Today I found another example: How to make a 16-gon?. This question shows no research effort whatsoever, yet it has been upvoted with a net of 4. Not only that, it has been answered by 3 different people. I haven't seen this happen on other communities of SE, but I do see it repeatedly here. I have noticed that this community of SE is less strict on the site's policy and guidelines than others. I'm not saying I'm against it, in fact, I've seen other communities where the closing squad jumps the gun, which is the other side of the spectrum and leads to even more frustration if (arguably) unjustified. Is it the result of people wanting to build reputation? Am I missing something?

  • 1
    The two things are separate: it only takes four people a few seconds to upvote to +4, whereas writing a (good) answer for almost any question takes time. Presumably you'd like answers for each area?
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Sep 17, 2015 at 7:50
  • @Joseph Wright Good point. However, maybe there is a connection. People who answer questions are also more likely to vote up, either because they find the question good, or simply because they want to give their answer more attention. Sep 17, 2015 at 8:01
  • Why would upvoting the question get answers more attention?
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Sep 17, 2015 at 8:02
  • 1
    @Joseph Wright Upvoting makes questions more popular, which in turn makes the linked answers more popular. It's a theory, not stating that this is what's happening. Nonetheless, it's a discussion I feel is not misplaced here. Sep 17, 2015 at 8:07
  • 2
    We've some guys here that upvote anything, good or bad (stupid?) questions (and answers), some questions are upvoted basically in the same second they appear here... I've stopped to wonder about this, but occasionally answer even this question somehow to find out if this was what the O.P. meant
    – user31729
    Sep 17, 2015 at 8:24
  • 6
    No, there is no rep-hunting happening here I think. People here get motivated by the idea of helping others, and while we celebrate each 100k user etc. (we do this in the chat), this is more a social thing than an "achievement". The achievement people get and seek (IMHO) is being recognized as a helper and as a provider of insight in the problems.
    – yo'
    Sep 17, 2015 at 8:52
  • 7
    I believe many people see the question and answer it just because they can and they like to tinker with TeX.
    – Philipp
    Sep 19, 2015 at 18:10
  • 1
    Because Newbs be needing answers. (newb checking in!)
    – j0h
    Sep 30, 2015 at 12:41

2 Answers 2


Complementary arguments to Joseph's answer:

Couple of things maybe you might take into account about this community: It is indeed a community. This doesn't make us immune to regular moderation and implementations of the rest of the network but in terms of behavior, at least I, can't care less what other networks impose. We have discussed these items lots and lots of times but let me briefly summarize:

  1. "Research effort" is an ill-defined and ambiguous concept. Dumping some irrelevant code or copy-pasting a code from somewhere is also slacking. Instead of satisfying your inner police, you can simply answer it, if you understand the question. Forcing the user to ask as you wish it is asked, is detrimental. There is no need to act like a robot. (Not that I imply that you do this, just saying).

  2. In general, people here rather amazingly act according to an unspoken pact such that if somebody already answered in the ball park of some methodology, others instead of posting a competing answer, ask for adding features of that particular method. You can hardly see answers that are duplicates of each other. And if somebody's answer is better we mostly delete ours voluntarily. That is pretty much not happening elsewhere as far as I know.

  3. I vote to mark things as read. In SO people build career over that stuff. Here what would it matter if I had 20k, or 100k? So this rep points frenzy is not our problem. Hence you can use it as liberal as you wish. But for the sake of argument let's say voting is something important for some metric. Still voting is one-sided. For community building, a new-comer having -6 votes without even understanding what voting means is plain stupid to have on a place where it continuously brags about community-building. Because everybody knows what a negative number means. But you might not understand what a number means that is randomly increasing. And some of us, believe it or not, really don't care. I sometimes upvote just to make people get out of the beginner priviledge restrictions.

  4. I don't think the question is poor. It is pretty to the point. Some basic TeX document code would have been nicer but my answer is also not so long anyways. I think we all know what a poor question is by now.

  5. We are not a cult. If we are claiming that people come here to ask questions, then we should act like so. Currently, I always feel like I'm on the customs authority office caught with some substance in my pocket, if I try to ask things on the other sites. It takes so long time, before the residents give a lecture about site rules and how to ask and by then I figure out by asking on an old fashioned mailing list or asking a colleague etc.

