Unlocking the upvote privilege

What does it take to unlock the privilege to upvote?

Related discussions:

I’m starting a separate discussion because I think this is the hardest basic privilege to pinpoint.

We need to have some kind of external validation before a user can vote. Otherwise there’s no way to prevent sockpuppets. Sockpuppets are bad because they destroy the value of votes (so answers aren’t rated in any useful way) and they bypass quality control mechanisms (e.g. quality-based question rate limits). Finding sockpuppet rings is hard, so the harder they are to set up (and the more traces they leave) the better.

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What about allowing anyone to upvote, but they don’t take effect until you’ve earned some trust?

Actually, for the true newbie, which is where we have the biggest concern, this would be really confusing.

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Good point. That level of confusion depends entirely on what the interface looks like and how it gives feedback. If the interface is a number with an up and down arrow and you click it and there is no visible change it would be confusing, but you can solve that by not showing a number, just a qualitative indicator, you could show a number and increment it just for that user, you could pop up a little explainer when they vote (and keep the up arrow highlighted to indicate a vote) or no doubt several other options.

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I’ve been reading about how other systems have addressed this problem, and what some people call a “local reputation system”, where everyone sees different scores depending on how they’ve voted. Under that kind of system you’re free to upvote all the spam you want, but then all you’ll see upvoted is spam and your upvotes will only affect the scores seen by other spammers like yourself.

That goes against any ideas of consistency. I will sometimes for various reasons do something in a system and then view it in a different browser not logged in to see how things looked. I’m doing it deliberately to test (generally), but similar things could happen if someone upvotes on a computer and then pulls out their phone later to look at the site and doesn’t login first - they would then see something different and wonder what is going on.

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To add on this, the first impression users will be the one of someone who never voted at all (it can’t be different, for purely logical reasons). And it is the first impression that is most important. It doesn’t matter if you stop seeing the spam after the first few votes; if you get to the page and the first thing you see is lots of spam, you’ll not bother to log in and figure out whether there are ways to change that, you’ll just go away, and furthermore tell others about that spam-infested site, which is a total waste of time to go to.

The most important view of the site is that which you get if you are not logged in.

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I think that would be a nice feature, but it’s separate from deciding when you earn that trust.

Stack Exchange does have this feature: anonymous feedback. If you vote on a post without having the privilege or even while not logged in, the “vote” is added to a database field which is basically not shown anywhere. 10k users can see some statistics and outliers (e.g. Meta.SE). As an example, Stack Overflow has about 27M anonymous pseudo-upvotes, 0.8M pseudo-upvotes from accounts without the upvote privilege, and 133M actual upvotes; 17M anonymous pseudo-downvotes, 0.1M logged-in pseudo-downvotes, and 7M actual downvotes. (Anonymous visitors are much more negative than logged-in users!) Ask Ubuntu has more anonymous feedback than actual votes, and again a lot more more negative feedback than actual downvotes. Feedback on a given post is generally correlated to votes.

The problem with giving visibility to anonymous feedback is that you can’t prevent vote stuffing.

Would it? Stack Exchange already does it, except for the conversion to votes part, which has been requested.

The primary audience for scores is anonymous visitors. It’s meant to be a quality indicator, not a poll.

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Oh, spam certainly should be deleted. The spam-lover example was just to illustrate that under a local reputation system, a voter can make terrible choices and it doesn’t affect anyone who doesn’t have the same bad taste.

There are three advantages of a local reputation system:

  1. Bad actors that no one trusts can vote all they want and it won’t affect the outcome.
  2. Some are provably sockpuppet proof.
  3. You don’t run into people complaining about the way other people vote as much, because you tend to only see the votes from people with similar voting standards to you.

Notably, there are global reputation systems with the first two of those properties.

I’m not aware of any local reputation systems that have a concept of a non-participating observer, but there are solutions for bootstrapping new users and that involves similar issues. Probably the most practical system would be to have a curated list of “good” voters and run the numbers for the view of someone who trusts them, and show that for the logged out view.

That raises the question of who curates those lists. Note that being a curator of that list is a position of power, since it effectively determines what people see. Indirectly it also gives power to the users with accounts, because you can promise people to put them on that list, or threaten to take them off the list.

Also, at least from my observation, there is little complaining about votes. Note that I don’t count complaints about not commenting on downvotes here, as that doesn’t dispute the vote as such, but the lack of information. It’s hard to improve if you don’t know what you’ve done wrong.

