135

I have experienced this on a couple of sites (and I'm not the only one) :

  • You look through the question list. You see a pretty bad (or at least not-so-good) question heavily upvoted.

  • Or even worse, a very poor answer to a good question - upvoted to stratosphere.

  • Or even worse, a very poor/incorrect answer upvoted high up - and a later, correct answer, languishing with a couple of upvotes (since the flood of views is no longer there).

  • Upon checking, you see tons of views, which came from SE Hot List inclusion.

So, people see an "interesting" "fun" question, head on over in mass numbers (especially if the destination is a smaller site), and due to association bonus, can - and do - upvote any random "fun" crap that's "hot" yet to an expert on the topic is at best not worth being upvoted (and at worst should be downvoted).

As per @Thursday's comment, this is made even worse because of the asymmetry of hot list effect: those coming from Hot Questions may recognize the question is crap, and perhaps 50% of them would downvote it under normal circumstances. But having only 101 rep, they can't. The 5% who want to upvote (for reasons that are difficult to fathom) can and do. Result: vote count that does not represent the opinion of either the particular community, nor the network at large.

  • UPDATE: The above effect just got a spectacular real world confirmation. As of this moment, the bad answer has only 7 downvotes (and 20+ upvotes), despite the fact that my comment which indicates it's a bad answer in need of downvotes has 23 upvotes - 3x number of people agreed that the answer is bad, than actually downvoted

One solution presented to this dilemma - which seems a bit too heavy-handed - is to prevent association bonus rep from counting towards vote-up privilege.

My suggestion is a much more surgical and localized:

Do not allow voting in the following case:

  • The question is currently in SE hot list
  • The user's reputation on the site NOT counting association bonus is not enough to upvote.

Note that an association-only users can still upvote any other content on the site - or even questions that used to be on hot list but aren't anymore.


As an example, an answer posted by myself recently was upvoted to 100+. It wasn't a bad answer, but if I'm being honest with myself, it clearly wasn't great enough to deserve 100+ upvotes that it got thanks to hotlist

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    +1, I don't know if this is the right solution, but something definitely needs to be done. The fact that terrible answers get so many upvotes that there aren't enough regular users to undo them is becoming a serious problem on some of the smaller beta sites. – MrLore Aug 22 '14 at 4:14
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    A side remark: the asymmetry of hot list effect also comes into play here. Those coming from Hot Questions may recognize the question is crap, and perhaps 50% of them would downvote it under normal circumstances. But having only 101 rep, they can't. The 5% who want to upvote (for reasons that are difficult to fathom) can and do. Result: vote count that does not represent the opinion of either the particular community, nor the network at large. – user259867 Aug 22 '14 at 5:19
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    an alternative worth considering would be to prevent voting for first day visitors (or, as a softer variation, for first day visitors having only bonus rep) "wanna vote? stick with us! (for at least a day or two)" – gnat Aug 22 '14 at 7:27
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    this may be ignored because it doesn't affect Stack Overflow; which is probably in turn related to association bonus (and behavior of voters armed with it) playing insignificant role over there. I can't see how a negligence like this can be changed, except for maybe by simulation of "bonus users" behavior on SO questions that get in or get close to hot network list. You know, sort of 101-rep guys posting friendly comments like "why this was downvoted, it's the correct answer" and using upvote privilege granted by bonus to "correct injustice"... – gnat Dec 1 '14 at 16:41
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    ...FWIW typical "hot list candidate" at SO is open, score 5, 3 answers and less than 7 hours old (7 hours is while hotness formula ignores age decay factor). After being bumped into hot list, such a question starts gaining upvotes and answers from sidebar visitors, no matter what site it is at - per my observations, after initial bump into hot list process typically becomes self-sustaining – gnat Dec 1 '14 at 16:42
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    @KateGregory FWIW at Programmers, it took a dedicated meta discussion and direct moderator intervention to cut the damage of several inappropriate questions that were insanely upvoted by hot list lemmings: Recent Trouble With Popularity – gnat Sep 5 '15 at 18:30
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    This would be a little like protected questions. You can't answer protected questions unless you have 10 points on a site, not counting the association bonus. So we have a similar mechanic already; we could extend it to voting on HNQ's. – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 10:23
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    Here's another example. Comment saying "-1" has 29 upvotes. The answer itself has only 3 downvotes. And here's a second example but that's a weaker one. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Oct 25 '16 at 18:10
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    This is a farcical solution; we shouldn't be able to vote on content because it's popular? This is how economies of scale are supposed to work. Good stuff becomes popular and that brings attention which in turn brings votes, reinforcing its message of quality to future viewers. I'd sooner see stuff prevented from going "HNQ" under various circumstances than see HNQ content not votable. – TylerH Nov 15 '16 at 19:57
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    @TylerH - we shouldn't be able to vote on content because we don't know WTF we are doing, not being proven an expert - or even remotely knowledgeable - in site's topic. – DVK Nov 15 '16 at 19:59
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    @DVK You already can't vote on HNQ unless you have an account on that site. If you have an account there, you can vote up anything (assuming you have the reputation for it). Why restrict it because you came there via HNQ rather than normal browsing? Voting doesn't signify that an expert came by and reviewed the post, it signifies that someone, practically anyone found that post helpful/informative. Getting to it via the HNQ list in no conceivable way detracts from someone's ability to find the post helpful/informative. – TylerH Nov 15 '16 at 20:34
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    @TylerH - because granting votes to a new user is unlikely to result in crappy content in normal case. It frequently (if not usually) results in crap content on NHQ, due to volume. Which is why the request is HNQ specific and not about association bonus in general. – DVK Nov 15 '16 at 20:37
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    @DVK You're assuming someone clicking on a HNQ is always visiting that question's site for the first time and is therefore new to the site. Even if that were the case, it is a false assumption to think they are new to the subject matter. The point of the list is to make users aware of other sites in the network and to display good content from those sites. A pilot w/ 50 years of experience and a SO account could see an Aviation.SE HNQ for the first time and go there and be blocked from voting on a great question because, why? You don't like it when people vote on other HNQs you think are bad? – TylerH Nov 15 '16 at 20:58
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    No, this line of reasoning and solution are specious at best. Let's fix the HNQ, not restrict voting. – TylerH Nov 15 '16 at 20:59
54
+500

