I came here to ask "how can we encourage people to upvote questions?".

In the space where I ask and answer (wxpython) there is nine times out of 10 that I come here (daily) a first page of questions with zero or 1 answer, and the only upvoter on any of those questions is me.

I read here at meta a lot of questions about "how can we encourage upvoting?", and many of these are voted down due to people not liking the proposed solution/

But one key point emerges: we collectively don't appear to have a good handle on why upvoting of questions is there. Or at least, I can't get a clear answer on that which is consistent with the way that it works.

So - what is the purpose of having questions be upvoted?

Just to be clear: I understand what an upvote means. It means "I think this is a good question".

What I'm not clear on is what is the purpose of this facility in SO? What is it intended to achieve for the site?

I want to be clear on this, before I think too much about the real thing that was concerning me, which was how to encourage people to vote in this way.


Edit: reponding to "possible duplicate of 'why should I upvote?'", I view this question as different. That question was "what are the guidelines for upvoting". My question is "what are the effects that SO wants to achieve with upvoting".

It was observed in comments that the answer to this question is self-evident. I don't agree. Possible answers are:

1) To encourage good questions

2) To provide users with a means of getting reputation

3) To make good questions more visible

4) To alert people to not bother looking at bad questions

5) To support decision making algorithms behind the scenes.

I am interested to know what out of these are the primary reasons for making it possible to vote for questions. What does the SO community view as important objectives. Because depending one which of these is important, the means by which we would choose to encourage people to upvote questions might be different.

My own observation is that there is no real problem with people downvoting questions - they do this, and achieve objective 4 already.

However, at least in the space of questions where I participate, upvoting good questions is rare, which is what makes this question pertinent.

  • What kinds of questions do you consider good questions?
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:31
  • Meta question: why is this a bad question? Feb 20, 2014 at 1:43
  • I asked you first.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:43
  • Heh - I consider questions that meet the guidelines at stackoverflow.com/help/on-topic to be good questions. Feb 20, 2014 at 1:44
  • OK. That's a good start. We do have guidance on how to write a good question. That page links here, which basically describes every problem that a Stack Overflow question can have.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:47
  • Yep - so, my question here is on -2 right now. Why is this a bad question? I felt it was a good question, because in many the answers that I read to "how can we encourage more voting of questions", this question comes up "hang on, why are we voting up questions?". You need to be clear on this before you can have good suggestions about how to encourage it to happen. Feb 20, 2014 at 1:49
  • 3
    Perhaps people consider the purpose of voting to be self-evident. I'm not quite sure. I didn't downvote, so maybe the downvoters can chime in with their reason (although they're certainly not obligated to).
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:50
  • 4
    In any event, I upvote Stack Overflow questions when they are on-topic, clearly-written, interesting to others, and definitively answerable. I'm not as married to "must show prior research/effort" as some other community members are.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:52
  • FWIW, on SO, I up-vote any question that meets the criteria below with one additional requirement: it can't be a question I've seen before. Sadly, at least in the tags I frequent, that is becoming rarer and rarer - most of the new questions I see could be closed as a duplicate.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Feb 20, 2014 at 2:45
  • 1

2 Answers 2


Question votes have three purposes:

  1. To identify and reward good questions,
  2. To call out bad questions, and
  3. To influence certain algorithms, like the Review Queues and the Automatic Bans.

That's it.

Voting in general serves a vetting purpose; good posts get upvoted and rise to the top, bad posts get downvoted, closed and deleted. Casual users of the site can get a read on how good a particular post is, by the "score" that it has.

Amazon Reviews are very similar, in this respect.

Voting is not a perfect system. Some good quality posts never get upvoted, and some marginal posts get upvoted because they are popular.

  • 1
    Where can I observe good questions coming to the top? As I mentioned, my impression is that questions are listed in submission order. Feb 20, 2014 at 1:37
  • It depends on what tab you click on the front page. If you click on the Votes tab, you get the questions by number of votes, in descending order. Questions that get downvoted leave the front page faster than other questions do. The algorithm is fairly complex, and relies on input like your Favorite tags, etc.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:38
  • Hah - obvious, but I never saw that before. Interestingly, one of the top questions in meta is "how can we encourage people to vote for questions more" ? :) Feb 20, 2014 at 1:40
  • Yes. Remember that popularity has a strong effect on the number of votes a post gets.
    – user102937
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:40

Hover over the upvote arrow.


This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear

That's really all there is to it. Is the question useful and clear, showing research effort? Upvote it.

However, you can use votes however you would like. Votes can be used for all sorts of purposes:

  • Some people use them if they see a question they find interesting.
  • Some upvote any question that they think should be answered.
  • Some people just upvote if they think the question is "good."
  • Some people vote in completely different ways.

That's all fine. Essentially, even though we have these guidelines, when it comes down to one user's decision, they can do whatever they want.

As for the "why does it exist" - well, it powers some algorithms, like @RobertHarvey mentioned, but just take a second to imagine SE without the ability to vote on questions.

Yep - we're probably thinking the same thing - miles and miles of rubbish.

If questions could not be voted on, why would askers care about the quality of their question? There would be no way to tell whether a question is good or bad.

  • Thanks for your consideration. Can I clarify something? I understand what the upovote means. It means what the balloon says "this question is useful and clear". But what is the purpose of providing this facility? To what end does SO provide the means to upvote a question? If I understood this, I could think more clearly about whether it makes sense to encourage more question upvoting, and how to do that. Feb 20, 2014 at 1:32
  • @GreenAsJade Imagine SO without a voting system. Wouldn't the entire platform simply break down?
    – Doorknob
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:33
  • Yes - but I'm asking why to have voting on questions. SO could conceivably work fine with just voting on answers, and I understand the purpose of voting on answers - I understand the way that voting on answers makes the system work. The same is not true for voting on questions: I don't understand what the intended effect of it is. What I do see is that it is not happening as much as it might (in contrast to voting on answers, which happens well). Feb 20, 2014 at 1:36
  • @GreenAsJade If questions could not be voted on, why would askers care about the quality of their question?
    – Doorknob
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:39
  • So - the reason for voting up questions is to encourage good questions. This seems like a good reason to encourage more voting up of questions! :) Feb 20, 2014 at 1:47
  • 1
    And round and round we go...
    – Anil
    Feb 20, 2014 at 3:52

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