I've been wondering about this ever since I signed up on SO. With answers, it's easy to determine what to upvote. Is it helpful, is it informative, is it correct?

None of that really applies to a question though. So which criteria are we supposed to use for upvoting questions? (And for that matter, which purpose does it serve? Upvoted answers are listed first, so here the effect is obvious. What difference does it make whether a question gets upvoted?)


10 Answers 10


I will upvote a question if:

  • It is clear and well-written, including sample code where appropriate, useful tags etc. Ideally it should indicate that a certain amount of thought has gone into the question too, e.g. "these are approaches I've already tried, but they don't work because of X, Y, Z."
  • It is a non-trivial question which tackles a common source of misunderstanding (e.g. "pass by reference" vs "pass reference by value")

I very rarely downvote questions though - I usually add a comment or vote to close instead.

I've blogged in more detail about why I vote one way or another, if you want to know more...

  • 8
    I do it when I feel This is the thing that I was about to search
    – Jayanth
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 9:30
  • So, you're saying that a non-trivial question which tackles an uncommon source of misunderstanding, that is uncommon because few people happen upon the relevant scenario - is less worthy of an upvote?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 16:26
  • @einpoklum: I don't think I'd put it that way - but I'd say that common sources of misunderstandings are more commonly asked questions. I'd say that the global value of a rare misunderstanding isn't as high, but if the question is well asked, I'll still vote for it.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 16:31
  • 1
    @einpoklum: I should note that since I wrote the linked blog post, I've started downvoting significantly more questions - things have changed since 2009...
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 16:31

I usually upvote a question when:

1) I'm already curious about the same question.
2) They made me curious about what they're asking.

Upvoting it may make it more visible to others.

  • But that means that if you know a lot about something already, you rarely upvote people's questions. Doesn't it?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 16:26

The mouseover explains

question up arrow mouseover

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear

question down arrow mouseover

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

  • 3
    And what difference does it make? An obvious guess would be that it is used to prioritize search results, but I'm guessing most people use google anyway, so that seem a bit ineffectual. The "Related" sidebar perhaps? It's not really clear who benefits from knowing whether the question is useful and clear
    – jalf
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 13:27
  • 3
    there are bad questions, and there are good questions. Asking good questions is an art, and smart SO/SU/SF users appreciate good questions and upvote them. How to Ask Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 13:34
  • 3
    @jalf: If you came to SO from a Google search and you had two SO questions in your results, and one of them was -2 and the other was +20, which one would you go with? Personally, I'd leave the -2 one right away unless it asked exactly what I'm looking for (which is rare).
    – musicfreak
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 9:09
  • Ideally, we'd like Google to order its search results so the +20 was higher than the -2. I wonder if there's some SEO technique SO could use to achieve this.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 23:10
  • StackOverflow is good because of the answers but it's great because of the questions. If you see a question that is well asked and is something that you haven't seen before, then I'd upvote it, if nothing else than to encourage these types of questions.
    – ajacian81
    Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 11:00

I usually upvote a question when I post an answer to it, because

  • I found the question interesting enough to make me work on it (for that, +1 ;) )
  • I often answer questions with no answers or no upvoted answers yet, and I hope to make that question more visible in the "unanswered" tab, increasing its visibility and -- hopefully -- attracting other answers.
  • 1
    Thanks for that +1. It always surprises me to see questions where a 40K+ rep person has answered, but the question has no upvotes. Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 5:02
  • If you answer a question, it stays in the unanswered tab?
    – WGroleau
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 15:02
  • @WGroleau yes, for certain conditions: see meta.stackexchange.com/a/18871/6309
    – VonC
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 10:19

I up-vote when I actually want to know the same thing, but I doubt that I could ask the question any better.

If I think I could make the question better, I usually will just do that instead. I don't up-vote questions that I just improved, because that seems too much like a pat on the back. Now I won't say that I will never up-vote a question that I improved, it is just likely to happen after someone else edits the question so that I can no longer see that I had some part in making the question as good as it is.


Just to add to the already-supplied answers, I upvote a question for any of the following reasons:

  • it's well-written
  • I'm curious
  • I was about to ask, but found it instead (see above)
  • it's a "useful" topic (subjective, I know)
  • I think it needs more viewage
  • it strikes me right
  • I'm in a good mood

People tend to upvote questions much less than answers. This is understandable and various explanations were proposed in the past for why this happens.

However, I find that the most useful predicate for how much a question would interest me is mostly not the question's votes, but rather its tags combined with the rep of the OP.

IOW, questions with my interesting tags by people with rep in the thousands, in my experience, are the most interesting questions. In contrast, questions from google 1rep dudes are usually less interesting (to me).

So I would suggest that SO allow us to sort question by the OP's rep, and not worry so much about rating questions (which proves to only half-work).


I find question votes useful. When learning about haskell, one of the things I did was look at the most upvoted questions tagged haskell.


I visit SO and related sites each morning, and often each evening as well. In between, I often bump into them when I'm just doing my regular work. I need to know how do something, I head to a search engine, and often the results include SO-etc questions. If the answer helps me with the problem I'm facing, I give the OP an upvote. By asking the question before I even had the problem, this person made it so the answers are here waiting for me. I'm grateful for that, so I give an upvote. As well, any answers that look useful get an upvote.

On my reglar visits it's different. Questions get upvotes if they make me think "good question", or if I answer them. Answers get upvotes for being right, downvotes for being wrong (or too short or a thousand things.) And questions get downvotes if I can't edit them into being better, or can't just vote to close them. All the other sites routinely nag me to "vote on questions too" because under normal circumstances, I rarely do.


I have to admit that I actually don't upvote much. Thats usually because I'm looking for questions to answer and if something has a lot of answers generally I'll skip it as already having been answered.

Sometimes but not often questions themselves will be interesting or I'll find them in relation to something I need to know, either from a direct SO search or via Google, in which case I'll upvote a good answer.

My usual standard for upvoting is that is has to meet one of the following:

  • be correct when there are other answers that (imho) are incorrect so it needs to be distinguished;
  • it is particularly insightful, clear and/or pithy; or
  • it describes something quite innovative or clever that I otherwise wouldn't have thought of.

Obvious answers to simple questions are a roll of the dice to see who answers first. I generally don't upvote those.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .