I'm a moderator from MathOverflow, and this "question" is actually unsolicited advice, based on our experience from the initial launch of MathOverflow.

We should encourage everyone to vote positively as often as possible!

Every Stack Exchange site will eventually end up with a different "base level" of voting --- that is, the expected number of upvotes for a question of a given level of excellence. (This effect occurs because people see a good question, but already with a certain number of votes, and think "oh, I would have upvoted this, but it already has enough".)

It's easy for us to affect this "base level" by encouraging high levels of upvoting now. We're setting the standards, and this really will have an effect.

(On MathOverflow, we were very active about this early on, specifically encouraging all the initial round of users to vote early and often. You can compare statistics, and see that the average vote total for a MathOverflow question is much higher than on any of the other SE 1.0 sites.)

In case it's not obvious: the rationale for wanting this base level to be high is that it provides better positive feedback to good contributors.

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    A good rule of thumb: if you can be bother answering the question, it's good enough to upvote! Also, be kind, and upvote any good competing answers that exist when you give your answer. – Scott Morrison Jul 26 '10 at 20:09
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    that's good advice. on MO I automatically upvote any question that I even think about writing an answer for – Suresh Jul 26 '10 at 23:33
  • And if being kind isn't sufficient, based on my observations the "base level" effect also applies locally to some extent, so upvoting answers that are good--but not quite as good as your own--offers a small bonus for your own expected u̶t̶i̶l̶i̶t̶y̶ reputation. – camccann Jul 27 '10 at 0:52
  • Thanks for all the upvotes, hehe :-) More advice --- aspire to hit the voting cap as often as possible, especially in the first few weeks. If you haven't hit it today, go find some good stuff! – Scott Morrison Jul 27 '10 at 18:17
  • I'm sorely tempted to keep tweaking this question so that it stays "sticky" at the top of meta! I keep forgetting to vote so it's good to have this reminder. – Loop Space Aug 13 '10 at 12:18
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    Just a thought coming from the discussion on older hands holding back a bit, in the first week or so of this site I found it fun to try to hit the rep cap a few times (having almost never done it on MO!). Now, I think my goal should be to hit the vote cap a few times too. – Loop Space Aug 19 '10 at 14:48
  • Same here: I have managed this today and need to wait till tomorrow to have a second go :-) – Joseph Wright Aug 19 '10 at 19:00
  • One thing I notice is that you are allowed 30 votes per day. That seems a lot, but each time you get a good question with a couple of equally-valid answers then that's three votes. I'm going to be hitting the limit a lot! – Joseph Wright Aug 21 '10 at 8:42
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    I just got the "pundit" badge. When I went to see exactly what it meant, I wondered why I hadn't gotten it on MO. Then I discovered that despite having been on MO nearly since its inception, I've voted less than 200 times! I'm feeling a little guilty that in a little over a month I've voted more here than in the entire history of MO. – Loop Space Aug 25 '10 at 19:12

I've gone through a number of changes in my behaviour on the site since I joined more than 5 years ago. The reputation bug is a big driver for any newcomer to the site. However, while receiving reputation is awesome, giving it (through voting) should be reciprocated. If a post adds value, cast your vote. If that addition is negative or useless, downvote; if it's positive, upvote. If you're indifferent, then perhaps abstain. This is a fairly simple understanding of how the community grows. And it's really easy to get with the program.

For those of you who don't vote, challenge yourself. Try to vote at least once a day. I find myself often looking at user's profiles to see their voting activity. High-rep users with low voting behaviour is really a behaviour I don't fully understand.

While I know the community votes a lot, it is definitely telling to see that there had only been a "handful" of sportsmanship badges awarded thus far. In fact, there had been more altruist badges awarded (first bounty on someone else's question). One way of interpreting this could be that people are really not willing to vote on competing answers because they may not end up on top, or, are only willing to vote if they've been voted for. Well then, if it's all about reputation for you, then know that without others voting, you won't be receiving much reputation yourself... reciprocate.

  • Of all things, the sportmanship badge may be not a good example, as this is not only about voting for others, but it highly depends on the number of answers per question - the biggest hurdle for this badge is to wait until 100 other user answer a question you also have answered and thus give you the ability to upvote their answer. – samcarter Oct 2 '16 at 15:22
  • @samcarter Maybe it depends on the questions you answer. I'm really surprised there are only 75. – cfr Oct 6 '16 at 3:23
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    @crf Maybe I should leave the beamer corner more often - seems to be a different world out there :) – samcarter Oct 6 '16 at 11:59

As your question isn't really a question, I'll make my answer be a question. What is the advantage of the "vote early, vote often" advice? All it seems to do is raise the base level for questions and answers. I'm not sure that I agree that it provides "better positive feedback to good contributors" since everyone ends up with higher levels regardless of how good the contribution was.

