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Using the Unanswered tab, I was surprised to find a large number of questions that were already answered in the answer box, correctly, and thoroughly. But if the answer(s) is never upvoted, the question remains in the tab where it does not belong. To make things worse, the Community user occasionally bumps such already-answered questions to the front page, wasting the screen real estate.

By now I've read a number of such answers (to make sure they are indeed correct) and subsequently upvoted: this is by far the easiest way to reduce the number of Unanswered questions on the site (currently 8409). Of course, 30 upvotes per day only go so far, which is why I write this, hoping that more users will find a little time for this kind of clean-up.

Why so many question owners do not upvote correct answers to their questions, I have no idea.

As an aside (but in line with the topic), I'd like to recognize J.M. as the first MSE user to vote 10000 times.

10K votes

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    $\begingroup$ In any event, to speculate on the "why": a lot of the drive-by unregistered askers are not able to upvote answers because unregistered users are not allowed to vote. They are able to accept answers, but a lot of these people forget to do so. For people who can upvote, but do not do so, that's a different kettle of fish... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 1 '12 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ Congrats to @J.M. and +1 to this thread. An annoying thing, but happens easily on topics that interest only relatively few members. In particular when the answers are a bit technical and require a moderate investment of our precious time to check. I have been trying to follow this advice on the esoteric topics that interest me. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 2 '12 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW: on the more specialized tags (e.g. special-functions), I always strive to thoroughly read questions and answers, and upvote them if I like the treatment. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 2 '12 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ One reason could be that lots of people answer in the comment box, which means you can't select it as answered. $\endgroup$ – Magpie Aug 4 '12 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Magpie, that is a related issue, but that is not what Leonid is asking about. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 4 '12 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ also could be that although it is right, it might not have explained it well enough to the person asking for them to feel that the question was answered. $\endgroup$ – Magpie Aug 4 '12 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ I feel that there are so many ask-and-run users. Many users ask a question, get some answers and you'll never see them here again. $\endgroup$ – leo Aug 9 '12 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure I quite understand the question here, but to me, this seems sort of like asking "why do people not always show up for class on time?" or "why don't people exercise everyday?" or something along those lines. People come to the site with all sorts of different expectations and goals. They haven't signed a binding contract to engage in behavior consistent with, and promoting the community's stated goals. They don't need to do so, do they? You'd probably need to have an extremely unusual and gifted understanding of human psychology to answer your question thoroughly. $\endgroup$ – Doug Spoonwood Aug 13 '12 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Doug My question was not "why many askers do not upvote answers they were given". The privilege of upvoting is not restricted to the person who asked the question. As a matter of fact, I didn't want to be given an answer nearly as much as I wanted people to upvote correct answers more often, $\endgroup$ – user31373 Aug 13 '12 at 13:50
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Another reason seems to be that many people won't recognize (or are not interested in) a correct answer the more specialized or advanced the question is. I got many upvotes and answer tags on absolutely trivial statements while sometimes I (quite obviously) put lots of work into answers on special topics for which no one cared later on. I do not complain about this (these are the answers which are fun for me, actually), it's just an observation and if I could not live with it I'd stop answering questions here.

I do appreciate and support your request to clean up a bit, however.

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  • $\begingroup$ "I (quite obviously) put lots of work into answers on special topics for which no one cared later on." - story of a number of my answers (and not just on this SE site)... :) I agree; non-LHF questions tend to be more fun to answer, even if the answers are not very highly voted on. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 4 '12 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M.: What is LHF? I got what it means as such, but would like to know the exact expansion. :-) $\endgroup$ – user14082 Aug 4 '12 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Jayesh, "low-hanging fruit"; that is, questions that are "easy" to answer (the definition of "easy" being user-dependent, of course). $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 4 '12 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M.: Ohh. :-) Thanks. $\endgroup$ – user14082 Aug 4 '12 at 13:44
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The reason that a user might not upvote good answers to his/her question is usually that he/she does not know how to, forgets to do so, or does not notice the answers. Of course, this most often happens when the user is new/unregistered.

However, you may also ask why other users do not upvote good answers. The main "problem" is that voting and reputation are highly opportunistic. You need to answer the right questions at the right time and in the right place in order to maximize your upvote yield. You can "hit gold" with many upvotes for a very good but not great answer if your timing is perfect. On the other hand, you can get few or no upvotes for an excellent answer simply because no-one notices it or those who notice it do not understand it. For example, if some users lived in different time zones to the ones they do, then their reputation would probably be (much) higher that it is currently. Of course, if you answer a bounty question, then even if you are not awarded the bounty, you gain a reasonable amount of reputation points simply because the question is highlighted and more people are likely to view your answer (and upvote it).

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Users interested in reducing the backlog of Unanswered questions by upvoting helpful answers may find the following queries useful:

Warning #1: the data is not real-time. If you look at the very top rows, you may find that the answers were already upvoted by another user. This is less likely if you scroll down to a random position in the table.

Warning #2: the queries do not guarantee that the answer is correct. That's still up to the voter to decide.

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