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Just curious.

I've noticed:

  • Answers with formatting (usually markdown; I don't see much HTML) tend to do a lot better than unformatted answers.
  • And, even when a question uses formatting, the amount of formatting influences the relative popularity (as measured by vote count; accepted answer is a worse measure because once someone accepts an answer they're less likely to return to the question when new answers- with better markdown- are submitted, whereas a steady stream of newcomers keeps vote counts relatively current).

Of course, that's just anecdotal observation.

So,

  1. Are there are any numbers on that? A very rough measure being number of tags v. number of votes on average.

  2. And if there aren't numbers, I guess my question is... Does anyone else see this trend?

  • And if it really is as important as it seems to be, should that influence policy in some way (e.g. ordering equally-rated answers posted in a similar time frame by amount of markdown, to put those most likely to be readable on top, or encouraging new users to put more effort into formatting for readability, so their answer is more likely to be fairly considered based on content)? – root Aug 15 '13 at 14:34
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    The quantity of markdown does not mean well formatted – psubsee2003 Aug 15 '13 at 14:40
  • But in my experience, well formatted posts are better received in part because they are easier to read and understand, but also because the community tends to respect the effort to format the post well and wants to encourage such behavior – psubsee2003 Aug 15 '13 at 14:41
  • @psubsee2003 Oh, I know the readability and formatting aren't necessarily equivalent. In point of fact, I don't think my question looks particularly well put-together. Just better than the wall-of-text alternative. Which is the main place formatting tends to help; making long answers less intimidating. – root Aug 15 '13 at 14:44
  • absolutely. I was trying to address your point in your comment about using the quantity of markdown as some sort of measuring stick for ordering posts. I don't think quantity of markdown should be every taken into consideration. – psubsee2003 Aug 15 '13 at 14:46
  • Abusing code formatting for things that are not actual code gets an instant downvote from me. Just putting that out there, in case it helps motivate someone to stop. – Cody Gray Aug 16 '13 at 5:42
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    @CodyGray Code formatting is the easiest way to delimit text as being in some way 'special'. There's less ambiguity than simply using quotation marks, and backticks don't require the shift key (on American keyboards). You are being pedantic. Being pedantic for things that don't actually matter gets an instant downvote from me. In case that helps motivate someone to stop. – root Aug 16 '13 at 13:29
  • You're missing the point. It isn't about making things easier for people, it's about things having a purpose. Code formatting serves a purpose: to indicate code. If it is not code, it should not have code formatting applied to it. It's not like there's a dearth of alternative formatting options. If you're feeling emphasis-challenged, try bold or italics, or even both. Don't try and tell me they're too hard to use. Besides, if you don't care enough to take the time to format your post appropriately, it probably isn't any good anyway. Thus the downvote. – Cody Gray Aug 16 '13 at 13:32
  • @CodyGray They're not hard to use, it's just bold is sometimes difficult to see (especially if someone's using a terminal-based browser), and I've always found italics almost impossible to see. The formatting is about making things easier for people. That is its entire purpose. For readability. You're getting hung up on the fact that it translates into <code> and <pre> blocks. I'll agree that, if a question actually asks for code, it could be misleading to use a code block, and in answering such questions, I don't use code blocks. If it intensely bothers you, edit the thing. – root Aug 16 '13 at 13:37
  • @CodyGray Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've always been under the impression that the voting system is meant to help people find answers/questions that they would be likely to find useful based on their problem, and not to help them find questions that use formatting in a way that please Your Highness. – root Aug 16 '13 at 13:39
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    You are, of course, wrong. The voting system is designed to allow individual users to rate content according to their whim. People can downvote for whatever reasons they like. But more to the point: I consider poorly-formatted posts to be evidence of lack of effort and lack of usefulness. That's exactly what the tooltip on my downvote arrow says I should be using it for. – Cody Gray Aug 16 '13 at 13:41
  • @CodyGray Well, while I understand your position, I disagree; both with your understanding of what constitutes a fair reason for downvote, and what constitutes bad formatting. Effort and usefulness are orthogonal. However, you seem an otherwise decent person, so I wish you luck in your endeavors. Where you find their usefulness wanting, please continue downvoting my posts. – root Aug 16 '13 at 13:49
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Formatting does matter, and nothing should be done to change that. A well formatted answer is a well thought out answer. An answer that is a big block of text or a jumble of unformulated headers and pretend lists just means that the answer wasn't given much time or thought.

Something as simple as breaking text into paragraphs, adding emphasis to important points, using code format when referring to your Foos all make answers more legible and sensible. If your answer can't be broken into paragraphs at least, or is such a wall of badly written text that has no points to emphasize, it's probably not a very good answer, or at least it's not the right format for SE. While longer answers to complicated questions are encouraged, we don't want you writing a mass of text that people have to sit down and digest for an hour.

So,

While formatting is not an indicator of good quality, bad/no formatting (including paragraph breaks) is an indicator of lack of effort and a quick, sloppy post.

See what I did there? Formatting! ;)

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  • "a jumble of unformulated headers and pretend lists just means that the answer wasn't given much time or thought" wince Sorry. I just used those to make it more readable and easy to find places in the question. The alternative of no formatting looked pretty bad. – root Aug 15 '13 at 14:47
  • @root: See what I mean? I got here once the question was looking good, and so I was naturally more inclined to stick around, answer, and think about it. Formatting isn't a measure of good quality, but rather of how much time and effort was spent on a post. That's why I disagree with the suggestion in your earlier comment. – Linuxios Aug 15 '13 at 14:50
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    @root The point is you need to use the formatting properly, to truly add value, rather than just sticking formatting in for the sake of having formatting. – Servy Aug 15 '13 at 14:50
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    @root I think you are focusing too much on quantity and not quality. Just because the formatting is there doesn't mean it is good use of formatting. But when you have the appropriate amount, it helps significantly. That is the point I tried to make in my first comment in the question above. – psubsee2003 Aug 15 '13 at 14:52

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