I like the ideas, and I see three options:

  1. You need 15 in-site rep (i.e. association bonus doesn't count) or being a member for 24 hours to vote. Downside: I've got an account on RPG for a while without any activity but voting, with this system I would already generate this bad noise (and I certainly do, to some extent, without the intention to disturb the site).

  2. You need 15 in-site rep to vote. Makes sense, but it's quite too strict I think. However, if this was the option, I would suggest lowering the downvote privilege limit from 125 to 115 so that you get both privileges at the same time when you get the assoc. bonus. Downside: It's a bit too strict to have to get +3 on a question to be able to vote, once you know the system from another SE site.

  3. You need 15 in-site rep and make a post with a positive score to vote. IMHO the most sensible way to go.

At any case, even if no upvote restriction is added, we should change the downvote privilege limit to 100 so that people with only assoc. bonus can downvote instantly.

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    FWIW 15 in-site rep = 7 accepted edit suggestions (How does a lurker gain reputation?) – gnat Aug 29 '14 at 12:44
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    @gnat I didn't think of that possibility, it may be yet one more reason to make it based on having a positive-score post, depending on whether we want lurkers to be able to vote. – yo' Aug 29 '14 at 12:46
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    Option 2) sounds the most reasonable, in fact completely new users also need 15 rep and voting (if up or down) isn't only about understanding how the SE framework works, but also how a specific site works. Combined with downvote at 115 overall rep, this will be great. Then every 101 user having 15 site rep can at least vote questions equally well in both directions. – Christian Rau Aug 29 '14 at 12:52
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    @ChristianRau option 2) is not exactly safe if you consider its potential to motivate abuse. Imagine 5...10..20 hot list lemmings attempting to hop over rep limit by posting their garbage into unprotected questions in a hope for a pair of quick upvotes (I've seen this once at Programmers, it was no fun) – gnat Aug 29 '14 at 13:21
  • @gnat Whoa, I wouldn't have considered people doing such a thing. Though I'd still think the damage from the currently encouraged non-intentional wrong-doing might be bigger than the possible damage from the then encouraged intentional wrong-doing. But I admit that I had absolutely not considered such stupid behaviour. – Christian Rau Aug 29 '14 at 13:28
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    @gnat I don't think that couple vote abusers willing to commit to such bad behaviour are the problem here. The problem is that people like me see a hot post from let's say RPG, they think: oh this is so cool topic, click it, give couple votes there and leave it. These votes, even if I do think they are completely fine, well-deserved etc., these votes are a noise. And noise is only relevant if there's a lot of it. – yo' Aug 29 '14 at 14:08
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    @tohecz we can't tell unless we try. I pointed out to potential issue primarily to ensure that if option 2 is implemented it would make sense to keep an eye on how much abuse of this sort happens (side note "if implemented" - I don't hold my breath waiting for this, SE team loves to focus on other stuff) – gnat Aug 29 '14 at 14:13
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    @yo' Once a user has 7 accepted edits, it seems like they've been around long enough to understand roughly how the community works, even if they're not experts. On the converse, a user who visits a site and posts an okay question can easily get 15 rep without being around long enough to "get" how that site works. – raptortech97 Apr 2 '15 at 0:55
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    If (2) is too strict, why is (3) better when (3) seems to be (2) plus a further condition? What am I missing? – cfr Aug 26 '16 at 2:37
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    "or being a member for 24 hours to vote" -- brb, creating accounts on all the sites. – Monica Cellio Sep 8 '16 at 21:20
  • I already have accounts on almost all the sites, @MonicaCellio. When I arrive on an SE site, I log in. – TRiG Sep 23 '16 at 15:59
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    The problem is that you then can only downvote once and still upvote infinite times, basically nothing changed. You also risk the site becoming reddit, where basically the vote just means "I find this interesting/I find this boring" – HopefullyHelpful Feb 27 '17 at 16:10
35
+50

