A comment by Rover Eye which can be found here got me thinking.

I'll have to agree with @canadianer on this one. Bio SE has a bit of a lower voting and acceptance rate, in the SE ecosystem. – Rover Eye

Why is that the users of Bio do not vote often considering SE has the saying vote early, vote often?

I would like to point out bobthejoe's answer since I don't think much has changed when they posted it in 2012 and now it is 2015.

I think that we should revisit this voting question. At the moment, I think that votes are coming in slowly and infrequently.

I did some superficial digging. I looked at the voting of patterns of top users by reputation since these user tend to answer a lot of question so they spend a bit of time going through more question then say me. What I found was that many of the top users don't vote nearly that much for the amount of time they spend on the site and time they have been a member. Also, in 3+ years only 12 people have acquired the electorate badge. To me, this seems pretty pitiful.

Since not every vote has to be up, vote down if they post is mediocre or garbage. The point is we need more voting especially from the leadership (mods and high rep users) since they are the most prolific on the site. User we look to see what you guys/girls are doing and think that is community. So if the majority of this group is going to be stingy with their votes, I am not surprised new user don't take this stance too. Hell who wants to up vote others when their hard work isn't appreciated?

Do many of you think the questions and answers here are subpar, bad, etc.? If so, help improve them since moderation is by the community--make edits, comments, provide your own answer, but let's get to where people want to up vote since there must be a reason they don't. If formatting and quality and problems isn't the main problem, then what is holding you all back?

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    $\begingroup$ I can only share my own opinion, but I find most new questions are remarkably average. Most don't show much research effort so I don't want to give them an up vote, but they're not so bad as to warrant a down vote. I supposed the thing to do would be to make edits and comments to improve the quality of these questions. $\endgroup$
    – C_Z_
    May 20, 2015 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @CactusWoman what about answers to questions? $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 20, 2015 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ That's a good point, I find most questions end up with at least one good answer, and I tend to vote more on answers anyway. So I agree $\endgroup$
    – C_Z_
    May 20, 2015 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ FYI, compared with other science sites, Biology votes more than the median. Average number of upvotes per post as of last month (there's no great variation in downvotes): Earth Science 8.1, Theoretical Computer Science 8.0, Psychology & Neuroscience 4.5, Biology 3.9, Computer Science 3.5, Cryptography 3.5, Physics 3.1, Chemistry 2.9, Cross Validated 2.9, Mathematics 2.4. Source: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/195762/… $\endgroup$ May 20, 2015 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @gilles that is good to know but 3.9 is pretty low. The top user of Math, for instance, vote a lot more than here though. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 20, 2015 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ Good to raise this topic again. I've also noted that some very active users seem to cast far too few votes. $\endgroup$ May 20, 2015 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ I only upvote questions I'm interested in and vote on answers which I know are correct or not. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    May 21, 2015 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps we must learn to demarcate what is textbook knowledge to us (biologists with at least a degree) and what is textbook knowledge to someone who is still in school/not a biologist ? Eg: Can one die from pain (we know its not possible, because pain is a symptom), or the meiotic oogenesis question with 6k views (which literally is textbook to a biologist). But if I were not a biologist, I wonder if I would recognise those as being textbook questions (most prolly not). But this line of argument leads to the whole lmgtfy thing again...but isnt that the case with almost all simple questions? $\endgroup$
    – Rover Eye
    May 21, 2015 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ @RoverEye but then there are the examples of esoteric high level questions that don't get votes either. I vote on questions based on effort not level. If the OP has tried, I give them an upvote, no effort down, and if I don't understand it, nothing. I don't care how trivial it is since all levels are okay here. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 21, 2015 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ I tend to be quite critical and only upvote posts where I see a great effort or something that I wouldn't have thought of. Perhaps I should change this attitude. $\endgroup$
    May 21, 2015 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Make that 13 :P $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    May 22, 2015 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ I tend only to vote on Q&As that I have some expertise in which leaves a very narrow niche. I do this on the basis that "who am I as a biochemist to decide if this zoology Q&A is good or bad?" I'm sure I'm not alone and this would explain why across the sciences, voting is generally low. $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 24, 2015 at 2:32
  • $\begingroup$ @GoodGravy I cannot vote on a love of answers but I can questions. The only site in my profile where I voted for more answers is TeX since I am generally looking for solutions. When it comes to subject I strongest in, for example, math, I vote on my questions because I am more than capable of judging effort. It appears here that no one else is wants to judge effort and just go about their merry way. To me, that does not describe a community but just a bunch of individuals. We don't need to get into the semantics that community is a bunch of individuals since it is more then that but $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 24, 2015 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ I've edited out the part calling out specific users, I don't think this is useful and constructive. Meta generally works better if you generalize issues, calling out specific users just tends to cause more drama and less productive discussion $\endgroup$ May 26, 2015 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ @dustin You don't need to attach names to the data, this only increases the potential for unpleasantness. Picking specific users is also less convincing than e.g. the statistics Gilles provided in a comment. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2015 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


Thanks for bringing this interesting discussion up.

