11

It seems to me that voting on this site is particularly low turn-out. That includes question and answer, and both up and down votes. As a very quick exercise, I just looked at the top few on the "active" questions page, and the median number of votes on an answer was 0. In fact only one answer had any votes at all! (Coincidentally or not, it was answered by a mod.) These questions have views, so they are not sitting there waiting for a first look.

This seems to reflect and/or cause several problems that are reflected in other threads on meta:

  1. There seem to be a lot of low quality questions and answers that really should be downvoted so that the good content can rise. (Not to mentioned flagged, marked duplicate, etc.)

  2. There seem to be a few good questions and answers that don't rise because they sit at 0 votes perpetually.

  3. New users cannot increase their reputation, so the review queues (as I understand it) are getting back up with the handful of users who are both active and high rep at the same time that natural attrition reduces the number of high rep users who remain active.

  4. The system seems to be bringing old questions to the front of the queue. ("Bumped to homepage by Community.") I infer that this is happening on questions that have one or more answers where none of the answers have votes. This further mucks up the works by bringing back questions that (apparently) no one cared about in the first place in an environment where we're already not getting enough quality questions in the mix.

Any ideas why there are so few voting members here? I understand that review queues require reputation to access and time to review. Voting requires only a single click on something that you've potentially already read anyway. It doesn't seem to be as big of a problem on other sites that I use, including some fairly small ones.

  • 2
    "Stingy voting behaviour" is in fact an issue here and it has been ever since I joined the site. This months list of voters does only include 13 people which needs to be considered poor. I agree that voting should be more encouraged. However I disagree that RPi.SE is an especially bad example. arduino.stackexchange.com (which I would consider to be somewhat similar in the narrowness of its topic and approximate size of its community) shows pretty much the same effect - at least when looking through the first page ... – Ghanima Sep 18 '17 at 13:31
  • ... that however should not be an excuse not to work and improve our site! – Ghanima Sep 18 '17 at 13:31
  • @Ghanima It is an excuse to the extent that even the basic tools to do that work are denied until a user gains sufficient reputation, and you can really only gain by getting votes. Also, comparing to the Arduino SE was an act of desperation, no? :) – Brick Sep 18 '17 at 13:36
  • Well, you could say that it was desperation but I think Arduino has quite many similarities to our site, so that is that. However, I did notice that this month's list of voters has 14 entries now ;) Looks like your meta post is starting to work as intended! – Ghanima Sep 18 '17 at 13:53
  • I just cast my first vote of the month to take it to 14. Ha! @Ghanima – Brick Sep 18 '17 at 13:57
  • I know, I chose to not pinpoint that fact to you ;) – Ghanima Sep 18 '17 at 14:06
9

To bring some data to the table (with the aid of SEDE):

Questions

  • The average score of a question is 2.15, considering all questions.
  • If we consider only questions posted in 2017, that drops to 0.56 average score.

  • Counting only questions after August 2017, the average score is 0.37.

Answers

  • The average score of an answer is 2.14.
  • For posts in 2017, that drops to 0.84.
  • For posts created after August 2017, that drops to 0.55.

Note that these figures may be a little misleading, as newer posts don't get as much chance to pick up votes as they are found organically via Google.

Comparing this to a more established Stack Exchange site, you find that the average answer score is slightly higher at 2.62, and the average question score is a little lower at 1.88.

The average question score on Stack Overflow for questions after August 2017 is a mere 0.15, whereas for answers it's 0.68 (slightly higher than RPi).

So, in terms of means, Stack Overflow and Raspberry Pi are not too dissimilar... But there are three kinds of lies, and in this case I suspect using the mean makes little sense as it's distorted by answers that are heavily upvoted and downvoted on either side.

Some pretty box plots (if you're not familiar with the format, the furthest lines—whiskers—represent the maximum and minimum, and the box's lines represent the lower quartile, median and upper quartile respectively):

Voting on Questions


Voting on Answers

Voting on Answers

Note: data for posts created after mid-September 2017, because the query wouldn't run for posts before that on Stack Overflow (too much data!)


