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In the end the voting system has two main purposes:

  • help future users find the questions/answers that are most likely to be helpful
  • reward users that post good questions/answers

But editing is also a core part of the way Stack Overflow works. And it is not unsual for a good answer to be edited and transformed into a not so good or plain wrong answer. It is for example frequent that a poster will first answer a question with a short description, then edit it a few times to elaborate until the answer is complete.

It is therefore not uncommon that an originally correct answer becomes incorrect after those edits.

People who have upvoted the answer based on the original content would probably remove their upvote, leave a comment or even downvote if they were notified of the change and checked the final answer.

My question: would it not improve the quality of the voting system if up/downvoters were able to monitor edits made to the posts they have voted on?
It could for example be a page similar to the favorites page, giving users the choice to either use or ignore the information.

This would also help catching invalid edits made to old posts that receive less scrutiny than newer ones.

Comments:

  • This is also applicable to questions.
  • I found a related popular-feature-request/unpopular-status-declined, for downvotes only. There might be others.
  • One possible counter-argument would be about the noise it will generate - but I would not mind that noise: I already spend time reviewing suggested edits and I would be all the more interested in edits to posts that I have voted on in the past.
  • We could even push it further and notify up/downvoters when new answers are posted that compete with answers that they have voted on - that would increase the likelihood that votes are fair and are the result of a well informed decision.
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There are people who have voted on more then 10k questions and answers...you sure you want to notify them about changes? –  Time Traveling Bobby Jun 1 '12 at 8:51
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I have about 100 favorites (generally on questions which receive higher than normal traffic) and get about 2 to 5 change notifications a day, mostly on recent favorites, and that includes any changes to any posts in those threads. So I guess on 10k votes one would not necessarily get more than 10 to 50 notifications a day which they can choose to ignore if they wish, especially if it is on a separate page (like favorites) and not a proper notification. –  assylias Jun 1 '12 at 9:11
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"It is therefore not uncommon that an originally correct answer becomes incorrect after those edits." - Do you have any examples you can point to of this actually happening? In my experience, it's far more likely that the opposite is the case, where an originally wrong answer becomes correct after an edit. Even more likely than that is that an answer which was once correct becomes incorrect over time as APIs change, which is a case not covered by these notifications. –  Brad Larson Jun 1 '12 at 14:42
    
@BradLarson This is one example where an edit adds a false information, as pointed out by the last comment. Admittedly this edit was made a few minutes only after the original post but I think it illustrates the idea. Your last sentence makes a lot of sense. –  assylias Jun 1 '12 at 14:48
    
@BradLarson Not really the same as the request, but i can see the benefit of notifying people who have answered questions when the question is editted. When the person edits the post some answers become wrong that may have been correct before. Same for retagging. Would also help people expand their answers when details are changed without OP's commenting on the answer saying it didn't work. –  Manatherin Jun 29 '12 at 13:19

2 Answers 2

Let's assume that you're right, and there is such a problem in the Stack Exchange network (which I don't believe or seen).

There are two options:

  1. Those notifications will annoy too much.
  2. Those notifications will be in a different page and be ignored.

I can't see how this feature can help the site, only how it can ruin it (specially that this problem just doesn't exist in my humble opinion)...

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Following various comments I understand the point that using the notification system for that purpose could become annoying. Regarding your 2nd option, I think it could be applied to the suggested edits. Not everyone goes there, but I tend to use my daily vote limit on suggested edits regularly. Some people will ignore it, some won't. Finally, can you elaborate on "it can ruin it"? –  assylias Jun 1 '12 at 13:19

In the end the voting system has two main purposes:

  • reward users that post good questions/answers

No, that's absolutely not a goal of the voting system. Voting is for posts not users, we don't penalize or award users, at least not through voting.

My question: would it not improve the quality of the voting system if up/downvoters were notified of significant edits made to the posts they voted on?

No. I've casted about 10K votes (all over SE), and I would really not appreciate any such notification. It's pure noise and although I have sometimes removed or even reversed my (up/down) vote based on an edit, that's not really how it's supposed to work. Every edit, even the most minor one, will bump the question and other people would notice it, if my (up/down) vote was incorrect it will be cancelled out by the community seconds (on SO) or minutes (everywhere else) after the edit.

There's absolutely no point in every one who ever voted on a post to check back every time there's an edit, even if we limit the notifications for significant edits, although I don't think there's a (sane) way for an algorithm to decide whether an edit is significant or not.

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"that's absolutely not a goal of the voting system" - at least a side effect then! Plus it is not necessarily a shared opinion. –  assylias Jun 1 '12 at 9:25
    
And your main argument seems to be that it would bother you. You can decide to ignore the information by not opening the page where it is shown. –  assylias Jun 1 '12 at 9:45
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I agree with the latter half of your post, but to say voting doesn't penalize or award users is being pedantic to the point of misrepresentation. You are awarded for good posts and penalized for poor ones and that mostly happens via voting. The association between a good post and "yay, here's brownie points" is intentionally quite direct. –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 11:59
    
@BenBrocka if my vote on particular post would impact how I evaluate another post from same user then I would call that direct association with rewarding / penalizing users. Luckily this is not the case, and "serial voting reversal" scripts are pretty aggressive at proving this. I would say system is designed to keep "user-related" impact within +10/-2, pretty limited bounds. –  gnat Jun 29 '12 at 13:20
    
@BenBrocka It's a side effect, a very strong one, but still a side effect. –  Yannis Jun 29 '12 at 14:24
    
It's still a goal. Encouragement. It is extremely directly tied into the very core of how the site works. –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 14:48
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@BenBrocka Encouragement (via gamification) is a central goal. I vote for posts, not users, and perhaps the one thing I strongly disagree with is the "reward/penalty" terminology when referring to voting. It opens all sorts of cans of worms... –  Yannis Jun 29 '12 at 14:51

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