I'm quite new to the site and one mechanism is rather unclear to me.

The Help system clearly states

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.

There's also the whole section on How to ask a good question

On the other hand, there is the "starring" subsystem for Favourite Questions. And there have only been 2 "Favourite Question" Badges (Question favorited by 25 users) handed out to members.

While browsing through the questions, it seems that Up-Voting is often used to nominate a favourite question, for example, the high-scoring question "Is Thor the only Avenger that can't die?" has 61 Up-Votes, but the question is clearly not excellent quality (1 sentence, no hint of background research, etc.). Hey, I certainly think it's an interesting question, but the quality of the question does not seem to warrant its score.

Based on the info in the Help files, I've been Up-Voting questions that are well thought out, whether I have any interest in them or not, and starring questions that I want to think about, or find later, or find interesting.

So is the system being used incorrectly by the majority of the community? Or am I misunderstanding the purpose of Up-Voting vs. Starring? Is meeting the (somewhat nebulous) criteria of "interesting" (without being "well-researched, and useful") good enough for an Up-Vote?

  • All 3 answers are useful actually. Next question - what, if anything, to do about it! :p
    – Sindi
    Nov 8, 2013 at 22:43

3 Answers 3


You are absolutely correct re: upvoting. People upvote for wrong reason as Matthew stated (for the record, he's a mod on another site and generally knows very well how SE is supposed to work). It's not nearly as bad here as on StackOverflow though :)

Having said that, it's also possible that many people use favorite feature as a "bookmarking" facility - e.g. by marking questions that they want to return to later, either because they're really interested in an answer but no good answer exists, OR because an answer is so good they want to return back to it for later reference. I know I do it on Skeptics, where such bookmarking is very useful.

If so, they may not want to favorite questions that are interesting but which don't hold any future value to them (e.g. they like the existing answer, and don't need to read it again). As such, they wouldn't want to "pollute" their "bookmark" list with extra posts, and thus don't favorite often.

This mode may explain the relative sparseness of favorite marks.

  • 4
    I also use it for bookmarking (mostly on StackOverflow and Programmers.SE so far)
    – Izkata
    Oct 24, 2013 at 3:36
  • 2
    As a corollary to this, I use stars to bookmark question that I don't have time to answer right now, but will get back to later. Once I've submitted my answer, I tend to remove the star.
    – evilsoup
    Oct 26, 2013 at 17:14
  • On some sites, I will favorite questions that are a trainwreck-in-progress, and I want to see what the final trainwreck looks like. Also, maybe I flagged it because it was obviously a trainwreck in progress, and the flag was refused, so being morbidly curious I favorite it because I know it is is trainwreck.
    – killermist
    Oct 29, 2013 at 19:00
  • I also use it for bookmarking, and then I have a script which grabs all my favourited questions and saves them to Instapaper/Pinboard. Particularly useful on Stack Overflow and LaTeX, where I save good answers for future reference.
    – alexwlchan
    Oct 29, 2013 at 20:24
  • @alexwlchan - Monkey script? Oct 30, 2013 at 10:49
  • @DVK: do you mean a Greasemonkey script? (I’ve not come across the phrase “monkey script” before.) No, it’s a Python script that runs locally, polling the Stack Exchange API.
    – alexwlchan
    Oct 30, 2013 at 11:18
  • @alexwlchan - yep. too lazy to type "grease" :) Oct 30, 2013 at 18:46

You are using the system as intended!

However, note that there are a lot of other factors at play.

  • People who don't know how voting is supposed to work
  • People who don't care how voting is supposed to work
  • Questions get varying numbers of views and, thus, varying numbers of votes
  • Certain demographics may be more or less likely to vote and questions they see or that interest them may have different vote patterns

In an ideal world, upvotes would be strictly a measure of usefulness and quality, but unfortunately we're dealing with human beings. Popularity is definitely going to factor into it.



Well, regarding voting, it depends: The quote you cite invites to upvote, if

a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful

You can easily interpret the and as or, since these categories are not binary. Being well-researched is only one contributor, particular in questions. If a question is simply a very good one ("Gee, I always wondered that, now that you mention it!"), it is upvote worthy even if it is not terribly hard to answer.

The key is how relevant a question is to the community.


Although I use the star (favourite thingy) most of the time, to mark really interesting or well-written questions, I occasionally use it to mark controversial questions or such that I wish to revisit later for organisational reasons (follow closing/reopening, for example).

So, it's possible that a question I starred received no upvote or maybe even a downvote from me.

  • Good explanation, and of another possible use. In the example of the Thor/mortality question I like that it revolves around the 'or useful.' bit. B/c it's certainly not either of the others. Oct 29, 2013 at 3:15

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