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TL;DR: today's change has retroactively changed the meaning of our past voting, and I'm uncomfortable with that. I want to point that out, as I feel it's a concern that's not been raised so far. I am also looking for input and any kind of solution, if someone thinks of one.


A couple of things I feel should be said first, but am unsure how to introduce:

  • retroactive unlocking of votes, especially upvotes, following today's changes, sounds technically hard and I don't expect it to happen. This is more about the philosophy of voting;
  • I very well know of "vote for the content, not the user", but this is not that binary here; once again, this is about the idea of the vote itself, not "just the content" or "just the user".

As of today, question upvotes are retroactively going from +5 rep to +10; whether it's a good idea or not is not the matter of this question. I, and I guess other users as well, will now be less likely to cast upvotes. It is not so much about "voting for the user" now that the up arrow gives 5 more rep, but rather what it means to upvote stuff.

If I upvote a question, it means I want to see more questions like that. Over time (and especially on Stack Overflow, I guess), one's threshold for quality might change, and the user gives upvotes more or less easily. In the latter case, they might end up wanting to retract some earlier upvotes, but can't because of vote locking. This is fine; their own policy, their responsibility, their consequences to assume.

But here, the "threshold for quality" was imposed by a third party. Today's change didn't just trigger rep recalcs, today's change has retroactively changed the meaning of my past voting. And that's not something I'm comfortable with if I'm not given the possibility to reconsider my vote.

It's not a perfect example, but a real-life analogy might be:

In 2017, I voted for Mr A., who had campaign promises X, Y, and Z, to become mayor of my city for 4 years.

Today, the country passed a law saying mayors are now elected for 8 years, effective immediately and retroactively.

Mr A. is still Mr A., his ideas are still X, Y, and Z, but I voted for him to be mayor for 4 years, not 8. Had I known it would be 8 years, I may have voted differently. I don't want the word to be put in my mouth that "yes, the reasoning behind my 2017 vote is in line with the 2019 change".

This is not really a (though I'd welcome it!) because I think it's technically too hard to track and implement. I'm rather looking for input on does me changing my upvote habits because of this change the quality I now deem the question to meet, with a new "feel" upon voting, means I am now prioritizing the user instead of the content? (I don't think so, but maybe I'm missing something) as well as pointing out (again) that voting is a kind of contract, it engaged you (even if it's anonymous), and retroactively changing any effect of this contract should put it eligible for retraction. Should we be allowed to change our previous votes, in regard of the new philosophy of upvotes?


As I commented on the answers below, I'm afraid I didn't word the question clearly enough. I'm not concerned by "having given someone 5 more points". I'm concerned about the comparative threshold above which I'll upvote. While we have guidelines for votes, they're votes: part of them remain tied to a feeling; at least the "useful" upvote indicator seems to be ("not only it's a clear, on-topic question, it's a question I feel is useful").

In the long run, questions that I now upvote may not actually have more value than previous ones, but they will certainly feel that way.

Now that questions are now to be considered of the same value for the site as answers (which I'd say are always more useful to the site), that feeling part has evolved and I'll judge questions and answers the same way. Thus, the past voting that is attributed to me was not cast with said feeling.


I have difficulty (if that's not obvious) of conveying that what's making me uneasy is not the increase in rep. Thanks to Jon Ericson's comment I'm getting closer to manage to word it right: it's saying I voted for something while changing this voting's parameters. Had this been always only designated as a score I don't think I'd have reacted the same.

I realized I'd have felt the same way if the rep change was halved, or if it displayed posts I'd upvoted with a green background, or really any kind of (not a specific) side effect. Words matter - voting, for me, has an especially important meaning; so I reckon this is a me problem, not a SE problem. As this wasn't obvious to me, and possibly to others with the same wiring, at first, I think this post can serve to put words on it.