Anecdotally, I must say that it feels as if there is little voting activity, both on questions and answers. It's often difficult to tell from a question's score if it's actually very interesting, as poor posts don't seem to be as aggressively downvoted as on Stack Overflow, and good posts don't seem to be upvoted as much (perhaps simply because there are fewer eyes on the post).

  • For questions, my first impression is this might be comparable. For answers, I think it's skewed because SE gets a lot of follow-on answers with (in many cases deservedly) low score. It also probably throws in the answers with negative score on SE, which must bring their average down since there is aggressively active downvoting. Would be more interesting to do it with absolute value or with only the top-scoring answer, IMO. Of course also probably more work to get that data and consequently not worth the effort. – Brick Sep 19 '17 at 19:46
  • It would be interesting to look at the stats for Server Fault. I consider that to be a low-voting site in comparison to Stack Overflow. – Dennis Williamson Sep 19 '17 at 21:36
  • @DennisWilliamson I did a few more queries and added a box plot of the results in here (including for Server Fault). The median is broadly similar for most sites, but RPi and Server Fault do seem pretty similar in that regard. – Aurora0001 Sep 20 '17 at 14:19
3

The problem is simply that not specifically this site but SE in general are sites main!y driven by fanboys and/or are an 'old boys network'. This has been noticed many times on SE sites as well as on other sites but nobody is doing something. So the sites are characterized by friend voting and low quality answers. Concerning myself I can only come to the conclusion that I also lost interest in SE because I feel the system is wrong by design and not longer worth investing time in.

  • I would argue that I think you're wrong but then again I am probably part of the 'old boys network'. So I will just try to put some facts here. 1) there is a good deal of 'old boys' that don't even participate in voting at large (raspberrypi.meta.stackexchange.com/a/986/19949) 2) looking at the list of this month's voters I find that about half of them are fairly new to the community. – Ghanima Sep 19 '17 at 8:49
  • 3) anecdotal only, because I don't have any data to back it up for obvious reasons (votes are anonymous), I believe that friend voting is not a thing but people vote mainly based on a posts quality. – Ghanima Sep 19 '17 at 8:50
3

Quoting statistics from the Northern Hemisphere summer holiday season is not really representative. This seems to bring out a spate of very poor questions which frankly don't deserve answers.

Unfortunately, rather than getting questioners to improve their question, we get answers to a question the answerer thought was really meant. Often these just lead into a dead end, and don't help anyone.

A very large number of new questions have been asked before, but still get answers (I am guilty of this myself, as I have a list of answers, and finding duplicates is more work than answering.) Suggesting that people should do some basic research them self seems to be poorly regarded.

I am not a prolific up/down voter.

I up vote good answers, (unfortunately rare, except by the regulars). I am very reluctant to down vote answers, as this seems to be taken as a personal affront.

I occasionally up vote good questions, but these seem to be even rarer. Again down votes, even to extremely poor questions, seem to be taken as an affront.

Finally, I don't think the points are important! Answers with lots of votes, on this and other sites, can be a useful guide to what others have found helpful, but the pursuit of points seems to encourage unnecessary activity.

  • With almost 20k question on site it's getting in fact somewhat more difficult to actually remember potential dupes... and I really consider the memory of the long-time users a better tool than to search for dupes in this regard. Unfortunately checking for dupes - which is a task for the OP before posting a question (at leas by the book, that is) - is now put on the community too more often than not. Paying more attention to closing dupes could actually help the community (the scarce ressource of potential answerers) to focus more on good answers but then again would that really change voting? – Ghanima Sep 19 '17 at 8:19
  • I can't speak for the whole hemisphere, but US "summer holiday season" is past. Down-voting questions that are poor and answers that guess against them might have some impact. Closing duplicates more quickly would certainly be good for the site in general, although not necessarily related to voting. The points do matter in the sense that they control who has access to the various tools to make the site better - On one hand there are meta posts about not enough reviewers, on the other the community takes no action to get new people those privileges. Agree: points != quality & leads to gaming. – Brick Sep 19 '17 at 12:58
  • One of the problems with duplicate handling is that the decision that something is a duplicate is often times made by people/persons who for whatever reason seem to lack sufficient discrimination. i.e. saying something is a duplicate when in actuality, there may be subtleties in the new post that the person claiming duplicate does not see, or chooses to ignore. In short, there is much subjectivity in the duplicate selection process. Perhaps a cost should be applied to claiming duplicate, as is done to prevent wholesale down voting. (knowing a down vote cost something, limits its use.) – ryyker Oct 27 '17 at 22:33
3

