A related question on automatic diminishing returns for upvoting: Diminishing Returns for Reputation from Upvoting

I am curious if others do the following, and if so, if it is considered desirable behavior:

I see a newly given answer that satisfactorily answers a question. I think, "Fair enough; I think this is the best answer and it was offered in a timely fashion. Surely, it is worth at least my upvote."

Then I quickly see eleven other people upvoting it bringing the total to +12. I then think "Alright, that really wasn't that high quality of an answer -- I regret upvoting it." I am then tempted to remove my upvote as though I should be voting toward some desired reputation bonus rather than simply signaling my approval.

I haven't ever gone through with that, but I wonder if it is considered ideal behavior (for the SO community/service in general) to do so.

Short question A: Should we, as individuals, use the current number of upvotes to dictate whether a question deserves our (additional) upvote?

Short question B: If yes to the former question, should we remove our upvote if within the allotted time in that situation?

Downvoting is not being discussed in any context here.

  • Save your up-votes for awesome. Jul 9, 2013 at 19:28
  • @GrantThomas Yeah, I'm a little too liberal with my up-votes. I need to change that about my voting behavior. Jul 9, 2013 at 19:29
  • In the 5 minute grace period it is totally up to you if you like to undo your upvote.
    – juergen d
    Jul 9, 2013 at 19:30
  • 2
    My only advice would be to not run out of upvotes. If you're on the site a lot then be discerning in what you vote for. If you don't have that kind of time anymore (sigh) then upvote anything that's correct and helpful. Or not - up to you :) Jul 9, 2013 at 19:44

4 Answers 4


The behavior I've observed is that, in general, the community is quite, quite good at throttling votes back once an appropriate answer score has been reached.

After so much time around here I've actually gotten decent at predicting the top vote score an answer of mine will get in the few hours after I post it.

That said, occasionally people—including me, to be sure—will luck out, and land a question that everyone and anyone will look at, and try to answer. If you get in super, super fast with a decent answer, you can amass a number of upvotes far higher than it otherwise would have "deserved." I'm guessing that's the sort of situation you describe, whereby you see an answer score skyrocket, with you and probably others being tempted to retract your vote.

For me, I'm not really ever tempted to retract my vote in cases like this. I figure situations like these are part of what makes the site so much fun.

  • Yeah, because these questions are virtually all several hundred times better than most good answers...
    – Servy
    Jul 9, 2013 at 19:44
  • @Servy - I wouldn't say better - but I would say that they are useful and helpful to several hundred times as many people as most good answers/questions. Jul 9, 2013 at 19:46
  • 4
    So you think that most people really need to know what the --> operator does, and that question is able to help more people that all but 5 other questions on the site? I...disagree.
    – Servy
    Jul 9, 2013 at 19:49
  • 2
    @Servy - You're right - what I meant to say was "useful, helpful, and or interesting" Jul 9, 2013 at 19:53

You're allowed to vote however you want. If you want to take the existing votes into consideration you can. If you don't want to, you don't have to.

It is not "wrong" for someone to change, or refuse to change, their vote in that situation.

  • Fair enough. I was wondering if there was a largely agreed upon behavior for this. From your answer, I would suppose there is not. Jul 9, 2013 at 19:32

I upvote based on whether I think the answer deserves a higher score than it currently has, which means that most of my upvotes are on answers that nobody else has upvoted (typically on obscure questions), because someone put in a good faith effort to answer the question. One liner answers that already have six upvotes never get my vote, because the score is already too high.

Well-written answers like the kind Eric Lippert writes get my upvote, regardless of the current score on the answer.

I applied this principle to Adam Rackis' answer here; while I think it is possibly worthy of 5 upvotes, I don't think it's worthy of any more than that, especially given his "this roller coaster is fun" position. Reputation should reflect the quality of a post, not the number of views it receives.

But I'm also aware that almost nobody else votes like this. And yes, I will retract my vote if the score rises above what I think it should be.

  • You make me out to be quite the anti-intellectual anarchist :) Eric Lippert's contributions to this site are singularly amazing; I've upvoted him more times than I can count. Jul 10, 2013 at 5:08
  • What everyone is really dying to know though is...who got Eric's one and only up vote on SO? Jul 25, 2013 at 4:06

I'm going to add on to Servy's anser by saying that not only is there no "right" answer in this case (because, by definition, you can pretty much vote however you want to - say, the answer containing the most verbs), but that very high votes must necessarily correspond with very high eyeball count.

If a lot of people are viewing the question, then the question is clearly one that is important to people. If a user has provided a useful (though not "stellar") answer to an important question then it would seem appropriate for it have more upvotes than, say, an extremely good answer to a generally less important question.

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