There is one key principle upon which this site (along with its sister Stack Exchange Sites) rely upon -- that is namely, voting.

Voting is important to establish who knows their f-stops from their guide numbers; which in turn adds an air of authority to your answers. Using the latest data dump it is possible to analyse who gets more votes than they give - at time of writing, there is a handful of people that are happy to receive votes, but less keen to share their votes out. The site needs people with a high reputation to help bring the community together, voting to close questions that are not suitable, and eventually gaining access to the moderator tools.

I'm keen that the community doesn't stagnate, and that people are rewarded for their input into the community; I know we already have two badges to encourage people to vote for others, but how can we encourage more voting?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ is it wrong, or spot on, that I gave this question an up vote? ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – lindes
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 1:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to toot my own horn, but I made a post about this in Math.SE which I think is highly relevant. It was originally stolen from a post on the tex.SE meta. meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/662/vote-early-vote-often \$\endgroup\$
    – BBischof
    Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 17:29

7 Answers 7


I find it a little odd that I am even in that list. I believe I have more votes on this site than anyone, and I am still listed in the top 100 people who don't vote? I even spent a couple weeks doing nothing but digging through questions specifically looking for those people who were new to the site, and needed rep to be able to effectively use StackExchange's features, and gave them up votes...on both questions and answers. I also go through the top users list every week or two, and look through the top up-and-comer. If their answers (or questions) are solid, I go through them all and give an up vote (or downvote) where deserved.

Given that, I believe that query might suffer a little bit from some volume anemia. Statistical calculations often require a large pool of source data to provide usefully accurate results. We still have a fairly small user base, and I don't know that we can really state conclusively one way or another yet whether people are adequately voting or not. Granted, the top users from Rowlands query have a high enough ratio that they probably needed a kick in the butt, but the lower half of that list seems to be doing a decent job. The bottom half of users had both up and down votes in decent quantity for the volume of our site, and given the age of many of their memberships. We can't forget that people vote what they see...as time goes on, there will be more and more new members who may indeed be active voters...but whom will likely not go way back in time to vote on old questions. That will ultimately skew the results of such a query if it is not restricted to a more recent time periods.

Statistically, I think that list is interesting, but not particularly useful at the moment. At least, not by selecting the top 100 users. It might be more useful to select the top 25 users for now, and as our membership grows, select more. From a statistical standpoint, I think a smaller aggregation (25, maybe even just 15) would provide a higher ratio of useful results to distinct data points than an aggregation of the top 100 users.


I think the fundamental premise behind the aggregation here should be examined. The basic algorithm used is as follows:

Ratio = (100 * Rep/10) / (Upvotes+1)

First, this does not take into account all of a persons voting, it only takes into account up votes. Down votes count too according to the discussion here, and should be factored in:

Ratio = (100 * Rep/10) / (Upvotes + Downvotes + 1)

Now, this divides rep by 10, then multiplies it by 100. That is effectively the same as multiplying it by 10. I think this might have been an error in parentheses, though.

A more useful rating might be the following:

Ratio = (((Upvotes + Downvotes + 1) / (Reputation/10)) * 100) - 100

This equation provides a useful division between all of the members involved in the query. Anyone with a rating over 100% has a positive voting ratio when compared to their reputation, where as anyone with a rating under 100% has a negative voting ratio when compared to their reputation. In the case of myself and Rowland, we would both have a positive ratio, which I believe is more appropriate. The top few members from Rowlands current query would have a negative ratio (which might give more punch to that kick in the butt. ;)) By turning ratings into scalar numbers, you now effectively have a voting index, which ranks voters from best to worst (or worst to best, however you choose to sort) by what I hope is a more useful value.

