I would like to share my point of view about allowing up-voting for very new users. I'm basically talking about the reputation points needed to up-vote any question/answer.

It is currently set to 15 and I'm wondering if changing it to 5 or 1 wouldn't be better for the community. I may be wrong, but I'd like to explain why I -and other developpers I worked with for years- think this way.

When I was a beginner in SO, I spent several months to get a 100 points, maybe half a year. It takes time, depending on your programming skills level and your ability to express yourself in the SO way, whether to ask or answer questions. While some people just answer once and get like 20 up-vote on their answer and get to 100+ reputation quite fast and earn a lot of privileges, sometimes just because of one good answer. Others may spend months to get to 50 or even 30 points and earn enough privilege to help the community back. It is not always fair.

My point is that while some people answer to the right question at the right time, others may spend months, even years to get enough reputation to be able to up-vote other questions or answers. (Yes, it happens)

I have talked with a few developpers about it and some of them told me that they were using SO to read questions/answers for more than a year without being able to up-vote anyone. Why? Because they never got up-voted enough, even asking some questions because most of the time they didn't need to ask, since SO cover so much areas, they usually found their question already answered and just read the answer but they couldn't up-vote anyone even if they wanted to, even if that answer helped them to solve a big problem and saved several hours of their time.

They were stuck at reading questions/answers without being able to up-vote right answers (and that was quite frustrating apparently). When someone helps you, you want to reward him, on SO we usually up-vote the answer to do so. But it is not possible if you haven't earned 15 reputation points.

So, since I don't see really any good reason to require 15 points I'm wondering if decreasing the reputation points required to up-vote an answer or a question wouldn't be better.

I thought about 1 and 5 points.

  • I don't think 1 is a good solution because it would be too easy for bots to make a mess.
  • I think 5 is a good compromise, mostly because with that reputation you can create new topics, so why not being able to up-vote people answering to you as well? Furthermore, an up-vote from a user with 15 reputation isn't really more accurate than a user with only 5 reputation. So why not allow them to up-vote Q&A that have been helpful to them?

I don't think that change would decrease the quality of the community, I believe that even people with a few reputation points can help us to up-vote good Q&A (and by so get rid of bad answers by up-voting the right ones).

The only cons I see with this change is that more users would be able to up-vote, including bots and people who don't yet understand how the community works. But since the difference between 5 and 15 is quite small (and can be easily done if you really want to), I don't think it would affect badly SO.

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    Are you aware of suggested edits and the reputation attached to approved suggested edits? – Oded Jan 23 '15 at 20:47
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  • I am, thanks for the link. But obviously I'm talking about people who do not spend a lot of time on SO, mostly to find answers to their questions and I don't believe that they know about suggested edits actually. I bet a lot of developpers use SO just to find the right answer to the right question without being actually involved in the community. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 20:50
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    My view in regards to that is - if they are not willing to put the effort in "being actually involved in the community" (your words), then they shouldn't get the privileges that come with actually being involved in the community (and the most basic of those is voting... - that's pretty involved in the community). – Oded Jan 23 '15 at 20:53
  • There are many ways to get involved in the community. Up-voting right Q&A is the most accessible of them, quick and a way to express our thankfulness to the people who helped us. I certainly didn't know about suggested edit at that time and even so I wouldn't have used it anyway, didn't know the rules, how do you want to edit other's post when you barely know the rules? I wouldn't have risked it I think, especially that at that time my english was so bad that I would have actually added more spelling mistake than fixed issues... – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 20:58
  • This is supposed to be a discussion, not a dialogue. If people who downvotes could express their opinion as well I'd be glad to read it. Having feedback from several people is better than only one. Thanks. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:25
  • "wanna vote? stick with us!" – gnat Jan 23 '15 at 22:01
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    @gnat You definitively have a link for everything :) Thanks again. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 22:47

Beyond the principle of it, which I think is part of what Oded is talking about, think of the practical aspects.

What does an upvote mean?

In theory, it means that it's a well-composed, clear, and helpful post.

Many new users understand the standards that Stack Overflow holds for those, but many don't. By restricting to users who have participated via posting or editing, we can be more sure that upvotes retain that value on average. I'm not talking about malice, with bots or sockpuppets, I'm just talking about misunderstanding.

Stack Exchange isn't like most websites, as we all know. Because of that, there's a bit of a learning curve before people can truly understand what we look for in good posts.

What does an upvote do?

