My workflow:

  1. Google some keywords
  2. Browse to a Stack Exchange question
  3. Scroll down to the top answer entirely skipping over the (boring / tl;dr / probably what I'm looking for) question*

Now I start getting this blue pop-up guilting me about voting the answer but not the question. I wonder—How was Stack Exchange designed / meant to be used in such a case;

  • Shall I still not upvote the question because I don't and will not read it?
  • Or, do I upvote the question blindly because after all, whatever the question was, it gave way to the answer that I did find useful and mindfully upvoted?

*OK on rare occasions I might refer back to the question just to verify if indeed it matches up with my issue.

  • 8
    +1 I didn't read the question, but the ans... oh, wait. I confess. Nov 3, 2013 at 18:04
  • 2
    Hmm, this could be why people aren't people voting for questions. Nov 3, 2013 at 18:14
  • Indeed. Somehow I feel like I'm not the only one...
    – xyphenor
    Nov 3, 2013 at 18:51
  • I didn't read the question, only the question and the vote count. Downvoted
    – scrblnrd3
    Nov 5, 2013 at 2:39
  • Ironic, the downvotes on this question :) I guess some types of questions - valid / well-formed / clear / "research-efforty" / innocent as they may be - can't help but garner downvotes due to their "side-effect implications" such as in this case a possible negative attitude towards the OP for not reading & upvoting SE questions. Valid reason to downvote? Questionable... oh well
    – xyphenor
    Nov 5, 2013 at 16:58

4 Answers 4


Strictly speaking, you should not vote on the question. Votes on questions are designed to reflect the quality of the question; if you haven't bothered to read it, you're in no position to judge the quality.

The better decision would be to actually read the question and vote on it if you felt it was appropriate to do so, however. We encourage people to not be help zombies (consuming the brains of others for help without giving anything back) and actually participate here. :)

  • To a point where this question really deserves a downvote? :p (probably not from you, but someone did -1)
    – xyphenor
    Nov 3, 2013 at 18:22
  • 1
    It wasn't from me. I simply posted an answer. :) Also, votes have a different meaning here at Meta. There's info in the FAQ pages about the differences.
    – Ken White
    Nov 3, 2013 at 18:24
  • And about the "Help Zombies" part; this answer said it best (got 14 upvotes ATOW) "At the end of the day, the site is about personal benefit: Whenever an article helps me to gain something that helps me in my work, it gets +1." What if people can't help but feel like it's a waste of time to read the question (unless necessary if something in the answer doesn't add up)? Just sayin'
    – xyphenor
    Nov 3, 2013 at 18:58
  • Read the comment to the answer you linked. :) Also, at the end of the day SE is about building a knowledge base, not personal benefit. It's about sharing knowledge, and sharing should go both ways. Just taking isn't sharing; it's greed. :)
    – Ken White
    Nov 3, 2013 at 19:02
  • Not sure what you're trying to bring up from the comment there. Fair enough about the sharing bit, but there isn't enough incentive for me (and others like me), and incentive is a huge part of what makes SE work. Perhaps the take-home here is to consider tweaking up the incentive for voting questions?
    – xyphenor
    Nov 3, 2013 at 19:10
  • I was referring specifically to not voting if you haven't read the question: " An answer may be more useful than the others, but that doesn't necessarily mean the question is more useful than others.". The "sharing" portion was replying to your "help zombie" comment (the one with the link). The incentive for voting questions is to provide a measure of quality that future readers can use, and to provide incentive to people to ask questions in the first place (so that the answers here to your own problems are here for you to find). No questions, no answers you can use. There's your incentive. :)
    – Ken White
    Nov 3, 2013 at 19:15
  • I think there's enough incentive to ask questions simply by people constantly getting burning itching sleep-loss-worthy programming issues (or wtvr) and SE sites existing dedicated to curing such. It's worked very well all this time actually
    – xyphenor
    Nov 3, 2013 at 19:21
  • you have got a very valid point in your first sentence. I totally agree with you +1
    – user221081
    Nov 3, 2013 at 21:15
  • Accepted based simply on vote - whatever most ppl here think is the right answer I guess. Although, valid points were probably made in the other answers too. After-thought on the answer (2nd paragraph) regarding the "Better decision": Unfortunately I don't find enough reason / have enough incentive to always do that, I feel more like just getting straight to the point I'm looking for and get back to my business...
    – xyphenor
    Nov 5, 2013 at 0:21
  • 1
    I don't know how many people realize that negative votes on questions, have a subconscious psychological effect on the creator of that question. Particularly newcomers. That's a good and bad thing depending on the situation and the type of question that was downvoted.
    – paulkon
    Dec 7, 2013 at 6:11

Voting (both ways) is entirely up to you as long as you don't game the system. If you don't feel like voting, don't. If you feel like it, do.

