Meta Stack OverflowWhy aren't people voting for questions?
[+626] [52] Justin Standard
[2008-08-05 20:50:38]
[ discussion stackoverflow questions voting ]

While at least some answers from every question seem to have been up-voted as a "helpful" answer:

Most questions seem to have an answer or two with score +5. Is it that we have a lot of fluff questions and not useful ones? Or perhaps it just seems more natural to vote for answers than questions? If we want the most useful info on Stack Overflow to filter to the top, how can this disparity be fixed?

I think this may cause real problems for people getting the badges which require +25 or +100 votes on questions.

Edit: I like a lot of the feedback I'm seeing. Two problems are highlighted:

  1. The work flow doesn't promote voting for questions the way it promotes voting for answers. One solution: when a user answers a question, the system should invite them to vote for the question. If someone cares enough to answer a question, then they care enough to vote for it as well.
  2. Users with less than 15 reputation cannot vote for questions or answers. Is this warranted? Maybe these users could provisionally vote for questions and answers and those ratings would only take effect when the user reaches 15 reputation?

Edit: I had no idea this post would be this popular -- or that this would still be a problem by now.

All I ask is this. As you browse Stack Overflow, when you see a good question: vote for it.

If everyone does, then this problem will disappear.

(2) Just commenting that as of 9/9/08 the stats have shifted slightly and more questions are being ranked. Now its ~46% ranked 0 or 1, and ~17% ranked 2. - Justin Standard
@Terrapin - Try now ;) - Teifion
(32) I think the real issue is that questions and answers are treated alike in the voting system. As a result, questions get compared to answered in terms of vote and most of the time, answers look more helpful and well crafted than questions. I believe the system should differentiate votes on questions and answers (I think Joel mentioned this idea in the latest podcast(#62)) - LeakyCode
(3) Maybe the people answering the questions are ranking them - by not voting them up? - Jonathan Leffler
(15) Perhaps because the overall quality of the questions are low? - Lawrence Dol
Why is the sky blue? - staticx
(11) There's also strange situations where a question gets more favorites than it does votes (…). Are we seeing redundancy due to voting up a question and favoriting a question are basically saying the same thing? - Dynamo
(15) I have favorited, but not upvoted, questions that I think are not great but want to revisit later. I have even favorited questions I have downvoted, or voted to close, because I want to see what happens to them. - Dour High Arch
Was this a reason why Electorate badge was introduced? - Tomas
(10) Is it ironic that this question was voted for over 500 times? - user23948732856
I always vote for questions, relatively more than for answers, but there are more answers than questions so thats why I have more answer votes. On the other hand I always try to keep updating my formatting so that the question gets better and better like here:… and here:… but still questions won't get upvotes:( I don't see what I am doing wrong here - Nick N.
@user23948732856, if the same question got asked today (assuming first time no duplications etc,), guess how many down-votes it will gather.. - Bolu
That really would be nice. I have one question that was a big one, it's gotten 3k views and exactly two upvotes. I always make sure to upvote questions that helped me because I think of that one. - neminem
(1) I think questions need to have two types of votes. One for how well the question is written (code examples, clarity etc). This could be moderated. The second rating would be for value and relevance of the question. Now some of the relevance will be related to the number of views (could be related to title keywords) but more importantly that a question has some value to other programmers. - Jamie Clayton
I've seen some questions with huge amounts of upvotes and they are usually questions to a very common problem that has yet to be asked or questions that are very uncommon about a particular subject that the majority can participate in. There's also the idea that answers take more work than questions in general, and the merit reflects that? Just some psychological analysis of human nature in the matter. - Mechaflash
"I think this may cause real problems for people getting the badges which require +25 or +100 votes on questions." Is that really such a significant problem that it requires a solution? - Adam Davis
[+228] [2008-08-05 21:23:24] Orion Edwards

I think this is a usability/motivation issue.

You can't vote up questions on the 'index' pages like you can on reddit [1]/ Digg [2]/so on, so people aren't going to go 'that looks cool' and vote it up (or vice versa) before reading it.

IMHO this is a good thing, but...

As I see it, the 'workflow' of reading a question/answer goes like this:

  • User opens page

  • User reads question

    • Unless the question is abnormally good or bad, or otherwise provocative, this isn't likely to elicit any emotional response. It's just a question, carry on.
  • User scrolls down and begins reading answers

    • As there are many answers, and good answers are rewarded by being 'accepted' and also with increased reputation, this puts the user in the mindset of 'make the answers better'

    • The emotional response behind having your answer accepted or upvoted is "I know stuff, I'm smart, I feel good." Likewise, conferring that reward on someone else is quite a powerful thing too. This provides a very strong motivation to rank and provide answers.

  • Because of this motivation, people will put a lot of effort into writing answers (like me with this diatribe) and ranking them.

This works very well for providing and filtering good answers, but there's no such motivation behind voting for questions. For most questions, the strongest response they are likely to elicit is "I have that problem too", which while it's strong, is only going to apply to a small portion of the viewers/answerers.

While I think this is why questions aren't being voted on as much, I don't think you need to go all out to provide more motivation for it, as this would distract from the main goal of writing/ranking the answers. A simple 'nudge' to remind people to vote on questions I think will do the job without any/many adverse effects.

My suggestion for this is simply to make the voting buttons on the question proportionately larger (or make the ones by answers smaller), and possibly change the color or something.

