What is to be done with question posters who do not vote or accept?

I am a bit tired of new (and not so new) users who bug you with additional questions in comments, do not bother to answer comments, and never bother to vote. They are not the only ones. Some older users often do not bother accepting an answer of upvoting good contributions to their own questions. The welcome comment we give in reviews is intended for new users. However it is seen by many older users and could be a good reminder for all of the way the site works.

I am personally sensitive to the way my contributions are taken. I do not mind being criticized explicitly, because I can either learn something, or teach something of both at the same time. But why should I work, why should I contribute, when no one cares? I mean, I sometimes write documents for myself, because I am interested, but I do not bother putting them online. At least I do not have to expect a reaction.

Our contributions may not be great, but they are work. I taught my children to say thank you even for a glass of water. I do not see why I should expect less from users of this site.

Below is the welcome comment I intend to use when reviewing the first post of new users. I may complete it with a comment on specific points raised by the question asked.

I think there should be a policy on this. And I am interested in your opinion.

My proposed welcome comment:

Welcome to Computer Science Stack Exchange. Since you are a new user, remember that the local way to show appreciation for contributions of other users, or for help received, is to upvote their post, question or answer, or accept the current best answer. You may downvote if you think it is more problematic than helpful (bearing in mind that answers are intended for all users, with varying competence). See https://cs.stackexchange.com/tour. When posting a question, make sure to give enough context, and show how you tried to answer it on your own, so as to be very precise regarding your problem.

Related question: What to do with users who aren't voting or accepting answers

• In general I like the idea of a welcoming comment (referring the OP to our FAQ and highlighting the local micro-culture). I'm not sure it's gonna work in the situation you describe in the post (mainly, I fell the comment will be posted after several days of no reply, by then the OP will already have left the building). Furthermore, I take a more restricted stand on the community's role for teaching people manners: this site is mainly to teach CS, not etiquette; I'd leave the latter for the OP's parents. Jul 4 '15 at 13:34
• What exactly are you proposing? Are you proposing posting this comment to every poster who arrives here, under their first question, as soon as they post? (even before it receives any answers?) I'm not sure that makes sense. That feels a little bit more preachy than welcoming to me, and it's telling them something that they can't act on at the moment if there are no answers yet. Also, new users don't have enough rep to upvote or downvote, so that part seems more confusing than useful. I'm sympathetic to your concern, but I'm not entirely sure whether this is the right approach.
– D.W. Mod
Jul 6 '15 at 3:20
• Well, question/answer quality does not (necessarily) correlate with a high amount of upvotes. Sometimes it just happens that you put in a lot of time and effort, and only receive a few upvotes. Sometimes you post something quickly, and receive a lot of upvotes. I sympathize, but it's a tough world, and not everyone is thoughtful or nice.
– Juho
Jul 6 '15 at 6:48
• @D.W. Your answer is exactly what I am expecting: feed back on what would be appropriate. Actually, many new users do not bother reading the quick tour. The welcome message is just an opportunity to write a message that may be read by other people, as a remainder. But your objection is valid: reminding them to do something they cannot may not be a great idea. So I may change this welcome message. My point was also to inform you, Iam working on doing that, even if only on my own, as whatever I do when reviewing is done more or less in the name of the community, even when I sign it. Jul 6 '15 at 8:30
• @Juho I am all to aware that votes are totally uncorrelated with answer quality, no to mention the fact that wrong or silly answers get accepted or better upvoted than the good answer that came later (or even sometimes came first). I fear that, by hypothesis, the asker has a good chance to be the least qualified to know whether an answer is good. More generally, I never thought that science and knowledgeis a democratic process. All I expect is for users to say thank you in the local format when work is done for them. Jul 6 '15 at 9:01
• @babou Sure, I'd like that very much too. Perhaps it won't hurt to remind them about it, but there is no way to enforce it, I think. Moreover, maybe a (new) user is less likely to read a "boilerplate comment", that doesn't look like it was specifically tailored to them?
– Juho
Jul 6 '15 at 9:04
• Related, older discussion. Bottom line: if you want feedback (of any kind), long answers are contraindicated.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 6 '15 at 9:09
• I sometimes comment something along the lines of "Please remember to upvote questions that helped you, and accept the one you liked best." on questions that have remained without votes resp. unaccepted.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 6 '15 at 9:11
• I don't think it's necessary to post this comment preemptively on every question by a new user. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If they don't react/accept after a while, then comment.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 12 '15 at 9:54
• @Raphael OK ... That is a clear reaction Jul 12 '15 at 10:03
• suspect many regulars do not vote on the site even on questions they answer & agree lack of awareness/ usage of the voting system is annoying and probably widespread. think some discussion of how to deal with this is acceptable. voting on se is largely a "black box". yes voting on the sites is a sort of (in)formal site courtesy system. think the only thing that can be done is with "repeat offenders" ie ppl who regularly ask questions, but those users are not very common!
– vzn
Jul 21 '15 at 22:12

Some users ask a question and disappear. Maybe they found an answer elsewhere. Maybe they don't care anymore. Maybe they they lost the cookie to their account. There's nothing you can do about that.