I've commented on a few of the responses, but one additional factor that I think is adversely affecting this community is the very dynamic nature of the RPi ecosystem. Answers to question from a few years, or even a few months ago are simply out of date. A few examples that come to mind:

  1. USB power output and how to increase it (often obsolete info).
  2. Changes to init scripts/systemd procedures.
  3. New capabilities such as USB gadget applicable to some models, not others.

Here and on other locations, I often see questions from users who link to a woefully out-of-date howto that they're trying to follow. Not to mention the monstrosity that is NOOBS and all the confusion it adds to any discussion. It can be frustrating trying to figure out where a new user looking for help is even starting from without issuing a detailed questionnaire. I don't think this is really "fixable" so much as a factor that works against this SE being as valuable as it might be in comparison to some other, less dynamic tech communities. Math tends not to change. Electronics change, but old things still work. A lot of the Unix I learned 20+ years ago still works fine... in some instances. But getting a RPi configured and running has changed a hell of a lot in the last 5 years.

  • I've started to notice outdated materiel, and questions from a long time ago asking about the original Pi, and people replying about the Pi Zero (for example). – YetAnotherRandomUser Nov 10 '17 at 2:27
2

The propensity of some users to quickly downvote the answers and comments of others discourages people not only from participating, but from voting as well. If the system were arranged so that the only 3 or more downvotes against a comment/answer count against someone, it would ensure that only truly deserved downvotes actually penalize a poster.

  • 3
    This site doesn't seem to generate a lot of downvotes either. In any case not more (as far as I can tell) than other SE sites that don't seem to have the same problem. Overall voting seems low compared to other SE sites that operate under the same basic conditions. – Brick Sep 18 '17 at 21:44
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    I follow Brick here, downvoting is actually not especially strong either. There are also a few diligent community members here that use comments to explain what is wrong with a question or answer and why it deserves (or might deserve) a downvote. Using these comments is imho key in guiding new users to understand and follow the rules and quality guidelines. So we can only ask to leave comments on downvoting. – Ghanima Sep 19 '17 at 8:38
  • I disagree. I've seen several instances where a question or correct (although perhaps not complete) has been downvoted without comment. That's discouraging for both the original poster and the respondent. There's also a lot of inconsistency and arbitrary application of the "not raspberry pi specific" criteria that can be frustrating. – bobstro Sep 30 '17 at 19:18
1

Narrowness (and on a platform targeting beginners to boot) seems like the major cause of issues to me.

As people learn they branch out, if there is little here for researching more advanced and particular topics then they wont stay and participate as middle and advanced users. Beginners can't drive-by-vote accurately or review things beyond common knowledge and (maybe) their current focus.

For example, I am waiting for a RPi-clone with a RPi Bus. When it arrives, I will join another more fragmented community that probably has 10% of the people who disappeared up-and-out here. Other clones like the orangePi probably have a higher percent of RPi.SE's losses. We could all still be here discussing various topics with a few additional tags, and also doing some of the normal triage.

When I look at the nearly hateful reactions to suggestions of topic expansion on narrow sites, I think it is not about beginners at all but people feeling like they have to know more than a beginner about everything on the site to advance to intermediate, and so forth; that expertise must be linear on the site. SO is popular because it abandons the possibility creating an all category expert and gives everyone a site where they can show up to learn about something new to them.

