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Considering that anonymous users coming from Google make up 90% of Stack Overflow's traffic, maybe there are ways to track how satisfied these users are?

Since upvotes aren't an option to unregistered users, my thought was a simple, non-intrusive "Was this helpful?" box below answers, that would be shown only to unregistered users who arrived at the page from a search engine.

These "helpful" votes could be translated into upvotes for the user who provided the answer. Maybe for every 10(?) helpful votes, the user gets one upvote. I'm not sure what you'd want to do with the "not helpful" votes other than keep them as statistics. (Show them to 1000+ rep users? Use them as indicators of potential spam? Use them as indicators of a question lacking a good answer?)

This would be good for simple questions, that get answered and forgotten quickly. I think the user who provided the correct answer that helps lots of unregistered users should get some rep for that. It is desired behavior that should be encouraged!

Another idea: if rep goes to the person who provided the helpful answer, maybe some rep could go to the person that asked the question as well? (Maybe one upvote on the question for every 20 helpful votes to answers to that question?) After all, if the question is not written well, no one will arrive at the page from a search engine. This means that well-worded, SEO friendly questions are encouraged.

Obviously, this means you'd have to account for people who are trying to cheat. I think it shouldn't be too difficult to spot anomalous vote patterns, given the experience the SO team already has with that type of thing. Another problem would be SEO spamming (i.e. throwing keywords into the post for no apparent reason other than to increase the chance of a Google hit), but I think the existing flagging mechanisms will control this well. Also, if the question isn't what the user was looking for, then they probably won't find it very helpful anyway.

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No drop shadow, no freehand circles; it's as if there's no image in this question at all. –  XMLbog Oct 28 '09 at 19:56
    
there are clip-art thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons, surely that counts for something! –  Kip Oct 28 '09 at 19:59
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You could have at least drawn a terrible arrow pointing them out... –  XMLbog Oct 28 '09 at 20:01
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Why do I have to do all the cleanup work? –  Ladybug Killer Oct 28 '09 at 20:59
    
Good idea Kip! :) meta.stackexchange.com/questions/98630/… –  Jeff Atwood Jul 18 '11 at 5:58

3 Answers 3

Having up and down arrows with a big number and little thumbs-up/down icons, which intuitively do the exact same thing but one set of which you can use and one set of which you can't, is a massive usability failure.

You need to show anonymous users the big number (because that's pretty much the whole point of how answers are organized), so if you're going to give them thumbs, you should remove the arrows.

But if you're going to remove the arrows and replace them with thumbs, you might as well just leave the arrows and have them behave in a slightly different manner for anonymous users. Now, that's a usability failure too, but in a less confusing way. In fact, overloading those arrows will probably go unnoticed by the vast majority of the userbase.

You can do the same thing you want (which is gather anonymous statistics separately, and count every, say, 10 anonymous upvote as a regular upvote) without changing the look and feel of the site and, more importantly, without presenting two sets of buttons that look like they do the exact same thing.

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Good points. I thought about this too, my only concern is: will the anonymous user be likely to click the upvote, or do they need the explicit "was this helpful" prompt? so maybe the arrows could be hidden if you can't vote? or maybe, like you suggest, the user could click "yes" or click the upvote arrow. –  Kip Oct 28 '09 at 20:17
    
Unification of UIs for the win! –  Ether Oct 28 '09 at 20:25
    
Well-thought arguments without cheap rep whoring? Feel my wrath for providing quality answers! (+1) –  Ladybug Killer Oct 28 '09 at 21:19
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Who hacked into Welbog's account? –  mmyers Oct 28 '09 at 21:43
    
No zombie is safe from Chicago Ted. –  XMLbog Oct 29 '09 at 1:46

The best measure of satisfaction from anonymous users is: how many of them register

A secondary voting mechanism seems...redundant ;-)

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I agree with Steven here.

The goal here should be convert unregistered users to registered users. So any UI changes should be aimed towards that.

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Most people aren't going to want to get involved in the community until Google sends them here multiple times, and they realize "hey, i remember this site, everytime I come here i get a good answer, this site is great!". So I'd argue that encouraging behavior that will lead people to good answers on the site more often will help convert them to registered users. –  Kip Oct 28 '09 at 20:52

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