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For most locked questions, the arrows are now removed on the main question and on all answers. For example:

Look, ma! No arrows!

However, on RegEx match open tags except XHTML self-contained tags, in which the question and one of its answers are locked, the arrows are still displayed:

question enter image description here

Why are the arrows not hidden? Is it being confused by the locked answer, or the repeated locking and unlocking?

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When the site goes into read-only mode, the arrows are faded out. I'd like to see that on locked posts as well. – Mysticial Nov 28 '12 at 3:28
Only questions locked for historical reasons get the arrows removed from them. A single post that is locked will never have its arrows removed. – animuson Nov 28 '12 at 3:42

Voting arrows do not mean you can vote on the post. If they did, that would mean we'd have to remove them:

  • when you're not logged in
  • when you don't have enough rep to vote
  • when you don't have enough rep to downvote (the down arrow would be removed)
  • when you are post's author
  • when you have used all your votes for the day

Voting arrows are shown in all these cases and, as animuson says (though not in these words):

  • Most locked questions have voting arrows.

  • When a question is locked because it is only kept (rather than deleted) for "historical interest," that is when the arrows disappear.

When the voting arrows disappear, that signifies: This is not a normal post. It is not even a normal locked post. It was voted on once, but will never be voted on again.

This situation applies to none of the situations listed above (e.g., when you're not logged in). It also does not apply to most locked posts--posts that are locked but not deleted, and not locked for historical reasons, are usually only temporarily locked. It makes sense to think about voting on them, and you likely will be able to vote on them in the future.

Thus, posts that are kept only for historical interest are qualitatively different, and the system's current behavior of removing voting arrows just for them makes sense. The way things are is far less astonishing than if a post with no voting arrows today could be voted on tomorrow (or whenever it is unlocked).

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+1 for pointing out all the other instances where you can click them even though you can't vote. ;P – animuson Feb 12 '13 at 22:23
Again to my point about a save button in an image-editor app. If the image can't be saved right now, the save button would be grayed out, communicating "yes, you can save sometimes, but not right now". I think your point regarding the rest is slightly out of scope, as locked questions can never be voted on. – user133440 Feb 12 '13 at 22:24
@BrianWebster Out of scope? A locked question can be voted on--once it's unlocked. Similarly, your own questions can be voted on--by others. I think the distinction you're making is artificial. However, I am not disagreeing with your idea that unusable voting arrows should be grayed out. I'm disagreeing with the idea that UI elements that are still meaningful and will be usable again should be removed entirely (that's what this question is about). Graying out is different; you may want to post a new question about this. – Eliah Kagan Feb 12 '13 at 22:28
Yes, it is out of scope, I believe, because it can be useful to dangle implied functionality to anonymous users (for example) in order to get them to sign up. I think each situation should be looked at independently. – user133440 Feb 12 '13 at 22:29
@BrianWebster "[E]ach situation should be looked at independently" is just a fancy way of saying "let's not talk about consistency even a little bit." (My SE examples are not good but your non-webapp ones are?) Do you think there are situations where a user can't vote on a post, and it wouldn't be appropriate to keep the voting arrows, grayed out and disabled, with a tooltip on mouseover explaining why? If this is what you think should be done, then you should really post a new question about that. This is about if/when voting arrows should be shown, not if/when they should be enabled. – Eliah Kagan Feb 12 '13 at 22:34
IMHO it has been done well for the last decade. "You can't do this right now, but you normally can" can be communicated via grayed out buttons. Regarding consistency, you may want to post a feature-request to bring back the vote-buttons for hist. locked posts. I think there is a solution in here somewhere that neither fakes out NOR confuses users. I recognize my solution is not perfect, but I feel the status quo is rather poor, thus my bounty. Fortunately, it looks like I'm outnumbered here, so meta has served its purpose. Thanks for your informed opinions – user133440 Feb 12 '13 at 22:39
@BrianWebster As my answer explains at length, I don't think the current behavior is inconsistent in any substantial or important way. I don't want there to be voting arrows for "historical interest" questions! But I think it might make sense to always gray out unusable voting arrows (and provide information in mouseover tooltips that's currently provided by clicking on unusable buttons). I'm not sure if such a change would be positive--I was suggesting you post a new question since you seem to have much more conviction that such a change would be the right thing. – Eliah Kagan Feb 12 '13 at 22:42

Voting arrows remain on locked posts to help teach users why they can't vote. If you just remove the voting arrows altogether, then the user may be left wondering why the voting arrows aren't there, especially if they aren't familiar with locking or don't notice the post is locked (which is quite easy to miss on answers).

As well, a lock is not meant to be permanent (in most cases, but there are exceptions), so you should be able to vote on it again in the future. Most locks are just temporary measures to prevent some undesirable behavior, sort of like a time-out. We should only be removing the voting arrows completely if there is absolutely no chance of ever being able to vote on the post again.

That's exactly what happens with historical locks. These questions are determined to no longer be a good fit for our community, but are so popular that it doesn't make sense to just flat-out remove it. Thus, they have been "frozen in time" to preserve them. Editing, voting, and any other functionality is disabled on these posts, and should never be re-enabled.

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Implying functionality in order to instruct seems rather backwards to me. I respectfully disagree with the logic, as I believe there must be a better way to instruct. From Mysticial in the Question-comments "When the site goes into read-only mode, the arrows are faded out. I'd like to see that on locked posts as well.". This is OK in my opinion. It's like offering an apparently-functional save button to a user in order to instruct them that they can't save a read-only file. It's better to put a grayed-out save button. – user133440 Feb 12 '13 at 22:20
@BrianWebster: When the site is in read-only mode, there's also a huge banner at the top indicating that and all functionality on the entire site is disabled. That's a huge difference. – animuson Feb 12 '13 at 22:21
I believe you misread my point. Grayed-out arrows indicate that voting can happen, but not right now. Showing apparently-functional buttons in order to pop up a dialog is inefficient in my opinion. I'll let it rest. Thanks for the response. – user133440 Feb 12 '13 at 22:22
@BrianWebster: The problem is that everything on the site uses the "you have to try before you get an error" functionality, and changing everything on the site to be in a "greyed-out" state until it can be used isn't plausible. You can't grey out one thing and not the others, because then you end up with inconsistent features, which is even worse. – animuson Feb 12 '13 at 22:31

By leaving the vote-arrows on locked posts, you are created implied functionality. Unfortunately, it's a lie.

The functionality already exists to remove vote arrows for some locked posts. Surely this can easily be extended to all locked posts (or at least those that can't be voted upon)

Sample: Printing 1 to 1000 without loop or conditionals

enter image description here

Educating Users

It is my strong opinion that the best way to instruct users that locked posts cannot be voted on is to either hide the vote buttons, or gray them out.

We've seen applications do a good job of this over the years: gray out a button if its functionality is temporarily unavailable.

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