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"Vote on a post, not the user."

... is the central theme and guidance of the SE communities while encouraging the voting. However it might be neglected by some users when a particular community matures and its users know each other to an extent. In my opinion there are many instances of target [up/down]voting due to this feature.

Question: Why should a username of the author be shown with their reputation & badges, when it serves little purpose to the post?

Add-on request: Show username to the voter only once their vote is locked.


Update: There are some good comments/answers to this post. Instead of over-extending the question, I have posted an answer with some counter arguments to few of them.

Clarification: This question is not intended to snatch away the public display of the reputation-badges of the users. Rather it should be judiciously displayed to avoid the influenced voting. That's the reason for adding "feature-request" as well.
As many answers suggest that, users get motivation to participate due to reputation. If so, then above feature may likely encourage more voting on the posts to un-hide the user accounts for the curious users.

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    I guess SE at least needs to show the username to fulfill copyright requirements for the post. – Tom Dec 24 '19 at 1:46
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    I would say its purpose is not to encourage or discourage votes. It's for the authors to show off how much rep and shiny gold badges they aquired. It's part of the gamification that draws people in to participate. – Kodos Johnson Dec 24 '19 at 2:14
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    You raise a good point. Yet consider why they are called "reputation" points and what—for better or worse—is, whether consciously or otherwise, is one of the prime motivators for many participants. – faintsignal Dec 24 '19 at 2:47
  • Side note: If you have been around in a tag long enough you can often recognise the coding style of frequent users. – user371773 Dec 24 '19 at 16:20
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    You have a very valid point, but unfortunately nothing can be changed. It is all set in stone. – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Dec 28 '19 at 0:47
  • @Peter, I also had thought a while back that why the questions are underappreciated by just +5. Added to insult no -1 for down voters. Recently at least the reputation part has changed, a very good step forward by decision makers. Similarly, for user account display, when the 'stone' was carved, the SE creators may be didn't take emotions like 'hatred' & 'jealousy' in consideration. :-) This doesn't happen all the times, but time to time in various communities with many users. My recent example. – iammilind Dec 28 '19 at 1:14
  • @PeterMortensen Why is it "set in stone"? – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 28 '19 at 15:36
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I would argue that the spirit of that message is more along the lines of, "Don't downvote someone just because they have 'low' reputation, and don't upvote someone just because they have 'high' reputation."

I would say that there's some level of reassurance of a post from someone with high reputation. Sure, it's not entirely proof that they know what they're on about in any instance of an answer, but there's a nice gut-feel when you see someone like Jon Skeet answer your question.

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    " there's some level of reassurance of a post from someone with high reputation" -- Is that desirable, that people should vote high reputation users' posts, because they have high reputation? My perspective here is clearly on the voting. When someone looks for a question, the most voted answer comes on the top. I believe that SE wants the top voted post to be on its merit rather than its author's. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 6:27
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    Even high reputation users can get it wrong. Being biased because of their general reputation would mean that if they make mistakes, it's difficult to correct. Better to always just judge by the content. If the content is not sufficient to judge it by itself, it may be a bad sign (at least for the technical sites). – Trilarion Dec 25 '19 at 18:25
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I use the rep of the OP in the following way.

If I start reading and detect something that feels amiss in the question; perhaps something that I wonder if the OP misunderstands about the topic, or something that doesn't look like the right way to ask an SE question, I quickly glance up at the OP's rep.

If it's large, I stop and reconsider that maybe it's me who doesn't understand something, or perhaps this is a good way to formulate a question.

More often than not, this turns out to be the case, and the double check saved me from wasting people's time writing a comment that that didn't need to be written nor answered, or from making a edit that didn't need to be made.

I find it extremely handy.

I generally do not see the rep first. Even for users that I recognize, I don't know or keep track of their reputation score. But a quick glance when something feels off can save time and distraction.

Also, this has probably been discussed several times over the last decade, and the fact that it's remained a particular way usually (but not always) means that there's a consensus that it's okay.

