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Some sites get lots of votes (upvotes and downvotes) for question and answers. Others get very few votes. Should we be a high-voting site?

  • I think this is somewhat of a self-regulating issue, the number of users will determine the vote size. But on an individual level, absolutely, make your vote-voice heard! – Meep Dec 3 '13 at 3:34
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I believe we should follow the advice of Scott Morrison: vote early, vote often. This is a way to express which questions are on- or off-topic, and the site needs high rep users.

It's worth explicitly stating why we should vote early and vote often - upvote the stuff with merit; downvote the bad stuff. Both questions and answers.

As Scott Morrison wrote over on meta.Tex.SE:

Every Stack Exchange site will eventually end up with a different "base level" of voting --- that is, the expected number of upvotes for a question of a given level of excellence. (This effect occurs because people see a good question, but already with a certain number of votes, and think "oh, I would have upvoted this, but it already has enough".)

It's easy for us to affect this "base level" by encouraging high levels of upvoting now. We're setting the standards, and this really will have an effect.

(On MathOverflow, we were very active about this early on, specifically encouraging all the initial round of users to vote early and often. You can compare statistics, and see that the average vote total for a MathOverflow question is much higher than on any of the other SE 1.0 sites.)

In case it's not obvious: the rationale for wanting this base level to be high is that it provides better positive feedback to good contributors.

A good rule of thumb: if you can be bother answering the question (or are even thinking about it), it's good enough to upvote! Also, be kind, and upvote any good competing answers that exist when you give your answer.

But

Voting on answers is a guide for future readers, saying that you know the answer is good / right (upvote) or bad / wrong (downvote).

If I can't tell if an answer is a good, right answer or not, then I don't vote on that answer. I don't upvote an answer just because it sounds nice, or sounds right but I don't know, or because it sounds like something I already believe. (and similarly, but the opposites, for downvoting answers)

I find it much easier to upvote questions, because I know if I find it a useful interesting question.

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    I think the vote early, vote often philosophy is particularly useful for a new site where you need a subset of users with enough reputation to perform the daily tasks required to maintain the site. – Walter Feb 2 '13 at 15:45
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On each site the criteria for voting are always the same: upvote what is helpful and good quality, downvote the noise and low quality posts. But the criteria of good answer are dependent on the topic of the site.

On StackOverflow there's one dominant criteria for correct answer - does it solve the problem? Some answers solve the problem better than other. But you can generally say what answers are correct and what are bad - not working, suboptimal, misleading etc.

Here the topic is more about the lifestyle, ethics and philosophy. The criteria for correct answer are less strict. Questions are more about ideas than solutions. It's harder to say that some answer is wrong, so I'd expect less downvoting here.

There's another great difference. The range of interest. On highly technical site such as StackOverflow I'm interested only in narrow range of the site's topic. So I'd read only questions from selected tags, and not all of them but those that are of practical use. Here it's more about philosophy of life, and I'm going to read most of the questions and upvote questions and answers not because they would have practical usage for me, but because I find them interesting and stimulating intellectually.

  • I think you've misunderstood Stack Exchanges. Questions should only be about actual problems that you face, and are looking for a solution. If a question doesn't have a right answer, it shouldn't be here. This is not a discussion site. – EnergyNumbers Feb 1 '13 at 18:38
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    But what answer is right? It's not so easy here to qualify as in SO. – Danubian Sailor Feb 1 '13 at 19:01
  • Good question. I've updated my answer accordingly. – EnergyNumbers Feb 1 '13 at 19:59
  • @EnergyNumbers While I agree with what you say, a problem in programming will (if it is well-stated) generally have a solution. A number of questions here are best answered with "It depends on these factors, and here is how you might go about finding out". I think that that is a helpful answer, but I'm not sure that it's necessarily a "right" one. – Flyto Dec 2 '13 at 11:03
  • @Flyto well, upvotes are for helpful answers, so that's ok. And if the question really does depend on those factors, and the answer sets out how the factors trade off, then it is the correct answer, isn't it? – EnergyNumbers Dec 2 '13 at 11:08
  • @EnergyNumbers Agreed :-) – Flyto Dec 2 '13 at 13:05

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