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The current title (tooltip) text on the upvote button says

This answer is helpful.

The current title text on the downvote button says

This answer is not helpful.

Since "helpful" is such a subjective word (and kinda bland), these messages do little to discourage popularity-based upvoting, and voting based on programmer glurge1. Additionally, both titles presume that the "answer" is an answer to the question—when in reality it's just text in the Answer box that might or might not, in fact, be a real answer. This dilutes the meaning of the word "answer" on the site.

So, given that a core value of StackOverflow (et al) is to generate quality answers to questions...
I'd like to suggest that a better title text for the upvote button is

This answers the question, and is accurate or helpful.

and a better title text for the downvote button is

This does not answer the question, is incorrect, or is not helpful.

The subjective "helpful" bit is there at the end, as a catch-all, but first the user is encouraged towards more productive voting practices.

Would this be a (ahem) helpful improvement to the site(s)?

1 – For instance: "Gosh, I just luvs jQuery, so I'm upvoting the glib 'use jQuery' answer. jQuery is kewl. What was the question again?"

share|improve this question
I'm sure this is a dupe, but I just can't be bothered to check. With that in mind, +1 for this totally new idea! – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Oct 1 '09 at 3:23
@Pesto, thanks, I searched meta for all of 10 minutes before asking this. Well, maybe 5. Anybody believe 2? – irrational response Oct 1 '09 at 4:12
I was about to ask the same, and "questions that may already have your answer" led me here. – Nikana Reklawyks Oct 10 '12 at 23:25

You need to account for people's opinions:

For upvoting:

  • This answer is long winded and mentions something of the asker's problem
  • This answer is wrong, but appears to be helpful
  • This answer so hilarious! Pass the towel please!

For downvotes:

  • Him engrish is bad, me no rikey
  • This answer is hilarious! What was the question again?
  • This answer already has too many upvotes
share|improve this answer
tHa't s reDicullUs, @ ranDUm< i Neve rdonvot any1 fer thier baD inglesh. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 2:40
No wonder it doesn't look that unreadable - I forgot to mxi pu ltetres! Bairfnkuc me! – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 3:04

I disagree. If you could show us any practical examples in a real (not very subjective) question where a blatantly bad answer gets upvoted for suggesting a popular (but wrong) approach, I may see your point of view. But I have never, in my 8 months on this site, seen this happen. Never.

It happens in code golf. The Python solutions get upvoted more than (possibly shorter) solutions in less popular languages. But it's code golf. Who cares? I've never seen this kind of thing happen in a real question.

As a side point, your suggestions are, in my humble opinion, way too long. Why not change:

This answer is helpful.


This answer is useful.

I think that conveys the meaning you wanted to convey without using as many words. But I still don't think it's necessary. The people who would upvote solely based on how much they liked the tools an answer uses aren't the kind of peope who would carefully read the upvoting instructions.

share|improve this answer
"This answer is useful" still presumes that the text is actually an answer. If terseness is important, then how about "I like it" and "I hate it"? – irrational response Oct 1 '09 at 2:40
"I like it" and "I hate it" have the same subjectivity problem that the original text has (worse, actually). An answer can't be "useful" if it's not actually answering the question. However, until you can provide any evidence that the events you describe actually happens anywhere, I stand by my assertion that this is all unnecessary. (And terseness isn't important - conciseness is. Brevity is the soul of wit, as they say.) – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 2:44
Chris, you seem to agree that there is a "subjectivity problem" in the current titles, but you disagree that it matters? At least, that it matters enough to consider a change? I think it's a tall order to prove that people are voting subjectively on any particular question--I'm not a mindreader! But it's plausible human behaviour. I'm simply suggesting that a more precise wording will increase the chances that folks will consider whether their action aligns with the values of the site. And please don't get stuck on my jQuery example, it's just one example of an emotional reaction. – irrational response Oct 1 '09 at 3:46
My opinion, clarified: It doesn't matter why people upvote an answer, so much as the quality of the answer they upvote. And a decent answer tends to get a few upvotes, a good answer garners many, and a great answer earns the answerer a few badges. The system works quite well, from where I'm standing. I can see how the phrasing is subjective, but it's obviously not subjective enough to cause any issues with the answers that get voted up. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 3:51
Also, I'm amused that you suggested a change that is IMHO just as vague as the current text, and then spent 15 words of admonishment because I was imprecise about your preference for "conciseness". :-) Hm, I guess I've learned something today: We can be concise and vague, or precise and use a couple extra words. ("I like it"/"I hate it" was meant to be funny. Apologies, I left off the emoticon.) – irrational response Oct 1 '09 at 3:54
I don't see how "useful" is subjective. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 3:55
Humourous non-answer responses are useful (and helpful) when it comes to making the voter laugh. That doesn't mean they are useful to the questioner, nor to subsequent site visitors who have the same question, and aren't in a laughing mood. – irrational response Oct 1 '09 at 4:04
I can't see how anyone would actually upvote a humorous non-answer as being "useful." I think when someone asks if something is "useful" they're pretty clearly asking if it's useful in the current situation. If we use your logic then any possible phrasing could be considered subjective. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 4:08
ok, I changed it from "helpful" to "useful", but I still think we're just rearranging deck chairs on the titanic. Garbage in, garbage out.. – Jeff Atwood Oct 1 '09 at 4:42
The word 'titanic' just leapt off the page as I was scanning the comments. Ignoring the bit about deckchairs (?), that was a big ship which sank and drowned lots of people, including Leonardo di Caprio. Is that an appropriate metaphor? What's going to sink? – pavium Oct 1 '09 at 6:01
Actually no, you're thinking of Titanic (1997), which, while it didn't actually take any lives, destroyed the artistic integrity of it's director James Cameron, as well as the aforementioned di Caprio and the other actors involved in the movie. So perhaps it's a metaphor for the gradual degradation of the meaning and significance of the upvote/downvote system to modern society. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 6:27

Alternate proposal, inspired by random's answer in another question, which is summed up in the closing statement "They're your votes to give out as you wish":

This should be moved up.


This should be moved down.

Or just get rid of the title text and let the arrows do the talking.

This addresses the dilution of the word "answer" without telling people why they should vote. It just tells you what votes will accomplish.

Just a thought.

share|improve this answer
This makes it even more subjective. Half of your suggestions seem to be making this perceived problem worse. What are you trying to accomplish with this change? – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 3:27
This addresses half the issue. If random and other "vote as you will shall be the whole of the law" folks don't want guidance on how or why to vote, this at least removes the implicit declaration that every response is an Answer to the Question. And redefines the issue: Voting is as voting does. – irrational response Oct 1 '09 at 4:10

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