I pretty much agree.

The way it currently works, HNQ undermines the whole way the reputation and badge system works.

As a recent example, on the site at which I'm the most active, my most upvoted answer (at the time when this answer was originally posted) is a rather trivial, short, basic answer that I put nearly no effort into. I typed it on my phone with one finger while half asleep, lying in bed. While the daily rep-cap did do its job and limited the reputation earned from it, I did earn a silver "Guru" badge. (Certainly interesting, given the triviality of the answer.)

So, the asker earned (so far) 182 rep, a "Nice Question" badge and a "Popular Question" badge for a question that is (while on-topic and alright) quite basic and didn't feature much research.

I earned 265 rep, "Nice Answer", "Good answer" and "Guru" badges, all for an answer that (while correct and to the point) featured nearly no effort, and could have been made in seconds by most members on the site.

A few opinions of mine:

  1. Most of the regular users on the site don't use their limited amount of upvotes on such trivial questions or answers. They save them for questions and answers that show more research/effort/knowledge, and/or are more interesting.
  2. The vast majority of these votes came from casual visitors from other sites who came through the HNQ.
  3. Since the issue is so trivial, they could easily recognize that the answer was correct (without research or special knowledge) and therefore upvote with a clean conscience. (I don't blame them, I might have, too, in their position. It's not their fault.)
  4. One of the reasons this question became (and stayed) a HNQ was because people wanted to know what "virgin trains" were.

All assumptions, I know, but I think they are reasonable.

My currently most upvoted answer on the same site is also rather basic common knowledge, I typed it in three minutes after 30 seconds of research, and I've earned roughly 1000 reputation from it, which is not at all negligible on that site. This is undoubtedly because of the HNQ. There are other thoroughly researched answers that I spent hours on that have earned me less than 100 reputation.

IMO the whole point of a reputation system should be to (at least roughly) represent the quality and quanity of users' contributions to the site. As I have illustrated with the examples and arguments above, HNQ currently works against this goal.

Also, since HNQs typically get a lot of views, it often gives the asker silver and gold badges merely for the views.

Moving on, the HNQ system encourages clickbait titles. (I'm not saying OP meant "Virgin Trains" to be clickbait, but I figure it sort of ended up to be.) Very interesting titles that make people curious are likely to end up in the HNQ. And since HNQ is a self-fulfilling prophecy, once a question has hit HNQ, it typically stays for a while.

The way it is now, very trivial or easy questions can earn people a lot of rep (especially if a question remains in the HNQ for a few days), and that undermines the way the reputation and badge system works.

I personally think it's fun when my question hits the HNQ. But I think the system itself is slightly flawed.

I also agree fully with OP that the assymetry caused by the fact that these HNQ visitors can't downvote also makes the problem considerably worse.

So, I totally agree with your suggestion. Casual visitors who come through the HNQ and have never participated at all on the site they are visiting should not be able to upvote. (But if they are browsing the site unrelated to the HNQ, it's fine, they should be able to upvote.) Reputation is the basis for a lot of things here (including moderation), so it's important that the reputation system itself is trustworthy.

