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Before you flag this as a duplicate, let me state that the “when” in the question title is meant temporally, not conditionally.

When I've written an answer, and someone else wrote an answer which I like, but which I don't like better than my own, I tend to not upvote his answer straight away. On the other hand, once my own answer got a bit of a score, I'm willing to upvote competing answers as well. By doing so, I feel I'm expressing my own preference and still giving credit to other approaches. But this has the possible drawback that I might forget to upvote competitors if it takes too long for my own answer to gather a reasonable head start.

Should I always upvote competing answers, even if there were very few or no upvotes yet, and upvoting a competitor would place him above the answer I wrote myself and still prefer?

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I don't know if there's anything more significant to say than "that's up to you". Upvote whenever you think something deserves an upvote. I usually don't apply a strategy of any sort. –  Bart Oct 22 '12 at 16:58
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2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

As Bart commented it's up to you. You can vote for whatever reason you wish and as long as you're voting for content it really doesn't matter.

Having said that I'll upvote a competing answer in the following situations:

  1. Someone posts a better answer than my own.
  2. Someone posts a complementary answer, either before or afterwards. i.e. an answer that, with my own, wholly answers the question.
  3. The OP changes the question and someone posts an okay answer and I really can't be bothered / don't have the time to fix my own. If they post a great answer this is covered in point 1.

I won't bother to upvote someone who just advocates a different approach unless they are able to evidence why it's better. For obvious reasons, I believe in my answer.

If you don't want to put someone "above you" (don't forget this depends on the sort order used) then don't. No one is going to pressurise you into doing so.

If you want to game the system and just get the sportsmanship badge then go ahead and upvote everyone else's answers. The community is, in my experience, fairly good at correcting crap upvoting. You'll get your badge but at the expense of a lot of time writing good answers to questions that are then less likely to get recognised because you've upvoted the competing answer.

In short; do what you think is right and play nice.

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+1 for a good competing answer –  Avada Kedavra Oct 22 '12 at 17:14
    
There was no need to do that... or are you going for your sportsmanship badge :-)? –  ben is uǝq backwards Oct 22 '12 at 17:17
    
To prove a point, but the sportsmanship will be nice too, eventually :) –  Avada Kedavra Oct 22 '12 at 17:53
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If the competing answer is really good just go ahead and upvote it. If other users find your answer just as good they will upvote yours too. The OP will read both answers and accept the one he/she finds the best. Upvoting good questions/answers will benefit the community and it's users, next time maybe your "competitor" will upvote your answer. But then again, this is completely up to you, it is your vote.

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