I have a small problem. It is not with the site (although it is related to it), it is not with the regular community of the site (although it is with the community as a whole), and it bothers me for quite a time. I decided to write about it today, here, because it affected me personally this time, to a great extent.

There is a problem with the platform of the site, at least for me. This problem is made by the users, but it is still connected to the platform. We people, when we read questions and answers, vote for them up or down. We use it in order to ensure that the best answers are the ones at the top. That the answers will be better, due to the granting of reputation which unlocks more and more advantages, but all of this builds on a simple premise- everyone will vote.

I'm an avid voter. Whenever I visit the site and read the questions and the answers, I vote for them if they're good. I comment on them if they can be improved. I review many a posts, whether answers or questions, and try my best to ensure that the best answers will be up fronted, and will be more and more common.

Sadly, not everyone is like that. Today, though, I've witnessed a different thing. One of the answerers on this question wrote that

You have two excellent and verbose answers to your question…

Yet, he didn't vote for any of them. While one of the answers he mentions is mine, not this is the problem. I'm not looking for more votes. Furthermore, I'm not that interested in the reputation race either. I do believe that this is a problem due to mainly a single reason. Having encountered it myself, I think that I'm in a position to state how I feel, hoping to express the voice of likeminded people.

I've put a lot of effort in this answer. I've worked an entire hour on it, which is quite a time. Yet it is buried beneath answers that at least some of them are worse in their level. Due to the platform of the site, people don't go to read the answer, because if it hadn't garnered those up votes, it isn't that good. As such is the case, it remains buried under less good answers. This makes me question the effort I put and bestowed upon this answer. Because if it doesn't receive the attention it deserves, something is amiss. So I start to think for myself "is it really worth putting this much effort into my activity in the site?" And I'm not sure that the answer will keep being positive. This will result in either of two cases, with one being leaving the site and the other being putting less effort in the answers. I don't think that either one of the answers is good.

So I'm putting it here, asking if I'm the only one who feels this, but also if there is some way to solve it, some way to encourage users to vote on other questions and answers. Maybe granting extra reputation for voting is the answer? Because I truly believe that this problem makes the platform fall apart.

Thanks in advance.

A few clarifications

As I've read the comments and the answer, there are a few clarifications that I think are needed.

Firstly, I'm not looking for or asking or even attacking those who don't read long answers. I don't have a problem with them. I don't always read long answers either, so no problem there.

Secondly, I don't look for and I'm not interested in solutions for the example I've given. It made me come and write about it here, that's all.

But, because it was already brought by mxyzplk, if I'll quote the reason to up vote from the help center: Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful. This doesn't say that one should agree with the question, but that the answer will be good. It is no secret that we don't agree with everything that others write here. But it is also no secret that the goal here, and the reason that I'm drawn to here, is that we try and strive to make the best answers possible, that we want complete and working answers and not some kinds of conversations between the questioner and the answerer.

And here is my problem in a nutshell. He did read the answer, and he did think that it was well researched and maybe even interesting. He even went all the way to say that it was excellent even though not from the angle that he is looking for. But he didn't vote, or commented as to how it can be improved or anything of the like. And this is even more problematic, and deserves the attention not because I didn't get upvoted or downvoted or whatever. It is written here because he voted once in 4 months, and for a question. And he is not the only one. Voting is not mandatory, true, but the system, the platform, everything in here is based around voting. And if the voting system falls, and I'm pretty sure that this is not the only example (I've seen others, just didn't ran to tell about them so I'm bad too), the goal will be out there, running free, without us coming to achieve it.

And as a side-note, I agree that voting is not a like-button. I do believe that it is a sign that an answer is interesting, well researched and logical to one extent or the other. Am I the only one? Or in the minority camp? Because if so, maybe the problem is with the explanation of the voting role…

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Good point! I was tempted to post this and not upvote just to be silly, but this keeps happening to me too. Are my comments only appealing to newbies who don't know how the site works yet? \$\endgroup\$
    – valadil
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know, but my main problem is with those who do have some experience with the platform. The one I quoted has a 2k user in Stack Overflow, for example, so he should know what is expected from him. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yosi
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did he have 2k when he made the comment? \$\endgroup\$
    – valadil
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ In Stack Overflow? Yup, and that's half of the problem. He is an experienced user, after all... \$\endgroup\$
    – Yosi
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:35
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ "The user" completes that sentence with "but they don't address the way I'd approach these issues," so I don't know why it's a big ol' mystery that they didn't upvote your answer. Most people vote based on agreement, not giving you an "A for effort." I'd suggest answering to help the querent, not to demand external validation from everyone who comes by. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 6, 2014 at 0:15

2 Answers 2


Regarding your edited-in A Few Clarifications, I believe my comment can be expanded into a more full answer.

