In terms of welcoming people there is an inbuilt solution already. Upvotes. It encourages people, whether it's a new user or an experienced one. I see no need to be stingy with upvotes, they cost nothing but a mouse click.

A recent question I answered had 5 other answers, I upvoted 4 of them, the chaps put in the effort and had reasonable answers, so at zero cost I gave them a small morale boost. My rationale is that we deal with people, the accepted or highest voted answer may not be the best in all situations. So it increases the visibility of other reasonable answers, and there is no downside.

The flip side is that I don't see any point in discouraging people who make an effort. So downvotes should be used more sparingly. It's axiomatic that a stronger and healthier community exists when people encourage each other.

I know this seems simple which is probably why no one mentions it, and most of you probably do it anyway.

Just my opinion.

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    I agree. if I see a new user, I am far more forgiving with my votes. I will refrain from down-voting when I normally would, and will upvote if I might not normally do so. I will also edit for tone. The lifeboat and lifejacket badges exist for a reason – Old_Lamplighter Apr 1 at 13:02
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    I think it is especially important to upvote when an author has responded to comments and requests for information. Negative reinforcement (downvotes because something is missing) isn't as effective as positive reinforcement (upvotes for doing something right) in an online community where everyone is participating voluntarily. In my opinion downvotes on questions should only be for repeatedly ignoring feedback from the community about quality or obvious spam or trolling. Answers that are wrong need to be downvoted though, regardless of whether they are written by a newcomer. – ColleenV Apr 1 at 13:16
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    I upvote what I consider useful answers/questions. If I don't agree/like the answer/question I will just ignore it. If it is a bad answer or repeat/troll/etc. I downvote. – Neo Apr 1 at 13:29
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    These are all good analysis. I had a suspicion everyone was already way ahead of me on this. But I posted anyway :-) – Kilisi Apr 1 at 13:42
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    @ColleenV I do agree, but keep in mind that we don't usually have much in the way of "repeat customers" so there's a limit to what positive reinforcement can realistically accomplish. But if the decision is between leaving a comment to ask the OP to improve or downvoting then obviously the former should really by the goal. I might even argue that negative reinforcement on our site (which is much less technical and has a lot of non-SE traffic) does more harm than good. – Lilienthal Apr 1 at 16:37
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    @Lilienthal it’s not a matter of how many people are repeat customers. Converting first-time posters into active members is something the site has to do to stay healthy. I think encouraging people who ask questions to become active members may be more important than wooing the people answering. Active users should be both contributing questions and answers, but it seems like the system results in veteran users being primarily answerers. Assuming people asking are “drive-bys” that won’t benefit from being rewarded for being engaged is a self-fulfilling prophecy. – ColleenV Apr 1 at 17:03
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    And to elaborate a bit more, if the question/answer has potential if time permits I will suggest and edit. – Neo Apr 1 at 18:17
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    @ColleenV Ah ok, I was thinking about positive reinforcement in the sense of encouraging future posters to improve their questions. That doesn't really work an influx of new users. But when it comes to retaining people in the community that's indeed a different matter. – Lilienthal Apr 1 at 20:10
  • @ColleenV, 'Assuming people asking are “drive-bys”' - can't help making a note that sometimes, should a veteran want to ask a question, he might be inclined to do so incognito, using a one-off throw away account. Some questions state that, some might not. – Igor G Apr 6 at 12:38
  • @IgorG I imagine that quite a few people create one-off accounts for questions about situations that might be recognized by their coworkers. We may never see the impact of our helpful comments or edits. I know for a fact though members engaging with new users has converted a few into active users on other stacks. Most of the time it’s pretty thankless though. – ColleenV Apr 6 at 12:59

If I see a good, well thought-out answer that seems helpful to the questioner, I'll upvote it.

If I see a poor, ill-thought-out answer that seems like it would be unhelpful to the questioner, I'll downvote it.

What I don't tend to do is dwell on who posted it and give them a pass on being downvoted for posting bad answers just because they're new. Some new users post great answers. Others post crap. As soon as we start voting on users instead of their answers, the entire voting system might as well go out the window.

Just, as you say, my opinion.

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    I agree that answers should be voted on regardless of who posted them, although I have to say my bar for upvoting an answer is much higher for veteran users who should be familiar with the community standards. I don't think questions should be held to the same standards as answers. I think downvotes for questions should be reserved for trolling or other things disruptive to the community and not for questions which are merely sloppy, low effort, belligerent (but not in violation of the CoC), etc. – ColleenV Apr 1 at 17:48
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    @ColleenV - I honestly think the whole 'welcome wagon' nonsense has entirely missed the point. The goal should be to make the site welcoming for subject matter experts and then new users as will want to come, not the other way around. – Richard Apr 1 at 17:57
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    Good answer! Vote based on the content of the question/answer, not based on the longevity of the writer. You can always provide comments/edits to help. – Joe Strazzere Apr 2 at 0:42
  • Fun fact: if this answer was posted by someone else, I may have had more trouble to agree. It doesn't mean I voted by your name, just that because of how long I've seen you around Stack Exchange, I started having an easier time understanding what you say. – Clockwork Apr 6 at 10:09

Upvotes are for good and useful posts.

