This question about someone downvoting all answers but his own got me thinking about a habit I have that I'm not particularly happy with. In the case of questions that get very few votes — for example, just about anything in the tag — I tend to be far less likely to upvote other answers when answering. If there is another answer that isn't as complete or has a small error, I don't upvote, because it's very likely that a month from now the results will still be one upvote for the slightly wrong answer and zero for my own.

I don't think that's the right thing to do in the long term, given the purpose of the site, because my answer is more correct. Still, I believe that all answers should be approached as if in a vacuum, not voted for or against based on the quality of the other answers. How would you handle this sort of situation?

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    Shoes aren't programming related. Come on. Next you're going to say other inanimate objects like gems and types of coffee and abstract things like musical notes are programming related. – Welbog Jul 9 '09 at 18:51
  • Don't forget snakes! – gnostradamus Jul 9 '09 at 18:57
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    @Welbog: I saw a question the other day about sending something from Metal Rails to a Cucumber, and that's when I realized that there are a lot of SO users on LSD. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 9 '09 at 19:05

How would you handle this sort of situation?

I've done all of the following at one time or another:

  • Post your own answer, and then leave a comment on the other answer noting its deficiencies. Come back a few days later and check to see if they've been corrected - if so, upvote then.

  • Post your own answer, linking to and calling out the deficiencies in the other (most useful when the other answer has subtle inaccuracies or is correct but misleading).

  • Edit the existing answer, adding in your corrections and additional information. Then upvote it.

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    Like adding something to this answer about ponies and then upvoting it? – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 9 '09 at 18:43
  • @Pesto: exactly! – Shog9 Jul 9 '09 at 18:47

I run into the same sort of problem. There aren't as many views/votes for the tag I'm primarily active in (MATLAB), and I end up with the same dilemma about whether or not to upvote answers competing with my own. Even though it can backfire on me sometimes, I usually bite the bullet and upvote other competing answers anyway (by usually, I'd guess it's 60-70% of the time). The way I see it, a good answer is a good answer. Sometimes it ends up eventually bumping the other answer higher than mine on the list, but that's life.

It's not a completely lost cause though. The highest voted answer doesn't always get accepted. Also, the "Populist" badge offers some consolation (although it doesn't really work for low-view/low-vote tags). This is actually what inspired me to suggest the "Sportsmanship" badge, which I originally called the "Self Defeatist" badge, for obvious reasons. =)


That is pretty much how I approach it. I upvote an answer if it is helpful, and downvote it if it is just outright wrong. There's a vast middle ground where I read the answer, perhaps comment on it but don't vote either way. On some questions I might vote on half of the answers; on others I don't vote for any.

The cosmic sense of justice should eventually prevail, and if not, we'll just be a little off-balance for a few days.

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