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You may not have noticed it, but there's a new set of ads running on SO (and maybe other sites) right now:

Don't just vote on Stack Overflow answers, VOTE FOR YOUR FUTURE

I guess we got approached by some voter registration org about running these, and it seemed like a good idea... So we're running them. They appear for folks who we think are in the USA, and just link to a tool that helps you get registered to vote in the next election.

Big deal, right? Well... It kinda is.

We run our little elections here on Stack Exchange too, to pick moderators for each graduated site. It's something we've found is absolutely critical to making a site work for the folks who've actually built it. There's something that happens when folks actually get to decide who represents them, something that fundamentally changes their relationship with each other. As much as democracy can be a truly frightening gamble at times, it does actually work. At least, when folks bother to participate in it.

So anyway, we're running these ads as sort of a public service to the folks who read and benefit from these sites - who benefit, indirectly, from democracy - to remind them that participation is a pretty damn good idea. But we're only running them for folks whose country happens to cover a strip of land across North America... And I've heard rumors now that there may be elections held in other places too.

What could we do to provide a similar public service to all the folks who use and benefit from Stack Exchange?

Now, I'm not asking if we should do anything; maybe we shouldn't. I'm definitely not committing to doing anything - this is just some thoughts that came up in a conversation with co-workers. Maybe this little ad campaign is a total failure and no one clicks through. Maybe it's just entirely too much work to scale this out.

But... Could we? How?

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    What's the click rate on those ads (and how does it compare to other ads here, if that's something you can share)? – Servy Oct 5 '16 at 17:33
  • I have no idea, @servy; AFAIK, they've only been running for a few hours, so measurements would be incomplete anyway. – Shog9 Oct 5 '16 at 17:40
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    Are these shown to users with the "fewer ads" privilege? I'm not seeing them. – Mysticial Oct 5 '16 at 17:42
  • @Shog9 I was pretty sure I saw one of these ads yesterday, unless my memory is just that bad. But yeah, may still be too early. Something to consider before going too far down this path though. – Servy Oct 5 '16 at 17:44
  • @Mysticial Do you have an adblocker that doesn't have this site/network whitelisted? – TylerH Oct 5 '16 at 18:18
  • Can you filter the ads by origin country? Then just put them up for the major elections in the countries where you can easily can get that information, or where you bother to search for it. As already mentioned in one answer, registration isn't required in every country, but a reminder to vote certainly doesn't hurt. – Mad Scientist Oct 5 '16 at 21:31
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    I have no problem with neutral ads. But I am a little suspicious of the fact that "Vote for your future!" is written in a color strongly associated with one of the 2 political parties. Which just happens to be the party which Jeff Atwood (and presumably other senior people at SO) would prefer to win this election. – Kaz Oct 6 '16 at 12:11
  • That could be accidental, or it could be a deliberate piece of targeted persuasion. I'd feel a lot more supportive if you wrote it in white instead. – Kaz Oct 6 '16 at 12:17
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    As much as it saddens me that there's no gold or green, I doubt this was an intentional snubbing of the Libertarian or Green parties, @Kaz; red white and blue are simply traditional colors for political ads in the US. – Shog9 Oct 6 '16 at 14:51
  • @Shog9 The libertarian/green party brands don't have anywhere near the visibility or impact of the 2 (presumptive) contenders. And I imagine SO didn't create the ads. Just saying that if you want to avoid the potential appearance of non-neutrality, that particular color is not the way to do it. – Kaz Oct 6 '16 at 14:55
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    I find it disheartening that these ads will be shown to folks who are, right bloody now, writing incoherent off topic questions. Shouldn't there be an alternative ad, "You know you don't have to vote, do you?" shown to people with lots of downvoted/closed questions? – Won't Oct 6 '16 at 17:12
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This answer started as a comment, but alas it got a little long and it is an important matter after all.

In some countries (like Germany) you're automatically registered as a voter. You get a call to voting in the mail some 6-8 weeks (actually that timeframe) in advance.

If you go to the election, you're counted as voter, if you don't go, you're counted as non-participant. From my POV this is pretty unique to the US and it's a flaw in the democratic system, that you have to register as a voter. It adds an unnecessary step in the process of voting.

