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Reputation is primarily, from the system's perspective, about encouraging positive participation. If that's so, wouldn't a lower (personal) bar for upvoting questions make more sense when those questions are by users new to the system. I don't think that questions by new users automatically deserve an upvote, but I will typically upvote a question by new user in cases where the value of the question is marginal. I think that getting this early rep can have a tremendous impact on whether the person buys into the site(s).

I suggest that we reward this type of behavior. I suggest a bronze "Encourager" badge that is awarded after a person has upvoted 50 questions by users who have been on the site for less than 1 day. To reinforce this, similar badges could be awarded at the silver (Cheerleader) and gold (Motivator) for 400 and 1000 upvotes respectively. A flagged comment by the voter on any such question would disqualify that question from being counted in the total.

Update: The names are just suggestions, don't get hung up on them. I'm certainly open to alternatives.

Update2: An alternative would be to have this apply only to users with a rep of 1 and only on the day the question was asked. That way we're not encouraging massive upvotes of marginal questions, but still giving new users a small boost.

Update3: I know I'm probably wasting my breath, but let me explain my thinking. First, while answers to questions are valuable, the most value I have found on the site is through answering questions. Reputation is the key to driving this behavior; if you want reputation points, the only way to accumulate significant points is to answer questions. Getting people "hooked" on the reputation system, then, is a way to encourage people to participate in learning in a way that simply getting an answer to your question isn't. "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll never go hungry."

Simply handing out reputation at the start doesn't accomplish this, but getting that first vote does. Whether you think we live in a culture of self-congratulation (we do) or not, you can't deny that when someone affirms you, it has a positive effect on you and your attitude. The idea that I posit is that the bar ought not be so high when voting on a new user's first question -- a tiny bit of encouragement at this point, if at all possible, can start that user on a path that leads them to be a collaborator within the site rather than a consumer of the site. The latter isn't bad, but the former is better.

I already practice this behavior. If I see a question by a user with rep 1 that I feel I can upvote, then I do so. It hurts me (and the site) very little, actually not at all, and it may result in a new collaborator for the site. I'm simply trying to think of a way to encourage this type of behavior on a more global scale as I think it is a net benefit to everyone.

So far, the arguments are primarily with the mechanics of how to go about this. Ok, I'm flexible. Let's try to fix the mechanics so that it satisfies your sense of propriety. What if, to the restrictions above, we add that the question cannot also have received any downvotes or be closed within 24 hours, i.e., it can't be a bad question or in the wrong forum. To summarize, a question would need to fit the following formula before it would be eligible to count towards a badge.

  1. OP's rep is 1 (i.e., only first voter gets credit)
  2. Not community wiki (has to grant rep)
  3. Vote is cast within 24 hours (no mining old questions)
  4. No down votes or closed within 24 hours (not a bad question)
  5. No abusive/offensive comments on question by voter (consistent with goal)
share|improve this question
"A flagged comment on any such question would disqualify that question from being counted in the total." --- I don't understand why, would you elaborate? – balpha Sep 4 '09 at 12:36
I don't want to be a cheerleader. Can't you give the silver badge a manlier name like "back patter" or "dynamo" or "Welbog is cool"? – JSONBog Sep 4 '09 at 12:37
Flagged comments typically indicate some rudeness on the part of the commenter. You can't get credit for encouraging when you are likely discouraging people, too. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 12:38
(-1) for the reasons in my response. – devinb Sep 4 '09 at 12:39
Okay, so you mean comments by the voter in question. You should clarify that in the quesetion (Or am I the only one who didn't get that? In that case, just ignore me.) – balpha Sep 4 '09 at 12:40
@Welbog: I know you were kidding. But "back patter"? really? – devinb Sep 4 '09 at 12:40
@devinb: Sometimes a guy just needs to pat some backs! – JSONBog Sep 4 '09 at 12:48

Definitely against this. I hate the fact that we live in a self-esteem generation and that we must give back pats and gold stars out to everyone simply for putting forth the effort. News flash everyone, the real world isn't like that.

If we are wanting to "encourage" new users, why don't we just give them more rep when they join? 50, 100, 3000? I don't see how this is really different then people voting them up just because they don't have any rep to begin with.

We should be looking at the content of their question, not their rep score. Truth be told the name and number at the bottom of the question is the very last thing I ever pay attention to when it comes to voting.

share|improve this answer
Yeah, but SO is. That's the whole point of the rep and badge system. And it seems to work. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 12:44
Whenever these question come up I hold my breath for the pony reply, it is almost always worth an upvote. – BinaryMisfit Sep 4 '09 at 12:44
The rep and badge system is to reward good behavior. If you start just looking to give 1 rep users free rep just for trying you are no longer rewarding good behavior because now they will start voting without any conscience as far as the question or answer is concerned, and that is not good behavior. – TheTXI Sep 4 '09 at 12:48
@TheTXI -- see my latest update. It would signficantly limit the behavior to just that specified. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 13:33
Based on your edits above, I still disagree with your premise, only now you have effectively narrowed it down to being almost useless, IMHO. – TheTXI Sep 4 '09 at 13:54
You can't give them 100 rep when they join because the whole point is to prevent abuse/spammers. – crush Jan 24 '14 at 22:07

I am very much against this idea.