Here is a comparison of the results between the ratio of the top few people in Rowland's query, and Rowland's & my own ratio:

             |  Ratio   | "Voting Index"
 First Entry | 1323.08% |      -93
Second Entry | 1214.29% |      -91
         Jon |   68.72% |      +47
     Rowland |   45.59% |     +121

Rowland and I, as well as many other people here, are good voters. Rowland in particular is STELLAR, and has put his time into tweeting and sharing links to boost the sites visibility as well (I'm not a tweeter myself.) I think it is only appropriate that Rowland shows up in a voting index at the top, and is 121 index rating seems accurate to me. ;) There are also several other people who are considerably better at voting than either Rowland or myself, and a simple percentage ratio won't really bring those people to light. Here is a new query based on this new formula, that uses the rest of Rowlands query, which shows some intriguing results. I think @whuber deserves some major props for having an index rank of 775, and @Grant Palin comes in a close second at 539. In the inverse, negative rankings are about the same as they were in Rowlands query.


Here is a full explanation of my query, the nuances of which have come out while discussing weighting and grading on a curve with @Lindes. There are some interesting points about the equation I've used that those of you who like statistics might find intriguing:

  1. This index ranks the relative performance of each member's voting.
  2. Differentiating between those who are voting well vs. those who are not is easy:
    • Positive rankings indicate that you have given more votes than you get
    • Negative rankings indicate that you have been getting more votes than you give
  3. The worst ranking is -100, kind of like absolute zero on the kelvin scale:
    • If you are a new user with zero votes, you'll be ranked -100
    • If you are a big time answerer with 10,000 rep but have not voted on anyone, you'll be ranked -100
    • If you ask a ton of questions, but never vote or accept answers, you'll be ranked -100
  4. There is no cap to how high you can be ranked:
    • If you have a rank of 100, your a good community member
    • If you have a rank of 500 or more, you are a stellar voter, but you might want to answer more questions or ask some of your own
  5. Some common grades can be given to various ranks:
    • F: -100 to -35
    • D: -35 to 0
    • C: 0 to 35
    • B: 35 to 100
    • A: 100+
  6. The query sorts from best voters to worst voters by default
    • The goal is to provide an incentive to vote
    • The antithesis would be to sort by worst voter in order to "punish" or "shame" those who don't vote
    • I believe incentivising voting through positive reinforcement is a better approach
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for definitely doubting whether the volume makes the set statistically valid \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 0:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ You'll note that it's the "top 100" users, but only lists 64 people (as of a few moments ago, anyway, and with the default parameters of 500 min rep, and 0 min votes). So, that you show up on the list at all just means you're among the people in that data set with 500+ rep... which I have, but not according to that data set (I'm guessing it lags by a few days). :) \$\endgroup\$
    – lindes
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @lindes: Aye, thats a very good point. I am not sure that this particular query actually suffers from volume really. It is an individual ranking of each member, and if the maximum number of results are limited to 100 or 500 or something like that, no amount of additional data is going to really affect the rankings. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 4:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good analysis and kudos to you and Roland for being such stellar voters. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ My own voting isn't really that great..my index is 47, so I get a B grade. ;P There are some voters who have well over 100, though, and they should definitely get some kudos. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jrista - A heck of a lot better than mine, though mine is improving, I'm almost to 'D' territory now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC: I wasn't gonna say anything. ;P Voting is still only one community contribution out of many. Providing useful answers to questions is still the primary purpose of the site, and you excel at that. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 8:01

I tend to agree with rfusca and, well, chills42 and Rowland too. Voting is important, either direction, and so is answering questions. This site, however, does attract either a lot of experience (look at Matt Grum for example, he's rocketed up the charts because of the quality of his answers) or total newbies, the in-between don't really seem to pop in here much or are already finding their questions answered.

I think, to be honest, for a number of us, we either answer a question that catches our eye or vote it up if there is an answer we agree with, but we don't really look at questions we're not interested in or don't have an answer. So, if you answer a lot, you may not vote as much as a result of that. As rfusca said, the focus here is much tighter than the original SE site could ever be and think that is part of what drives this behaviour.