Users with less than 15 reputation cannot vote.

Any user can accept an answer on a question they asked (except during the first 15 minutes). They are not under any obligation to do so; accepting is meant to highlight the best answer, if it is satisfactory. Just because someone did post an answer doesn't mean it's worth accepting; the answer may be incorrect, incomplete, unclear...

If the asker has indicated that they find the answer satisfactory, but they haven't marked it as accepted, and they're new to Stack Exchange, then it may indicate that they didn't think of accepting the answer. In this case, and in this case only, it's appropriate to remind them of the feature. Link to the help page “What should I do when someone answers my question?”. Example:

Thanks, that solved it! — Original Poster

@OriginalPoster Welcome to Stack Exchange! I'm glad this answer solved your problem. If you found it fully satisfactory, please mark it as accepted by clicking the check mark next to it. For more information, see What should I do when someone answers my question?

If the user has at least 15 reputation, you may mention upvoting as well. Keep in mind that unless the answer has no upvote, you can't know whether they have already upvoted. Low-reputation users already get a reminder to accept if they upvote an answer on their question.

Of course, don't post any such comment if the asker has not indicated that they found the answer fully satisfactory. Once again, accepting an answer is not an obligation.

Do not, I repeat, do not systematically leave comments badgering askers into upvoting or accepting answers. The comment you propose is especially bad because it suggests things that the asker cannot do (upvoting if they have less than 15 reputation, downvoting if they have less than 125 reputation). New users already get a lot of guidance from the system when they ask a question; your comment is at best additional noise, contains much information that is ill-timed, and is at worst a put-off where you tell the user off for something that they might not do in the future.

On a not completely unrelated note, I think you've got the wrong idea about Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange is not a question answering service. (If it was, I, for one, definitely wouldn't be here.) Stack Exchange is a repository of questions and answers. In the long term, whether your answer gets an upvote from the asker is irrelevant. Concentrate on writing answers that are useful to all readers who will find it, whether they are the asker or someone who will find it in a web search in five years.

• Trying out this message and having your reaction was for me the simplest way of assessing what you consider proper. I di not abuse it, and actually checked that these users did not have the [badge:informed] badge. I actually erased myself one of the two essages I had posted. I do not have a wrong idea about the intent of the system. But it still works better when people are civilized about the way they use it. Also, it seems that unaccepted questions tend to reappear more frequently, though they are not necessarily the more interesting ones. Jul 12 '15 at 13:23
• Stack Exchange is a question answering service. The questions are supposed to be useful for the wider audience, but I doubt it, since many are very specific, and computing technologies change very fast. In our particular site, traffic drops dramatically outside of the semesters, since students don't need help on any homework. Jul 18 '15 at 14:44
• @Yuval how can you measure traffic? do you see it on a page somewhere? think the assertion that traffic changes dramatically at different times of year (for whatever reason, eg semester boundaries) is dubious.
– vzn
Jul 21 '15 at 22:15
• @vzn data.stackexchange.com I'll let you find or write the relevant query. Jul 21 '15 at 22:25
• @Gilles there are dozens of std queries & did not see those that track hit statistics last time looking. could you just link to it if you have one in mind? do you agree with yuval's assertion?
– vzn
Jul 21 '15 at 22:29
• @YuvalFilmus Then we are still not done with sharpening our close-crap-axe.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 29 '15 at 16:48

I sympathize, and I understand how it can be demoralizing to put in a lot of effort into an answer only to never receive any reaction or feedback at all. It can feel like you are writing into a void, and that's not very motivating. I sympathize with the problem you've identified.

Let me suggest a different way to address the problem. Rather than trying to change the behavior of question posters, a different approach is for the rest of us to make more of an effort to upvote good answers. Of course, you can't upvote your own answers, but you can help other answerers, by upvoting good answers from others.

In particular, there are two things we each can do to help:

• Keep an eye on questions on the main feed, and upvote useful answers, even if the original asker has disappeared.

