Super User Recent Feature Changes

May 28, 2011 by . 0 comments

After BloodPhilia asked you guys what the Super User blog should be focusing on, slhck pointed out that it would be nice if we could address recent changes to Super User and the Stack Exchange network. So here’s our first overview of recent changes.

Downvotes on questions are “free”!

Are there any WordPress plugins for embedding YouTube videos - Super User - Goo_2011-05-18_10-10-39

From the start downvotes have “cost” rep: –2 from the post’s owner’s and –1 from yours. We all worked very hard for our rep and don’t want to lose any of it just to help moderate the site! The result? Users hardly ever downvote! Here’s a graph Jeff made with the upvotes vs. downvotes.


Clearly nobody ever used downvotes as intended and the cost to the downvoter was to blame. But downvotes serve a clear purpose, as Jeff puts it:

I feel downvoting on questions is particularly useful to distinguish a well-written, researched, clear and useful question from .. well, a question that is none of those things.

Thus, to achieve a more balanced question voting, we removed the -1 cost of casting a downvote on a question.

Note that the effects of this will be reviewed, so don’t go abuse your downvotes. For the rest, use your votes to help us distinguish between the good and the bad!

10 Additional question-only votes and a new Vox Populi badge

Waffles had a look at the recent data of Stack Overflow and found that about 23% of the votes are on questions when in fact questions are 34% of the posts. So, it appeared, answers were being favored when it comes to voting.

Bill the Lizard proposed to give us 10 question-only votes on top of our current 30 all-purpose votes. Or as waffles sums it:

  • Everyone gets a total of 30 votes.
  • You may up to 10 extra question votes.
  • Warnings remains simple … (5 vote remaining, 4 vote remaining …)
  • Question votes may be cast at any time during the day. However once you reach the N votes remaining warnings, stuff is set in stone. A question voting spree at the end will still count down.

Vox Populi Badge - Super User - Google Chrome_2011-05-18_10-23-37To motivate users to actually use their votes, they also introduced a new badge: Vox Populi. This badge is awarded to those who “used the maximum 40 votes in a day”.

Given that I’m a big fan of voting on questions. I even have the Electorate badge (Voted on 600 questions and 25% or more of total votes are on questions) SU, SO and Gaming. While Jeff is right that the answers are more valuable than questions (and thus are more likely to deserve upvotes), I also believe that you can’t have good answers without good questions. So if I upvote a great answer, I always upvote the question as well and you all should too. So more voting on questions! Or as Jeff put it: Vote for this question or the kitten gets it

Question limits and quality filters

The team has been working hard to keep Super User clean. One very effective way of doing so is rate-limiting users that ask a lot of questions. The new limit is 50 questions/month, which is really a lot. I mean here’s the top 10 question askers from SU:

Top askers of SO - Stack Exchange Data Explorer - Google Chrome_2011-05-18_10-50-38

Of this list, only OSX Jedi hasn’t been a member for over a year, putting him on an average of ~26 questions/month. Contrast this to the 1449 Blankman asked on SO and you’ll see that luckily its not that big a deal on SU. Shog9 puts the situation very eloquently:

SO isn’t your personal concierge, and being allowed to ask 50 questions in a month’s time is quite generous – but if it is too restrictive for you then I humbly suggest that you are not granting sufficient value to the time and effort put in by others in answering/reviewing these questions. Spend a bit of time searching existing questions (or, y’know, official documentation) first, and ask only when this has proved fruitless.

Clearly SO has some ‘big city’ problems that SU currently can only dream off, but having too many questions only dilutes the attention from the questions that deserve it. Which is also where question voting comes in again!

Users who have their questions downvoted, closed or deleted also risk getting blocked from asking any new questions until they participate in a more positive way. In addition to being blocked from asking any questions, individual questions also risk being rejected. As Jeff states:

There are certain quality filters we apply to incoming questions. Make sure your question has
  • a clear title
  • a reasonable explanation of what your question is, sharing your research on the matter
  • correct use of English and actual sentences
If your question is so brief that it could be looked up in a dictionary or reference book/site trivially, it might not be a good fit on our network. If you have done no research before asking, and have no research to share in your question … should you be asking at all?

So if you don’t want to get blocked out of asking questions, it might be a good idea to have a look at Tom’s guide to “How to get your questions answered?” And if you see anyone complain about getting their questions blocked on Meta, be sure to point them to these relevant Meta discussions for more information!

Bounty changes

HarryMC, our top bounty-answerer, shall be glad with this recent change:

The implementation has changed a bit to better accommodate careless bounty owners. 🙂 If …
  • the bounty was started by the question owner
  • the question owner accepts an answer during the bounty period
  • the bounty award period expires without an explicit award
… then we assume the question owner liked your answer when they accepted it, and it gets the full amount of the bounty at time of bounty expiration.

In other news, the Stack Exchange podcast has returned for those missed it! Anyway, that’s a wrap for now, but be sure to check back regularly for more news!

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