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I've been on SO for quite a while. It started as a very high-quality Q/A-site, and it still differs a lot from other forums I sometimes happen to stumble across.

However, the community has grown a lot since, and more and more not-so-skilled users start to contribute. I don't feel uncomfortable with that, but I noticed one major issue:

There is only one (numeric) means to measure the quality of a question or answer, it is the votes. Unfortunately there seems to be a natural law that the lower-quality a question is, the more upvotes it gets - because there are more users that understand the question and think it is not obvious. The votes then much more reflect the popularity of a question than the quality. I think that more qualified users tend to use the upvote feature more consciously than less qualified users do.

Downvoting is only allowed if the user has 125 points. Would it help to improve/maintain the Stack Overflow quality by restricting upvotes, too?

(One could even consider that you have to "pay" 1 point per upvote to get a similar effect as for downvotes, but this might be too radical.)

On my search for a duplicate question I found Should there be more incentive to upvote? which in my opinion supports this concern.

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What you call too radical I call effective quality control. –  Yannis Jun 19 '12 at 15:48
    
I don't think this is a terrible idea, as long as it's just for Stack Overflow (on lower traffic sites, voting is already pretty sparse a lot of times). –  jadarnel27 Jun 19 '12 at 15:49
    
@Yannis: Yeah, I'm starting to question why prefer upvotes over downvotes even - if restricting the feature to users that have a considerable reputation, we could trust them that they use both equally consciously. –  chiccodoro Jun 19 '12 at 15:51
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@jadarnel27: True. This suggestion only works if there is large enough of a user community that fulfills the criterion. Otherwise noone will ever get the reputation to upvote :-) –  chiccodoro Jun 19 '12 at 15:52
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Wow - interestingly enough I already got 4 downvotes and not a single explanation for them :-) –  chiccodoro Jun 19 '12 at 15:53
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Downvotes on Meta are different. I guess you neglected to read the FAQ... –  Oded Jun 19 '12 at 15:59
    
While a boundary of 125 points might help somewhat (though to what extent is up for grabs) you are never going to avoid the correlation between popularity of a question and the upvotes it receives. The fact that the reputation received for a question upvote is half of that for an answer upvote already helps somewhat (in that the OP does not benefit too much from a question which is popular rather than good). I doubt that the measure you propose would significantly change what we see, or that we have a significant problem to begin with. –  Bart Jun 19 '12 at 15:59
    
It wouldn't surprise me if the people downvoting have less than 125 rep on their favorite site. :) On a more serious note, the more you restrict the voting pool, the more difficult it is for anyone to get the necessary rep to vote in the first place. The downvoting restriction is there to prevent abusive practices, and you do already need a certain minimum amount of rep to upvote, as a spam prevention mechanism. –  Robert Harvey Jun 19 '12 at 16:01
    
Dunno, may help reduce the temptation to puppet, as well. –  Won't Jun 19 '12 at 16:26
    
I see no convincing evidence that 125+ rep users vote "better" than 15+ rep users, I don't think restricting the ability to vote would help. –  Mad Scientist Jun 19 '12 at 17:06
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@Oded: Unfortunately the FAQ can change after you read it. I joined meta 2 years and 9 months ago. –  chiccodoro Jun 20 '12 at 7:24

3 Answers 3

Most of all, I disgaree because this would imply taking new users' "voice".

Downvoting is only allowed if the user has 125 points. Would it help to improve/maintain the stackoverflow quality by restricting upvotes, too?

I honestly don't think so. Voting is pretty different for questions and answers, so I'll address the two cases separately:

Questions

The votes then much more reflect the popularity of a question than the quality.

You won't change that with a rep requirement. Questions start to get massively upvoted when they receive a very good answer or if they get shared somewhere. You won't change that with a rep requirement.

Also, the number of votes shouldn't necessarily reflect quality, but usefulness. That's what the tooltip says. If you post an extremely good question that won't ever help anyone, it doesn't add much to the value of SO.

Answers

There's a threshold for downvoting answers to prevent abuse, and that's good.

Upvoting doesn't do any harm per se, but it can make an answer look better than it actually is.

However, many helpful answers have only one (OP) or no upvote at all (not even OP), although they have been accepted. Further reduction of the number of upvotes might deter users from answering new users' questions.

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Downvoting is only allowed if the user has 125 points. Would it help to improve/maintain the stackoverflow quality by restricting upvotes, too?

Posting to say I disagree, because this will only increase the volume of answers being posted just to say they agree with other existing answers.

(Ironically, I have enough reputation to downvote more than 10,000 posts on meta anyway.)

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I'm not a fan of this proposal. I could be convinced, but your two anchor arguments don't do a good job of that.

Unfortunately there seems to be a natural law that the lower-quality a question is, the more upvotes it gets - because there are more users that understand the question and think it is not obvious.

A lower quality question typically gets downvoted - that's why there's no penalty on downvoting questions. A low quality answer gets downvoted, too - by those that know what's right and what's not. In my mind, this system is not broken.

The votes then much more reflect the popularity of a question than the quality. I think that more qualified users tend to use the upvote feature more consciously than less qualified users do.

That may be an unavoidable metric due to how the community-at-large views questions. "Quality" is a moving target; it means different things to different people.

Take, for example, this question about improving Coke can recognition. It's been well voted, and it reads like an earnest, good question. But is it quality? That's tough to say. It may not apply to everyone in their walk of life, or their profession, or even as a hobby. But it's definitely a question that the community likes - as evidenced by the upvotes.

Here's another example: merging multiple lines by twos in vim. It's been well voted, and it could apply to those that use vim in some aspect, at some point in time. But is it quality? Again, that's tough to say. I personally don't use vim (alright, I'll take the downvote for that), so this question isn't of high value to me. However, the community feels like the question is worth some merit to them, so the votes are definitely there.


As you learn more with programming, and with SO, you use your upvotes more judiciously. There's also the notion of being able to take back your upvote, if the question is edited, or in a narrow window of time. It is then up to the voter to carefully, and consciously read the question and see if it is of quality to them. Implementing these features doesn't do anything to change the voting habits of others, nor would it really be a boon to voting or activity.

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