This will draw the reader's attention to them, and send the message 'hey, while you're here, vote on the question before carrying on reading the answers'


(3) Any idea why my post is community owned? I don't mind, but I thought that it had to be edited more than 4 times (it's only been edited twice, and by me)? - Orion Edwards
(5) I read the FAQ and realised the question tripped the 'more than 30 answers' thing - didn't know about that. It's a pity, It took me a long time to write that answer. - Orion Edwards
(1) Did you contribute less to the discussion because it's CW? - Gnome
(19) I'm not sure if it's understood in the answer but unstated, or if I'm reading too much into it, but when you're allowed to vote on answers, you have several "competing" answers presented at once---it's easy to rank them and vote for the best/etc. In contrast, you're only allowed to vote for questions when a single one is in front of you, and different questions aren't competing against others per se, and that's the major dynamic difference from SO in reddit/digg/etc. - Gnome
(1) @Gnome: That's exactly right. It's partially usability, but mostly a difference between what makes a "good" answer and a "good" question. Which, in this context, I suppose is a usability issue, of sorts. - Chris B.
(4) Maybe make the vote button under the question instead of next to it, so when they finished reading it, they come across it before continuing to the answers. - JD Isaacks
(2) I do upvote questions, but where the answer to "what is a good answer" is rather clear-cut (and an answer does show cleverness, and knowledge by the writer if it is even only partially right), for "what is a good question" the answer is much more complex. Comming up with good questions is much harder than good answers. Questions do show OP's misunderstandings and problems with the subject matter (why ask otherwise?), so they are at a very distinct disadvantage here. - vonbrand
+1 because it was at 199, and I won't be remembered as "that bastard who never upvoted to make composites of powers of two and five". - root
[+95] [2008-08-07 01:06:32] Leon Bambrick

After tinkering way too much, I've come to the opinion that there's no great reason for down-voting a question.

Remember the old saying "There are no stupid questions" - well, I think that applies here.

  • If the question is too vague, leave a response to that effect (or vote up a comment that states that already).
  • If the question contains a typographic or syntactic problem, edit the question for clarity.
  • If the question is outright spam, or abusive, flag it as such.

But down-voting a question? What's the point? If the question is naive you can simply answer it.

Down-voting lacks any good use cases (as described above) but worse than that, it is open to abuse:

  • If you don't like the person who asked it, you might down-vote it.
  • If you don't like the topic, you might down-vote it.
  • If you don't like the religious or political beliefs of the question, you might down-vote it.

Down-voting now attracts a penalty to the down-voter's rep, that's an interesting development, but I think the simpler and more correct variation would be stop the ability to down-vote a question.

studies have shown that people are willing to suffer a penalty in order to inflict a greater penalty on another; down-modding can be viewed as an insult, and i agree that it is rather pointless - Steven A. Lowe
(22) I think that people lay too much into down-votes. They are not a personal attack or insult. As the hover text says, a down-vote merely indicates that you do not find the question/answer helpful. - Morten Christiansen
(35) There are tons of questions on SO that simply shouldn't be here e.g. "What song were you listening to when you first figured out how to use pointers?" Most users can't close an inane question, but they can at least down-vote it. - Earwicker
(9) Agreed. The other incredibly annoying and common occurrence - which goes against the spirit of stackoverflow is - an answer that is an indignant "why are you even doing it this way?". This is just another way of saying "don't ask questions noob". Every programming related question is valid - it doesn't matter why unless 'why' can help answer the question. - Justicle
(6) @Morten I don't find 80% of the questions on SO helpful because they don't apply to things that I ever work with (does anyone work with a large % of the stuff discussed on SO?). Of the ones that DO apply to stuff I work with, some of it I know already, so it's not helpful either. Does that mean I should be voting them down? No. - TM.
I miss a comment from Christian Petersen to close the circle. - John the Seagull
+1 I agree.. questions should not be downvoted, but answers should be. "No such thing as a stupid question". They should be closed, migrated, or marked as duplicate but not downvoted. - staticx
(2) @Justicle +1 I'm glad someone else has noticed that. I tend to lean toward asking really obscure questions and I find that people who don'e have the slightest clue usually give that type of answer. - Evan Plaice
(6) I do agree that questions should be downvoted. If somebody doesn't ask a good question, downvote it to encourage them to drop it and replace it with a better question. If they stand by it and the community doesn't agree then they'll have to be willing to take a rep hit. Personally, when a question I've asked gets marked as bad-example I usually delete it and replace it with a better one. This feature complements the '5-questions-per-proposal' and cuts down on the amount of bloat included in a proposal. - Evan Plaice
(3) I say, give some motivation to vote for questions (+1 rep). There's already a cap on how many questions you can vote for on any given proposal so why not? It's not like somebody can vote 1000 arbitrary questions all at once for easy rep. I agree completely that there is a lack of a motivating factor to vote on questions. - Evan Plaice
I agree with you. there is no sense in downvoting questions since the person who asked it needs an answer to the problem he has. maybe they can't just explain, but that's what we are here for. help each other. how come one elevate to another level if some are bringing him down? lol - AdorableVB
[+63] [2008-08-23 06:27:25] csmba

I actually think this is not a problem, it is simply nature showing us how the system should be design.

In my opinion, there is no reason to rate questions, and we should not try to "fix" it but understand why it is happening. and a possible outcome (the correct one in my opinion) is to do without the voting on questions.

Voting on answers is great, but I see no reason for the existence of question voting.

Even worse, while the voting is useless (yet harmless), the absolute "evil" baked into the system is the fact that you get reputation when your question gets voted! That is an "evil" incentive to post questions for other reasons beside the ONLY valid reason: you want to get an answer to your question.

Giving people incentive to post questions just so they can get reputation is a just as lame as Microsoft giving you "points" for searching using their search.. Motivation for searching should be getting good results. Motivation for posting Stack Overflow question is to get an answer, period.

