users

  • Upvoting helps new users—especially the user who is asking the question—understand what makes a good question

  • Upvoting gives new users reputation points, each of which means more at lower levels, and all of which provide encouragement for someone to come back and keep participating

2. Establish a spectrum of quality

Despite availability of (and frequent reference to) documentation of best practices, it can be a big mystery to someone who is new to the site—especially someone who is new to the Stack Exchange network—what efforts are worthwhile in making their questions more appreciated. More upvoting in general means that there will be a wider variety of question scores, which will in turn provide a more easily intuited, quantified sense of which questions are a good fit for this site.

3. Graduation

I think upvoting encourages participation, but even if you don't agree with that there remains the fact that any voting (up or down) is, itself, participation, and that statistic helps the site appear active—which it is!


Discussion (of what should be upvoted):

Certainly, voting is subjective (and should be), but my observations have led me to believe it's possible that people have really different ideas about what should be voted up.

Personally, my main criterion for upvoting is whether or not the question is appropriate for ELL in subject matter and clarity. If it's answerable and apt, +1.

Are there people who only upvote questions that they also have? That seems like a good reason to vote for a question, but it seems to me that it should not be the only reason.

I'm interested in hearing from as many members of this community as possible on the following:

  • What kinds of things inspire you to upvote a question?

  • What stops you from upvoting a question?

  • Do you agree that more upvoting in general would be helpful?

  • Do you plan on being freer with your upvotes in the future?

Of course, please feel free to go “off script” if you wish to address an aspect I've overlooked.

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    I've noticed in my own behavior that I am more likely to upvote answers than questions, because once I read an interesting question my immediate thought is to scroll down and read the answers--and when I'm done reading the answer I upvote that if it's good, but once I'm done reading answers my brain mentally checks off "done with this question!" and I move on (which unfortunately leaves the questions often without votes!). The only real solution for the specific reason I don't vote well is to be more aware of what I'm doing, and slow down. But I wonder if anyone else does this? – WendiKidd Feb 8 '14 at 22:13
  • @WendiKidd I've noticed that I have two "modes" or "gears" when using SE: Either I'm moving quickly with minimal time spent on each post, or I'm engaging fully with one. Sometimes a particularly fascinating post will knock me out of hyperdrive, sometimes I'm only in the mood for one speed or the other. It used to be that I would only vote (and usually on answers) when I was in stop-and-smell-the-roses mode. A recent shift I've made is to move voting into the category of quick engagement, and now I upvote pretty much any question that doesn't look like it needs to be edited or closed. – Tyler James Young Feb 10 '14 at 16:33
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    I do much the same thing as WendiKidd - vote on answers but forget the questions! I must admit that I vote sometimes on the underdogs - to cancel out a downvote that I don't agree with - and neglect other good questions. Otherwise I tend to vote up a question that I think is insightful or generally useful for English learners, more so than for the quality of the question (barring something of particularly poor quality). – nxx Feb 14 '14 at 4:26
  • Like WendiKidd and nkk, I often neglect to vote on questions, and I appreciate this prompt. As for what I upvote (when I remember), it has little or nothing to do with the formal quality: it's any question that seems to me to reflect a doubt or misunderstanding which future visitors are likely to share, and any question at all which prompts an answer which it would benefit a future visitor to read. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 15 '14 at 18:32
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    I'm interested. Do you have to take into consideration how many votes a post has received already? Sometimes I don't upvote a post because it has already got what it "deserves". Or my decision should be "current votes" blind? In this case, I think, there will be many post with 20-40 votes, which is kind of a noise. – Graduate Feb 21 '14 at 6:14
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    @Graduate I do consider current votes. A well-formed question with zero votes will always get an upvote from me, but if it's already upvoted a bit (which is rare) I probably won't upvote it unless I think it's really good. – Tyler James Young Feb 21 '14 at 16:35
  • There seems to be a lot of emphasis in this SE on voting. I confess I find it a little school-yard-ish. Given that most questions and answers fail to make it even to double figures, I feel that my status as a relative newcomer to this forum (and not particularly active) means that I shouldn't vote as it will likely be an ill-thought out spur-of-the-moment accolade that will upset the fine balance being sought by the more illustrious members. I realise that this is a bit chicken-and-egg, and I note that some other SE forums are much more active - some Q&As attract several hundred voters. – toandfro Feb 25 '14 at 20:54
  • @toandfro I encourage you to vote, but (IMO) you don't need to take it too seriously. There are a lot of confounding factors that prevent votes from reflecting quality very closely. I think that every question with several hundred votes has been promoted one way or another, either through the multi-collider (which has been replaced by the right-hand "Hot Network Questions" module) or through an external site. – snailplane Feb 25 '14 at 21:18
  • @toandfro I agree with snailplane. I don't think it's that big of a deal, either, but I think it's useful for new users to see which questions are well received and which aren't. Sometimes that can be more effective than help pages. This post is really mainly targeted more toward questions that have garnered zero votes, despite being fine. – Tyler James Young Feb 25 '14 at 22:32
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I think this is a great example of a well-formed question.

  • Preliminary research effort shown? Check.
  • Careful in grammar, punctuation, capitalization? Check.
  • Focused on a single issue? Check.
  • Explain what aspects of the situation the asker currently understands? Check.
  • Point as specifically as possible to what is not understood? Check.
  • Provide sufficient context for others to understand the nature of the issue? Check.

Plus, the question is simply downright interesting. Even the first person who took a crack at providing an answer couldn't help but marvel, "That's an interesting phrase."

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