I've noticed that for each 100 people that view a SO question, you'll generally see about 0-5 people that vote, up or down. That doesn't seem like a very statistically relevant ratio of opinions on the quality of content.

Why do you think that is?

Do people realize that for every upvote they give out, by percentage each point of their reputation is worth slightly less? After all, your reputation is just a number, if you have 1000 rep, but every other member has 20000 rep, you still don't look very good.

Do they not have the knowledge to know what's right or wrong either way? If so why did they click on the question? Are these people the ones looking for the same thing off of Google? Is the tagging system not clear enough?

Are some people just lurkers by nature? I know people IRL who see every post on Facebook, but like and comment on nothing, and the same with Reddit.

Wouldn't answers be more reliable if more people voted on what they agreed with or disagreed with?

I'm curious to see other people's thoughts on this.

Edit: I guess that's cleared up a bit. After taking views that can't vote out of the question, if everyone votes on what they agree with, easy answers everyone knows get people more reputation for answering them than hard/interesting questions only a few can answer. And that doesn't seem fair if you're playing Stack Overflow as an e-penis measurement game.

Stack Overflow works because it's a game, and if a game seems unfair, the players are unhappy and stop playing. So the system works. Thanks everyone :)

Also, I got people to vote. Ahaha.

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    A very large percent of traffic is from search engines. Most visits are from unregistered users, who can't vote. Additionally, not all registered users can vote (minimum rep requirement). – yoozer8 Apr 23 '13 at 20:07
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    That's true, though you'd think new questions wouldn't even have time to be ranked on a search engine for a while, and you still notice a similar trend, less than 5% contributing. – NathanTempelman Apr 23 '13 at 20:15
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    You're right, new questions won't have had the time to get traffic from search engines. So most of the traffic they get are from SO users. For the vast majority of questions I see on SO, I go "meh", no vote... – Mysticial Apr 23 '13 at 20:16
  • Yeah, that's a fair point. I usually don't vote on things when I haven't taken the time to fully read and make sure I've grasped what everyone is trying to say, maybe people aren't interested enough to invest that kind of time into a question that seems mundane. – NathanTempelman Apr 23 '13 at 20:24
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    It's ironic how this post has downvotes... – Ryan Apr 23 '13 at 20:56
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    Is there ANY site on the internet where the percentage of people who vote/comment/whatever is high compared to the percentage of people who view? Think about youtube, soundcloud, reddit... – Patashu Apr 23 '13 at 22:26

About 90% of traffic comes from search engines.

Keep in mind, not everyone who comes to the site is a registered user. Some people are just searching the internet for answers, and happen to find them here (that's kinda the whole point of Stack Exchange). Random internet users can't vote on questions. In fact, not even all registered users can vote (there is a minimum reputation requirement).

The low vote percentage is most likely due to a low percentage of visitors being able to vote.

Personally, I vote on most questions I read, but I've actually only seen a very small fraction of the questions on the site.

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    Registered or unregistered is not relevant, it requires 15 reputation points to vote up and there are only ~450,000 such users in total in Stack Overflow. Any other visitor simply can't vote even if he/she wants to. – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Apr 23 '13 at 20:18
  • That makes sense for the questions that have had time to rank in google and get searched by people. I'm guessing the first 100 views on most questions are just SO members though. What do you think that trend is about? – NathanTempelman Apr 23 '13 at 20:19
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    @NathanTempelman For me (and most users), the vast majority of questions are neither bad enough to deserve a downvote, and are not good or interesting enough for an upvote. So the result, most people don't vote. I probably click through on about 100 questions a day, and I only upvote a few of them + some answers. – Mysticial Apr 23 '13 at 20:20
  • That's true. If more people voted because they agreed with the answer or were curious about the question though, rather than that the question/answer was interesting, do you think we'd have more reliable answers? – NathanTempelman Apr 23 '13 at 20:27
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    @NathanTempelman We don't necessarily want people voting on everything they agree with or recognize as correct. Otherwise, we get situations like this where something extremely simple gets hundreds of votes and then people start complaining about the unfairness of things. – Mysticial Apr 23 '13 at 20:30
  • That makes sense actually. I guess if you're answering all these hard questions to get a shiny reputation nickel, and somebody picks up a reputation thousand dollar bill off of the ground, it's a bit disheartening. – NathanTempelman Apr 23 '13 at 20:36

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