(10) IMO a vote for an unanswered question should mean either "I would also like to ask this question" or "I would have asked this question but it was already answered". The "favorite question" feature overlaps this purpose. - joeforker
(2) +1 I agree with your entire post - staticx
(8) I think voting on questions is okay, but it is certainly crazy that an upvote for a question gives as much rep as upvoting an answer. The reason I don't upvote questions more is that this person is getting there question answered, its own reward. Answerers get nothing but rep, so they should get upvotes and rep for their hard work. I would upvote more questions is the rep for questions upvotes was less, like 3 or 5 rep points. - Patrick Karcher
(1) I don't agree; I see good reason to allow and encourage question voting. Without it, what incentive does someone have to make sure their question is good quality? With no voting, I only need to provide the minimum information needed to solve my problem, just enough for someone to attempt to answer it. With voting, I am more likely to try to ask the perfect question which will not only help me but will also be more likely to help future visitors. - Jesse Webb
[+51] [2008-08-16 05:04:56] ricree

Remember the old saying "There are no stupid questions" -- well I think that applies here.

I disagree. There clearly can be, and have been, questions that are pointless or off-topic. If Stack Overflow is to stay useful as an information source and not turn into just another Digg or redit programming section, then there is a need for community policing. I think the system right now is pretty decent. By docking a small amount of reputation for every negative vote cast, it encourages people to be more careful with downmods.

I believe that votes to the answers should contribute to the questions rank as outlined here:

I agree that answer votes should count towards question score somehow. In that thread, I advocated automatically upmodding a question when you upmod an answer.

I believe that this would have the benefits that come from giving a bonus to the question based on the answer score while still giving freedom to vote the question down if necessary.

Already, I've run into situations where I have downvoted questions I felt were bad even though I upvoted the answers. I believe that any system where the answers contribute to vote score must take this sort of situation into account, and I feel that the method I proposed would be the simplest way to do it both for the users and for the site developers.

I would absolutely agree that probably the most useful evaluation of the usefulness of a question is the number of people who found the answers useful. Some mechanism linking the two would seem very sensible to me. - Neil Townsend
I've got to agree there are questions from obviously lazy students looking for a quick solution to some problem from professionals. - Jamie Clayton
[+28] [2008-08-05 21:16:53] user144147

I think the "Votes" filter tab on the main page should take into account the up mods for answers in calculating a question's total score.

I would like to be voting more questions up, but I still don't have 50 reputation.

[+24] [2008-08-05 21:01:20] Chris Benard

Also, when you start using the system, you can't vote at all. So a lot of questions and answers might be lacking in votes.

It says I must have 50 reputation in order to begin voting. I'd like to be voting up questions and answers now.

(3) It annoyed me at first: but 50 rep isn't that hard, and I think it improves the quality of content in the community when you have to actually get involved to do most things :) - singpolyma
(3) I also found this (50) somewhat daunting at first but it seems really easy to amass enough points. I started earning badges and points right after my first question, which fired me up to earn more. - Chris Duncombe Rae
[+21] [2008-08-05 21:08:36] saint_groceon

I think it's more natural to vote for answers rather than questions. To me, the default reason to vote for a question would be to encourage others to answer it. If it's already answered, so the thinking goes, why not just vote up the answer rather than the question?

I don't think that line of thought is the best thing for the site in the long run, but it may be a behavioral issue right now, especially as young as the site is.

[+21] [2008-08-16 14:12:43] Ladybug Killer

What about automating it (I'm a programmer ;))?
If you answer it, the question is voted up automatically. If you don't think it's worth it, you can vote it down afterwards.
Will increase reputation points inflation, but there is always a drawback.

[+18] [2008-08-20 09:14:25] Cebjyre

I think the reason why there is no immediate ability to upvote is to prevent people making lots of sockpuppets [1] and upvoting themselves - enough of that and they would be able to start editing pages and pose a potential problem if there isn't a way of stopping this sort of gaming of the system.

The current situation may not be the best solution, but I do think it is better than leaving the site open to that sort of abuse.


[+16] [2008-08-16 03:13:10] bubbassauro

I agree that one big reason is the +25 reputation restriction to upvote.
I understand that since this is a beta, people can come up with a handful of new questions and earn those points quickly, but when SO gets more filled with questions, it will become more common that new people come here, search and find the answer they are looking for. And I think finding what you are looking for is totally worth the upvote. Besides, allowing it early would encourage the good practice of searching instead of creating repeated (or re-worded) questions. I've seen may good questions so far that I would like to upvote but I don't want to just throw a random question just to earn the reputation needed to do that.

(1) The +25 rep restriction (+15 by now) cannot be an explanation for why people vote more on answers than on questions, because it applies to both, questions and answers. - Alexander Tobias Heinrich
@AlexanderTobiasHeinrich you made me take a trip on a time machine... You're correct, it doesn't explain the vote distribution. I was using this to argue that people should be able to vote regardless of their reputation because back in 2008 having a Google, Twitter or Facebook account didn't automatically give you an OpenID, so it was more difficult to register on the site (and the reputation requirement was higher). Then Google OpenID happened later that year. RIP MyOpenID, 2006-2014. - bubbassauro
[+14] [2008-08-06 06:12:04] Michael Stum

There is a difference between questions and answers (that sentence alone should warrant a "No s**t, Sherlock!" Badge...).

Often, I see questions that are of no personal interest (and therefore not useful) to me, so I see no reason to vote it up. But the answer to those questions maybe useful for me, by giving some additional information that I can use. Or I just think "Whoa, that is some quality content for the site".

On the other hand, when the question is useful to me (because I asked myself the same thing) or if I believe that a question is good and very useful, I +1 it, which does happen a lot more seldom than upping answers.

At the end of the day, the site is about personal benefit: Whenever an article helps me to gain something that helps me in my work, it gets +1.

