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First of all

I'm sorry for this post which will sound a bit polemical, but I'd like to raise this problem because I really like this site and I'm starting to care about it.

Maybe this post will make someone unhappy or bring me haters, but I can sacrifice for my homeland :).

Straight to the point

Why don't we like to vote posts, and complain when we don't get upvoted?

This may not sound fair, but let's give some numbers: this are the votes of the top 8 users on EE.

User            Votes          Member for
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stevenvh        1109           1y  6m
Olin Lathrop     373              11m
Russel McMahon   340           1y  2m
Leon Heller      734           2y  6m   (16 up, 718 down!)
Joby Taffey      982           2y  3m
David Kessner     58           1y  2m
Just Jeff       1285           2y  1m
Kevin Vermeer   3798           1y 11m

Now, for comparison, these are the top 8 on the big brother, SO:

User             Votes          Member for
-------------------------------------------
Jon Skeet       11831           3y  8m
Darin Dimitrov   1900           3y  7m
Marc Gravell    17948           3y  8m
BalusC          12579           2y  9m
Hans Passant     6261           3y  8m
SLaks            6193           3y  6m
VonC            10679           3y  8m
Greg Hewgill     6390           3y  9m

EDIT: another interesting fact is that we have 9 user with the Electorate badge, while SO has 1967 (again, age and total number of users/questions counts, but still...). Civic duty counts 59 versus 13551.

Now, I understand that SO has much more posts to vote, and these users have been active for longer, given more answers and in the end have about the same votes/answers ratio.

But: shouldn't we consider to encourage more voting (positive or negative) to make the system work more efficiently, rewarting good questions and answers and pushing them to the top?

I think that giving more votes would encourage people to give good answers, and at the same time help the users in understanding good answers from the rest, and trusting them more. We would also have higher reputation average, showing that the site is active and working.

UPDATE: No way that I'm collecting statistics again but TeX.SE has a better votes to questions ratio than us, and I'd say it's going very well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "in the end have about the same votes/answers ratio". What's the problem then? \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 29 '12 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh my opinion (and I think the facts agree) is that the more users vote, the better the system works, because unfair votes are less important. And the vote/answers ratio is not the only thing, because the online time is almost the same, so we still vote less, aside of answering less \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio May 29 '12 at 11:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Won't we get many votes that are poorly motivated that way? "Yes, I upvoted, don't really know why". I prefer 1 upvote over 21 upvotes and 20 downvotes if they don't mean a thing. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 29 '12 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh if you get 20 downvotes without justification it means that either it's obvious or there is a malicious crew, which is much less likely than a single lazy/evil user \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio May 29 '12 at 14:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh In my opinion we could just use our top rep users spending more time reviewing other peoples posts, it is one of the things you guys are great at, by being experts on simpler questions it might be productive to let someone whom is only able to answer simpler questions answer and put in your technical expertise in votes and edits. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 29 '12 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh, Dont get me wrong, you actually cast a lot of votes, no one can vote like Kevin. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 29 '12 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Electorate badge". I'm one, I did my duty! :-) \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 31 '12 at 7:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually we seem to be voting more than they do on SO. I just checked, and SO has 3.2M questions and 6.4M answers, for a total of 9.6M items to vote on. We have 8.5 kQ, 21 kA, for 29.4 k total items. That's over 320 times less items. Then also note the length of time the SO users have been around to do voting compared to us. It seems we are more active voters on the whole, especially considering the much smaller pool of things to vote on. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jun 1 '12 at 13:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop well, they have been online for 2 to 4 times the time of our top users, and they do indeed have more stuff, but also 2 eyes and 2 hands like us :) I'd just like to have an average of 5-10 votes per post, instead of 2-3. It would help in sorting things. \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 1 '12 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio: What you are saying is that more overall votes gives more signal relative to the quantization noise. True, and you've kicked me in the butt to think about voting more, but I think ultimately what you want will come with more users. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jun 1 '12 at 13:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop: hopefully: I think we'll never have a large user base \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 1 '12 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio: We'll never be as big as SO, but I suspect we're slowly growing. I do see a general trend in not enough new people entering engineering and EE in particular. I am totally swamped. I keep raising my rates but it doesn't help. It's so bad that I have to decide which customers to piss off. I would like to hire someone recently (up to a few years) out of school with a masters in EE, but those people are scarce. I'm farming things out to people in New York and California just to be a little more responsive. There aren't enough good EEs out there. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jun 2 '12 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio: Basically anyone can or thinks they can write software. Electronic design is done by wizards with pointy hats and magic wands. I've heard that sentiment expressed by other engineers who are competent in their discipline. It seems EE is viewed more mysteriously than other eng disciplines by the uninitiated. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jun 2 '12 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop the problem is that there are not many famous EEs, while everybody knows the Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg and company. But it's ok to me that our profession is rare, because someday I'll have to find a job :) \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 2 '12 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop: Give me 3 more years, I'm going into junior year at UMass Amherst and planning on a 5-year M.S. xP \$\endgroup\$ – Shamtam Jun 6 '12 at 22:26
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Q & A's on EE.SE.com can't all be done on the computer. They sometimes require working with other pieces of equipment and hardware experimentation, taking time and the overpowering urge to stay sitting in that comfy chair* this Sunday morning. Given an electorate equally enthusiastic to that of SO.com, voting will lag. Simple questions close the gap, complicated ones widen it.