The stats are interesting though, so I'll try to do better with my average. :)


There's a difference between this site and original SO in that the breadth of knowledge is much narrower. If you're coming to this site, odds are you're either an expert and trying to gain rep by answering questions or you're fairly new (like me) and mostly trying to get answers. For me, I often don't feel that qualified to vote on many, many subjects (although I've been trying to vote more lately).

On original SO, you may have questions about Python, but be an expert on C#...thus you can ask questions and feel comfortable voting. While this is true to a certain degree here, it doesn't feel that way as much to me. Many folks seem to be an expert or a noob - not between. Just my two cents.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember though that this list is mainly about high reputation people who do relatively little voting. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 9:29

I fully agree with Rowland on this one. The only reason I can see for not voting is that people don't fully understand the importance, not only for specific questions, but for the site as a whole. Since by design there is little difference between high reputation users and moderators, the site quality improves as we have more high rep users. Therefore, we need more people voting for good questions and answers.

Everyone needs to remember that voting is absolutely necessary in order for the site to function. The more votes (both up and down) the easier it is to find good answers. If a question is helpful, thank the author with an upvote.

That said, humans tend to be a bit selfish :) ... so there are badges.

Rowland mentioned 2, but there are actually several more badges that specifically encourage upvoting.

All of these are earned through voting. I think that's a pretty clear indication how important it is to vote.

I'm not saying that we should all blindly vote on everything we see, but when something is helpful, vote it up, when it is incorrect and/or harmful, vote it down.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You say that people don't fully understand the importance of voting. But remember we are talking about high reputation people who are active participants. Their reputation has been built on other peoples votes. I am sure they understand the importance of voting. That they vote relatively little is likely the outcome of a perverse incentive scheme that strongly rewards answers but not votes. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 9:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not claiming that they wouldn't at least partially understand the effects of voting, I just don't know if people realize the greater impact that voting has on the community as a whole. \$\endgroup\$
    – chills42
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 14:30

It is an old adage that, with people, you tend to get what you measure for. Since the site primarily measures answers to questions that is what people tend to do. There are few incentives to vote for questions so that gets neglected.

Your table illustrates this perfectly where the majority of high reputation people do little voting (it is actually quite a shocking result).
I know badges are intended to provide an incentive but clearly they do not.
I doubt things will change unless the site provides more visible incentives for voting. In the mean time people will pursue their primary goal of building reputation at the expense of voting.

Thanks for the analysis, I will certainly work harder at voting.

  • \$\begingroup\$ random idea: what if badge count acted as some sort of (not necessarily direct) multiplier to your reputation score? That would be a way of changing what we measure for... though then it would produce new behaviors, which might not actually be any better. And of course, not everyone is necessarily motivated by the numbers. They're just one way to potentially effect reinforcement -- but it's not a reinforcer if one doesn't care. (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinforcement ) \$\endgroup\$
    – lindes
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 1:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why not simply give reputation for voting? \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 2:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Reid, yes that could work, though one would have to consider possible unintended consequences. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 9:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Reid There was a site I used to use a lot that meant there was a chance of gaining reputation by voting the same way as everyone else (you'd only see the reputation on questions you'd voted on, or asked) A model like that can work, but it might be too radical departure for Stack Exchange, as it would need to work across each and every site in the network. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 21:35

It's possible that people aren't realizing that the up- and down-triangles mean positive and negative votes. We could try a thumbs-up and thumbs-down icon instead.

This would be easy to test - swap in the new icons, see if there's a change.

(It's indeed subtle, but it could matter. As a researcher in human-computer interaction, this would be one of the things I'd look at.)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with you that subtle changes can often have striking effects we must remember in this case that we are dealing with very active users who know the site well. They have already built up a large reputation by contributing many useful answers. With their high activity levels it is safe to assume that they know their way around the site. The problem is quite simply they see little advantage to themselves by voting. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 9:18

Maybe reputation could be given if you vote up on something, and it later becomes popular? Or at least some kind of badge? I'm sure the data is available somewhere, and if there was this kind of incentive, I think it would encourage people to vote more.


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