(2) +1 Questions have to compete with thousands of other questions within the problem domain of the site while answers only have to compete in the much smaller domain of a question. An answer may be more useful than the others, but that doesn't necessarily mean the question is more useful than others. - Leigh Riffel
[+12] [2008-08-05 20:55:45] Kevin

We are only seeing the positive votes, if we could see both +/- votes it might make more sense.

(1) you can, once you've gathered 1k rep: - Alexander Tobias Heinrich
[+12] [2008-08-18 20:19:06] Graeme Perrow

I don't understand the motivation behind down-voting a question. Down-voting an answer I get, but unless the question is offensive or spam or something (and there are different ways to deal with those), I'm not sure why you'd need to down-vote a question.

I also don't quite get why you need a +15 reputation to up-vote anything.

I believe the +15 restriction is a good thing, because otherwise there would be a lot more abuse of the system. People would write scripts to upvote their own Q/As or to downvote those of others. And +15 is no great obstacle. - Alexander Tobias Heinrich
[+11] [2008-08-16 19:54:55] Mike Heinz

Well, I know why I haven't voted on any questions. It's because I can't - apparently you need a reputation of 15 just to vote something else up?

While I can understand restricting the ability to vote down, a restriction on the ability to vote up seems a little to much - but this is my first day, so maybe I'm just not used to the new system yet.

(3) It really doesn't take long to gain 15 or even 50 reputation, so I don't see it as a problem. I guess it weeds out people trying to play the system by signing up for multiple accounts and upvoting one question that they created themselves. - DisgruntledGoat
[+9] [2008-08-26 22:32:01] Robert Durgin

Why aren’t people rating questions? You need 15 reputation to vote. (Hopefully this brings me a little closer to being able to do so)

[+9] [2009-08-04 07:29:47] Stu Thompson

Food for thought: While the number of votes for questions is lower, the ration of up/down is relatively close since the end of the Happy, Happy! Joy, Joy! times of Beta.

Average Score of Questions vs. Answers by Month (from Aug 2009 dump)

Stack Overflow: Average Score of Questions vs. Answers by Month

(3) Thanks for the graph, but considering that an answer with no votes really drags down the total I'm not sure that chart conveys what some might think, that there some balance between the votes answers gets vs questions asked). Do you have numbers for average and median votes per question vs answer? Or votes cast for the question vs total votes for all answers of that question? Upvoting your post. - user136460
[+8] [2008-08-05 21:05:17] sparkes

I upmod things that are interesting to me, that I feel I might need in a future project, that I think would be a valuable FAQ or that I think need a knowledgeable answer to a well asked question.

I can't comment on others motivation.

[+8] [2008-09-09 18:51:11] David Schmitt

Why people don't vote on questions? Because most questions don't trigger the "oh, that's helpful" response that comes with a good answer. Mostly I guess because questions themselves don't contain much information.

I tend to up-vote only questions that are * well written or * where someone has taken the care to aggregate answers into the question or * which I would have had to type up, if they weren't already there.

[+7] [2008-08-16 03:24:52] rob

I'm going to put a vote in agreement with everyone else in that the reputation required to up-vote a question might be hurting the system a bit. Personally, I tend to also up-vote questions that I think are interesting or that I would like to know the answer to as well, but that is generally when there aren't many answers to the question yet. Once there are more answers to the question I tend to up-vote the answers instead.

One thing that I think might be useful in causing more questions to be up-voted is what others have suggested in lowering the bar for when you can start up-voting questions; however, I would go so far as to say as soon as you have 10 points (i.e. one good question or answer worth of up-votes) you should be able to up-vote questions. Then the bar for up-voting the answers could be moved up a bit to say 100 points or so.

However, one thing that might be skewing things a bit is the member base. I'm not sure of the exact numbers of users; however, I have started to notice some common names in answers and it might be that the lack of a broad user base is hurting this part of the beta. I know that I personally tend to ignore questions that I know there is no way of me knowing the answer to so I wouldn't be surprised if other users might be doing the same thing. If you look at the questions with the most up-votes, they tend to either be related to the site itself (i.e. tagged with stackoverflow) or tend to be broad base fundamental topics that everyone would likely be familiar with (i.e. tagged language-agnostic).

This is definitely something that needs to be monitored, but I am quite curious to see if it starts to resolve itself a bit as the user base increases.

[+7] [2008-08-27 07:43:29] garethm
  1. I seems quite likely to me that both questions and answers will follow distribution that approximates a power law [1]. I have no justification for this option, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

  2. It's likely that the set of programming questions that are seem as most relevant to everyone is a fairly small subset of all the questions that get asked, unless the community is very homogeneous.

  3. Each question is likely to have an answer that is viewed as being the best - if I view question which already has a good answer, I'm more likely to upmod the answer that add my own answer to the question.


[+7] [2008-09-18 18:56:20] Confusion

Many questions address a very specific problem and the answers are not helpful to the casual reader. While we can still recognize the correct/helpful answers to those questions, we do not judge the question to be 'good' or 'bad'. The question just 'is'.

I'm not sure what would constitue a good question. My answer would be: a question that evokes discussion, because it draws attention to something that software engineers should investigate. However, that is just the kind of question for which this website is not intended.

[+6] [2008-08-05 21:07:09] Teifion

I try my best to vote for anything I think is helpful. I think that seeing both up and downs (as kevin d suggested) is a good idea but I would suggest making it so that when you someone up-votes something you up-voted, you get 1 point.

[+6] [2008-09-12 15:12:18] loudej

There are no good questions, only good answers.

Maybe the quality of a question comes from the sum how many people answered it and how many people rated the answers?