Since this forum is indeed delivered via computer, programming forum users, their work taking place almost entirely in front of a screen, are more often available than an electronics lab rat. (Though anyone's workload may say otherwise ;)

Getting more votes without sacrificing content requires more experts. It's getting there and working well in the meantime. You're doing a great job of creating experts who will return to vote by teaching in a respectful manner.

Looking at EE.SE.com and SO.com's monthly rep changes, which correlates pretty well to votes given similar question/answer voting ratios: 81,722 SO.com users, 6.8% over their user base, and 511 EE.SE.com users, 6.3%, bumped up by 50 or more points. Peachy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice to see you again, have not seen you in a while @tyblu! \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jun 4 '12 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've noticed that Photography.SE has much better stats than us and SO \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 8 '12 at 11:31
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I admit to not always thinking about voting, on answers at least. I'm also often answering questions where I feel competent in the subject, and voting on other people's answers to the same question feels weird. For downvotes, the other answer has to be particularly bad because I don't want to dinging others' answers to make mine look better. For upvotes, well obviouly I think my answer is pretty good. And yes, I like the satisfaction of my answer bubbling to the top and getting accepted, so a answer has to be particularly good if I'm going to help it compete with my own. I have done that a few times, but it's rare.

Most of my votes on answers is when I see a question I think I can answer and find a answer already there that says pretty much what I would have said. That doesn't happen that often.

I think part of what you are seeing is that those that provide a lot of answers are probably not going to be those that do the bulk of the voting for the reasons above.

When I see a newer user provide consistantly good answers, I go more out of my way to upvote, sometimes even on competing answers. You are one of the few in that catagory. Still I don't vote on answers that often and probably won't for the reasons above.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate that, but I see voting in a different way: giving the right reward to who posts quality answers and see them popping to the top, either if I can't contribute with my answer or not. Like a democracy, it works better if the people who vote are more, because of statistics :) \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio May 29 '12 at 14:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ you vote because it is useful, not because it is competing! Your answer being the best will bubble it to the top regardless of if you voted. I still take the time to read all the answers and then vote. I will admit I am a more tight voter then others. Also, your down votes are needed, we need you to tell us when there is a true technical fallacy. Not a minor math error unless it is egregious, when an answer will be a detriment to those reading. Answers become hidden from low rep users when they are negative enough, this promotes people visiting the first time only seeing quality. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 29 '12 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk - "egregious". Don't use words like that, I only went to school until my 24! :-) \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 29 '12 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stevenvh, how many more languages do you speak then myself... \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 30 '12 at 3:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why the agressive downvoting on this answer? He's only telling us the facts. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Jun 2 '12 at 10:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rocketmagnet here a downvote just expresses disagreement; probably those users don't share Olin's vision on votes \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 3 '12 at 10:36

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