Also, I definitely want to see all votes I get on my posts. I don’t want the voting system to “protect” me from people disagreeing with me, I want to know if people disagree with me. After all, maybe I am wrong in that point. I’ll never know if the system hides all the votes from me that don’t come from like-minded people.

We’ve talked about filter bubbles before. Only or prominently seeing votes of “vote-alikes” is about the worst filter bubble of all. We don’t want to build a feel-good site, we want to build a useful site.

So in summary, if a global voting system can solve points 1 and 2, then the only difference between global and local voting systems is point 3. But point 3 is a minor problem anyway, and in my opinion certainly doesn’t outweigh the disadvantages.

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It actually could be an earned privilege or determined algorithmically somehow.

It’s rare to hear complaints about votes on the questions themselves, but I’ve certainly seen them in meta discussions and outside criticism.

This is a very reasonable thing to want, and should be implemented regardless of how you see votes on other posts. Do you want the voting system to “protect” you from seeing the in someone else’s post the votes from that posters’ voting ring?

I agree. A local reputation system could be interesting, but a global system seems more useful.

For a long time, back in SE, I’ve wondered if it were possible to have two rating systems for upvoting answers:

One would be along the lines of ‘no expertise here, but this answer is clear and seems accurate’ (Or a ‘cool, just learnt something new’) and another along the lines of ‘some expertise here, this answer is accurate’. Because I have found myself upvoting answers which seem so logical and well-explained and which give me the feeling I’ve just learnt something (World-building and History, especially)… only to later (sometimes MUCH later) come across an answer that questions that accuracy.

I think that it is important to upvote when you feel you’ve learnt something from an answer, but being a very upvoted answer doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Maybe a lot of less experienced users simply think ‘I’ve just learmt something new!’ and how can I tell if I’m not experienced in the topic and simply see all those upvotes?

Besides, I have had a couple of answers upvoted like crazy in Writers which I don’t feel deserve such hype (one of them was due to some puns, even if they did make perfect sense in the answer). It’s one thing to upvote an answer that you can verify yourself (like in programming) but if I go to Astronomy and the explanation sounds logic, or if I go to History and there’s an answer filled with pics and quotes (from places I’ll never be able to check myself) and then someone challenges that view with other quotes a month later… In the meantime, a lot of users who think ‘oh, I didn’t know that!’ will have upvoted and the most accurate answer will be lost at the end.

Of course this varies a lot in between topics… but would having the option to ‘like - this is new and interesting to me’ and to ‘upvote - this is accurate AFAIK’ be possible?

EDIT
I’m sorry I got side tracked and forgot to mention my main point: I see two types of new users:

  1. those who come for a quick answer and disappear
  2. those who come in and are eager to participate even if they don’t have questions to ask right now or little expertise to answer.

For the second group, upvoting is the easiest way to show their enthusiasm and support. Therefore, having ‘like - learnt something new’ and ‘I know what I’m talking about and this is accurate’ buttons would encourage such newbies to participate responsibly. Of course, I’m assuming good faith voting.

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It’s a good intention, but why would people do that? Average person doesn’t really recognize the difference between the two things, so it’s likely a lot of posts will get an even split of likes/upvotes anyway, aka you can’t tell if it’s actually accurate.

Hmm… assuming we reuse the same voting system…

Imagine if you could click on the total vote score and see a detailed graph breakdown of what range of rep users had when they voted up or down, like this:

Detailed votes (on say a +15 total score post) where rep range means a user’s total reputation on the site:

          Total  +26 −11 = +15

   0 …   15 rep   +8  −0
  16 …   50 rep   +7  −1
  51 …  150 rep   +6  −1
 151 …  300 rep   +4  −2
 301 … 1000 rep   +1  −3
1001 …    ∞ rep   +0  −4
  • What does this tell you?
  • How would you use this data?
  • Which votes should “count”?
  • Should they all be visible to anyone who wants to see the vote breakdown?

I think the discussion on votes from newbies vs votes from experts is off-topic here: it’s not an MVP feature. Handling "misvoted" content would be a good place for it.

Beware that this compromises vote anonymity. If there’s only one user with 1001+ karma who’s active on the question’s main tag, chances are that the one upvote in the 1001+ bucket is from that user.

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