[+5] [2008-09-18 22:28:33] Milan Babuškov

I would only vote for question that makes me think: Gee, I'd like to know that too. However, I yet to run into such question. I guess it's the same for most other people. You usually reply to question others don't know, but you do.

Also, it says 'this was helpful' when you hover over a question, which does not make much sense. Answers can be helpful. Maybe something like 'this is interesting' or 'this is a good question' would be much better.

agree. sometimes there is a new information in the question itself, and that is only one reason when question deserves my voting :) for all other questions that I like - there is a Favorites star - Bogdan_Ch
[+5] [2008-09-25 16:39:38] Gregg Lind

I tend to upvote questions when the answers are generalizable, or the problem is a question whose answer has implications for a lot of other problems. I do this so that when I look at tag, say python, then the questions I see will be ones that are almost guaranteed to have relevance to *me, for many values of me.

What is question upvoting really supposed to be for?

[+5] [2013-08-15 16:57:11] root

This is being overthought.

I call Benford's Law [1] on the voting distribution.


[+4] [2008-08-19 17:39:14] Matt

I would have up voted several things in the past 20 minutes if there wasn't a silly reputation restriction on up votes. I can understand down vote limits, and an can understand a probation period, but it shouldn't kick in automatically it should be applied when your reputation drops, not when you're first starting off.

Now the initial impression is "Why did I just register? I can't do anything." It will also lead to far more duplicate answers because I can't easily say "I agree with this existing answer." I either have to post my own 90% similar answer, or say "@johndoe I agree" which doesn't elevate the answer in the rankings, requires the reader to parse and scroll back to see what johndoe said, and gives johndoe no benefit from their good answer.

This post is a perfect example of this, lots of other people have said "Vote Up shouldn't be restricted" but I have no way to reinforce their point without you reading all this garbage I just wrote...

[+4] [2008-08-27 17:11:52] dkeeney

The answer ratings have a graphical interpretation. The little up-arrow pushes the answer up the score-scale, and thus up the page; and the down arrow pushes it down the score-scale, and thus down the page. That a question has a score of 20 vs 200 vs 2000 doesn't tell me anything, as there is no implied comparison with other questions. I have to think about the meaning of the question voting widget every time I see it, as it does not intuitively mean anything.

I would suggest that the question's rating (for whatever purposes that rating has) be inferred from the answer ratings. Maybe the question score could be the sum total of all answer votes.

Inferring from the number of answers is less attractive, as some answer sequences are actually conversation threads, and do not reflect on the quality of the question.

A conversation thread would have a higher total number of votes because of the higher number of posts. - Chris Huang-Leaver
[+3] [2008-08-27 16:38:22] Allain Lalonde

Couldn't it automatically infer the value of a question by other metrics like # of answers and # of up votes on answers, # of views, etc.

Answers that are voted up are usually deep answers, but they typically require a deep question. Don't they? Let's turn to the DB to find out.

[+3] [2008-09-15 22:59:49] Gilles

From a design standpoint I reckon you should have the question rating on the browsing pages. It I don't like a question I'm not going to bother with opening it and then rating it. I'd rather have a "bury/promote" function in the question listings themselves.

[+3] [2008-10-22 13:54:06] tardate

One of the fundamental issues that doesn't seem to have been addressed seems to me to be pretty fundamental: There seem to be no incentive for upvoting questions, so why would I bother?

In practice, I do go out of my way to try and upvote questions, but I seem to be in the minority.

At first, I did get some value from upvoting because I could then find interesting questions again through my personal page (that's how I found myself behaving: "upvote = mark this question so I can find it again later"). Now that "favourites" have been enabled, I no longer even get this benefit.

So basically, the only motivation I now see for upvoting is some nebulous "do unto others" kind of philosophy.

That may suit me, but by embarking with the whole reputation system, stackoverflow has marked itself as a different beast. Live by the rep, die by the rep.

That's not a bad thing, just the way things are.

SO is a rep-based economy. Want people to upvote questions? Easy: attach some incentive to it.

What's the incentive in upvoting answers then? OPs question wasn't why people don't vote at all, it was why they vote more on answers than on questions... - Alexander Tobias Heinrich
[+3] [2014-04-09 11:28:41] Alexander Tobias Heinrich

I know this is a very old thread which was started when SO was still in beta. However, after reading through all of the 51 answers posted here by the time I'm writing this, I had the feeling, that my answer wasn't here yet. Reading the answers brought me to the conclusion that there is a great consent on why to vote for an answer (i.e. promotion of good answers as well as giving credit to the users who provided them). However, there's quite an amount of different opinions on why to vote for questions or whether to vote for them at all.

Before adding my own two cents, I'd like to sum up what I've found to be the essence of most answers (apart from nuances):

People don't vote for questions, because they...

  1. ...find it more natural to vote for answers than for questions.
  2. ...see no benefit in voting on questions. Several answers to the same question are comparable amongst each other and voting for answers brings the good ones to the top. However, voting for questions is considered comparing apples and oranges - it just makes no sense.
  3. ...believe attributing reputation to someone for not knowing something is inherently wrong or that at least the amount of reputation gained through an upvoted question should be substantially smaller than that gained through an upvoted answer.

Regarding 1., there didn't seem to be much reasoning, so I'm not inclined to reason myself in order to refute these opinions.

Regarding 2.: If people vote questions up that they believe are worth asking and that are well written ( SSCCE [1], good english, good formatting), then a questions score would be a measure of quality. This would help to bring high quality questions to the top of the search results and hide less well crafted questions. If that's not a benefit, then what?

Regarding 3., I do understand and to some extent even share this opinion. But I find it important to distinguish reputation and vote count as two completely different concepts that aim to achieve different things.

As already stated, vote count (whether on questions or on answers) is supposed to reflect quality. Reputation on the other hand, is a measure for the merit of an individual. For the individuals the reputation has value, because it is something they can brag about or that they may even be able to use when applying for a new job. Because it has value, it is a good instrument to stimulate participation.

However, the possibility of gaining reputation from asking questions somehow lowers the value of that reputation. Where's the merit in asking a question? Imagine you're looking at an answer posted by a 60k rep user and you think "Whoa", but then you look at his profile and you see that 90% of his rep came from questions. For me that makes a difference. Conversely I'm not too impressed by people who pretend to know everything by never asking any questions. It just shows off their level of narcissism.

Another problem I see with the tight coupling between votes and reputation is that questions that address more common problems will create a higher traffic than those with a very narrow domain. Questions with high traffic and their answers are more likely to get upvoted than those with low traffic. This is not a bad thing by itself, but because upvoting creates reputation I see lots of people accumulating insane amounts of reputation for explaining very basic principles of programming while others who provide sophisticated answers to quite complicated problems receive very little reputation for doing so. I'm not trying to discredit anybody or saying that reputation scores are meaningless, but because of how the system works I believe that they are distorted and not easily comparable.

Coming to an end now: It's too late for that, but if I could make a substantial change to the way SO works, I'd completely decouple votes and reputation. Instead I'd attribute some sort of credits to people depending on their level of participation on this site. These credits wouldn't show up anywhere on their public profile, but they could spend them on other users to increase their reputation.

This is only an idea, which would probably require some more thinking and field testing to actually make it work, but I believe that by decoupling votes and reputation we would see two effects:

  1. It would become clearer to users what they achieve by voting for questions (better search results) and they would be more inclined to do so, because there's no reputation change involved for the person asking. Thus we would see more questions being up- or downvoted.

  2. It would increase the comparability of reputation scores and the scores would better reflect who's actually reputable in the community.

I know that this would be a fundamental change to SO and its siblings and that there's no chance for it to ever become reality, but perhaps someone will read this before launching the next Q/A site and hopefully consider it a reasonable suggestion.

I also hope I'm not getting flamed now for questioning the reputation system ;-)


(1) +1 for your effort of reading all 51 other answers :) Joke aside, I more-or-less agree with your reasoning. - Andrew T.
As the other @Andrew notes, kudos for the effort of reading all the answers and summarizing their content in relation to your own. Well, and for a very thoughtful, reasoned answer yourself. I don't think I agree with your proposed changes as a conclusion, but +1 anyway! You've also got some upvote-worthy questions yourself, by the way! - Andrew's a Unitato
[+2] [2008-09-08 21:04:16] RAD Moose

I know this might sounds a bit odd to some of you, but I didn't really see a place to vote.

Yeah, there are big honkin arrows, but they didn't jump out at me.

I kinda expected to vote on the question on the main browse page too, as done on other sites.

My suggestion, add + and - to the arrows. Yes, the Department of Redundancy Department.

also, you need 50 rep to vote... so there's another reason why it isn't letting you - Jim Robert
You can't vote on the main page because then you would likely get people voting on questions without actually reading the questions. - Graeme Perrow
[+2] [2008-12-27 21:41:04] Chris Duncombe Rae

I see a down vote as indication that the question is a "bad" question, rather than a "stupid" one. There are no stupid questions, as has been stated. However, there are bad questions --- insufficient information, poorly formulated, no attempt to solve the problem self, no research into possible solution, please do my homework for me, and so on. These type of questions are distinguishable (I believe) from those indicating that the questioner is struggling with the concepts and does need some help. A down vote prompts the questioner to put some effort into finding a solution and researching the problem a little before asking the community to bail him/her out.

[+2] [2009-08-31 22:33:10] dlamblin

Perhaps by the time you've finished reading a really good question, the voting controls have been scrolled off the top of the page.

My rule of thumb is, if I found a question with an answer that is perfect for what I needed to know, they both get a vote up, unless the answer is already accepted (I know), AND if I am answering a question, I definitely vote the question up. It's worth something to have a clear, focused, and answerable question. Anything I can actually write an answer to falls into that description.

[+2] [2009-10-01 22:43:14] user136460

Upvoting questions should be reflecting that people who ask questions which lead to good answers are contributing to the knowledge base of the site. This currently is not working well.

This seems to be a problem with all such sites. I was just over on a site based on a model very much like SO. This site is still very new so it is not being flooded with questions. I asked two very basic questions (the type that should be in any wiki about the subject) neither had been asked on the website (and before someone comments they happened to be questions I didn't know the answer too). Both questions received answers and those answers received votes.

Someone wrote that often the question is not useful to them so they don't upvote it, but that the answer to that same question is useful, so they upvote the answer to that same quetion. Is that really the system working as intended? How wasn't the question helpful in that it was what led to the helpful answer?

Reasonable solutions I can think of:

Encourage those answering questions to upvote with a reminder if they have not already. Perhaps even a suggested list on how to evaluate questions (question is of wide interest, question adds to the technical knowledge base of SO, etc).

Alternatively, all answers should give some value (even if less than an actual upvote). Given that questions can be closed (which should remove points given for that question) and people can use comments (which probably should be used far more then downvoting).

Another approach would be when someone upvotes an answer to have the fly out ask about and allow voting on the question.

Yet another that answers who do not rate the question do not receive full points for their answers.

[+2] [2010-10-21 16:39:19] Kate Gregory

I interact with SO (and the related sites) in two entirely different modes. In the first mode, I specifically come to SO. I am looking for questions to answer or looking to see if there have been responses for me. (I guess in theory I could come to ask a question, but I never do that.) In that mode I vote on many answers but few questions. I try to remember to upvote a question I answer, but I don't always do it.

