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A question with the same exact title was posted on tex stackexchange by Scott Morrison. I think the point made by Scott is very insightful and we should strive to follow the advice given. What do you think?

For your convenience, his post is quoted below:

I'm a moderator from MathOverflow, and this "question" is actually unsolicited advice, based on our experience from the initial launch of MathOverflow.

We should encourage everyone to vote positively as often as possible!

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.

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    $\begingroup$ fully agree with that ! note that it could be fun to take an eye on the ratio (number of upvotes)/(number of points) of the different users :) $\endgroup$ – robin girard Aug 16 '10 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose I have to upvote this question then ;) $\endgroup$ – csgillespie Aug 16 '10 at 9:35
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Since this is a stats website, I thought there really should be some graphs!

Below are two graphs. In each plot:

  1. Only users with a rep of 105 and who have upvoted more than 5 times are included.
  2. Red dots are users with rep > 500.
  3. Green dots are users with rep > 1000.
  4. x-axis is just an index of the remaining users.

Figure 1: Ratio of Up votes against Reputation

alt text

Figure 2: Ratio of Down/up

alt text

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  • $\begingroup$ Colin: How did you pull the data? $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 16 '10 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ I constructed a very dirty (and embarrassing) R function using their api $\endgroup$ – csgillespie Aug 16 '10 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure it is correct? I can't find myself. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @mbq: Yes, but when I said "total", I actually meant "rep" - sorry. I've relabeled the axis and uploaded a clearer image. BTW, you're the third green dot along. $\endgroup$ – csgillespie Aug 16 '10 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ Right. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 15:44
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Another suggestion by Scott in the same thread:

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

I plan to follow the above advice and scan all the questions I answered in order to upvote clear questions and clear answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think that in case there are competitive answers one should rather upvote best than put another answer. Also voting on all non-bad answers will demolish the ranking, and that's since downvoting hurts and one can vote only once. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq I am not sure that will necessarily happen because of heterogeneity of what different people will think is a nice answer. What the above effectively does is to push the base level of votes high rather than destroy the ranking as eventually the 'better' answers will float up. The general idea is to vote more often but that does not mean vote indiscriminately. Each person needs to make their choice of what a nice answer is. In any case, upvoting a question to which you answer should be fine. $\endgroup$ – svadali Aug 16 '10 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, good advice. I upvote a fair number of answers but it rarely occurs to me to upvote a question unless it sparks something. Questions have a higher threshold to cross in the subconscious for no particularly good reason. OK, point taken, time to change .. more upvoting questions. :) $\endgroup$ – ars Aug 16 '10 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Srikant I'm not sure neither; democracy also has its assumptions. @ars Upvoting answered question is on one hand in your interest, because you gather an audience of your answer, still I don't do this when question doesn't deserve it. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq of course you should not indiscriminately vote up questions but if you are answering a particular question at the very least it suggests that it is clear and of interest to you. In such a situation, upvoting seems a natural thing to do. $\endgroup$ – svadali Aug 16 '10 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Srikant For a majority of questions yes, but not always; a good exception are too-specialized questions. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 19:20
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I agree that we should vote more often. However, we shouldn't up-vote on poorly worded questions. For example, this recent question is pretty vague, yet at one point it had two up votes.

I tend to downvote poorly worded questions, and then reverse that decision once (if?) the question is corrected.

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    $\begingroup$ It is pretty hard to track, isn't it? Or maybe it is an idea for new functionality, like "Recent edits of posts you downvoted" $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq: I agree, I wouldn't recommend it as site guidelines. I usually do it on very badly worded questions, i.e. once or twice a week. $\endgroup$ – csgillespie Aug 16 '10 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ Still, you've got notice on comments of your comments, and this is something quite similar. $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ you already have statistics about things happening "once or twice a week" ? Anyway, I totally agree with your answer which by the way increases my voteup statistics ;). $\endgroup$ – robin girard Aug 16 '10 at 13:01
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Still, there is a problem of scope; one may give a brilliant answer to a question that is hardly interesting for a bulk of people and so lands with only an acceptation. On the other hand first useful (even not so well done) answer to a popular question will gather a lot of votes, especially when we would encourage voting on every answer that one thinks is nice.

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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree. I feel as though there isn't enough voting taking place on the site, especially on "edge" questions. A similar issue happens on stackoverflow, that questions of broad general interest (often the least useful) will get lots of votes, but specific "hard" questions will hardly get recognized, even though they require more effort/expertise to answer. $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 16 '10 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Shane I think the 'hard' questions will get upvotes if there are enough users who find those questions interesting. I think, a question not getting enough upvotes is simply a reflection of the the current composition of the community and its interests. $\endgroup$ – svadali Aug 16 '10 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Srikant OK, but it is supposed to be a place for mutual help, not a reputation marathon (what am I writing?). $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq yes of course the site is supposed to such that we offer help to each other. The reputation is basically a mechanism by which we suggest which answers are good and which ones are bad. An individual's rep is an indication of the extent to which that user provides nice answers (nice as perceived by the community) and asks clear questions. If the base level voting is high then good behaviors are reinforced even further than they would be if the base level voting is low. $\endgroup$ – svadali Aug 16 '10 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Shane, good point. Wish there was a good solution. @mbq, I believe in the geek ethic of sharing information, but I'm happy if social/cognitive hacking can coax others into contributing more. $\endgroup$ – ars Aug 16 '10 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Srikant, @ars My problem is just that upvoting is not only "well done", but also "people, read this!". $\endgroup$ – user88 Aug 16 '10 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq: right on, that's a good point. $\endgroup$ – ars Aug 16 '10 at 19:30

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