In the light of how important this election will be internationally not only because it's a US election in the first place, I think it's reasonable to promote democratic participation among the participants in the network.

Some things are just too important to not endorse. There even is precedent about endorsing other US-only events (anybody remember the rainbow logo?). If people want the elections in their home-country promoted, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's a democratic citizen's duty to cast their vote in an election. If people could use a nudge in that direction I think that's just fine to give them.

We should respect that some may not wish to participate though (let's face the facts: voters are caught between a rock and a hard place here). I think this is one (more) instance where you should respect the choice of your users when they say: "I've seen that. I don't want to see it anymore. Make it go away"

These ads should be dismissible

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    Many states allow you to register to vote on the day of the election (although some do not), so you can just show up to a polling place to go vote, and if you haven't registered, you just have a form to fill out before you can vote. – Servy Oct 5 '16 at 18:00
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    I agree; I see no problem with a "get out the vote!" ad so long as it's dismissable, like the "join our community" ads at the top of each new Stack Exchange site you visit. And of course, it shouldn't include any kind of inherent bias toward or against one candidate or another (despite my personal opinions). – TylerH Oct 5 '16 at 18:25
  • Well, good for Germany! Wonder how it works in the UK, other parts of Europe, etc. – Shog9 Oct 5 '16 at 20:00
  • FWIW the up/downvote feature allows people to dismiss ads, so if that's something you're interested in, downvote and you won't see 'em anymore. They're only running through 11:59PM GMT today, though. – stevvve Oct 5 '16 at 20:38
  • @stevvve FWIW I'm not getting the ad served to me ... I personally like these ads, being able to not be bothered about something as personal as my vote on a professional site is a matter of respect though ... – Vogel612's Shadow Oct 5 '16 at 20:45
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    @stevvve Individual downvotes count for individual users? I was under the impression it was a community thing, e.g. aggregate upvotes means "all users see it", and vice versa. – TylerH Oct 5 '16 at 21:11
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Isn't part of the reason we're doing this is because the current US election is historically unprecedented in the breadth of American history? I had a few non-US folks ping me on Twitter about this, and it seemed to me they didn't understand how bizarre this situation is relative to any other election in the entire history of the United States. (Perhaps they didn't have as many American History classes as I did, which is understandable given that they don't live in the US? How many Brazilian or Japanese history classes did you take?)

So, maybe the point they are missing is, this is a unique (and desperate) situation, sort of like.. and it greatly pains me to go here .. Germany circa 1930?

Desperate times, desperate measures.