In the second mode I have a problem. I am at a search engine, or have been enlightened and started at SO, and I am searching. When I find the answer to my problem, I upvote some of the answers, and I ALWAYS upvote the question. Because someone took the time to ask this ages ago, I get the answer now, not in a few minutes (or, gasp, hours) from now. My upvote is my thankyou.

Assuming others are like me, I would expect to see that answer voting has increased as Google and Bing rankings for the site have improved. Can anyone confirm that?

[+1] [2008-09-15 23:16:50] Brian Reindel

I hate to be Mr. Pessimist here, but I don't think voting will ever become a key component of Stack Overflow. The nature of the site is one in which voting is a filtering mechanism, and a way to help "face" content. However, I have no problem with that, and I actually prefer it. The goal of this site in my eyes, is instead to be a quick (but accurate) resource where programmers can ask questions, and get questions answered. It should also have a robust search feature, and be highly optimized for SEO so that programmers can use it as a long-standing and reliable resource. I really liked Yahoo! Answers for that reason. It was Q&A, plain and simple.

I really do hope that developers come here and have fun and participate because they enjoy the community, and enjoy helping others learn. If the elitism is absent, and a general notion of common sense and friendliness is apparent, this site will be a success.

(2) You certainly were off on that prediction... - Stu Thompson
[+1] [2008-09-18 05:38:41] Bruce

The answer is easy for me - the site lets me vote on an answer in the same "place" that I read it, but I have to navigate to a new page to vote on a question. When I read down the long lists of questions, I see plenty that are obviously good questions, but since they aren't in my area of expertise, I don't bother opening the link, and I don't bother voting for the question. On the other hand, when I see a good answer, one click votes on it, and without taking me out of my "reading flow".

Add the "vote up/down" affordances to the question list pages, and I bet you'll see question voting take a substantial jump.

Doesn't make sense to me. You can't assess the quality of a question just by looking at its title. - Alexander Tobias Heinrich
[+1] [2008-09-18 17:51:01] Dustman

It might be because everyone's too busy using their votes on "threads" like this one. I think maybe we're trying to express two things with the question voting system, both that a question was a good one that everyone can learn from, and that a question needs attention from the community. Toss in the notion that lots of people are using votes to recognize the fun factor in a subjective question or to reinforce their opinion while "answering" such questions, and you can see why questions maybe aren't getting their due.

It is instructive to note that at the time this was written, the only two gold-badge level questions involve how to use this site (shouldn't that be in the faq?), and a "what do you think?" that's taken place on nearly every active board in the world. Two of the "Questions" filters are already drowning in noise.

[+1] [2008-10-23 23:51:50] BoltBait

Give a separate badge for rating questions.

We already have too many badges. This feels like pokemon. - Andrew
I remember this from so long ago! Looks like you took my advice. - BoltBait
we did, but there's still not enough voting on questions.… - Jeff Atwood
@Jeff: would a message asking for anyone taking the time to answer a question to consider voting (up or down) the question he/she is answering make sense? I usually upvote questions I am answering to (… , maybe not for the right reason, but still...) - VonC
[+1] [2009-01-07 11:04:24] HuibertGill

Maybe a question should not be voted per se, but have a kind of ranking based on how many and how high scorings answers it has.

I think I agree with you. To me, watching the scores of the questions is almost meaningless, especially if I'm not currently interested in one of the top tags (c#, .net, java, I might be more interested in seeing an audio dsp question, and there are a lot fewer dsp wonks on SO than there are C# wonks. - Nosredna
[+1] [2009-01-08 20:08:37] feonixrift

I like the reputation restrictions. They keep me from making strange misinterpretations of concepts like 'down' and 'up' until I've had a chance to assimilate more of the culture here. Spending more time reading, rather than clicking, improves my feel for what each click would mean.

Rating based on 'useful' makes sense to me for answers, but not so much for questions. A thread might be useful, but the question itself? Well, the most I could say about one ordinarily is that it was interesting or thought-provoking.

[+1] [2009-04-22 08:04:40] Trey Stout

Maybe instead of up/down voting, there could be a ranking for how general the question is? For example, the likelihood of others finding it useful.

I never vote on questions because it doesn't make sense to me. Which question is "better?"

  • How do I handle mouse clicks on a QTableView in Qt?
  • Why do I have to set my static variables outside of my class in C++?

I just see them as two different people having a frustrating time with whatever their current language is.

Trey, why should on a site for specialists should generalist questions be so much more valued? We know that people are going to ask the general questions anyways. Instead, wouldn't it be better to encourage people to add to the specialized knowledge we find difficult to find on other sites? - user136460
[+1] [2013-11-03 18:43:54] xyphenor

Sorry about the sad truth: I skip the question entirely [1] and scroll straight down to the top answers. More often than not I hit jackpot on first try, as the answer seems to address my question perfectly fine*.

It's a TL;DR feeling. Do you re-read your Google/Bing search queries before you start scrolling down the results?

*Yes on rare occasions I might check the question for some details just to verify if indeed it matches up to my issue.


[0] [2009-02-20 09:54:51] Charlie

Just posted a dupe question to this one (accidentally) so here is my question text as I am going to delete the duplicate:

I have noticed that when going into questions there can regularly be several answers to a legitimate question. The question is thoughtful, useful, well presented and yet has garnered no up-votes.

Surely if you are answering a question, then your first thought should be to upvoting it. I mean its in all our best interests surely, because the natural SO process will ensure that good questions feature prominently.

Nobody seems to think twice about upvoting 'Subjective' questions, which in my opinion (although I am guilty of some too) should not be applicable to upvoting, only to favourite<-ing> (Have I shot myself in the foot here with this highly subjective question?)