The entire purpose of votes is, as you mentioned, to encourage or discourage certain behaviour. That is also the purpose of badges.

What your badge is encouraging is a dilution of votes. People earn badges by just spraying votes at as many new people as they can find. There is no way to check if the vote was a carefully though out one, or if it was simply to earn the badge. This encourages users to ignore the quality of a new user's question and upvote them anyway.

share|improve this answer
See my second update. A single upvote to encourage new users is not "spraying votes". – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 12:42
@tvanfosson: The badge does not require a single upvote, it requires 50. Therefore, you can be sure that some people will be very keen to detect and upvote any question posted by a user with 1 rep in order to beat everyone else to the punch and get closer to earning a badge. While you might argue this does not dilute votes "much", it still dilutes them. I don't see the benefit if the new user only gets the one upvote anyway. – ベレアー アダム Sep 4 '09 at 12:55
@tvanfosson: This still does not cover the fact that the votes you are encouraging are not a recognition of anything other than 'lack of experience'. The fact that a user has 1 rep does not mean they deserve an upvote. – devinb Sep 4 '09 at 13:29
@Adam -- how does the fact that the badge system works to encourage new users argue against implementing it. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 13:34
@devinb -- you and I see the sites very differently. I think it's about people becoming learners. You think, apparently, think it's about the content. I respect that you may feel differently, but the value I've found here came because I got "hooked" on the rep system and found that I had to start answering questions to accrue points. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 13:36
@tvanfosson: If you have read ANY of my other responses, you'll find that I am VERY MUCH about cultivating an attitude of respect and learning. I want people to learn to use google, I want them to learn to ask intelligent questions, and I want them to learn to love the community and the site as I do. Pandering or creating false incentives will not help that. I think the new people deserve exactly as much respect as anyone else on the site and no more. That is, if they need help, we help them. If they do something wrong, we show them how to do it right. – devinb Sep 4 '09 at 14:09
@tvanfosson: That includes downvoting them when they do something wrong. I would encourage everyone to add comments to downvotes on new people, but I would encourage everyone to add comments to most things they downvote because that is how you encourage improvement. Telling someone that something is great when it is crap is a surefire way to get more crap. – devinb Sep 4 '09 at 14:10
@tvanfosson: I see the site as a place where the toughest questions can be answered because there are so many experts around who are also asking/answering tough questions. I do not see the site as a forum for new people to spam with their 'What's a C#' questions. Your suggestion would be easier to implement by starting everyone off at 11 rep and giving the badges out randomly. – devinb Sep 4 '09 at 14:13

We already have a badge to encourage voting (Civic Duty.) I'm against attaching any gold badges to voting. Whatever the count is, it would be too easy to get. A bronze might be suitable. However, there's a negative side to it too. We don't want crap questions to be voted up indiscriminately.

UPDATE: After thinking about it a bit more, I think I'm against the idea. We should be voting on stuff regardless of the author identity. If our goal is to enable everyone vote, we would just remove the minimum rep requirement. And honestly, 15 rep is very easy to get. An couple average questions or a good question is very likely to get you to the minimum.

That said, my main point is the fact that any kind of encouragement (not just new users) to vote based on the identity of the author should be avoided.

share|improve this answer
The voting only applies to users who have been on the site for less than a day. The trade off between encouraging participation and marginal questions is worth it I think. I'd be open to changing that to users with a rep of 1, but then it would only apply to the first upvoter. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 12:40
It'll cause a rush for finding new users and upvoting them, even if they post crap, which most of them do. I, for one am against of giving voting, especially downvoting privileges to crap, spammy, and plzsendtehcodez posters. – xmm0 Sep 4 '09 at 12:42
@Mehrdad -- I understand your point and would agree with it if I felt that the main value of the site is in the questions and answers themselves. Personally, the main value that I found (as I've commented elsewhere on this question) is in the learning that takes place as you participate -- beyond just the nugget of knowledge that makes it into the q/a. – tvanfosson Sep 4 '09 at 13:38
But most new users don't want to participate. They just want to get their answers and go. If someone is interested in participation, even a little, he/she will ask/answer a couple questions and will be able to interact with the community. – xmm0 Sep 4 '09 at 14:19

Given that we can all agree that new users do not read the FAQ, how would you expect a new user to even find out about badges in general and this badge in particular?

The most likely method for a new user to earn these badges is to perform the up votes of their own volition. Then they get the badge, but now what? They already are more likely than the average user to vote on questions and are well on their way to the Civic Duty badge.

So, I guess my answer is that adding these badges wouldn't have a substantive effect on the user's voting habits or the quality of the questions and answers on the site. Its a no for me.

share|improve this answer
This is not about badges for new users, but rather for seasoned users that should be helping new users. – perbert Sep 4 '09 at 13:27
@voager - then perhaps I misread tvanfosson's intent. – Rob Allen Sep 4 '09 at 13:46

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