Like @yo' suggested, a criterion for voting when coming through HNQ could be that one has previously participated on the site in some way, such as an answer/question with a positive score (or even 7 helpful flags or 7 edited posts.) Even that would drastically reduce the problem.

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    "- is it too much to visit site for for a day or two to unlock privileges - Yes, yes it is." (At smaller graduated sites, delay granting association bonus until at least after 2-3 days visited) – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 17:53
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    @gnat Interesting. I think the key difference is that this suggestion is only for questions that are currently in the HNQ. So the vast majority of questions would be just like normal. It's a targeted remedy for a specific problem. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 17:56
  • I know. Unfortunately this will hardly help. Per my observations vast majority of Stack Overflow lemmings want it exactly for hot questions and they want it now. Delaying granting them privileges only in hot questions will likely make them just as unhappy as delaying on all questions at all – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 18:22
  • @gnat Then why are the vote scores so different between this post and the one you linked to? I think people recognize how HNQ poses a problem to the rep system. Also, under this suggestion, you'd still be able to comment. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 18:27
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    that's a good question. Possibly upvotes to this request more reflect sympathy than real desire to see it done. Readers may think that it's quite complicated technically and is unlikely to be implemented because of that (how does one tell question which is currently in hot list from one that just left it?). And they vote this request like an unrealistic dream, "would be cool to have but unlikely to happen". Other request is totally doable and easy to implement and that is scary. "Be careful what you dream; it really could come true" – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 18:33
  • @gnat All that may be the case, except for this suggestion being complicated to implement. It's quite simple to make a rule which prevents people who have never contributed a single post with a positive score from voting on HNQ. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 18:37
  • quoting self, "how does one tell question which is currently in hot list from one that just left it?" – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 18:39
  • @gnat Uhm... What? The system knows which questions are currently in the HNQ list, because it displays them on the main page. I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 18:40
  • current way is more like "fire and forget". Flow is rather simple, system makes the list and shoots it to main page, and further only sidebar takes shuffled questions from the page. In order for this to protect questions, system would have to do much more. At every update of the list it would have to query and update questions at every site, clean "hot mark" and reassign it. That's more complicated and involves more components (150+ sites in network and this number is constantly growing) – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 18:49
  • @gnat Oh, you are taking about the inner workings of the site. Alright, I have no idea about how that works. So you think the reason for the difference in votes is that people understand the inner workings of SE and believe this suggestion is technically unfeasible? – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 18:52
  • not exact details of how it works but many meta readers understand that mechanics of hot questions are complicated, many posts in hot-questions tag covered that there are lots of tricky details and changes to these are usually complicated – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 18:58
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    @gnat Fair enough. While I still believe that the main reason for the difference in votes is because users recognize the HNQ rep problem, and are willing to sacrifice a little bit (I.E. not being able to vote on HNQs when you have never contributed at all) to solve it, I can't really prove that this is indeed the reason for the difference in votes. And neither does it matter. I have a feeling neither suggestion is going to be implemented. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 19:31
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    no suggestions are going to be implemented as long as SE management is happy about HNQ... and they told me a month or two ago that they are – gnat Aug 25 '16 at 19:33
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    @gnat Sure. I'm sure it massively increases traffic on the various sites, and drives in a bunch of new users. For example, if it wasn't for HNQ, it's possible that the only site I would be using today would be Ask Ubuntu. Increased traffic is.... uhm... good for SE. Would our suggestions limit this effect? Maybe. Or probably? But would it also enhance the credibility of the reputation system? I think yes. And I think the reputation system is extremely important to SE. But I agree with you that it probably won't be implemented. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '16 at 19:36
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    @gnat I have a response in this discussion that's too long for a comment, so I posted it as an answer to the proposal you started this discussion by linking to. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Sep 30 '16 at 7:57
23
+200

I support this. I've been on the receiving end of this a lot on The Workplace.

Sometimes I write a super innocuous and not that spectacular answer, and it ends up somewhere insane like +200 within a day. That's unhealthy, and it's not based on quality either. Usually the answer that's currently highest voted gets all the drive-by votes.

This phenomenon is invalidating a lot of what voting is supposed to be about, so we may need to put a stop to it.

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Although I support the idea here, I'd like to add a point of caution. At least on PPCG, we often see someone find a trivial (and often ill-fitting) question via Hot Network Questions, post an answer (this is easy, as a trivial question on PPCG tends to allow a large number of trivial distinct answers and thus it's easy to find one that hasn't been given), and then get upvoted by other Hot Network Questions visitors. This tends to lead to a self-reinforcing cycle of reputation gain among people who are new to the site, which often gets well out of control and gives people privileges well before they have experience with how they work on the site (this is an extreme example, but the same thing happens to a lesser extent frequently). Based on the other comments here, I don't think this is an issue that's unique to PPCG either.

