I would like to echo a post that Scott Morrison made on Meta.Tex.SE:

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."


2 Answers 2


One might consider voting frequently to be basically your civic duty as a citizen; you are effectively pumping currency into the community. It costs you nothing; it's energizing, productive, and encourages the rest of the community's involvement. Whether you are a critic or a supporter or just someone in it for the sportsmanship, you should bother to shape the environment. This applies both to the questions and the answers; if you bother to answer a question, it was obviously interesting/useful enough... right?

A key administrative (as opposed to the content) reason Atheism.SE died off was because they were far too few users with enough reputation to affect protocol and an order. There was no cohesion behind how and what questions should be asked, or answered. Only through voting and having a healthy economy will this threshhold be crossed and the community engaged.

  • ALSO: There are p-lenty of badges for voting behavior to reward it, so it is obviously in line with the stackexchange model to fulfill your suffrage.

I was part of the private beta of the LaTeX SE. There, there was too little voting early on, but the voting rate was considerably higher than here. Once voting picked up, so too did the momentum of the site.

One thing that I think would be easy to change is that I've seen multiple cases of questions with more answers than votes. (To my shame, I'd answered more than one question without voting on them; I've just fixed that.) While there can be cases in which one does want to answer a problematic question and doesn't want to downvote because it is not that problematic, in most cases, that you see a question as worth your time to answer is surely a sign that it is worth a vote, too!

Questions are the fresh meat; votes are the oxygen. Without both, the site stands very little chance.

  • 1
    One thing that may have solved the problem more recently than the LaTeX beta is that downvotes on questions are now free, at least in terms of cost to your reputation. The Stack Exchange team has been telling us for a long time to forget about this and downvote questions anyway, but not everyone was doing it. It's hard to justify throwing away your own hard-earned reputation unless the question is really bad. And even more so on a brand-new site where you're just trying to earn privileges.
    – Cody Gray
    Jun 13, 2011 at 8:19

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