This question is, by our standards, a pretty poor question - it doesn't contain nearly enough detail for us to work out the answer, and despite some polite prompting, the poster hasn't added an example. The question has now (quite rightly IMO) been closed as unclear.

Yet this question got four upvotes, which is more than a lot of perfectly reasonable questions got around here. On the assumption that there's not something fascinating about this question which I and the other close voters haven't spotted, do we have any thoughts as to what it is that made this question get a non-trivial number of upvotes, or more constructively, is there something we should change so that good questions get upvotes and poor ones like this don't?

  • My guess, sock puppetry. That or people feeling really, really in the spirit of the season. – AJ Henderson Dec 22 '14 at 20:41
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    I doubt sock puppet voting, but I'd hazard that a few have had a similar issue at one time or another. In any event, anyone can vote, that's the nature of the game here... – John Cavan Dec 22 '14 at 23:04
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    The winter bash has a hat rewarded for using all your upvotes for a day with at least 10 used on questions. It doesn't surprise me to see some lax upvoting. – Mitch Goshorn Dec 23 '14 at 20:28
  • @MitchGoshorn The "I Voted Today" hat is just for using all your votes in a day, with at least ten on questions. The votes can be up or down and, since there's a badge ("Fake Crab") for downvoting five posts in a day, the perverse incentive is to downvote good questions, not upvote bad ones. – David Richerby Jan 1 '15 at 21:38

It is completely unnecessary to up vote a question to allow the user to upload an image. As proof:

screen shot

Note the unregistered 1 rep user, picture, and post. The post in question is this (it should be deleted soon and then become a 10k link).

So, the question of why the post gets upvotes? The misunderstanding of when you need rep to post a picture (its still required on Stack Overflow - just no where else), and Winter bash.

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    Yeah, I just saw that. Huh — it was definitely case here earlier, so it got changed along the line somewhere. – mattdm Jan 8 '15 at 0:17
  • I like how the SE folks made a change that significantly impacts this site but didn't announce it to us. We even asked for this feature previously on meta. It's nice that it's changed I guess, but just annoying we didn't know. – dpollitt Jan 10 '15 at 16:08
  • Wowsers. Well, that makes it easier to solve this problem then :-) – Philip Kendall Jan 14 '15 at 9:31

One reason to upvote questions like this a little bit is so that new users can upload images. In this case, the upvote isn't an indication that it's a great question, but that the asker isn't malicious, and hopefully will come back and make the improvements requested in the comments. (In this case, providing the details @dpollitt asks for, as well as a sample image). I didn't in this case, but I think upvoting until the user has 11 rep and voting to put on hold as unclear at the same time could make sense.

Apparently, somewhere along time line, the image posting restriction for new users was removed, relaxed, or replaced with some other more complicated heuristic. Even unregistered users now can post images without upvotes. But, this wasn't ever announced in a big way (I don't see anything on meta), so many long-time users don't know that. Thanks to MichaelT for performing the experiment. I still think that this is the correct answer for what happened, though — even if we don't need to do that anymore.

However, that doesn't explain the +5 — here, I agree with the comments above that winter bash is probably to blame.

  • Although self fulfilling, I believe this is the right answer. Myself I voted up the question because I wanted the user to post a sample image(and have the rep to do so) and I believe others did as well due to my comment pointing that fact out. My "boilerplate" comment received 11 votes, which is quite a few at this site for any comment. So clearly people read it and agreed that the user needed rep to post an image and also probably thought the only way to do that was by voting the question up. – dpollitt Dec 31 '14 at 3:39
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    While I understand the motivation here, it seems a bit bonkers to me that we're consciously upvoting a bad question. Does anyone know if it's possible to get the "embed images" privilege available to everyone just on photo.SE, and do people think this would cause huge problems if we did? I think I see most of the spam posted here and I don't think it would cause problems, but it may be our mods get a lot of stuff before I see it. – Philip Kendall Dec 31 '14 at 22:53
  • We had an episode were a troll was creating new accounts and posting vulgarities. I'm definitely glad the system prevented these from posting images. I don't think we want to change it; the harm is relatively minor and it's not normal for these to get more than one or two upvotes. – mattdm Dec 31 '14 at 22:54
  • How about a new user gets a comment on his post containing the keyword or something, made by a reputable user? So, if somone asks to, upload an image, it will then be allowed. i was originally thinking any comment, but what about comments saying "off topic"? Short of a flag you can click, on other than the generic upvote, the comment itself is all there is to go by. – JDługosz Jan 1 '15 at 1:55
  • I've accepted this answer on the basis that it's the answer to my original question. I'll post another answer with some concrete thoughts on how to handle this situation in future. – Philip Kendall Jan 1 '15 at 19:19
  • @jdlugosz While I like the idea in theory, I suspect that would be too much work for the SE devs to implement for it to be worth it for our limited use case. – Philip Kendall Jan 1 '15 at 19:27
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    @PhilipKendall We have talked about that before in Meta and I doesn't seem likely that it will happen. I really wish more posts here had photos and this is one of the big hurdles that explains why we don't. – dpollitt Jan 2 '15 at 1:45
  • Maybe allow to attach images, but not display by default them unless clicked? – Vi0 Jan 4 '15 at 1:05
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    You don't need 10 rep to post an image on Photo.SE: i.stack.imgur.com/5a5u0.png – user13451 Jan 8 '15 at 0:16
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    @MichaelT Thanks for testing. Not sure when that changed, but you definitely used to need to. – mattdm Jan 8 '15 at 0:24
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    @mattdm I'm trying to find the reference for it, and I suspect its in a comment somewhere since I can't find it easily (or a deleted post). It certainly was the case at some point in the not distant past, but it was changed. I believe it was tangental to meta.stackoverflow.com/a/268475/289086 in which SE realized for SO at least, its a better new user experience for no images... on the other hand, Photo.SE and others (DIY is another pictures help site) have a better new user experience with images being allowed. – user13451 Jan 8 '15 at 0:27

I would say its a simple case of "me too" voting. What can help with example questions like this is encouragement to post examples from perhaps not only the op but also any supporters. Ultimately the correct way to deal with unclear questions is to close them. Without a clearly defined question, even a good attempt at an answer isn't going to cover a particular problem, but can only blanket cover a broad range of problems poorly and is not fitting of the SE forums.


As noted in mattdm's answer, what was (at least partially) happening here was that people were upvoting the question so that the poster would have enough reputation (10) to be able to embed images into the question and turn it into a good question.

However, when I saw what I thought was a bad question with upvotes, I downvoted it thus (partially) undoing what others were attempting to achieve. If we see this sort of situation in future, which isn't that uncommon, would it be worth upvoting with a comment like "Upvoting purely to enable the poster to embed images - see this post on meta". Or is this just too much work to be worth it?

  • That was pretty much what my comment said. Not the same wording but same idea. – dpollitt Jan 2 '15 at 1:44

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