Its costs nothing to up-vote a legitimate, well-asked and useful question so why are people so reluctant?

I guess that this is the best place to put this...

[0] [2009-07-25 17:54:06] Nosredna

Who comes to Stack Overflow with the idea that "I really need to know something, but I'm not sure what it is. I'll look at the top-voted questions and find out what question I need answered"?

No one.

You search to find questions you need. You tag topics you are involved with and watch for your tags on the front page.

When you've found the question you need, you read the answers, paying special attention, perhaps, to the accepted answer, to answers that have lots of upvotes, and to answers from people you recognize, or who have high reputations.

To me, it's silly to compare stats of the questions and answers, because they are apples and oranges.

The problem is... near-duplicates. Questions that look similar, but haven't been closed due to small difference or detail. You search for "[] disable back button" looking for what you think is a solution to an issue with WebForms, and get a couple pages of questions as a result. So, you can start reading them in order of what SO's search considers relevant, scan through for the ones with the most results... Or hit the "Votes" tab and find the most popular questions. Chances are, one of them contains the solution for you (even if it's not the solution you thought you wanted...) - Shog9
[0] [2012-09-10 13:08:21] Jav_Rock

I try vote everyday on questions of the topics I find interesting (opencv tag) so people get encouraged to keep asking. Also I think it is good to vote (as the person who asks) up for those answers that try to help and are correct even if they are not really helpful or not the answer you would consider perfect.

I think that people in general is kind of greedy with voting and there are several good questions/ansawers with 0 votes that probably not many people will read.

(1) I don't think it is good practice to upvote answers just because they were trying... especially if the answer is not helpful... I can try very hard to answer questions about C# but I probably wont help anyone... Vote on the content of posts, not on how hard the OP tried to answer... - Lix
(1) I didn't mean that, I don't mean when the answer is wrong. I mean when the answer is correct, but it is not the super-answer that you would accept. Sometimes people just vote the accepted answer or even they accept they don't vote. Of course I don't don't vote wrong answers - Jav_Rock
(1) If the answer is not really helpful then it doesn't really deserve an upvote. If you want to recognize the posters effort you could make a comment but voting for the sake of voting is a mistake. - Lix
-1: I concur with Lix. Your voting habits seem to be why so many weak questions, particularly by new posters, have 1 upvote. Trying to be helpful is not enough; you should only upvote if it is significantly good in some way. An answer that is correct but passable shouldn't be upvoted. - Nicol Bolas
(1) Yes, that point of view is also valid. But different people have different points of view. So a weak question for some can be a nice question for others. I found some posts with more than 100 votes weak, compared to others of less than 10. - Jav_Rock
Good answer. I vote up always if the question help if, never mind if its a bad question or not, i aprecciate when someone help me. Thanks a lot, Jav Rock, you are the light of my life. - Piperoman
[0] [2014-02-09 21:30:56] Gracchus

I've noticed those who don't adequately understand the problem are not upvoted and sometimes downvoted, frequently being that person myself.

In my defense, a loss for vocabulary and preference for speed are the culprits, but I wouldn't be asking if I couldn't solve it myself. I can live with it as long as my question is answered correctly. I've got now ~20 points for a confirmed answer! Less than the possible 25 because I'm on upvote restriction.

I also like good "uncorrect" answers and can pay at least ~6.66 points for those too.

Things that make you go "hmmm".

[-1] [2010-10-11 19:56:45] Chris Dennett

As a possible solution, what about giving reputation for the number of views of a question to the question poster? Then again, bad questions could get a lot of views too. A multiplier on the current score, perhaps? But then this would make the system dynamic. Although you could just take into account the score at the current time when a view is made, and use fractional reputation scores which are rounded up / down. It's a tough problem.

Another solution might be upvotes / downvotes carrying more weight from users with more points.

Well. I see many users in my place, than always search exactly the text error than get in their machines, and not an idea about the problem or the APIs. The "useful post" button works fine to me. - ELD
[-4] [2013-08-15 17:44:15] JoshDM

I don't know why people don't vote, but one way to get people to vote more would be to provide a badge incentive that requires a lot of involvement. One suggested would be to extend Vox Populi - Used the maximum 40 votes in a day with

Max Vox Populi - Used the maximum 40 votes in a day 100 times.

or a somewhat better yet even worse suggestion:

Vote Distribution - Used the maximum 40 votes in a day 100 times on non-consecutive days.

@Servy, yeah I know, but this one requires 4000 votes, and each to be spent in a day. - JoshDM
Not on questions it doesn't. - Servy
Chances are, a lot of those will go to questions. - JoshDM
Not according to the premise of the question. If people are voting on answers but not on questions, telling them to vote more will just encourage them to vote on more answers, not on more questions. - Servy
(2) This would also encourage people to vote on questions without really reading them or considering their content; it would encourage people to just blindly open posts and vote on them, which is harmful, not helpful. - Servy
(1) They all do. Or something. I don't know, I didn't read your comment, I only upvoted it. - JoshDM
[-6] [2013-03-01 15:38:52] Chris Dennett

My idea is to remove the up/down arrows for questions completely, and completely replace the functionality provided by the 'upvote' arrow with the already-existing 'favourite' mechanism that allows you to keep track of posts, but would now give upvotes to the user (some kind of multiple perhaps), providing the question is not flagged and removed.

Unique SO user view count may also contribute to score. The flag mechanism would provide the 'downvoting' functionality, and removed questions would contribute negatively to score.

(5) Disagree. Downvoting strongly encourages bad question askers to think twice before asking the next question. Otherwise they keep asking bad questions and bringing the overall quality of the site down. - Chichiray