• Look through old questions to find instances of good answers that never got any reaction. Of course, it's easy to miss good answers when they initially appear, so a second thing you can do is use the site search to find questions where this might have happened, read through the answer, and upvote it if it looks good. I haven't found a perfect search query that is perfect at finding these cases, but the following is not a terrible approximation:

score:0 isaccepted:no is:answer

If you page through the search results, you can probably spot question titles that look like substantive, meaty questions, and then take a look at the corresponding answer. Some of the answers are ones that might be reasonable candidates for an upvote. If you prefer to look only at questions within a particular topic area, you can add a tag to the search query (e.g., [programming-languages] or intags:mine).

Of course, this doesn't change the behavior of question posters. But then again, we can't change other people's behavior -- we can only change ourselves. So I wanted to share one way that we can all help ensure that useful answers receive some appreciation, even if the original poster doesn't do that.

• I tnd to upvote what I consider intereting for myself, not just what is correct. Interesting is very subjective and can relate to originality, pedagogy, cuteness, ... Sometimes, simply encouraging new people. In general, I want to understand well, which means that I will not have time for complicated problems, those that are often interesting, and may give much work answering. That is a real issue. Trivial answer gather more rep than hard ones. Conventional answer tend to also get more than more imaginative, open ended ones (which I prefer). Jul 30 '15 at 10:12
• @babou Consider that a short answer may help the OP more now than the long, deep and sweeping one, even though the latter may have more value, quantitatively at least. I myself sometimes use some SE sites for ad-hoc problem solving. On TeX - LaTeX, say, I won't appreciate the answer that explains at length why TeX does it in this or that way more than the answer that tells me the two lines that solve my problem. My advice for you is to become better at estimating what the OP is after, and not spend the time to write stuff they don't want to read (if there are no other reasons to do it, anyway).
– Raphael Mod
Jul 30 '15 at 12:15

Given the current state if the system, I think the answer is "nothing can be done".

1. As long as there are any votes, you can not know if the asker voted.
2. There is no way to force them to vote or accept.

All you can do is not to answer questions of users that you know to be "ungrateful".

• To be honest, your last suggestion does not seem a good suggestion, in my opinion, because the answer could be useful for other people, and not just for the asker. Reputation matters, but I think that the point is to help and ask for help.
– user20691
Jul 15 '15 at 15:33
• @nbro I answer babou's implied question, "how do I avoid being disappointed by lack of feedback". I'm not saying that my proposal is optimal for the site as a whole.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 15 '15 at 15:35
• Two points: (1) I can know whether the OP upvoted or not, if he did not show up while the answer was being upvoted by others. --- (2) What about a user who accepted a wrong answer, which was nevertheless deleted, but refuses to accept a correct one, and will not answer comments asking why. --- I get the feeling that not accepting good answers (which may or not be subjective) pollutes the systems as it will keep reviving the question for more answers that may be unneeded. CC @nbro Jul 30 '15 at 10:50
• @babou ad (1): how do you measure "show up"? The "last seen" entry in the profile? Fickle. ad (2): nothing we can do. Many users vanish once they got what they needed -- of course they do. See DW's answer; I'd not focus on drive-by voters as much. It's the experts' votes that count, isn't it?
– Raphael Mod
Jul 30 '15 at 12:12
• (1) Yes, the last seen entry (I know it is not too precise, but still). Point is I am also curious of how people use this system. (2) The example i have in mind is an active user.... Not really important, but just wondering. Jul 30 '15 at 12:41
• @babou I think you want to try and squeeze the data explorer a bit (data.stackexchange.com). I don't know if you can query for individual votes there, but it may be worth a shot.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 30 '15 at 12:43
• " It's the experts' votes that count, isn't it? ". It is the vote that has meaning. But is it what shows up most. I have my own areas of expertise, and I can see that the votes go to textbook answers, not necessarily the best. Jul 30 '15 at 12:44
• @babou Textbook answers are "safe"; everybody agrees that the have merit, assuming the books are right. Outside of consensus literature, "good" is highly subjective. You will point at one answer which, given your experience, you think is especially useful. Other people with different experiences may point at others. I don't see that as an issue.
– Raphael Mod
Jul 30 '15 at 12:48
• Some "textbook answers" are factually wrong. Actually, you should probably replace textbook by "common wisdom". Thare are things that textbooks are careful not to state too explicitly. But their emphasis on this or that make it an obvious truth for most readers. Jul 30 '15 at 12:55