Maybe I am used to norms on other stack sites but I don't get why there are 5 answers for a question and no upvotes for the question itself. To me if you spent the time to answer something, then why would the question not be upvoted — I don't spend my time answering things I consider "filler". Sorry I am not giving examples but you can always use the front page as a guide because it is almost half of the questions on this site.

So to phrase my question clearly — why would you answer a question and not upvote that question?

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    If I find a question interesting enough to give a real answer, I upvote it. But that's just me. Culture isn't universal. – Mitch Mar 5 '14 at 20:10
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    It can happen that the answers provoke greater interest than the actual question itself. But generally speaking, people tend to upvote answers. Me? I'm a believer in upvoting great answers, answers which have given me food for thought and those very questions that were responsible. however, I am finding it increasingly harder to predict which questions will attract the bees and the birds. Some recent ones have been extremely ordinary and yet generated a huge amount of interest and upvotes. Do you know why? I certainly don't. – Mari-Lou A Mar 5 '14 at 22:47
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    The flip side of that coin also occurs, where a 0-vote answer is accepted — and left that way by the accepter themself! Similarly difficult to fathom. – tchrist Mar 5 '14 at 22:54
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    @Mari-LouA- so you aren't an auto upvoter if you answer? Is it cultural? – RyeɃreḁd Mar 5 '14 at 23:41
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    @tchrist - I attribute that to (usually) a new user that doesn't understand the site. It is similar though. I find that the excuses for this is - I am too lazy, I upvote so much that I have to save them, I like answering bad questions, or I am really stingy with my votes... maybe I left a couple things off. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 6 '14 at 0:12
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    I don't always upvote a question I answer, but I often do. I don't think it has to do with one's culture, but to do with how they view EL&U, their personal criteria, and their personality. – Mari-Lou A Mar 6 '14 at 4:22
  • Relevant (more for the answers than the queastion itself): meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/3452/8019 – TimLymington Mar 6 '14 at 23:51
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    I upvote questions that I've had myself - i.e. that I didn't have to ask it because someone kindly did it for me. I also upvote questions that are very well formed. I don't upvote just because the question doesn't deserve to be deleted. – Joel Brown Mar 7 '14 at 3:39
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    @tchrist new users can't upvote, but they can accept, so that's slightly more explicable. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 7 '14 at 12:39
  • I think the ELU voting pattern is pretty clear but I am more than willing to entertain reasons I should upvote questions I am willing to answer. :) – MrHen Mar 9 '14 at 17:40

I upvote questions according to the mouse-over help on the voting arrows:

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.

This question does not show any research effort; it is not useful or unclear.

I answer questions according to whether I know the answer and can support it with evidence or explanation. Lately, most of the questions I've answered have not been particularly interesting, well-researched, or well-written, but I felt I could help out the person asking regardless. Thus, I haven't up-voted many of the questions I've answered recently. (Conversely, many of the questions I've upvoted already had good answers.)

In a few cases, I have even voted to close an question that I answered, because the close reason was borderline (e.g., a duplicate question that didn't exactly match the new question).

  • You are very nice helping people with their poor questions. A saint! I also vote to close a lot of questions - most duplicates - on questions I have answered and upvoted. So do you downvote a question you answer? – RyeɃreḁd Mar 6 '14 at 16:14
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    It's rare, but I will occasionally answer questions that I've downvoted. Usually that's because the question was very poorly written and researched, but the meaning is clear enough to answer anyway, and the answer is interesting. – Bradd Szonye Mar 7 '14 at 2:08
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    I'm similar to Bradd. I tend to vote on questions based on their quality, not their content. I don't tend to upvote questions just because I find them interesting, but I may well answer a question just because I find it interesting, or just to be helpful. I am also not too liberal with my downvotes. If I feel the need to downvote a question, it is because I consider it is inherently low-quality and/or unsuited to EL&U. I might try to give some helpful leads or ideas in the comments, but I would be unlikely to both answer and downvote. – nxx Mar 7 '14 at 18:11
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    I am most similar to Bradd. My decision to upvote or downvote (or close vote) is mostly independent of my decision to answer the question. – MrHen Mar 9 '14 at 17:39
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    What @MrHen (and Bradd) said. Mostly I tend to upvote questions where it's obvious the asker has made some (or considerable) effort to resolve things for himself before posting. Or if the actual question seems inherently interesting to me personally, in which case it's unlikely I'll be posting an answer myself anyway (I'm interested because I don't know). I suppose logically if it's good enough to answer, it should be good enough to upvote, but I just don't usually feel that way. Unusually, I've upvoted this question and all three answers. – FumbleFingers Mar 10 '14 at 19:08
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    I'm going to throw another voice behind Bradd. I answer questions that I down vote all of the time. All questions deserve an answer. Sometimes that answer is a comment saying check a dictionary. Sometimes that answer is an obvious statement of the definition. And, when it's a good question, it gets a good answer. – David M Mar 11 '14 at 3:22
  • @David M When you say "Sometimes that answer is a comment", do you mean you answer in a comment, or you comment in an answer? – nxx Mar 12 '14 at 1:36
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    Many people believe it's better to answer poor questions in comments rather than posting a formal answer. FF has recently posted to that effect. – Bradd Szonye Mar 12 '14 at 1:40
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    @nxx answer in a comment when I feel it doesn't warrant more than a one-liner. As I said, a comment such as check a dictionary is an answer (but not good enough for the answer field). – David M Mar 12 '14 at 2:22