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  • According to SE philosophy, reputation shows the amount of participation and not the knowledge. Still, though the use case you described is useful sometimes, it's a too small benefit to counter the bad effects of influenced voting. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 6:16
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    @iammilind Do you have a source with that? – Mast Dec 24 '19 at 8:58
  • @Mast, most answers in this post. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 9:16
  • @iammilind Thank you, but I meant the latter part of your statement. "though the use case you described is useful sometimes, it's a too small benefit to counter the bad effects of influenced voting." Why do you think the benefit described is too small to counter the bad effects of influenced voting? Do you have numbers or other data on the amount of influenced voting and on the benefit described? After all, how should they be compared? – Mast Dec 24 '19 at 9:19
  • @Mast, it's a general observation for which I can't provide data. But it's easily noticed across the community. Countering the use case, many a times a known & trusted user may not answer the question I want to know. Many times, more upvoted answer's author has less reputation than other. In these majority cases, the reputation of the user is not helping me. But all the posts are candidate for influenced voting. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 9:25
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    @iammilind So it's a gut feeling you have, not an actual measurement you've taken? – Mast Dec 24 '19 at 9:27
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    @iammilind your question and many of your comments continue to assert your viewpoint; this is your post, so it's up to you to support your premise. You've added the feature-request tag and you are asking that almost 200 stack exchange sites operate differently for its millions of users. If you can't convincingly demonstrate to a chunk of the SE community that there is a need, then a feature request will not be taken seriously. – uhoh Dec 24 '19 at 9:45
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    @iammilind I'm not making the claims here, I'm just asking you to source yours. – Mast Dec 24 '19 at 9:46
  • @Mast, uhoh the observation cannot be proven by statistics in certain cases. I don't know how to make a DB query which shows "Posts with lower rep users got more votes than higher rep users". Regarding the use case you based your answer on, can easily be resolved by voting based display as suggested in feature. Finally If you deny the fact that, voting is not biased by a user's reputation then our discussion may not churn out anything useful. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 9:57
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    @iammilind You keep talking about facts, but fail to make a case for those facts. You can think it's a fact, but unless you got proof, there is no fact. Just a suspicion. – Mast Dec 24 '19 at 11:44
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Rather it should be judiciously displayed to avoid the influenced voting.

Misconception:

people don't necessarily come here for voting.

They come here for content. Sometimes that is easy: there is a short question, with one, two short answers. You read all of that, and then you upvote what you found to be of quality and helpful.

But sometimes there are 20, 40 answers. And then you don't want to read all of that. Thus you look out for markers that tell you "this could be a good answer, so I spend time reading it". And such markers are for sure: the vote count of the answer, and to a lesser degree: the name+reputation of the person who wrote that answer.

Example: I don't think that all my answers on stackoverflow are extraordinary great, but I was told more than once "this is another one of your typical really great answers". People who know my user name know that they either get solid technical content, or logic-based out-of-the-box thoughts for more meta topics before reading my posts.

Long story short: for good or bad, vote count, user name and reputation can help future readers to more quickly get to the most valuable content.

Your suggestion about hiding that information until voting sounds interesting, but it directly conflicts with that other (main?!) usage pattern on this network. If at all, there should be extensive A/B testing to see how such dramatic changes work out.

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    Those who come here for content, show them content. Votes are also visible. But those who wants to go further into author information, who wrote useful (or bad) answers, should vote the post. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 9:33
  • @iammilind Sure. I didn't much about voting or not voting. The question is about hiding information, that is my topic here. – GhostCat Dec 24 '19 at 10:07
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The purported goal of the SE voting system is to get people to vote on the best answer, so that (a) good answers are rewarded and (b) the best answer is labelled and distinguishable for those who want to know what the best answer is but lack the expertise to judge for themselves.

As psychology has shown, when people lack expertise, they judge by what they believe are useful clues. For example, when you want to buy a product but don't know how to judge its quality, you will belive the reviewer who appears to have the necessary expertise. Advertising uses this. That is why health and beauty products are often presented by people who appear to be doctors.

On Stack Exchange, one such clue to signify expertise is reputation. When you don't know which is the best answer, you will look at who has the most reputation and believe that this person has more expertise and therefore is must be right.

Displaying answers without reputation score (and usernames! – because some have become well-known on some of the sites) would remove one of these clues and force voters to actually evaluate the answer instead of voting for the answerer.