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    Good luck with that. – user102937 Nov 13 '19 at 21:22
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    @RobertHarvey I know it's not happening, but I wanted to point out something that I felt was left out so far. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 21:23
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    To be fair, I'm worried less about making question upvotes worth more than I am about them re-imposing the 1 rep penalty for downvoting questions. – user102937 Nov 13 '19 at 21:24
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    @Jenayah with analogy to the mayors, that change probably would have been voted on as well. That is again the problem I think may users are having, this another forced change made without any community input. I know I will be up-voting fewer posts from now on as well. – Skooba Nov 13 '19 at 21:26
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    @RobertHarvey uh, same. But... That one isn't happening, is it? (Ah, crap. Next week's famous announcements?) – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 21:26
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    If you know it isn't happening, it feels like you asked only to keep steering the outrage ship. – Von Huffman Nov 13 '19 at 21:30
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    @Lyd not at all. I don't want to steer sh*t nor to give that impression. I can, however, point out sth I think has been left out so far, explain the solution I'd put in, acknowledge that it's not sth that will make SE lots of $$ or improve their workflow, and therefore likely won't be done. Votes (general votes, not just SE ones) are important and I feel like if I see it this way, I should share this concern. Now I can share it with my roomie who doesn't know anything about it & doesn't care, or I can share it with Meta folks who are facing the same change and will know what I'm talking about. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 21:37
  • @Jenayah You say that, but you are still asking a question that you know the answer for, in a preaching to the choir scenario. – Von Huffman Nov 13 '19 at 21:40
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    If you voted on the basis that it would give the asker 5 rep, but would remove (some or many of) those votes because they're now worth 10 rep, I think your problem is not one that Stack Exchange should care about fixing, because that voting criteria completely ignores the spirit of voting. – Nij Nov 13 '19 at 21:40
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    @Nij it's still about the content. Content that deserves 5 rep is different from content that deserves 10. – De Novo Nov 13 '19 at 21:42
  • @Lyd well, sorry I can't convince you that I have no malicious intent. It's fine - I know I don't, but we can disagree on things and perceive them differently. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 21:48
  • @Nij as DeNovo said above, and as I wrote in the question, it's not so much about giving someone 5, 10 or X rep. It's about saying "this has more value than the other questions", which is now "that question has even more value than my previous voting choices. It even has the same value as an answer it seems. That Q I upvoted three months ago doesn't seem worthy of it now" – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 21:51
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    Every question upvote is now worth 10 rep. Every question upvote. There is no difference between a question upvote five years ago, five weeks ago, five minutes ago, or in five days' time. If you're going to upvote a question, upvote it. If you're not, don't. But complaint that you wouldn't have upvoted because you don't think the question is worth 10 rep is just not worth effort by the rest of us. – Nij Nov 13 '19 at 22:38
  • No, it really is as easy as nothing having changed about how you voted and how you should vote. It's irrelevant if the reputation changes since you aren't comparing questions to answers (nor to other questions). So yes, you possibly changing your voting would very much mean you'd place too much emphasis on the user now. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Nov 13 '19 at 22:45
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No, we shouldn't.

Ultimately, we should be voting on things based on the quality/usefulness of that question itself - not based on the reputation the user gains from that post, or based on how other people have voted on that post. A slight change to how much reputation the user gains from the post - or more accurately, a reversion of a previous change that wasn't having the intended effect - should not be a factor considered when deciding whether to upvote something, downvote it, or refrain from voting at all.

(Naturally, some people will consider those things - or any number of other things, such as the username that made the post, their account age, or current reputation - when voting, but I don't think it's a behavior that should be encouraged or needs to be accounted for.)

Keep in mind that the direct effect of your vote is on the post score - and nothing has been changed about the impact of an upvote on that score. 1 upvote is still canceled out by 1 downvote, so the only impact of the recent change is on the user's reputation.

By comparison, reddit changed things long ago such that the upvotes vs. downvotes on a submission/comment are not visible, only the overall score of the submission/comment - and the connection between post score and user karma (the equivalent of reputation) is also non-transparent (it's not 1-to-1). While some may find that annoying, it also means that you can't meaningfully consider the direct effect on the user's karma when voting, which is presumably the goal of reddit's change.

Here, the effects of Stack Exchange's change are transparent - previously, the reputation granted to the poster by upvoting a question was reduced from +10 to +5, but that was not having the desired effect and so it was reverted. While Stack Exchange's system allows you to see the direct effects of your vote, it's still not something you should take into account when you vote on a particular question.

