How and why should users vote on answers?

This explains how to accept an answer: How does accepting an answer work?

  • If voting is important I would like a similar answer which includes a picture of how to vote, and explains why. Sometimes a new user says "thank you" in a comment but their profile shows they have never voted. It would be convenient to be able to link to a meta-answer which explains how and why to answer.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 30 '14 at 3:11
  • There's also this nugget from the Help Center, too.
    – Makoto
    Mar 30 '14 at 3:12
  • Remember that new users cannot yet vote. Mar 30 '14 at 3:15
  • 1
    @Makoto Yes but 'How does "Reputation" work?' is a bit of a wall of text, with no illustration of how to do it. And yes there are 'nuggets' in the Help Centre and elsewhere.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 30 '14 at 3:15
  • @MartijnPieters New users can upvote with 15 rep, e.g. when they have 3 upvotes on their questions. I don't think people should send new new users to a meta-topic: but a user who has posted several questions and has never voted.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 30 '14 at 3:19
  • 1
    I could edit the 'How does Reputation work' to add an illustration: but voting on answers is about more than reputation (it's about making the better answers more visible).
    – ChrisW
    Mar 30 '14 at 3:22
  • 1
    Another nugget: the privilege page (which you are linked to when you earn it): stackoverflow.com/help/privileges/vote-up Mar 30 '14 at 3:57
  • @MartijnPieters Thanks for that link: it's tight / on-topic.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 30 '14 at 4:05

Reasons for voting on answers are explained in the Help Centre: Why is voting important?

Voting up a question or answer signals ... that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful... The more that people vote on a post, the more certain future visitors can be of the quality of information contained within that post – not to mention that upvotes are a great way to thank the author of a good post for the time and effort put into writing it!

Upvoting an answer is a signal that an answer is useful.

Voting also affect reputation, which is an incentive for people to participate: see What does Reputation do?

To upvote a question, click on the up-arrow next to the question:

[figure to be supplied]

You can vote when your own reputation reaches 15: for example when you have 3 upvotes (worth +5 each) on your questions, or 2 upvotes (worth +10 each) on your answers.

  • 2
    Is this really a useful Q&A if all that has to be done is quote the Help Centre? Mar 30 '14 at 3:51
  • @JeroenVannevel The Help Centre topic is several paragraphs of text, and no illustrations. That Help Centre topic mentions democracy, reputation leagues, moderator elections, badges, etc. I'm trying to make something easy, for a new user.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 30 '14 at 3:57

Voting is a very personal and subjective thing. Hovering mouse cursor over the arrowhead gives good, valid guideline. Good reasons for upvoting an answer can be many, including:

  • The answer actually helped you
  • You know answer is correct
  • Answer is better than other answers to question, and you want it to stand out above them.
  • Answer shows honest effort, and content seems valid (better be careful to not upvote wrong answers).
  • Answer is a high-quality piece of technical writing, and content seems valid

There are some bad reasons for upvoting, I would avoid doing these:

  • Voting for a person, not for that answer (a friend, someone who had good other answer, someone you talked with at SO chat, etc)
  • Upvoting for a bad answer even if it helped you, such as link only with no details, not answering the question, really unclear and hard to understand
  • Serial upvoting for no reason, to get a badge

And similar for downvoting answers:

  • Downvote if you know answer is wrong
  • Downvote if answer is really bad quality
  • Downvote if answer duplicates much older answer without adding anything
  • Don't downvote a person

Many think it is polite to leave a comment when downvoting, to explain what you think is wrong. Then poster can edit answer and also respond to comment telling they fixed it. But this is entirely optional.

I like to ask myself, if I vote on this, will it make SO a better place, will it help separate good info from bad? In this matter all users with 15+ rep are equal, deciding what is good and what is bad, by voting.

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