Downvotes are for posts that aren't useful or answers that aren't correct.

The exact threshold for either is up to the individual to decide.

You could choose to upvote often and downvote rarely, vice versa, do both often or do both rarely.

But don't upvote useless or incorrect posts simply to be more welcoming, because of the effort the author put in, to boost the author's morale or for any other reason. This undermines quality control, encourages people to post bad posts, makes people think bad advice is good and arguably goes against site guidelines.

Being more kind might be a valid reason to refrain from downvoting though. You don't have to downvote anything.

Personally I don't downvote that often because I feel (my own) downvotes generally don't serve any purpose (except to make people more negative, pun not intended) and are often counter-productive. For posts that "need" to be downvoted, there are usually either enough others willing to downvote or enough others willing to counter a downvote with an upvote.

I prefer using other tools to deal with bad posts, such as close voting, commenting (even if mods obsessively delete those), flagging or editing.

  • Some good points – Kilisi Apr 7 at 14:25
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    +1 for not upvoting useless or incorrect posts just to be nice. I do think if a new user puts some effort into improving a post that wasn't worthy of either an upvote or a downvote, it should tip the scales a bit toward upvoting if you notice it. No-one's voting is 100% consistent over time, so I don't think being slightly more positive than neutral for some new users is going to break any quality controls. – ColleenV Apr 7 at 17:13
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    Commenting is useful when you are providing constructive criticism, unfortunately, they are often used to be unconstructive. – Old_Lamplighter Apr 7 at 17:26

My own "rules" that apply only to me.

  • If it's a new user, I'll offer helpful comments and edits when possible, and offer advice when I can.
  • If given the choice between a down-vote and an edit, I'll take the time to edit.
  • I do not down-vote based on what I think of the subject matter of the question, esp controversial questions.
  • If it's an answer, and is bad advice, I will down vote.
  • If a question or answer is heavy on rant, but contains good material, I will edit out the rant, and leave it.
  • I try to include a welcome comment to new users when I see them.
  • I am a bit more aggressive in flagging negative comments on new users.

In other words, I try to avoid cliquishness, which I think is a HUGE problem elsewhere. We deal with people from all over the world, many of whom are not native English speakers and could use a little TLC when they come in. The tour is not as helpful as it could be, IMO, and we fill the gap left by it.

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    Yes, we need to make our own rules sometimes. The site is designed for equations. So many focus on some metric or obsess over semantics and forget TWP is about people. – Kilisi Apr 6 at 14:54
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    @Kilisi That's why I'm very reluctant to close-vote if an edit can help. – Old_Lamplighter Apr 6 at 17:06

I'll only ever downvote an answer if I feel that it's intentionally unhelpful in nature and doesn't help the OP at all in answering their question.

I'd only ever downvote a question if I feel that it's been asked for the purposes of humour or to be intentionally controversial. Downvoting these isn't a personal reaction as such - it's more about helping these questions to be removed from sight of the main question list (and therefore help promote questions that really deserve attention).

Obviously, bad quality questions asked with good/genuine intentions should be helped by constructive/helpful comments and editing.

