My question is quite simple:

When is one supposed to upvote questions?

E.g. am I upvoting, because...

  • I personally find the question interesting.
  • I find the question helpful or I have gained new insight from it.
  • I feel the question is well-posed and the questioner has made some effort to provide motivation, his/her own thoughts, etc.
  • I feel that many people might potentially benefit from this question.
  • of something else?

Looking at the questions with most upvotes, I would say the first option is common practice. But - as fun as Batman shaped graphs may be - upvotes don't really seem to reflect the "significance" (which would perhaps be measured by option 2) of the question.

So what was the intention in the upvoting system for questions? What practice would be recommended? Why couldn't I find a guideline on "when to upvote" in the FAQs?

Some clarification would be great!

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The 100+ votes questions are never a good example. Some of them were just immensely popular with transient users which came - voted - left. Try considering the medium questions, 30-60 votes. Those are the real questions which were voted by the actual users of the site. –  Asaf Karagila Dec 9 '11 at 5:44
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Expanding on Asaf's comment, some (most?) of the 100+ vote questions received exposure on external high-traffic sites, which resulted in many SE drive-by votes. Thus the votes on such questions don't generally represent math.SE. –  Bill Dubuque Dec 9 '11 at 6:14
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Additionally, does upvote bump up the question and if so, if I find a really, old question interesting, will upvote or bumping it be frowned upon? –  user18325 Dec 9 '11 at 8:07
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@ZeeshanMahmud: No it never bumps the question, and upvoting is never frowned upon. –  Eric Naslund Dec 9 '11 at 8:08
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@Zeeshan: Please feel free to upvote old questions; only if you find them interesting and/or useful, of course. –  J. M. Dec 9 '11 at 8:11
    
Thanks. Understood. :) –  user18325 Dec 9 '11 at 8:12
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See also this SE blog entry. –  J. M. Dec 9 '11 at 8:25
    
@J.M. I actually never knew a box comes up telling you to vote on questions if you have not done so for a while. –  Eric Naslund Dec 9 '11 at 9:19
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2 Answers

I think it is always important to vote. See this thread: Vote early, vote often

Use your judgement to vote, if you think something deserves an upvote then give it one. There are not any definite criteria, anything you mentioned is a reason to give a +1.

The questions with the most votes are not the examples to go by, almost always they are popular because they are accessible to a wide audience. They also tend to be featured at some point on Stack Exchanges "Hot Questions on all sites" list. This brings in a lot of traffic not normally seen on other questions, and most of these people can vote because of the 100 reputation bonus.

Lastly, I want to mention that you should view upvoting as a good thing. If you click on Users, there are 4 tabs: reputation, new users, editors and voters. The reason voters is included is because Stack Exchange wants to encourage you to vote. It shows participation in the community.

Of course there is the complaint that some bad questions should not receive upvotes, especially pity votes, but I think that this happens far less then people looking at an answer or question, thinking "That was interesting" and forgetting to upvote.

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I'd call the 100 rep a "bonus" instead of a "rule". :) –  J. M. Dec 9 '11 at 8:19
    
@J.M. hahahaha, ok I edited it. –  Eric Naslund Dec 9 '11 at 8:21
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I gave my upvote already, but I have to agree that "I think that this happens far less then people looking at an answer or question, thinking 'that was interesting' and forgetting to upvote" seems to be quite common. Which is sad. –  J. M. Dec 9 '11 at 8:22
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There's a nice hint if you mouse over the arrow for upvoting:

"This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear."

which I think is already a pretty good guideline. So, if you think the question is interesting/relevant to you, if you can understand what is being asked, and/or you can see that OP put in the effort to try answering it him/herself, then certainly you should be upvoting the question.

On a more utilitarian way to look at it: registered users cannot upvote questions unless they have 15 rep; that's what one gets for three upvotes on a question. If you want the newbie to be able to vote on your nice answer (in addition to acceptance, which can be done even at rep 1), you should upvote his/her question (bearing in mind the criteria in the first paragraph).

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