Vote, vote, vote. Encourage others to vote, vote, vote. [...] Maybe a few meta posts informing the users of the important of that type of participation. You are empowered a lot more than you know.
However it seems like we have—as site community—lost a bit of our voting enthusiasm a bit. Although we just passed our first half-year milestone and many of our once tumbling stats look up we seem to have dialed back the voting.
Since the beginning of May, none of the new posts have accumulated double digit votes. That’s 131 posts. Of course, newer posts have fewer votes and considering how many votes exceptional posts have on our small site certainly not every post deserves ten votes. Furthermore, I don’t want to delve into the depth of all available data on voting in the data explorer to find out exact trends.
However, I do want to take this observation of mine to reiterate the importance of voting as a driving factor for several things. And I’ll start with the stuff that’s not that explicitly in the help center.
Upvotes show appreciation
Let me start out with the simplest thing. It’s so simple that it’s also often forgotten. A simple upvote is sign of appreciation. It reaffirms questions to be valid, well-phrased, well-researched, intriguing and a good match for the site. Questions don’t have to tick all those boxes, but voters certainly separate these questions from all the “do-my-homework”, “give-me-the-code” and “please-google-stuff-for-me” questions.
For answers, this appreciation is first and foremost a thank you: “Thank you for sharing your knowledge.” While only the original poster can decide if the answer indeed solved the problem, which the exclusive accept is for, everyone can give a small token of thanks for a correct, helpful, well-phrased, -researched and -reasoned.
Also remember, upvotes are always free.
Upvotes enable to participate
Being a new user on a Stack Exchange site is not entirely a picnic. If you joined in private beta you were fortunate enough to skip the hurdles, if the network trusts you you skip most of these as well, if you’ve been on SE forever you might have even forgotten about hurdles. However, a new user on a Stack Exchange site can barely do anything. Even with our lowered reputation barriers in public beta it takes three upvotes on a question or two on an answer to allow the recipient to even show his appreciation.
Even commenting is behind a reputation barrier. Remember not being able to comment somewhere? That wholly excludes participation. Not to mention the mind boggling 500 reputation points needed to vote to close.
Voting shapes the site
While I am not going to reiterate the many thoughts on voting, there is another result besides thanking worthwhile contributions and enabling more participation of other users. Voting shapes the site. Here I finally do hit the help center stuff. I’ll even cite it:
Voting is central to our model of providing quality questions and answers; it is how …
...good content rises to the top
...incorrect content falls to the bottom
I do realize that for some this is exactly why they might have stopped or slowed voting. Certainly not all of our new content rivals our best, but as our site progresses the benchmarks will move. Someday those 25 votes for a “Good Question” will not be as elusive as they are today, but for that we need people to feel welcome and appreciated and more people able to vote and participate. Only when our overall voting is high enough the cumulative votes make posts rise—or fall.
We were eagerly voting in private beta. Now we are half a year from launch, we’re still building a community, and Stack Exchange communities are built on votes.