Up votes only seem to increase the up-voted user's reputation, but it's not even clear to me why that's so important. Once I reached the reputation to leave comments, I was satisfied. I guess it's sort of neat to see the number of up and down votes, but I'm not sure why that should be tied to any reputation level. It seems rude to edit another user's posts or retag their questions (they might have had a good reason for the tags they chose!) so that doesn't seem particularly useful. I guess my "reputation is dumb" rant should be saved for another time.

That said, I up vote questions and answers I think are deserving–and do so pretty frequently—but I don't see any reason to just up vote every question/answer I read.

This doesn't really reflect my opinion any more. I've edited posts, maybe even retagged questions, and voted often enough to get the Electorate badge. I do note that there are some users with high rep who have never or almost never voted. I wonder if they see little value in it (as I did when I wrote this post originally) or if they really think no questions/answers are good or bad. Probably the former.

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    Scotts comments made the intention clearer: he encourages to upvote good questions and also good competing answers. He didn't say upvote all. The final 'go find some good stuff' might convince new users to look also at earlier posts and upvote or downvote if they like or dislike it. – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 25 '10 at 13:03
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    Also upvoting helps new users feel welcome, especially if they quickly reach the critical 50 rep. – Caramdir Aug 25 '10 at 13:14
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    Part of the point of the SO model is that more 'reputable' people can do some editing of answers, the idea being that the overall standard of answers will hopefully be raised (or at least that's my take). So for example retagging a question is something that is supposed to ensure that the tags have some meaning: the more experienced people on the site can spot 'oh, we always use tag X for this'. In the same way, editing other peoples answers is (I hope) intended mainly to maintain the standard, such as formatting code, correcting typos, etc., not to alter the substance of the answer. – Joseph Wright Aug 25 '10 at 16:08

Our top voter, and only Civic Duty badge winner, is vanden.

I believe my question here:

An answer not answering the question getting a lot of votes

illustrates why both principles "vote early" and "vote often" are problematic:

  • Voting early may mean voting for the worst answer of several.
  • Voting early may mean you fail to vote later.
  • Voting early and/or often means voting without ensuring the answer is relevant/generally satisfactory.
  • Voting too early and/or often can piss off people who believe the vote was not meritted.
  • (This is not about the question I linked to) careless voting encourages "reputation-whoring": Writing irrelevant/nebulous/content-free answers just so that you've answered and can get votes.
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    I trust our fellow uses to upvote good content. More votes give more variance (4/3/2 is clearer than 1/1/0), carefully rewarded contributions give the authors more access to site features or to spend bounties. If I see a question or answer of you, do you expect me to postpone voting, to rarely vote? I still think, vote if you see something good, because later you perhaps don't visit again. And if you do and see more good contributions, vote again. I read a lot and casted 4,104 votes, there are users who voted even more. Seeing top voters, I see high rep people who know for sure what's good. – Stefan Kottwitz Nov 26 '11 at 20:21
  • Voting here can also refer to downvotes. If you're active on the site, you'll see other answers pop and therefore also be able to contribute a vote to those (up or down). As such, I don't see much merit in a statement like "*Voting early may mean voting for the worst answer of several". – Werner Oct 2 '16 at 6:50
  • "Voting early may mean you fail to vote late"... So what? You cast your vote because you're actively invested in that moment. Should one necessarily abstain from voting until an answer is accepted, then revisit the question and cast your votes? What if the accepted question is incorrect? Sure it may have "helped the OP the most", but it could be incorrect... Moreover, what would be your opinion of people who never go back and vote on such questions that they "left for later"? – Werner Oct 2 '16 at 6:52
  • It would be helpful if you could provide some evidence of the statement "Voting early and/or often means voting without ensuring the answer is relevant/generally satisfactory". This suggests that most early voters don't really consider any thought in terms of their voting behaviour. I am sure there are some voters who vote as a form of "mark as read", but they are surely in the minority... across the entire network. – Werner Oct 2 '16 at 6:55

Also I want to add : If you can't answer then up vote it

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    i'm afraid i have to disagree. upvoting an ill-formed or off-topic question does a disservice to both the site and the person who asked the question. a better approach in such a situation is to comment, politely, on how to make the question better, or point out where it may be more appropriate. that said, if a question is well formed and on topic, and you understand the problem being asked about, then there is no good reason not to vote for it. – barbara beeton Feb 14 '17 at 14:55

The second Civic Duty badge has been awarded to Jukka Suomela.

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