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  • Let the users vote the useful posts and see their authors. If they still don't have voting right then it's not difficult to earn by minimal participation. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 9:30
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Each of us is an individual, to be recognized by our accomplishments; more recently, to be addressed in a preferred manner. It's a form of respect to refer to a person.

If everything was asked and answered by anonymous instead of real and pen names there would be greater encouragement to ask and less incentive to answer. Vote up requires 15 reputation and vote down 100, also there are badges which encourage up votes. Voting is skewed towards up, a system of recognition for good questions and answers.

It is true that some have high reputation on one site, or multiple sites; and to see that one must click through to the user's Profile. It is also true that some have extremely low reputation, literally joined yesterday. Experienced users know that neither makes them correct or incorrect, indeed it is the quality of the post.

I have seen many instances where someone with a Doctorate didn't read the help file, and understand the standards for asking or answering. By recognizing the name, and knowing that they were new, it enabled me to comment; direct them towards the help file and assure others of the community that useful interaction would be forthcoming - indeed there was as they gained 1000's of reputation in weeks.

Where there's a tie-break needed, (for you the asker, or a 3rd party reader) it can be useful to see that one person has been vetted over others; you can take a chance with trying the lower reputation answer over an accepted answer provided by a high reputation user, or vice-versa.

Otherwise one ought to upvote and accept that which is correct - practicality things work differently. Somethings aren't as cut and dry as a polariton, as separable as a lamilar flow, or as complicated as colliding vortex rings. While some people do score upvotes for subject, humor, good looks, or reputation it's the reputation (and badges) where each can improve and claim knowledge on more than a single point.

Locking a vote prevents retraction, when it is discovered that there was a voting error. Not knowing whom supplied the answer leads to more head scratching and triple checking, potentially by someone whom doesn't understand the subject, than simply crediting the author; and potential problems that may cause.

Arguably the reputation of other answerers might assist to determine that one high reputation answerer got it right, or wrong. A mix of anonymous questions and answers surely is not better than ones attributed to an account that someone has worked hard, often for many years, to establish.

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    To pacify the total anonymity, I have suggested an add-on request, where the reputation should be shown to those who are voting and preferably once they have locked. That should encourage more voting eventually. On the other hand, the partial anonymity will avoid the groupism or camping mentality among the users. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 6:03
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I thought about this once, but in a related context. This might have considered in the past and ignored, but I am not sure (leaving it to long-timers).

I propose showing the answerer's respective "Subject Matter Expert" index, either by:

  1. The reputation filtered by the particular question tag (maybe the primary technology)
  2. Tag score (same as above)

I think that this may add some dimension to this discussion.

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Why do you think this is an issue?

What is your proof of this claim being made:

“In my opinion there are many instances of target [up/down]voting due to this feature.”

At the end of the day, Stack Exchange sites are a community made up of people. One of the rewards us people get for posting content, editing, and generally being a part of this community is basic recognition. If somehow your desire to anonymize things were adopted, this is what would happen:

  • Many posts and actions would be anonymous to the outside world and other users and that would make it seem it all came out of some typist work labor camp.
  • Disagreements would be even worse with people posting “Stop posting stuff like this, I know who you are!” comments. And there might even be a desire to start a doxing community based on identifying users on Stack Exchange for tenuous reasons at best.

At the end of the day, there might be a few people who purposefully target you, but honestly I believe this community would be far worse if the user info was anonymous on questions and answers.

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    There are several questions in various site, where people have complained for target voting. SE has an algorithm engine running which fixes the serial upvotes/downvotes all the time. To me that's enough proof. It's a well known secret that people vote to the users many of the times rather than the post. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 6:05
  • Then if Stack Exchange has an automated system in place that catches serial up and downvotes and allows public display of such info, what the heck is the problem? I think you are mixing up perceptions with reality. – JakeGould Dec 24 '19 at 6:18
  • The problem is that, serial voting is only a subset of influenced voting, which is a larger problem. I gave a quick example of "serial voting" to your counter question about "What is your proof....?" This question is not about it. Hope that clarifies my stance. – iammilind Dec 24 '19 at 6:22
  • @iammilind Your “stance” overcomplicates the larger issue which is — essentially — human nature. I see no issue here that anonymizing the site and its posts would improve. I see anonymizing content a path to new problems. – JakeGould Dec 24 '19 at 17:27

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