  • I really cannot find hateful reactions when it comes to discussing on/off-topicness here in our meta. The issue has been discussed before and can be discussed again. There are factual reasons pro and against it but it's not about "people feeling like they have to know more than a beginner", well at least that is not what I think. See raspberrypi.meta.stackexchange.com/q/567/19949 ... and I fail to find the hate in there. – Ghanima Sep 19 '17 at 8:32
  • @Ghanima I think the link to a deleted question here pointed to the negative comments and/or answers I encountered when I was looking into orangePis as an example clone: raspberrypi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/611/… At any rate, I view this kind of in-group behavior as a reason to abandon a site, and abandoned vi/vim.SE for similar behavior around declaring unfashionable but clearly overlapping themes off topic. A site can support millions of questions and thousands of tags to like or ignore, so gamification->intolerance. – lossleader Sep 19 '17 at 9:30
  • Again, there is nothing wrong in discussing the scope of this site on meta and change it if the community supports the move. I still don't see how the arguments about that are hateful. Sure, a site can support a million questions but do we have the people and the expertise to answer them? Unanswered questions don't help anybody. Following that argument most sites of the SE network could be merged with SO. Would you expect that adds to clarity? – Ghanima Sep 19 '17 at 9:58
  • 1
    @Ghanima SO was carefully defined abstractly and closing on-topic questions is wrong even if another site exists for them.. If you build a community that takes the middle demographic using arbitrary criteria then you fragment the edges such that they can't build groups and they get mixed benefits working with the community that regularly excludes them. When a democracy or republic that defined itself poorly asks why it is failing, the answer is not pleasant for the majority entitled to vote or they would have fixed the problem. The community as defined violates the area51 expertise rule. – lossleader Sep 19 '17 at 10:35
  • 1
    I wasn't aware of orange pi before, so I'll have to read on that. I agree with @Ghanima that I didn't see "hate" in the links and the parts thereof that I read, but I am curious about why these variants aren't treated like the different models of RPi, but, again, I don't know enough about these "cousins" to have an opinion yet. The reasoning at the links did not seem immediately compelling to me as a first impression only. – Brick Sep 19 '17 at 13:37
1

It might be worth noting that most posts on S.E. likely have no upvotes either (I haven't checked, but that is way it appears to me -- questions that are ignored from the start, answers that are piled on and ignored, etc). The average score is probably higher, but that is because when something is appreciated, it can quickly be appreciated by hundreds or thousands of people. As you and others have observed, we don't have the membership to do that -- yet we are still saddled with the one-size-fits-all S.E. system; you need the same rep to earn privileges here as you do on sites that are orders of magnitude larger.

I think the answers already here do sum it up, albeit some of the bitter ones represent a subjective consequence; people get hung up on the rep thing, feel frustrated, and give up (which may or may not be for the greater good). If your goal is points, this is definitely the wrong exchange.

I've berated people about the importance of voting before, to no avail. Something that distinguishes us from many other small sites is the very technical nature, and (despite the intention of trying to keep it narrow), the very broad realm. To upvote something you at least have to read it, and most members probably aren't going to read most posts. On less technical, more focussed sites, the general readership is liable to be more engaged, and therefore more likely to cast votes.

What we do have, which I think is a major part of why we graduated from beta, is a lot of page views. This is obviously important to the system as a whole, because part of what allows it to be free to use are advertising revenues. Someone without enough rep to vote, or without any account at all, will influence that stat the same way 10k+ users do. This is significant not just in terms of revenue, but because it implies people do actually find help here, even if they do not sign up to add "Thanks!" (which is of course discouraged as superfluous).

So again, if what you are chasing is rep, this is the wrong place. But don't take that to mean that you can't be useful.

  • 1
    Your point about many 0 vote answers on SO is probably true, but I think the top answer certainly tends to have at least one vote. That (by my quick check) the "top" here answer usually has 0 seems to mean that not even the first-time review queue is getting a vote by the reviewer. It seems like there were a lot of good questions on this site early and decreasing quality in recent years (again doing only a quick survey). Could correlate to limited changes to HW so the "good" questions are taken. What keeps the site relevant going forward? How does it survive with no "enabled" users? – Brick Sep 19 '17 at 17:28
  • I think t's surviving just fine. Would it be nice if there were a larger body of enthusiastic people with a useful degree of expertise? Sure. But if X people a day come here and get help with a problem they would not otherwise have gotten, that makes it worthwhile. I imagine we are pretty high up in relevant google rankings, etc. WRT all the good questions being taken I think this is the nature of the beast here and on a lot of the S.E. network, including S.O. – goldilocks Sep 20 '17 at 13:04

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