I for myself read the question either way because it helps me determine if this problem is actually the same as mine. If I'm helped I'll upvote the answer & question, if I don't I'll probably keep looking and don't spend thoughts on the question-answer combo that didn't help me.

You're asking us what you should do in a situation where you can choose freely. That doesn't make much sense, does it?

  • Will add some clarification to the question, namely 1) I do indeed refer to the question on rare occasions to verify if it matches my issue 2) My question is more about "how was Stack-Exchange designed / meant to be used" and will I be mis-using it if I vote wrongly here
    – xyphenor
    Nov 3, 2013 at 18:14
  • 2
    There is no such thing as 'voting wrongly' because there is no set rule to vote. If you feel like the question is bad you downvote, if you feel like it's good you upvote, if you feel 'meh', you don't vote. SE is designed to gather these feelings about a question/answer and sort them by their cumulative relevance determined by these votes. Nov 3, 2013 at 18:16

Read what the upvote popup text says for questions:

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.

I'd also like to point out the downvote popup text:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

Note the "and" and the "or" - the logical intention of this text is:

  • If all of the conditions (shows research effort, is useful, is clear) are met, you should upvote
  • If any of the conditions are not met, you should downvote

The only part you can really say anything about without reading the question is the "it is useful" part.

So ideally - no, you should not upvote it. You should read the question to see whether or not it is also clear and shows research effort if you desire to vote.

But that's just the intention - they are your votes after all - you're free to decide which questions deserve them and which don't.

Just keep in mind that all upvotes on questions are treated the same - you can't differentiate between the perfect question and one that simply has an answer that helps you.


As Jeff famously quipped, good answers are like pearls, while questions are the sand that produces the pearls. The sand itself has no value; it's only useful because of the pearls that emerge from it.

Yet the sand is a necessary part of the process, too. Without the sand, we'd have no pearls.

So, yes, good questions deserve upvotes, too. Perhaps not as much as good answers — but note that the system already accounts for that, by awarding only half as much rep for upvotes on questions as on answers. And what makes a question good? Why, a good question is obviously one that attracts good answers.

Of course, sometimes bad questions attract good answers, too. It's not so common, but it does occasionally happen that a poorly written question ends up with a great answer, not because of the way it was asked, but despite it. And of course, there are a lot more poor questions than great ones, which skews the statistics.

So, what should you do?

You should certainly vote up the answers that you find helpful. And in my opinion, if you find the answers helpful, you should also at least consider voting up the question, too. After voting on the answers, just scroll back up to the top of the page and take a quick look at the question that prompted them. Does it look clear, and concise, and like the question that you would've asked, if you hadn't already found the answer here? Then yes, give it an upvote. It costs you nothing but a few seconds and a mouse click.

On the other hand, if the question is rambling and poorly written and full of irrelevant garbage, you can also choose not to upvote it. Too long to read? Don't upvote. Hard to make sense of? Don't upvote. Full of stuff that's completely irrelevant to the problem you had? Don't bother upvoting.

You should not feel pressured to upvote a bad question just to get rid of the nag dialog. The dialog is there to remind you that you can vote on questions, too, but it doesn't mean you should do so indiscriminately. There's no punishment for ignoring the notification.

On the other hand, if you find yourself repeatedly upvoting answers on a site, without ever upvoting any questions there, you might want to consider if your standards for question quality might be a bit too high. After all, those questions could not all have been completely worthless, given that they all produced good answers.

  • I think you're mostly overlooking the fact that OP is talking about not reading the question here
    – Cai
    Feb 19, 2017 at 19:17
  • @Cai: What I'm suggesting is that the OP should read the question. Or at least, glance at it. If it's too long or poorly written to make sense at a glance, then by all means, don't upvote. But an actual good question should be recognizable without having to spend significant effort on deciphering it. Feb 19, 2017 at 19:20
  • Yeh of course, and I agree with everything you said; I just don't think you really address the fact that OP says "I don't and will not read it".
    – Cai
    Feb 19, 2017 at 19:31

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