12

Repeatedly I have seen good answers, some very good, receive next to no recognition. Sometimes this can be explained by the answer being of such an esoteric nature that few are interested or qualified enough to vote. Other times there is no reasonable explanation that I can see. Take for example this answer from tkott:

https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/a/3035/121

As far as I can tell this is a great answer! It should have lots of votes unless it is broken, and if it is broken people should have the decency to explain how it is so.

Why are some answers neglected, and how can we as a community change this?

My own ideas:

  • I suspect that people simply have overlooked this answer because the title of the question to which it is a response looks like a big yawn (at this time "Sort per column"). I think the question title should be changed to reflect the more interesting nature of the question.

  • I have at times for both my own and others' answers posted in Chat "why doesn't this have more votes?" or similar.

  • Perhaps we could have some place to feature questions that the community thinks need more attention and that have less than e.g. 5 votes.

  • It looks like your edit on that answer has brought me 5 up-votes and counting. Thanks for the shout-out :) – tkott Apr 10 '12 at 18:56
23

It's just a fact of life. Some things go unnoticed, whereas things that deserve no more than a second glance get noticed heavily. The imbalance in votes for simple, obvious one-liner answers vs. well thought out, detailed and usually late answers has been noted by many, but you can't expect everyone to have seen every single question/answer to imply that the answer is being deliberately ignored — luck and timing plays a huge role in votes.

As for this one, I don't know — maybe it was posted when most people were asleep and then got buried under a new flurry of answers? Maybe there was heavy activity/editing which put a lot of posts on the front page? Perhaps since the top answer had 14 votes and accepted status, many didn't think that answers further down were worth reading? Plenty of reasons. I'll give you this as empirical evidence — I'm a prolific voter on this site, and yet I hadn't seen that answer, although I had read and upvoted other answers there and the question. I've seen it now and upvoted it, but sometimes, things just go under the radar.

However, the problem that I see with actively soliciting for votes like you do (for self or for others) is that people start to subconsciously zone out the requests — at least, I do when it becomes a pattern. Further still, you're creating an invisible "standardized" rating system, by which answers should get a certain "deserved" votes. Where would you like the votes to stop? At what point would you say this has had "enough"? Is this more about the accepted answer having twice as many than this answer (i.e., poor in comparison), rather than having low votes by itself (i.e., poor in absolute terms)? What would you do if something goes viral like Waldo? Ask users to remove votes/downvote it? I think this is a dangerous direction to proceed in.

A partial "solution" for these would be to get the community more involved in voting and editing — very few users actively do both. Editing such low voted answers by fixing minor mistakes or perhaps adding a clarification/explanation or two (if it's lacking) will automatically bump it to the front page, possibly getting some more eyes on the post. That way, it doesn't look like anyone's soliciting votes, yet is a perfectly fine way of bringing something to attention.

We have very favorable numbers compared to most sites, but there's always room for improvement. That way, at least when you see a disparate voting, you can be fairly sure that it just happened to be posted at the wrong time and not necessarily due to apathy. A better solution for this would be to take a zen-like view on this whole "reputation" and "votes" thing and realize that the numbers don't really matter and you're here for the fun and to help. If I leave this place, it'll sooner be due to a toxic/unfriendly environment rather than a paucity of votes.

Finally:

Perhaps we could have some place to feature questions that the community thinks need more attention and that have less than e.g. 5 votes.

It already exists — it's called the bounty system. Use it.

  • 3
    +1 for bounties! – F'x Apr 11 '12 at 11:23
  • 3
    Just noticed this post. The inconvenience of the bounty system is that as a participating reader with low reputations like me, even I have enough knowledge in one field to determine something worthy of bounty, I cannot try to promote it because I would have no reputation left once doing so. The only thing I could do is to upvote both the question and answer to gain its visibility, which is quite unsatisfying and therefore as time passes, I have less interest even in scanning through the posts every morning. – Leo Fang Oct 10 '14 at 19:07
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I think for many cases, excellent questions can be "ignored" for two main reasons:

  1. Answering "late" - in my case that you cite, I answered a day or so after the original question was posted, and about 24 hours after the first answer. An answer was also already approved. My guess is that most people looked at the question title, looked at the fact that there were 3 answers (one of which was approved) and said: "meh, no point in looking into it"

  2. The "bias" effect. Note that I don't mean that people intentionally fail to upvote, but that due to the fact that previous answers were already there and at the top of the list, scrolling all the way down is hard. In the same example, first answer already had +10 votes, and was clearly at the top, while mine was late and at the bottom of the page.

I know I'm guilty of both problems and I'm sure that I've missed many excellent answers in the process.

As to what can be done about it:

  1. Chat - mentioning these things on chat can help, and starring them brings them to the attention of casual visitors (me) if they were in the middle of a long discussion.

  2. Minor edits / improvements to the answer can bring the question back up the "active" listings. (FWIW: This is the reason that my answer is now getting some viewership). I think that if you know of a good answer, then adding a small correction or two via edits can be helpful, and wouldn't really be against the whole "StackExchange" ethos, at least how I understand it.

  • FWIW, this question is somewhat of an answer unto itself as I posted it in part to get attention for your answer, and it worked. :-) – Mr.Wizard Apr 11 '12 at 3:53
  • 1
    @tkott I stumbled upon this meta portion of the site and saw this question and realized it was my question Mr.Wizard was talking about. To be honest your answer was better but I felt reluctant to remove the answer credit already given to somebody else. I realize that this might not be 'fair' so decided to switch to the best answer. From now on I'll just wait three days before accepting an answer. – Lou May 8 '12 at 20:46
  • @Lou no worries, this kind of thing happens frequently, and that's what the votes are for! Thanks for the accept :) – tkott May 8 '12 at 22:06

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