I am relatively new to SE, but I have noticed something quite peculiar. I often am reading lots of old questions (years old) and encounter many that are very short, show very little self-attempt, and are probably just homework questions, yet, they have far more upvotes than I would expect. When I see these types of questions that are asked in the past year or so, they are usually downvoted very quickly, or have few to no upvotes.

I am not talking about massively upvoted questions, just everyday questions such as these: this question, this question, this one, and this one.

It seems as though the culture of acceptable questions on SE has dramatically changed over time, and I am wondering why? Perhaps when the SE was newer, users were more likely to upvote because there were far fewer questions?

My question is similar to this one, however, it was posted 3 years ago and it seems this phenomenon has increased greatly since.

  • 15
    $\begingroup$ (1) the culture has probably changed over time, but also (2) there are questions asked today which are not acceptable, but which nevertheless are not closed/deleted, as there are not enough eyes to deal with every question asked---this has always been true, thus there are questions asked ages ago, which weren't appropriate at the time of asking, but which have managed to survive. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 17:07
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ Another aspect of time is that upvotes can accumulate, so seeing older Questions with "tons of upvotes" may happen when users find that a problem they have was already asked and answered. I don't think it is bad if that's how it happens. The timeline of a Question might reveal how quickly votes accumulated. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 17:17
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Requirement for context was definitely a thing even a decade ago, but there was less pressure then to be obeying the letter of the law. $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 1:48
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I don't have solid evidence for this, but i have the impression that COVID lock downs left lots of students with severely reduced access to teachers, and dealing with the resulting flood affected the population and the culture here. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 4:14
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ Some of this drift is natural and a product of MSE's success - there are fewer new questions that can get away without as much motivation/context/etc in the post after 10 years of this site's existence because they've already been posted. $\endgroup$
    – KReiser
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ How many upvotes in a ton? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 5:42
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Seriously though, when an old question pops up I find myself wishing I were there back in 2011. Answers regularly got 50 upvotes back then, and they weren't anything special! $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Mike 10 years from now, many recent questions will have 50+ upvotes. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 22:46
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Some of the old questions were dealing with elementary topics for the first time. Now such questions are inevitably duplicates one way or another and tend to be marked as such. I think the culture has changed, and partly because that elementary part of the question spectrum is pretty saturated. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 13:44
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Another reason is that there has broadly been a move to abstract questions and to dealing with the mathematical content, rather than (as some of us did more in the past) trying to help people negotiate their personal mental blocks with the material. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 13:46
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I see from this thread that "prohibiting answers in comments" has not made its way into the enforced quality standards yet. /s $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 11:30
  • 19
    $\begingroup$ I occasionally come here to ask quick questions when I can't locate an expert colleague or don't want to bother them with an easy problem. The "quality" police (who usually have nothing mathematically interesting to add) have been noticeably more annoying in recent years. They even downvote and vote to close. It's just completely rude. $\endgroup$
    – wzzx
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 17:04
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ This is annoying, I am rarely here, usually in stack overflow as a CS researcher, but sometimes I have math related questions and a subsets of those times I can't find the answer and I don't have a mathematician at hand. Today I decided to see if I could get help with such a question here. Someone downvoted it and left no comment either. Usually when I downvote someone on stackoverflow I comment explaining why, particularly if he is an occasional user. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 9:55
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I think more questions get zapped nowadays under the guise of 'presumed no effort'. Some get deleted without any explanation. There is an admirable effort to accumulate standard answers to standard questions, but I have difficulty locating it. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Commented May 1, 2022 at 2:31
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ I have also observed that the site has taken a more formal and bureaucratic and less friendly atmosphere over the years. It has definitely dampened my interest here. I generally don't engage with low quality questions anyways, but the general air of hostility makes the place un-fun. It feels like a bad homeowners association, with self-appointed authorities going around harassing everyone for minor infractions. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Alger
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 18:55


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