Voting is voluntary, so not everyone will vote—but that's OK, because there are others who will. Those who actually vote determine what's good, great, and not. There are lots of people who don't vote, but they aren't a sign that the voting system is failing. We don't have any evidence for a lack of votes, as we routinely get votes into the 20s and above. Yes, more users could vote, but we don't need their votes because we already have the necessary critical mass of active voting users for the site to function.

Should that person have voted? Maybe. It sounds like they vote very rarely, so they could obviously be voting more. But should they? "Should" is a value statement that I won't push here, no. We don't need their votes, if they're not voting much, since our voting engine is turning over smoothly already. And votes really must remain voluntary else they lose all meaning and damage the voting system more than they help.

It would be nice for someone to follow up their nice words with a vote, but it won't always happen. Although we have guidance explaining what voting is for, it only exists to create the norm, not to enforce it. In the end, people vote according to whatever weird personal rubrics they use, and they might have nothing to do with the "official" voting reasons you've quoted.

However, weirdo voting reasons cancel each other out, effectively making them not matter. Then, the existence of a normative reason for voting means that the people who do follow it more-or-less will make most votes reflect the site's voting norms you quoted. And that's all that matters—the aggregate votes, not the individual votes or their individual reasons. Weirdo votes will be weirdo votes, but most votes will be votes for quality, and those are the votes that make a post rise to the top.

The system works, is working, and is not in a vote crisis. Weirdo voting happens, but the site it deliberately design in such a way that they are harmless. So don't worry, be happy!


The important things to remember:

  • Voting is always optional. All participation in this site is optional, but voting is not core participation (that's really asking and answering).

  • We can't make people vote on stuff. We really really really want people to vote, but we can't make them. It's secret, though you can raise awareness.

  • The best way to garner upvotes on answers is to attract eyes to the question. Post the link to your social media circles, add a bounty, come talk about the question in chat etc.

  • Voting is...odd. A lot of times, the more simplistic the question and answer are, the more votes it gets. The post you highlighted takes a lot of effort to read, it's a long question, with several very long answers.

  • Some people regard voting a bit more sacredly than simply "liking" a post. They need to see somethign more from it. This is a bit of an extreme approach, but sometimes is the case. We should all upvote more than we do...

  • Voting is sometimes hard work. I know part of the reason I don't upvote as much as I should is that I'm not in as many posts as I should be. If I'm not visiting a lot of posts I'm not voting as much. There is also a small UI issue with longer posts, when you get to the bottom of a post, the upvote arrows are sometimes a long way away.

So how do you address these issues?

  1. Vote yourself. This is important, you want to practice what you preach.
  2. Raise awareness (this post is a good way to do it).
  3. When you post long answers, include a concise summary (called an abstract in academic literature) at the top of your post. This helps a user immediately judge whether or not your post is worthy of an upvote (if they read the whole thing and don't like it they can come back).
  4. When you think you have a good answer that you've spent some time on, promote the question. Tweet it, Facebook it, share it on G+...whatever interwebs ways you have of promoting it. The upvotes will come.
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Voting is definitely... odd. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Jun 5, 2014 at 21:35
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "A lot of times, the more simplistic the question and answer are, the more votes it gets. The post you highlighted takes a lot of effort to read, it's a long question, with several very long answers. " - It's not too odd! I tend to not vote on these because I'm not interested enough to read the answers, but I don't want to vote for an answer that might be very bad due to some large chunk I haven't read yet. The simplistic ones are easy to read straight through. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2014 at 22:29
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ "Votes is voluntary", yes very! Not everyone will vote—but that's OK, because there are others who will. Those who actually vote determine what's good, great, and not. Alternatively, those who abstain can also be seen as voting that a post is worth +o instead of +/-1. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2014 at 2:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the default sort order of answers is by votes. An already upvoted answer that answers the question tends to get more upvotes, even if there's a better answer below it. Some people will only read the first one, vote, and move on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Jun 10, 2014 at 15:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus That default sort order seems like a problem to me. Obviously you want the good answers at the top, but maybe waiting 24 hours first would be good. Until then, put the newest answers at the top. It seems to me like a bunch of answers will come in real quick, the first one gets a vote or two, and then no one reads the best answer because it's at the bottom already. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Jun 12, 2014 at 3:29
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ What we are discussing here is what's called the "Fastest Gun in the West" problem (FGITW), it's well documented on MSE and it would be worth looking over there for proposed solutions and what can and cannot be done about it. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9731/… would be a good start \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Jun 12, 2014 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you know you can pick your answer sort order? See above, users can do active, votes, oldest... \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 16, 2014 at 2:29

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