It gives rep points. What do they do? They give privileges.

If everyone or virtually everyone could upvote, I'm sure your described colleagues would use it properly, but remember that not everyone gets it.

Consider a case where a user posts an off-topic question:

Should I use C# or Java for [my next project]?

That might fly on forums, but it's too opinion-based for Stack Overflow. This user doesn't know that, though. They're not used to our rules.

In the current system, it may get down-voted, it'll get closed, and community moderation will make its magic. The user will walk away knowing "oh, this is only for specific and objective problems."

Consider where it takes less rep, though. The user gets a few upvotes from similarly inexperienced users, and that teaches the user that that's the right way to ask questions on Stack Overflow. They go and ask more, get more upvotes, and suddenly they're up to the point of being able to vote to reopen other bad questions.

Even if their question got closed, they'll still be misled by the fact that several users just like themselves upvoted it, and it'll start a cycle.

Even though community moderation would still work its magic, it would start to weigh down the systems.

In the current system, it's difficult to get to the vote up privilege without two users agreeing that your post deserves it. It's not impossible, since one user could upvote two of your answers, but that's uncommon in typical usage. This adds a system of checks and balances to ensure that the user is actually making a good post or edit. Two users obviously isn't much, but that's because Stack Exchange agrees with you: people want to express their appreciation, and we want them to. But justifying a system where just one person can support a poor post just adds risk to the system.

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    Thanks for the clear and detailled explanation about your vision on how it should work and how my proposition could affect -badly- the system. I haven't thought at all about that cycle thing and yes, it makes sense. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:43

There is a way to contribute to Stack Overflow without asking or answering and still gain reputation.

People can suggest edits to posts - improving posts by other people is helping the site and the people who posted them (provided that the posts need improving - just going in to gain reputation isn't going to fly).

With every approved suggested edit one gains 2 reputation, up to a cap of 1,000 reputation points. Well above the thresholds for upvotes and downvotes.

This is a great mechanism to get some reputation - it doesn't require one to be great at asking or answering, and still contribute to the site.

Details about this feature can be found at: How do suggested edits work?

Now, you say you want to enable people who are not willing to put the time to be involved in the community to vote.

This is completely on its head. Voting is big part of the community and what drives it - if someone isn't willing to put the effort, they shouldn't be given the privilege to vote.

  • When I up-vote someone, I don't think at all about the community. I want to reward the author who helped me to find a solution to a given problem. And I bet a lot of users do the same as me. You are really implicated to this community, I'm a bit as well, from time to time. But don't forgot that a lot of people don't have the time to review topics and are focused on the answers they're looking for. And I think that most of these users would improve the community by up-voting right answers even though they don't get actively involved into the community. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:03
  • And another point is that the difference between 15 to 5 is quite small, would it really affect badly SO while it could on the other hand improve the community? I'm not StackExchange expert but I see more pro than cons for the community. That's my point of view. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:05
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    The difference between 5 and 15 is - 2 good suggested edits or getting a single upvote, versus good 7 suggested edits or 2-3 upvotes. It is significant enough. The limit is also low enough to be thought of as a minimal barrier to entry. – Oded Jan 23 '15 at 21:07
  • Yes, but that's the point: Make it easier to up-vote. I think a question worth asking is: Do the up-votes from users with only 5 points are less useful than those from people with 15? Do they would decrease the quality of the voting system by up-voting wrong Q/A more often? If so, -even if I don't believe in it- then yes, we should stay at 15 points and not change it. But otherwise, it's worth considering it, isn't? – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:14
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    You are missing my point. We feel that people should earn the right to vote. By doing a minimal amount of service to the community. By showing they are part of it. – Oded Jan 23 '15 at 21:16
  • I understand it, it's just that sometimes that minimal amount you're talking about isn't reached by people who use SO on a regular basis even for months. And that's the reality you don't see because you haven't met people who encountered that issue. I did, several times. I perfectly agree that privileges come with personal investment and I believe SO made a quite good system actually, just that they're potential issues you are not aware of, I'm here to talk about these specific issues. Maybe the solutions I've proposed aren't good enough, but the problem is still here. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:22
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    I've finally upvoted your answer, I understand what you mean and what SO users want -apparently, since everybody agreed with you-. I still think there is an issue that hasn't been solved here, but I have another idea which doesn't include a change in the privilege system so I'm gonna make another topic. Thanks for your time. – Vadorequest Jan 23 '15 at 21:47

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