  • It seems like that means you don’t downvote answers that are wrong as long as they seem to be intended to be helpful. Did I misunderstand? – ColleenV Apr 3 at 11:39
  • @ColleenV Although I'm still pretty young in the workplace environment (both the website and the actual professional world), I think "wrong" is a rather subjective point of view. I mean, unless it's something utterly controversial, I oftenly stumble on answers where people are arguing which is more applicable/less wrong. – Clockwork Apr 6 at 10:01
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    @Clockwork If there’s no possibility that an answer to a question could be wrong, the question is probably too subjective to be in scope for a stack. That said, of course I meant ‘answers that you believe are wrong”. If Snow didn’t believe they were wrong, there would be no reason to think about downvoting. I understand not downvoting because the answer just needs a little editing to be helpful. I don’t understand withholding a downvote on an answer you believe to be well-intentioned, but wrong. That undermines the entire point of content-based voting. – ColleenV Apr 6 at 11:22
  • @ColleenV "Helpful" as in believing that they're helpful in nature to the OP. An unhelpful answer might be overly critical of the OP or their situation/intended solution or simply not answer the core question at all. – Snow Apr 6 at 16:21
  • I’m a pretty literal person, so it was the “intentionally unhelpful” that tripped me up. For me, that doesn’t include posts that are “unhelpful” but are intended to be helpful. I understand other people aren’t as literal, so I ask a lot of annoying questions to have more confidence that I am interpreting the meaning correctly. – ColleenV Apr 6 at 16:28
  • I'm basically meaning people who are just posting "humour" for their own enjoyment or who can't do anything more than simply criticising the OP. – Snow Apr 6 at 16:34
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    @ColleenV I bristle a bit at "wrong" here. There are better and worse answers, but short of "Go and moon the head of HR", there are very few answers that are outright wrong. – Old_Lamplighter Apr 6 at 18:10
  • @Old_Lamplighter I used “wrong” purposefully because answers like that should be downvoted. I’m willing to switch to “unhelpful” since “wrong” is causing the discussion to head away from what I was asking, but in this case I’m just using it as a euphemism. – ColleenV Apr 6 at 18:19
  • @ColleenV Some answers like "Talk to your manager" vs "Talk to HR" vs "Get a lawyer" have varying degrees of helpfulness. Sorry, I'm not trying to be belligerent, just trying to understand your point, which I seem to be missing. – Old_Lamplighter Apr 6 at 18:22
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    I’m using “wrong” to mean “above the threshold of unhelpfulness where the person making that judgement would not want that answer to be mistaken for good advice”. I didn’t even have to use legalese :) My issue is just about trying to judge whether a post is intentionally unhelpful as opposed to just unhelpful. I don’t think that is a constructive distinction. – ColleenV Apr 6 at 18:41

I absolutely do have a bias when it comes to new users. With the rep I have a downvote to me means almost nothing. But to a new user a downvote can come across as very aggressive and discouraging. Especially if they don't quite understand what they are.

I remember feeling frustrated a long time ago when I first asked a question on SO.

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    I'm not so new anymore, and I still feel lost and scared when I get downvoted without a reason given (Edit: I mean, not specifically on The Workplace, anywhere on Stack Exchange). You may think that I take it too personally, or that I'm over sensitive, but I guess I just want to know what should be improved. – Clockwork Apr 6 at 10:03
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    @Clockwork yes, that's good, it's important not to lose sight of the grass roots. My downvotes matter little, but I still have empathy for others. – Kilisi Apr 6 at 10:37
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    @Clockwork Don't worry, you've got the attention of a few people of minor importance around here. And, Kilisi, who is of major importance. – Old_Lamplighter Apr 6 at 18:11

I'll try to upvote more often, I already downvote very sparringly.

And yes, I agree with the fact to be more lenient comparing a 101 rep vs 10k rep, and I think that's totally normal and even professional.

Why that ? Because upvoting with only the content is basically treating a junior staff as if he's a senior staff, which would not pass at work, so there is no reason it pass here.

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    I agree. I have edited dozens of posts by lower rep people, just to give them a chance. I know what will attract down-votes, so I edit out tone and structure that I know will get people going. – Old_Lamplighter Apr 6 at 18:13
  • I wouldn't lower my/our requirements much for approving code a coworker wrote just because they're more junior. I would, however, provide them however much guidance and assistance they need to understand and meet those requirements. The equivalent on this site from my perspective would be to vote, close, flag and (perhaps) edit in a way that doesn't depend on reputation (whatever that way is), but possibly comment differently depending on reputation. There may be some rare cases where I'd be more inclined to downvote a low quality post posted by a high-rep user that really should know better. – Bernhard Barker Apr 8 at 7:18
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    I haven't really developped "lenient" in my post, but it does go in the way you define it. – Walfrat Apr 8 at 7:24

I get where you're coming from.

Casting close votes require 3000 reputation, down-voting requires 125.

It's very possible that some users of the site are fundamentally using the easiest available tool to do what they can to help "moderate" content.

I would also like to point out that in terms of reputation, up-votes are worth 5 times more than down-votes. Even poorly received content can cause a reputation gain.

  • I have often seen posts that probably wouldn’t get upvoted with a zero score get upvoted at -1 because someone thought the downvote was too harsh, giving a user a net reputation gain. Not too much on TWP though, it feels like this stack is pretty good at not letting too many posts linger at zero scores. – ColleenV Apr 6 at 18:53
  • I understand what you mean, but the users who downvote the most and cast the most close votes are experienced users. – Kilisi Apr 6 at 23:22
  • One other thing to consider is that downvotes do cost a small amount of reputation, and someone with 150 reputation might be more reluctant to downvote than someone with more reputation. – ColleenV Apr 7 at 17:06
  • FYI, you only require 15 rep to flag a question for closure (which is replaced by close voting at 3k). Although on this site close voting isn't all that effective; I can't imagine how people might feel about close flagging (and both of those are also less visible and more restrictive than downvoting). – Bernhard Barker Apr 9 at 11:10

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