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When should I vote?

When I am hit by a question/doubt, I head to the Stackoverflow(of course on not finding that in the docs or the docs are not so good). Many times I find what I am looking for and while I think I should upvote a question and/or answer (and/or a comment) as it has helped me, it's rep(upvote score) is already a lot more than what it really should be. Especially in case of old questions (eg asked in '08-'09), some of which are no doubt tricky ones but many others are simple ones, and their rep doesn't actually reflect their quality. So is the 'rep' or the 'vote score' measure of a questions quality? I started by assuming yes but then realized that it's not as the rep really depends a lot on the time when the question was asked. So there are a lot of quality questions with less rep/vote score than many questions of less quality but with high rep/vote score.

I got mislead by the upvote scores when I was new here, so I feel it should be made clear whether the rep really reflects the quality of the question. When should one upvote a question/answer/comment? if he/she finds it useful? or believes that this question/answer has quality more than what it's current rep suggests?

  • 1
    If you want a better measure of quality, then divide the # of views over the # of votes. But even this isn't full proof as it gets highly skewed by external-linking (where not everybody has an account) and the rule-of-triviality.
    – Mysticial
    Dec 4 '12 at 8:51
  • See stackoverflow.com/privileges/vote-up
    – user200500
    Dec 4 '12 at 9:09

The score of a question does not reflect anything at all besides the fact that people have upvoted/downvoted it. It is part of the reputation system, not a quality measure. The reputation system is a game system where we as members upvote what we feel are good posts, and downvote what we feel are crap. This creates incentives for people to write good content (since they get a reward for good behavior and punishment for bad).

Why you upvote are entirely up to you. I see no wrong in the fact that old questions continue to accumulate score. If the author is still active on the site she or he gets incentives to write really good, long-lasting, content.

My personal opinion is that votes are a small thing. Cast votes as you see fit. Follow your hunch or make thorough decisions, the choice is yours. People in general seem to cast votes easily on Stack Overflow.


The upvote count reflects how many people found it helpful, not necessarily the post quality. If you found an answer to be helpful too, you vote it up. If you find the question to be interesting, vote it up. If you agree with a comment, you vote it up.

Look upon the vote count as a relative measure of helpfulness, relative, that is, to the other answers to the same question.

It is not a measure of quality, especially when compared to other answers of similar quality but posted to newer or less popular questions.

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