I like this question, not in the least because the simple answer is in my case

I never thought of it. If a question strikes me as particularly interesting or useful, I will upvote it, regardless of whether I will even (try to) answer it.

Actually, especially questions that I don't feel up to answering are likely to get my upvote.

On ALL, but certainly also here, some questions I do not find worthy of an upvote, but I still feel I can put in a bit of effort to provide the OP with an answer. I may even answer a question and downvote it.

The reason I like your question is that it does make me wonder if this way of working is good or acceptable, so I am very interested in other answers.


On Stack Overflow itself, most questions get up votes if the asker has tried to work out the answers before posting the question. It's like my school maths teacher always said 'show your work'.

Many of the questions on English are one line or just a few sentences with no clear indication that they tried to find the answer elsewhere beforehand. If they do, they'll be getting an up vote from me.

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    From my (somewhat limited) experience, most questions don't get upvoted based on these criteria, but rather, questions which don't meet these criteria are liable to get downvoted... – einpoklum Mar 18 '14 at 15:38

I recently heard a radio personality wonder aloud:

How can the best actor Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar not go to the same film?

I couldn't understand the confusion. An actor can do a great job acting in a very average movie, and a great film can have sufficient but not outstanding acting. (As an example, I think the first Rocky movie was a great film, but I hardly think Stallone gave an Oscar-worthy performance.) One award recognizes good acting, while the other recognizes acting PLUS those other key ingredients of a compelling film: plot, direction, editing, musical score, etc.

Similarly, I'll answer some very average questions, and upvote some I won't bother to answer.

Bradd's answer here says it so well: I often upvote questions when they are well-researched – just like the mouse-over tip says. They will consult four or five sources; sometimes, the further into the question I read, the more I am stumped.

Other questions are legitimate questions, but the research is scant. I might answer one of those, but I'm unlikely to upvote it.

I think there might be a higher correlation between number of upvotes and number of answers in some of the more technical Stack Exchanges, but that's just a hunch right now.


To me, personally, it is an issue of expertise.

I am, as far as I'm concerned, qualified to correctly answer (or at least attempt to correctly answer) many of the questions posed on this site. I feel that I am also qualified enough to judge whether or not someone else's answers are accurate.

However, I am hardly a Stack Exchange expert.

Nine times out of ten, when I see a question get closed for reasons other than redundancy, I have no idea why that question is being closed. Usually a reason is provided, but I often find that reason lacking, or I fail to see how the reason applies to the current situation. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any recent examples off the top of my hand, but regardless, I feel there is a major disconnect between what I would consider an appropriate and perfectly valid question to ask and what the general English Language & Usage community would consider appropriate to ask.

I assume that many of the lower-reputation members probably feel similarly. But maybe it's just me.

I understand that the question should show evidence of research, and I understand that the question should be understandable and clear, and I understand that the question shouldn't be "Do my homework", but aside from that, I've seen very little uniformity in what constitutes an "inadequate" question.

That's not to say there isn't a set of rules and guidelines - rather, I just haven't figured it out yet, and so I don't feel qualified to rate most questions as "good" or "bad".

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