As such, any approach based on reputation should probably exclude not only the reputation from the association bonus, but also any reputation gained from the question itself. As written, the proposal is likely to help (because drive-by upvotes are, on most sites, more common than drive-by answers), but not to the extent that people are likely hoping.

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1

I think that a much simpler solution would be to move the "right to upvote" up to 125 reputation points, commensurate with the "right to downvote".

Currently, a user requires 15 reputation to upvote questions and answers, and 125 reputation to downvote. I suspect that I understand why things were set up this way—downvoting is, in some sense, more open to abuse than upvoting, hence there is a higher bar. Unfortunately, the association bonus makes it possible for users to upvote immediately, but requires more work if they want to downvote. This means that if a question makes it onto the Hot Network Questions (HNQ) list, there is likely to be a surge of interactions from users who may upvote, but not downvote. As has been noted repeatedly in other answers and comments here, this is profoundly distorting, and not healthy for the ecosystem.

Heck, I would even support changing the reputation requirement for upvoting up to 102 points (universally). Right now, the issue is that there is literally no bar for entry for upvoting. You don't have to demonstrate any kind of attachment to a site (beyond your first) before you can vote everywhere. It is very simple to create a new account and start upvoting with your association bonus. If a user has to post a positively received question or answer, or even have an edit suggested, then they are clearing a higher bar, and are demonstrating an interest in (and commitment to) the new site.

In any event, I believe that the goal should to prevent drive-by voting of any kind (up or down). Aligning the upvote privilege with downvote privilege seems like a reasonable solution to me.

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    That would penalise users who have no association bonus, would mean that they can't vote for quite a while. – ChrisW Jun 14 at 5:22
  • @ChrisW Do you believe that the current system "penalizes" new users without an association bonus, in that they cannot downvote until much later? I don't think that the change of policy I am proposing is a punishment. Yes, it makes it much harder for new users to vote. That is the point. I think that it should be harder for new users to earn the right to vote. To be clear, if a person really wants to earn that right, it isn't that hard---one can earn 100+ rep with just two or three well-received questions or answers. – Xander Henderson Jun 14 at 12:48
  • On a Beta site without much traffic and/or not many votes per post there are new users with several upvoted posts but with less than 100 rep -- 100 might seem like a lot. As soon as they prove they know the subject matter I'd like to welcome them as "full members" with at least upvoting privileges. I'm more inclined to let them vote than to let someone who has only an association bonus and who knows neither the subject matter nor the site-specific policies. – ChrisW Jun 14 at 13:10
  • There being a higher barrier to downvoting doesn't bother me: downvoting is more dangerous i.e. more able to cause bad will than upvoting -- perhaps it's better reserved for people who know the site-specific conventions as well as knowing the subject matter (which they may know ab initio even before becoming users of the site) i.e. a more difficult-to-get privilege than upvoting. – ChrisW Jun 14 at 13:14
  • @ChrisW Beta sites are different; I'm not trying to address those sites, they have their own rules, anyway. Regarding the distinction between up- and downvotes, I am sympathetic. However, I disagree that downvotes are more dangerous. Upvotes and downvotes are dangerous in different ways, but both can be abused / misused to the detriment of overall site health (which is the essential concern of this topic). There are also a lot more safeguards in place to prevent abuse of downvoting. – Xander Henderson Jun 14 at 13:48
  • In any event, it seems that we fundamentally disagree, and I am not going to try to convince you otherwise, 500 characters at a time. – Xander Henderson Jun 14 at 13:48
-1

As an alternative to Xander's answer perhaps rethink what an association bonus means.

Privileges on a graduated site are currently as follows:

enter image description here

You would get the effect which the OP asks for, if you reduced the association bonus to 10 instead of 100.

That would be not enough to vote, but is enough to "remove new user restrictions" which sounds about right.

The one other thing that experienced users (i.e. with an association bonus) maybe ought to be able to do is flag (and chat?) -- so perhaps reduce that privilege from 15 to 10.

Anyway that would mean you don't get to vote unless you earn some reputation on the site.

However that would be a problem when bootstrapping a new Beta site, which maybe depends on some of the first beta users starting with an association bonus, which lets them cast the site's first votes.

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