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It's human nature to thank someone when they help you: Comments, Upvote and reputation constraints. StackOverflow prevents you from from adding comments or upvoting until you have some experience with the site as indicated by reputation, and I support that.

I think it would be beneficial for both answerers and newbies if the upvote button were converted to a "Thank You" button when you don't have enough rep to vote. The thank you's would be tallied and displayed somewhere, but they wouldn't affect rep or answer order like votes. It gives the newbie a way to engage with the site and register their gratitude, and it gives the answerer another source of warm fuzzies.

Bonus points if you could figure out a way to convert a thank you to an upvote once the issuer has earned enough rep.

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Maybe I'm a greater misanthrope than I thought, but not once in the 22 years prior to finding Stack Overflow under which I scoured forums and Experts Exchange for answers to my problems did I ever feel the obligation to go out of my way to say thank you upon finding the advice I needed. –  Grace Note Dec 15 '10 at 20:30
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@Grace Note: Upvoted, thanks for the insight. –  Brant Dec 15 '10 at 20:50
    
@Brant Bobby: Upvoted, thanks for the LOL. –  Mark Ransom Dec 15 '10 at 20:53
    
@Grace Note, perhaps that just indicates how awesome StackOverflow really is. There have been a number of posts on Meta on the problem of drive-by thank you's. –  Mark Ransom Dec 15 '10 at 20:54
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@Grace, I somewhat disagree. When I'm the original poster, I at least feel a sense of duty to close the thread off with some sort of resolution. If someone helped by find that, I'll thank them. Too often I find forum posts with my exact question but no stated resolution...and that's quite a bummer. –  zourtney Dec 15 '10 at 21:30
    
@zourtney You... disagree with my experience? I'm not sure what to say about that. I think you're confusing my experience with a similar kind of thing except where the person was actually asking the questions, judging by your anecdote. –  Grace Note Dec 15 '10 at 21:43
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@Grace Note, sorry, I totally misread that. I thought you were implying you felt no obligation as the original poster. As an anonymous 3rd party scourer, there is no obligation -- that is what you meant, right? I do, however, find myself upvoting old questions/answers on SO which I find helpful. –  zourtney Dec 15 '10 at 22:54
    
@Mark Ransom, Check this similar discussion: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/72307/…. Also check my comment where I have proposed something similar but I like your idea of hiding upvote button so as to remove confusion. –  gbs Dec 16 '10 at 3:59
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@Grace Note: I have no problem that you never felt the need to thank someone for an answer found on a random website, but the experience here shows that there are others who do. Currently the site offers no (obvious) way what is the "correct" way to do that, so a little more guidance to newcomers could be useful. –  Jan Fabry Jan 9 '11 at 8:31
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you don't have enough rep to vote (or, if you are an anonymous user) you can click

This post was useful

or

This post was not useful

Anonymous user feedback now in testing

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What about keeping the upvote button, but let it have no effect until the new user reaches 15 rep? So a new user clicks it, the button goes to the "clicked" state, but the score is not changed and the author gets no rep increase. Once the new user has 15 rep, the old votes go into effect.

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This option would save me and others new to one specific stackexchange some hassle. On stackexchanges where I am new, I have been saving off Q&A to favorites if I want to go back once I have 15 rep (as I just did here). This is what I learned from as recommended at How can I watch a question in Stack Overflow? –  sage Jan 21 '11 at 16:02
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@sage: Yes, but for your case it would be "better" to get at least 200 rep on one site, so you get an automatic +100 bonus when you register on another site. –  Jan Fabry Jan 21 '11 at 17:16
    
Wow - thanks! I didn't know about that - I guess it's time to answer more questions to get to the 200pt mark. –  sage Jan 21 '11 at 17:23
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Better yet, swap out the voting box for a Herp Derp button (apparently it's also called a Facebook Like button) that people can just click on instead. Bring in that "Tweet this!" popup while you're at it.

The people who need to vomit a post or comment of "Thanks!" instead of paying it forward are typically the kind of people who would like the whole world to know that they're saying thanks in a pointless manner such as a do nothing/help no one comment.

Might as well put on some brass knuckles and take advantage of the social contagion.

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Expressing gratitude is not a "social contagion." The question is how to allow people to express gratitude without cluttering the conversation. –  Dan Fabulich Jan 9 '11 at 8:06
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But how does a random visitor from Google know that they should "pay it forward" by answering another question? Most people have experience with forum systems, and it is not always obvious that this site is different. I think we sometimes have the "curse of knowledge" when we assume everyone here knows how the site works because we do. –  Jan Fabry Jan 9 '11 at 8:40
    
Facebook is the social contagion. Using the Like button posts up on walls and spreads the link and viewership. Needing people to know you're saying thanks with a pointless comment is just excrement. @dan –  random Jan 9 '11 at 17:14
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A drive-by that reads "Your Answer" and posts "Thanks! That helped" is the kind of user that needs to tweet about their stool samples. They don't want to learn. @jan –  random Jan 9 '11 at 17:18
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