Takeaway: Are 4 inexperienced users more reliable than 3 experienced users? A high rep doesn't ensure you are smarter, but it makes you the safer option.
I went to SuperUser to see what suggestions can be found for different Malware-removal Applications. Question #19217 was right on target, and sported five answers, with a total of 9 up-votes.
All of the answers were provided by low-rep users, and that leads me to recognize that the up-votes may be a similar case. Just as answers aren't always equal, neither should up-votes be. The top answer currently has 4 up-votes, and the second most popular answer currently has 3 up-votes. The people who voted in the 3, may be more reputable than those who voted in the 4. Am I communicating this clearly?
I'm not asking that we be told who voted for a particular question, but I am asking that we be told what type of reputation they had. If the 4 votes come from 4 users with less than 300 rep, and the 3 votes came from two users with 300 rep and 1 with 10k rep, the 3 votes should appear stronger by the standards of the system.
Right now I'm worried about accepting the top-voted solution simply because I fear the up-votes may be from people with similar rep to those providing the answers - that doesn't make them wrong, only less-reliable by the standards of the stackexchange engine.
Can we see the sum of rep for the votes? (Data in parenthesis would not be visible)
4 Votes (Ted • 72 | Bill • 183 | Carl • 423 | J • 100) = Power of 778 3 Votes (Bob • 19,123 | TJ • 283 | Mike • 8,923) = Power of 28,329
So in this case, you wouldn't see who voted, only that their rep-sum was 778 and 28k.
4 Votes : 778 3 Votes : 28k
I'm not tied to this way of indicating the vote-power, but some method is better than no method.
Another concern is that higher-rep users (having been around longer) participate in voting less-frequently than new-comers do. After all, we're not trying to gain badges, build rep, etc. As a result, it's more likely that a low-rep users will cast a vote than it is a high-rep user. Does that follow logically?
Reputation (From the SO-FAQ)
Reputation is a (very) rough measurement of how much the Stack Overflow community trusts you. Reputation is never given, it is earned by convincing other Stack Overflow users that you know what you're talking about. (emphasis added)
"Rep has nothing to do with credibility, competence or knowledge!" - John Smithers
I agree. But it does have to do with "how much the SO community trusts you." Granting that, some votes are more trustworthy than others. Because they come from users who have convinced "other SO users that they know what they're talking about."
"The purpose of anonymous voting is that all votes are valued equally, whether they come from Jon Skeet or from some new person." - devinb
That is clearly not the case though. If SO operates by labeling some users more "trusted" than others (which it does), then that would mean some votes are trusted more than others. I would trust Jon Skeet to suggest a good programming book than I would two freshmen. It's irrational to suggest Jon Skeet will offer the best recommendation but that isn't what is being argued here. Only that Jon Skeet is the safer choice given his reputation.
"Just because a person has reputation does not mean they have more technical knowledge." - yshuditelu
I agree, but it does mean they are the safer source than somebody with no rep. That is, according to the SO-system.