Maybe this "question" is more of a rant. Oh well.

I notice a lot of inconsistencies when it comes to new users asking questions without showing any work. I feel strongly that some people use the upvoting and downvoting system based on whether a question interests them, rather than whether they feel the user put effort in before asking the question.

For example, see this question. The user didn't show any attempts, or explain what they understood or thought about the problem. All they said was, "I have no idea," to which they got $2$ upvotes and some help.

Meanwhile, in this question, the same problems occur. The user didn't show any work, and simply said they really need help. They got $3$ downvotes! And the question was eventually closed.

What is the rationale behind this? Why does the community selectively choose to help one person over another, even upvoting the question of one user while downvoting/closing the question of another, when both users didn't indicate that they have put any actual thought into the problem? By the way, both users were newly created account.

I realize this is an open ended question to which no one has a definitive answer. Maybe I'm just trying to create a discussion or raise awareness. Sigh.

EDIT For the record, when I posted this question, the first question I referenced had $2$ upvotes and $0$ downvotes, while the second question had $0$ upvotes and $3$ downvotes. These ratings have changed since then, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that some viewers of this question caused that.

  • $\begingroup$ Downvote already but no comment explaining why? Should I continue to take this seriously? $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ It can be frustrating. But trying to predict the voting patterns here is no easier than trying to predict the results in a political election. Anybody can vote in any manner they want without impunity. I don't care if a user homework grovels, and if I see an interesting question being closed (even without any work), I cast my vote for reopening. But I feel like the majority of people here disagree with my approach to voting. Vote as you see fit, and don't get too upset if the dice don't fall the way you wanted. $\endgroup$ – user123641 Nov 27 '14 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ You forgot to mention that the second question also got some help. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 27 '14 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan I understand that people should be able to vote as they choose, but it's still a concern that there isn't a consensus on this site. What is the function of upvoting/downvoting? If a question gets a lot of upvotes or downvotes, what does that mean? Since all of these votes are cast for different reasons. What does upvoting or downvoting achieve? $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 4:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JoelReyesNoche My point was that it was closed and downvoted $3$ times, which would naturally lead to less people being interested in viewing the question and offering their help. $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ If you think that it is unfair that the second question got more downvotes and was closed, then you should upvote it and vote to reopen it, right? $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 27 '14 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JoelReyesNoche I'm merely commenting on a consistent trend I'm observing across the math stackexchange site, not asking about what actions I should take that would align with my principles. The point of this question is: what is the point of upvoting/downvoting if every user uses the function for their own purpose? What does it signify if a question has a lot of upvotes? $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ "Why does the community selectively choose to help one person over another, even upvoting the question of one user while downvoting/closing the question of another, when both users didn't indicate that they have put any actual thought into the problem?" I think you should know the answer, considering that you voted to close the second question and not the first. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 27 '14 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JoelReyesNoche I didn't vote to close the first because I came here to ask about it instead. $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I see your point. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 27 '14 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, please don't act surprised that linking to posts from Meta changed their score. It's called "meta effect": every post linked from meta will get extra votes of some kind: up, down, close, reopen, delete, undelete. If you are really concerned about consistent treatment, don't link to specific posts. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Nov 27 '14 at 6:05

Short answer: "the community" is not The Borg.

Different people may react differently to same question: some react with answers and upvotes, others with downvotes and closevotes.

And chances are, any two different questions have different sets of people looking at them, for several reasons:

  1. Tags. Users follow some tags and ignore others. Different tags $\implies$ different audiences.

  2. Time when the post appeared: different timezones $\implies $ different audiences. I don't downvote questions in my sleep, though I may be dreaming of it.

  3. Reviewers. Posts by new users are randomly assigned to someone for review in First Posts queue. When the post is weak, the result may depend on who the reviewer is and whether they had their morning coffee or not.

  4. Title and formatting. Some users shoot themselves in the foot by picking a title that attracts downvotes. Ugly formatting may also have this effect.

  5. Editor availability. Some poorly posed or poorly formatted questions are brought into shape before they get more than 1-2 downvotes. Others are not so lucky.

  6. Links from other posts, on the same or another site. Case in point: by linking to these two posts from here, you contributed to a considerable change of their scores and possibly close/open status.

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    $\begingroup$ Well then we shouldn't have that description appear when you hover your mouse over the upvote or downvote stating "this question shows research effort; it is clear and useful". Instead, it should say "upvoting is a free for all, and people will upvote and downvote whatever they like regardless of the intended function of this button." $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ There is a vast gray area in between what's "obviously" deserving an upvote and what's "obviously" deserving a downvote. This is on top of the criteria being subjective to begin with. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Nov 27 '14 at 5:02
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    $\begingroup$ Ok then if this criteria is so subjective to begin with, what is the purpose of upvoting and downvoting questions? It is a totally meaningless function of the site. Different people upvote/downvote for completely different reasons, so a question with a lot of upvotes doesn't really mean anything. It's not like everyone that upvoted the question voted for the same reasons. Different people can upvote for totally different reasons. When I see a question that has been upvoted, I can't bring myself to feel that it has been upvoted because of a common consensus by the community that... $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ ...this question is clear, useful, and shows research effort. I can only think "Ok, $6$ upvotes...hmm... $3$ people had their coffee this morning, $3$ people thought the question was interesting". What is the point of upvoting? What function does it serve on the site? $\endgroup$ – layman Nov 27 '14 at 5:47
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    $\begingroup$ There is also a vast gray area between "completely objective and working perfectly every time" and "totally meaningless". Random factors tend to average themselves out over a large number of posts; for a user who has been on the site for a while, these random fluctuation are just that, background noise. E.g., the "achievements" thing tells me that one of my answers is now at -2... ask me if I care. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Nov 27 '14 at 5:51

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