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After a week of absence I went to last week hot questions, and found Cannot find symbol hasNextInt for a java.util.Scanner? with 37 upvotes.

How come 37 people decided that the question shows research effort, is useful and clear?

I am being more and more surprised by Stack Overflow community voting. There are some good, difficult questions which are food for thought, from which we can learn something and still they get no recognition. And then a question like that does.

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    As far as somewhat dumb questions go, at least included code, and error output. And sometimes questions go viral. – Martijn Pieters Sep 16 '13 at 8:57
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    @MartijnPiters can't disagree with that. Still, the point stands: a well wrtiten and formated dumb error question is still a dumb error question. – Dariusz Sep 16 '13 at 8:59
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    Hindsight is 20/20; perhaps it wasn't immediately obvious to the voters what was wrong? Votes are also a function of timing; post a question at just the right time and if you are lucky the initial voting action boosts the question on the 'interesting questions' list and snowballs from there. – Martijn Pieters Sep 16 '13 at 9:01
  • And this meta question already dropped the question by 8 points. – nijansen Sep 16 '13 at 9:03
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    @nijansen - Nope. At least 6 downvotes were before this question. – hims056 Sep 16 '13 at 9:03
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    Yep @hims056 stackoverflow.com/posts/18719959/timeline – Bart Sep 16 '13 at 9:05
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    @hims056 You're right, that was based on the false assumption that it had 37 upvotes with no downvotes :( – nijansen Sep 16 '13 at 9:06
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    9 mediocre answers stuffed into it in 20 minutes after posting the question likely made it artificially high on collider, attracting views and votes. It's neither the asker's nor voter's fault that it has gotten more attention than it probably deserves; it's just a typical effect of broken "hotness formula" – gnat Sep 16 '13 at 9:24
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    Ha - just the day before that question was asked, I answered another question that went even more viral. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 16 '13 at 10:46
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn Really, 373 upvotes? Doesn't that make you feel dirty? :) – Stijn Sep 16 '13 at 11:48
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn 6 answers posted within first 15 minutes gave that "another question" some strong push at collider, but OTOH, ~6K views indicate a more natural popularity, in comparison to 1,5K views (likely brought solely by collider lemmings) in the while-lost question – gnat Sep 16 '13 at 12:25
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    It does show 'research effort', he definitely made a stab at trying to complete his homework assignment. It is certainly clear, just about anybody that looked at the question instantly saw the problem. Whether it is useful is something you can have a bone to pick with. Clearly there are a lot of SO users that think answerable questions are also useful questions. Put "bikeshed" in the Search box at the upper right of this page. – Uphill Luge Sep 16 '13 at 13:11
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    The result of this mechanic is that there are quite a few people wandering around SO with high rep, who do nothing but ask very simple questions. Their occasional, useless answers do nothing to reduce the rep. Maybe this doesn't matter much if people genuinely find the questions useful, but I doubt that, given how much of a role rep plays in moderation. – itsbruce Sep 16 '13 at 13:29
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    However now it has been reduced to 12 ;) may even end up to zero. – Praveen Sep 18 '13 at 12:51
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    "The result of this mechanic is that there are quite a few people wandering around SO with high rep, who do nothing but ask very simple questions." That's been discussed before, see 50 question per month limit? and the linked section as a very good start into the topic. – Time Traveling Bobby Sep 19 '13 at 9:03
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+25

People can vote however they want to, so without a user explicitly explaining their vote in a comment you cannot know why users voted the way they did. I can take some guesses:

  • Perhaps users who saw this question found some of the answers helpful and upvoted the question as well.

  • Perhaps this user has a peer group (on Facebook or Google+, or a club or class) with which he shared the question and they upvoted it for him.

  • Perhaps users sympathized with a new programmer who was making a real effort to learn the craft. We get so many truly awful questions from beginners with no research, no apparent effort - perhaps to some users this question was a breath of fresh air. (At least 12 people seem to have thought so. Interestingly, the author of that comment later recanted.)

I've been working on documenting voting culture and trends. You may find it interesting and helpful:
Getting to Know Stack Overflow's Voting Culture

In any case, the attention you've brought to it seems to have quickly changed the balance of votes. The question is now down to a total score of 12 and has been closed.

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    Simple questions attract simple voters. Or put another way, if the question is sufficiently worded such that everybody understands it, you're more likely to get everybody's input (good or bad). – user7116 Sep 18 '13 at 14:18
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    @user7116 - Ooh... good point! This post in particular has already fallen victim to two voting phenomena: "hotness" votes and the "Meta effect". I wonder if there are other (less confounding) examples which could back up that insight. It would be a good addition to the voting culture post. – JDB Sep 18 '13 at 14:27

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