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Since the introduction of the Electorate badge, I was thinking about the potential side effects of the badge. While it certainly encourages voting on questions, I think the way it works, by tying the number of required question votes to the answer votes, actually discourages voting on answers. Each vote you cast on an answer makes it more difficult for you to to achieve the badge. It's essentially moving you farther away from the badge. This is especially true if you have previously voted on plenty of answers. I believe the badge should have simply required an absolute minimum number of votes on questions (say, 2000 question votes) rather than a function of answer votes. Another possibility is making the vote requirement a function of the user creation date.

In general, it's not a good idea to discourage one good thing (question votes) at the cost of a better thing (answer votes).

Thoughts?

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since presumably the badge won't be rescinded after you get it and return to your previous mostly-upvoting-answers ways, i think of it as only a temporary discouragement. –  quack quixote Jan 3 '10 at 5:38
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~quack: "Temporary" can be very long, specially if you have a huge number of votes. –  LeakyCode Jan 3 '10 at 5:43
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+1 because I noticed the same things. Also I need to get my ratio up. –  mmyers Jan 3 '10 at 5:46
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no doubt. think of it like the American Congress pondering copyright limits -- author lifetime + 75 years is still a limited time, right? snarky (yet fun) examples aside, you're right about the new badge changing voting habits. i'm finding myself quicker to vote on mediocre questions that i previously wouldn't have voted on, and i'm less likely to vote up multiple answers on the same question even if they deserve it. –  quack quixote Jan 3 '10 at 8:15
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~quack: Indeed that's real problem with the badge. I'm not really fond of upvoting bad questions (let's face it, encouraging voting = encouraging **up**voting) and making even more of Problematic Users meta.stackexchange.com/questions/20696/… –  LeakyCode Jan 3 '10 at 8:59
    
Maybe there should be an "Evaluator" badge to compensate this? see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/223823/… –  donfuxx Mar 2 at 14:48
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8 Answers 8

up vote 56 down vote accepted

I tend to agree. I posted a comment to the "clarify the wording" thread, which I'll expand here.

After the initial "you've voted 300 times" badge, there's really no incentives to keep voting on things (outside of community participation). Electorate could solve both that and the question voting problem, by acting more like this:

  • Requires 600 question votes
  • Requires 1800 answer votes

A total of 2400 votes is required. By virtue of needing them, question voting is encouraged. A 3:1 ratio is implied, but there are no negatives to continue voting on answers.

This encourages voting all the way around, and (IMHO) provides the necessary impetus to vote on questions.

For what it's worth, I'm one of the users that got the electorate badge already.

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I like the 2400 votes interpretation. In the current system, Electorate gold badge can be achieved in 20 days by simply voting every question you see making it the easiest gold badge. When I joined, gold badges were scarce and was really hard to get. With Fanatic and Electorate, the value of a gold has been declining. –  LeakyCode Jan 3 '10 at 6:04
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+1 (I resisted voting you up for a while to achieve the Electorate ;-P) –  LeakyCode Jan 3 '10 at 6:26
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@Fearless Spammer: On the other hand, gold badges for questions and answers tend to go to the softer ones, which get closed a lot faster nowadays. It's never been easy to get, say 100 upvotes for a technical answer, so I'd say gold badges are probably getting harder to get. –  David Thornley Mar 8 '10 at 14:40
    
Regarding your statement that "there's really no incentives to keep voting on things", theoretically at least though... after you get either badges... Electorate or Civic Duty... most people are active enough in the SO Community to realize the incredible importance of voting, and no longer need the badge incentive to continue the practice. Your rep is more than likely over 3000 at that point, and your responsibility as a moderator level user becomes more important. –  Nick Mar 8 '10 at 16:04
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This is especially true if you have previously voted on plenty of answers

Then you should balance that by voting on plenty of questions, which is the intent!

See: Why aren’t people voting for questions?

In general, voting for answers needs no encouragement because it comes naturally. It's voting for questions that doesn't happen enough.

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Well, we should see what happens in practice (I doubt it has a noticeable negative effect) but from a purely theoretical perspective, voting on answers did not need encouragement previously because it didn't have a negative effect on yourself and now it does. You can't directly compare the behavior. –  LeakyCode Jan 3 '10 at 8:53
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It's a bit of a stretch to call "making it nominally harder to achive a gold badge most won't even know or care about" a "negative effect". It's simple: for every 3 votes you cast on answers, consider whether you should vote for a question. And once you have the badge, this ratio doesn't even matter any more. The goal of most badges is just to make people pause and consider.. why am I doing this? What's it for? How does this make our collective experience on Stack Overflow better? –  Jeff Atwood Jan 3 '10 at 10:54
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So what's funny about this is that we have a number of users that ask a lot of questions and get above 3K reputation on questions alone, and we want to reward this behavior through votes. –  George Stocker Jan 3 '10 at 21:53
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And because you're going to ask: stackoverflow.com/users/34537/acidzombie24 –  George Stocker Jan 3 '10 at 23:30
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stackoverflow.com/users/68183 –  mmyers Jan 8 '10 at 16:36
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George -- nobody said they had to be UPVOTES. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 13 '10 at 10:42
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@Jeff Atwood, quite right; but you and I both know Upvotes are much more common than downvotes, especially because downvotes take away your reputation, not just the target's. –  George Stocker Jan 13 '10 at 11:12
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Why does voting for questions need to be encouraged? Surely the important thing about a question is not the reputation it confers, but whether it is answered. From the perspective of a later user the score of the question means little from the perspective of whether it addresses an issue I may be having. –  tvanfosson Jan 13 '10 at 19:03
    