Having said all these, I also agree that TikZ questions get unjustified upvotes occasionally. Because I guess seeing is believing though other answers, you really think hard for a few hours that fix stuff internally, hardly makes it to 5.

Long story short, if you read a question and you think it is not that trivial and you understand what is asked, just answer it. The community is free to appreciate it with clicking the arrows and making the number under your square increase.

We downvote to mark something is seriously wrong, and -1 is enough to be negative. How would you compare a -6 question -13 question? Is it twice as bad? Is -6 better than -13 in terms of question quality? Instead here negative vote is a boolean and one vote is enough to make it negative enough.

  • 5
    You make some nice points from a valid perspective. It actually makes me glad to hear that this community is less "robotic" than the general impression I had of SE. Sep 17, 2015 at 9:33
  • 8
    +1 for I sometimes voting to get people out of the beginner limits: I have certainly done that before (never for a MetaPost/PSTricks/TikZ/Asymptote question, but that's not my world ... except for curiosity). I also am quick to ask for an MWE; if it is provided, I tend to +1 for that reason alone. As for rep, give everyone a million. I'm here to learn; answering questions is often a good way to do that ... second only to reading the answers of others.
    – jon
    Sep 19, 2015 at 3:45
  • +1 though to put a different slant on your last paragraph: A 2nd or even 3rd downvote is like an independent confirmation of the first. Beyond that and it's just piling on for the sake of it. I've just tried to check how many downvotes I've given and the answer is apparently 1 -- I guess the ones on Qs/As that were later deleted aren't kept.
    – Chris H
    Sep 25, 2015 at 13:57
  • I am really sad to see question downvoted without any comment.
    – touhami
    Sep 27, 2015 at 7:07
  • I'd like to add an example to this answer: This question in its original form was of very poor quality and I initially flagged it for deletion. On top of that OP was very rude in the comments. Still, the question received 8 upvotes and 6 downvotes, which leaves it with a score of +2, and it has seven answers! May 13, 2016 at 8:35

I'll take the two factors separately and give what I understand here (I've neither voted for the question nor answered it).

Voting for questions is essentially a positive action: downvotes on TeX-sx are in general sparse and usually used for cases where a real issue arises. For most of the 'regulars', simply not voting at all is a good indication of an issue with a question: most good questions should have significantly positive scores. Now, if a few people do decide to upvote weaker questions, that can lead to a net positive score as here. However, that shouldn't be a big issue: most of the really useful questions end up with much bigger values.

In terms of answering, this process is independent of the question in a sense. Using the 'crystal ball' approach is pretty common for answering TeX issues, so many of us are adept at it. Particularly for graphics questions there is a long-standing question/issue/tension about whether to answer 'draw it for me' questions (see for example Our Do-it-for-me and Draw-it-for-me comments don't reflect our hypocrisy. Can they be improved?). For me, whilst I don't answer these in general I do see why people do: the OP needs help, setting up drawings from code is hard and they may really not know what to do. Certainly many of the answers to these questions show off some powerful techniques, so I have no problem uvoting such answers.

  • 28
    i think one factor has been overlooked. regarding graphics questions, if the desired result is clear, some people find creating drawings and diagrams with the available tools to be fun, and that's how they like to spend their spare time. some of those results get posted in various "showcases", and some end up here as answers. and demonstrations of good techniques, even if in answers to "bad" questions, can be instructive to the rest of the community. (so i too might upvote such an answer, while not upvoting the question.) Sep 17, 2015 at 12:32
  • 7
    @barbarabeeton There's also something satisfyingly self-contained about such questions: you know all the pieces of the puzzle and a solution creates a complete thing. With lots of questions, that's not the case. At least, it doesn't feel the same.
    – cfr
    Sep 18, 2015 at 21:54
  • 1
    @barbarabeeton Let's not forget the existence of the "Reversal" gold badge, "Provide an answer of +20 score to a question of -5 score". Three have been awarded to date. Sep 29, 2015 at 11:50
  • @StevenB.Segletes The sole existence of this badge shows how the SE model is broken in its philosophy.
    – yo'
    Sep 30, 2015 at 15:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .