(The question came to my mind when reading an answer but this is just for reference).

Is there a consensus about what up- and down-voting mean for answers? What would be the "voting reaction" to the following thoughts regarding an answer? (note that the up/down voting arrows are labelled "useful/not useful")

  • it is an objectively correct answer, and I think that OP should do that (ex: according the the Wakanda law, you must file vacation 2 weeks before they are due)
  • it is an objectively correct answer, but I think OP should not do that (ex: ..., you can raise the issue with RH because ...)
  • it is an incorrect answer, but I think OP should do that (ex: next time yell at him as well)
  • it is an incorrect answer and OP must not do that (next time punch him in the face)

(note that "objectively" disappeared in the "incorrect" answers because the only ones I could come up with in the third bullet is subjective)

The thing is that people have different opinions and I may or may not agree with them. They may still be "proper" opinions that make sense (the one I referred to is an example - it makes sense but I disagree). Using the word "useful" does not help that much because of its vague meaning (it is "useful" because it gives an opinion (→ upvote), is it "useful" because I agree with it (→ upvote), or the other way round)

  • according to timeline the question is in the HNQ since yesterday. This means many votes (up) to the answers over there come from random passers by from all over Stack Exchange network (primarily from Stack Overflow) who have no slightest idea about whatever consensus we have at our site, nor any interest to learn anything about it
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 13:33
  • 3
    "Is there a consensus about what up- and down-voting mean for answers?" - No. Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 14:05

4 Answers 4


Not really. The metric really just remains "is this useful?" and while you can pick holes in what "useful" means to various people, it's rather the point of voting to arrive at a consensus. When ten people all chime in on a given answer, that answer gets a single score that displays what the community thinks about it. That's our consensus.

There's no real need to try and standardise what constitutes a "good" answer, even if it was possible, which it just really isn't. For instance, note how in the examples you give you're judging answers as correct or incorrect as well. That's also often up for debate on our site, much more so than on more technical sites. If there were arbitrary rules that could be put in place to judge answers, we wouldn't need our users any more. :)

In the end it's really the community that brings us to a consensus, not a set of guidelines or on-hover text on the vote arrows. And I think we've proven to be rather good at it.


You should upvote posts you want to "float to the top" and you should downvote posts you want to push to the bottom (or make easier for the community/roomba to delete). That's it.

Your opinion about what should be more or less visible to readers visiting the site may differ from others in the community, but it's your vote and you should cast it in a way you feel is constructive.

The only thing we're likely to agree on is that you should vote on the content, and not on the person who posted it. For example, if someone wrote a worthwhile question, but subsequently negatively interacts with people in the comments, don't downvote good content, just flag the comments and move on.


There is no consensus, but I'll let you know a good guideline I apply.

  • Upvote an answer whether I agree with it or not based on how useful it is and how much help it would provide the querent.
  • Downvote an answer which contains incorrect information, unhelpful information, or could harm the querent.

breaking each one down a bit. Upvote something if it's not the best answer, but would still benefit the user. It becomes dicey where the answer contains a mixed bag. Such as when the answer is technically correct, but unwise at best, I may comment, and depending on how wise it is, vote accordingly.

If the question lends itself to multiple options, and the answer is one or more of them, I will tend to upvote.

Now if an answer is technically correct, but a bad move, I will downvote. I tend to downvote answers promoting conflict where there are other options, even if technically correct.

This usually comes into play where being right can be costly. An analogy I use is that to a pedestrian crossing the street. If you have the right of way, and the car isn't stopping, you are going to still get out of the way.


I mainly just upvote answers that seem useful. I'll upvote answers that are at odds with another answer that I just upvoted if I deem them useful in some cultures. I'll also upvote answers I think are useful even if they're at odds with my own answer.

That's all the criteria I have.

You must log in to answer this question.

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