So why not incentivize voting on questions, rather than discouraging voting on answers, which is what you have done. Furthermore, if you take the ratio of answers:questions on the site total, I'm certain that you will discover that it is more on par with 8:1 (I guess). So, you're actually asking us to gloss over more good answers. cont... –  devinb Apr 21 '10 at 14:38
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That's 8:1 assuming that the chance of a quality question is equal to the chance of a quality answer, which is unlikely, considering that those with the highest ranks all appear to be posts hundreds of answers and only post very few questions. This means that I will have to IGNORE quality answers in order to get this badge. –  devinb Apr 21 '10 at 14:40
    
Why not have badges that encourage votes on questions (I.e. 1000 total votes on questions, or 600 total votes on questions) This means that if they choose they can only vote on questions for a while, and it is likely that most people will be more likely to vote on a question, but we are not asking them to not vote on answers. –  devinb Apr 21 '10 at 14:43
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I suspect it's largely not a problem, because voting on answers dominates [see comments] the votes, and many users will be oblivious to the the badge anyway. The users that are gunning for this badge will probably have a long-term investment in the site that will outlive the 600 question-vote threshold and, as ~quack points out, their long-term voting habits are probably unaffected.

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i've only recently gotten the badge (on SU), and am (slowly) starting to see my voting habits return to "normal". i'm still hesitant to vote on most answers, unless they are exceptional, but i'm much more likely to vote (up or down) on questions. –  quack quixote Feb 25 '10 at 2:02
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I find myself not voting on answers because of the badge, and I don't vote on questions unless they deserve it very much (up or down, this is prior to the existence of this badge), so a side effect for me is that I don't vote as much as before.

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Absolutely agree, when I see stuff like Downvoter's personal message

I stopped voting on answers in order to get the electorate badge, I may resume once I get it.

i really think this badge does more bad than good.

Now this is not a personal attack on Downvoter, indeed I myself have stopped voting on answers on stackoverflow and if I don't reach the vote limit at the end of the day (I rarely do) I just open a bunch of random questions with a score of at least +1 and vote them up without even reading them. I know it's bad and probably people will be mad at me now that I said it, but IMO a lot of people are doing what I'm doing (but not confessing it)

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It's easier when you have 10k rep because you can go down the list of today's highest-voted questions. (No, I don't do this every day.) –  mmyers Feb 25 '10 at 15:32
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I found curious that this guy that has 200 rep and 660 total votes got the Electorate badge.

For some reason, all that he does in SO is to read questions and upvote questions. If I understood this badge correctly, this user upvotes answers, but rarely (or never) upvotes questions.

http://stackoverflow.com/users/209578/david-001

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Seems fair enough to me. He's voted on more than 600 questions and 25% or more of his total votes are on questions - so he should get the badge. –  ChrisF Mar 8 '10 at 14:35
    
@ChrisF: I agree. I just found curious that he for some reason only votes on questions. –  b.roth Mar 8 '10 at 15:05
    
Actually, people tend to vote on answers too much and forget it couldn't exist without the question to begin with. So, it's more than fair enough. –  Cawas Mar 21 '11 at 18:24
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I agree it does discourages voting on answers, but that's only for the few people hunting badges. So that is the exact desired behavior as you can see from Jeff's answer.

People don't need incentive to ask questions just like people don't need incentive to vote on answers.

Think from a statistical point of view. I trust most people don't care about badges and naturally vote for answers already. So this badge is an incentive for those few people to vote on the questions and balance things up.

I believe ideally the questions should receive at least as many votes as the best answer, if not more, even if it's not all that well formulated. What happens in practice is completely another thing even yet.

I've seem so many threads with a so-so answer and a great question but still the answer gets 10+ votes and question stays on 0, 1 or 2 at most.

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I think separating the daily limits on voting questions and voting answers might somehow alleviate this concern. For example, currently we have 40 votes per day in total. If we separate the limits on voting questions and answers, we might have 30 votes on questions per day and 30 votes on answers per day. Under this design, and we can still cast a daily vote limit (for example 40 to 50).

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