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    If this is true, then I can only imagine the backlash of users who will take issue with Stack Overflow running ads that implicitly say "vote for Hillary". Next to that, a rainbow-colored logo is nothing! This is to say nothing of how users in other countries might feel about certain candidates in their own elections. – TylerH Oct 5 '16 at 18:14
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    Fastest TTGL (Time To Godwin's Law) ever – rossipedia Oct 5 '16 at 18:17
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    how so @TylerH? It just says "vote". And I said the election was unprecedented, not that I favored any particular candidate. Voting matters more in this election than arguably any USA presidential election in the last 50-100 years. – Jeff Atwood Oct 5 '16 at 18:20
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    If the election is unprecedented, it's for a particular reason. If voting matters more this year than any election in the last 100 years, it's for a reason. If it's true that Stack Overflow is running these ads because this election is unprecedented, it stands to reason that it's for the same reason or concern. That is, the company Stack Overflow is concerned about the outcome of the election. While HRC is unprecedented as the first female candidate since we've settled on a more-or-less 2-party system, most pundits agree that that is not what's most unprecedented about this election. – TylerH Oct 5 '16 at 18:30
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    And if you are comparing this election to Germany circa 1930, there can really be no mistake about who you're talking about, with regard to either scenario. – TylerH Oct 5 '16 at 18:31
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    @rossipedia Nah, I've seen someone invoke it in the title. I'm having trouble finding that post though since it's been edited and probably deleted as well. – Mysticial Oct 5 '16 at 18:31
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    @rossipedia Found it: meta.stackoverflow.com/revisions/278504/1 – Mysticial Oct 5 '16 at 18:41
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    I think it's far better to just say "we think it's important that people vote." This is true whether the election is 2016 or 2012, unless you want to politicize it. And if you want to politicize Stack Overflow... well. Meh. It's your site, you own it, you can do whatever you want, I guess. But don't try to act like you really want people to vote if that's the case. – enderland Oct 5 '16 at 18:56
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    @enderland Jeff doesn't own SE anymore... – Servy Oct 5 '16 at 18:56
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    @Servy I was more referring to the collective ownership of Stack Exchange by individuals than Jeff specifically. There are people who own it (and work for it) and if they want to use it as a political platform that's their prerogative. Just as it would be mine to stop using it. – enderland Oct 5 '16 at 20:30
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    Germany circa 1930 was a whole different ballpark of crazy. The police was openly supporting paramilitary organizations, Germany was knees deep in a cesspool of debt and recession, almost a third of the workforce was unemployed. The lost WWI (against archenemy France) was weighing on the minds of the German people. And Germany had been a democracy for less than two decades ... Sure there may be ideological parallels, but I think this comparison is going a step too far... – Vogel612's Shadow Oct 5 '16 at 20:51
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    Rule of thumb: If it greatly pained you to go there, you wouldn't go there. – DVK Oct 5 '16 at 23:44
  • @TylerH it reminds me most of all when Steve Jobs died. You may remember the controversy about the site banner at that time. Also very much a one time thing. – Jeff Atwood Oct 7 '16 at 23:12
  • @JeffAtwood Unfortunately I was not yet active on the site at that time. – TylerH Oct 8 '16 at 3:34
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I find this question interesting, important and useful. I hope that answers given to it will help me make up my mind and decide whether to support idea laid out here or not.

I voted this question up because of above.

At the same time, in order to avoid "signal distortion" like one that happened in last licensing discussion, I would want to make it explicitly abundantly clear that

my upvote to this question doesn't mean support of idea proposed for discussion


And since we're talking about voting anyway I would like to point that score of this question can not be a fair indicator of the community support - because users with MSE reputation between 15 and 125 can only vote it up but not down. If we wanted to have voting properly reflecting the community support we'd probably have to add two answers suggesting opposite points of view and compare votes cast on these.

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    As usual, I don't much care about the voting... I'm hoping for some good discussion. – Shog9 Oct 5 '16 at 21:49
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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review – PolyGeo Oct 5 '16 at 22:08
  • Are we abusing our delete votes on Meta? "delete votes hanging around on controversial answers are somewhat counter-productive, even if they don't actually result in the post being deleted..." And @PolyGeo instead of pretending that meta discussions must follow a "canonical" Q&A model, give a closer read to What is a meta for? – gnat Oct 6 '16 at 8:08
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    When presented with your answer in the review queue I believed it to be part of a review audit, and so I read it carefully before deciding that it seemed to be simply a comment on why you voted the question up, and hence a candidate for deletion. It did not seem to be in any way an answer or an analysis of the question/topic "What could we do to provide a similar public service to all the folks who use and benefit from Stack Exchange?" I'm sorry that you think I abused my delete vote when I was trying to show that I deserved to have the privilege to cast that delete vote. – PolyGeo Oct 6 '16 at 8:21
  • @PolyGeo right I did not even attempt to "answer" or analyse the presented idea. Once again, have you read What is a meta for?? "Meta is for... $SiteName users to communicate with each other about $SiteName ...$SiteName users to communicate with Stack Exchange the company" etc – gnat Oct 6 '16 at 8:31
  • waiting for votes from users who observed how their upvotes to initial licensing discussion were flushed into toilet and were blatantly misrepresented as "votes on the proposal" (unlike you I care about voting @Shog9) – gnat Oct 6 '16 at 8:43
  • I just read it again. I'm sure you have a point to make but I have to admit that I don't get it. If I did, I would not have clicked the delete vote in the review queue. Even if I did now, then I cannot undo a delete vote. – PolyGeo Oct 6 '16 at 9:24

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