As Helmar said in their answer to a related question:

Keep voting on posts, not people.

Keep voting up good questions, keep voting down bad questions.


It's easy enough to change your vote on an individual post or two simply by editing it - or if it has already been edited at all since you voted on it. However, I wouldn't encourage this as a way to get around the system; mass edits for the purpose of changing votes can be very disruptive.

  • To extend the "voting for the mayor" analogy, it is kind of like giving the mayor you voted for a larger salary retroactively. It doesn't change how you voted. It doesn't change what you vote means. It just means the mayor got paid more. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 13 '19 at 22:04
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    I'm afraid I didn't word the question clearly enough. I agree with what you said! Once again, the matter is not giving someone 5, 10 or X rep, but to define a comparative threshold above which I'll upvote. If questions are now to be considered of the same value for the site as answers, then I'll judge answers and questions the same way. In the long run, questions that I now upvote may not actually have more value than previous ones, but they will certainly feel that way; and while we have guidelines for votes, there'll always be a feeling aspect, that has now evolved. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 22:07
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    ... and I certainly don't intend, nor encourage anyone to, go on an edit spree. I really get the impression that my wording is read as "I don't want to give people 5 more useless points than I thought I was!" When really it isn't. I casted a vote which served as a quality measure. If any part of that measure, other than the OP, changes (edit, long-term effect on the site etc), I feel like the vote that's attributed to me isn't my vote anymore. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 22:10
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    How about mass edits to fix old questions so that they actually deserve an upvote? (CC: @Jenayah) – Jon Ericson Nov 13 '19 at 23:23
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    @JonEricson unplanned, uncoordinated mass edits (however good they are), not prompted by some kind of site urgency/actual need, are something I wouldn't encourage either. But a reasonable flux of fixing old stuff is always welcome, yes. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 23:27
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When I joined Stack Overflow, upvotes were worth +10 for every type of post (that could be voted on). On March 19, 2010 that changed. To me, it didn't change the meaning of my votes. I vote for clear and answerable questions, so the payout didn't change my calculation. If my analysis is correct, it didn't change the way other people voted either.

It's long been a tenet of the voting system that votes are for content, not as a judgement of the author. So it really shouldn't change the meaning of your past votes.

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The “meaning” of votes remains unchanged.

One should upvote a question if one think it is clear, well researched, and useful.

That was true yesterday and it’s true today.

Using votes not because of that criteria but as a tool to reward/punish users is a misuse of the tool. Votes rank content. The effect on a user’s reputation is distantly secondary concern.

  • Copying from myself above: I'm afraid I didn't word the question clearly enough. I agree with that. Once again, the matter is not giving someone 5, 10 or X rep, but to define a comparative threshold above which I'll upvote. If Qs are now to be considered of the same value for the site as answers, then I'll judge As and Qs the same way. In the long run, questions that I now upvote may not actually have more value than previous ones, but they will certainly feel that way; and while we have guidelines for votes, there'll always be a feeling aspect (it's a vote after all), which has now evolved. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 22:28
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    @Jenayah: I think you are getting at one flaw with the previous payout. Being a bit more generous to questions because the upvote is only worth +5 is not really how the system was supposed to be used. The way to think about it is that an upvote is increasing the score of the post (question or answer). That meaning has never changed. It's only a side effect that has been changed (once in 2010 and once today). – Jon Ericson Nov 13 '19 at 22:55
  • @JonEricson it's not about "being more generous" as changes can go one way or another but let's drop that for a moment. Reading your comment I think I can spot what's eating me more clearly; it's not the reputation (it has never been, I mean it), it's saying I voted for something whole changing this voting's parameters. Had this been always only designated as a score I don't think I'd have reacted the same. Words matter - voting, for me, has an especially important meaning; so I'm starting to reckon this is a me problem, not a SE problem. – Jenayah Nov 13 '19 at 23:16
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    @Jenayah: I honestly think it was a mistake to change the value back in 2010. It seems to communicate that questions are less valuable than answers. Whether or not that's true, the consequence may very well be to reduce the incentives to improve questions. Why bother if the real value is in answers? – Jon Ericson Nov 13 '19 at 23:21

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