A gross rule of thumb could be: 'give what you get', or 'share what you receive'.

Without saying that I am on the right track, nor saying that others are, or are not, I do wish to share that in my case this actually works out pretty well:

I voted 1300 times, including some ~1200 upvotes. Approx 50% went to questions (600 * 5 = 3000 rep) and the rest to answers (600 * 10 = 6000 rep). The total sums up to 9k, which approximates my own rep of 8.4k (Taking the downvotes into account it's pretty much spot on: 100*-2 = -200).

Note that I don't live by this rule and that this is the first time I did an in-depth analysis of my rep after having read this question by dustin. However, I have been keeping rough track of the received rep and what I gave away as a guiding principle. A rough analysis of input and output like this may give users an approximation of their relative received rep versus the rep they have given away.


I see myself as somebody of the "rank and file" of the users on this site. I come along now and then, have a handful of questions (and even answers), and I'm ranked at #108 for all time (which actually surprised me, I expected to rank lower). I don't know if I'm representative for my demographic, but I have the suspicion that many others are in a similar situation.

To put it short: I know very little about biology. I come in now and then, to ask about something I've had on my mind. Or when I see a hot question. Or when I get a reply or comment to an old post of mine. I may browse a bit aside from the one question which attracted me. But as a non-biologist, I don't have an opinion on most of the other posts. See for example Medium for Pseudomonas?, a question currently on the front page. I've never in my life tended a bacterial culture (although I've created the one or other colony in my fridge). I have no idea whether the one existing answer is correct. I have no idea whether it addresses the OP's question well enough. I don't even know if the question is interesting for biologists or not; it is not interesting for me, but this is not cause for downvote.

So, I don't have interest in many of the questions and answers here. Even when I find a question interesting, I cannot judge the answer.

Compare this to sites with very high voting numbers. One example would be English, where most users use English everyday, and feel competent to judge whether a word fits the request. (I agree that other types of questions are hard to judge, but the site has a high proportion of easy question). Another one is TeX, where each answer is easily verified. Also, my guess would be that a TeX specialist will be able to judge many TeX solutions just by looking at them. But here, where the small amount of users which gives the most votes are biologists specializing in an area, most of the answers are not obviously correct or incorrect to them without further research. A biologist specializing in botanics cannot judge an answer on the mutations common in pilocytic astrocytoma without tons of research.

So I think that it is a combination of a very wide field, a large proportion of lay users, questions which require very specialized knowledge to answer, and low verifiability of answers. It simply makes a very different voting environment than other sites of the network, so comparisons are not very meaningful.

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    $\begingroup$ That is why I targeted how rep users in my post. Presumable they have a huge swath of knowledge since they answer many questions. If the people who have the ability judge aren't taking interest, we will have a problem. I have zero biology education except for bio 1 as an undergrad in 2008ish. However, I can read questions and determine if the OP put in effort. Hat is also why I have more question votes then answers since I am not qualified to judge many answers myself. But I read numerous questions in order to judge and vote not to answer; that is, I will go through post not looking to answer $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 21, 2015 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ But looking solely to vote on the merits of the question. I do this on many SE as well. Read questions I have no inkling to answer but to determine OP effort and vote accordingly. Now think if all the high volume users with greater knowledge then me did this? These users already read way more post then me but many don't vote on the scale that I do. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 21, 2015 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if targeting high rep users with requests for voting is constructive. The whole point of voting is to see what the broad majority of users thinks, not what the few thought leaders think (their opinion is frequently visible anyway, because they frequently leave answers, comments, edit, etc.) Also, your comment here focuses on voting on questions (because there it's OK to vote by effort) - but it is a fact of SE life that questions receive very few votes in general. $\endgroup$
    – rumtscho
    May 22, 2015 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ I focused on high rep users since they generally have the greatest subject knowledge. Therefore, they are more apt to judge answers. I can generally only judge questions. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    May 22, 2015 at 20:05

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