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Background

Post notices are banners that can be added by mods to the top of a question. There are only a short list of them available, the list is site-specific, and they require Stack Exchange employees to create new ones.

You may be familiar with seeing them on some posts saying "This post contains content that needs citations from reputable sources."

The Problem

There have been some complaints that notable questions about political or religious footballs get downvotes and/or close votes because of political or religious biases of the average reader of the site. This is especially true during Hot Network Questions (HNQ) raids, where we tend to get a lot of programmers with little experience in skepticism popping in.

There are many legitimate reasons to downvote a question - including if you think it is actually a political attack masquerading as a question - but expressing bona fide doubt in a claim made by a politician that you like or loathe is not one of them.

Proposal

  1. That we write a paragraph that explicitly warns against downvoting based on political view points, with a link to a FAQ article expanding on what is good and bad reasons for voting.

  2. That we ask Stack Exchange to add this is a post notice.

  3. That mods add the post notice to questions on the main site where it considered that they may be up or downvoted based on political prejudices rather than whether it is a high-quality question.

The inspiration is the subreddit Am I the Asshole? where people ask for moral feedback on their actions. A "stickied comment" on each question (their equivalent to post notices) warns readers:

Don’t downvote assholes!
Do upvote interesting posts!

Do you think this will help? If so, what would you like to see in the post notice?

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  • 1
    Do we have good evidence any mod banners work that well? I perceive they kind of work.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Jan 17 at 16:11
  • I half expect we go through all this effort, but votes are unchanged and complaints of bad voting continue. Maybe I'm too cynical when it comes to people's political opinions.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Jan 17 at 16:23
  • @fredsbend with some of the repeated questions that have been posted since November agree about this not doing a lot to stop it.
    – Joe W
    Jan 17 at 20:15
  • 2
    Most downvotes don't come from HNQ (who can't DV, needs 125 rep) but from biased regulars. Trust me on this, on politics SE almost all the DVs go in the non-HNQ phase. After that HNQ it's almost all UVs. The regulars (mods included) are actually somewhat exasperated by bad q getting tons of upvotes in HNQ...
    – Fizz
    Jan 18 at 1:02
  • 2
    @fredsbend: My unresearched perception is when "this is low-quality-because-X" banners are added to posts, they slow down the downvotes and flags. This is a different concept, where it is aimed at the readers. I don't have data either way, but it seems like an experiment that would be cheapish to try. I am not aiming for a complete reversal of this behaviour, just a reduction to the point that it isn't propagating a political bubble.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jan 18 at 4:17
  • @JoeW: Sorry, that's too vague. Which questions you are talking about?
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jan 18 at 4:17
  • 2
    @Fizz: Point taken. I understand and agree. Upvotes on answers for political reasons are almost as destructive though.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jan 18 at 4:18
  • While most HNQ-visitors can't DV (but can distort with UV), I guess quite a few came from HNQ previously, 'wrote a 'popular A*', got UVs for them, enabling DVs as well. The thumb rule '>125rep'='regular familiar with site and going by rules with low bias' overlooks all non-regulars (semis?), ppl just coming by again when sth's on HNQ. Plus: even regular users with uncontrollable bias might benefit from such a reminder. Though I sometimes feel that it maybe would be best to have that banner simply on all posts here. Jan 18 at 7:02
  • 1
    To get an idea of what sort of votes the HNQ attracts, someone with 25000 reputation could check out the site analytics page. I have access to that tool over on Politics, and on there you can easily see the spikes in votes whenever something reaches the HNQ list. For Politics there's definitely a noticeable increase in downvotes, but it's usually dwarfed by the increase in upvotes.
    – Giter
    Jan 18 at 7:57
  • @Giter: it doesn't really help with this issue. The data is not updated fast enough. You're probably confusing the spikes with other sources/origins, like daily or weekly variation etc. On that tab one can barely notice the increase around election and the Jan 6 storming. politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4691/…
    – Fizz
    Jan 18 at 9:04
  • I was referring to the variety of voter fraud questions that appeared after the election that and a lot of them ended up being the same thing asked a different way
    – Joe W
    Jan 18 at 11:41
  • 1
    @Fizz and Odd, I thought we already were talking about bad upvotes mostly ... I don't feel like we have much of a bad downvotes problem.
    – fredsbend Mod
    Jan 18 at 16:12
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I think something along these lines might help. In particular, it might help me. I have been tempted more than once to downvote questions regarding claims with which I strongly disagree. But then I usually (but not always) manage to remind myself that this site is different. Just because a claim is dead wrong does not mean the question is worthy of a downvote. Debunking widespread nonsensical claims forms a big role in this site reason for being.

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There are at least three different problems which we may want to solve:

  1. Inappropriate downvotes.
  2. Inappropriate upvotes.
  3. Inappropriate close votes.

I'm going to ignore (3) because I do not believe that it is heavily correlated with HNQ, and even if it is, I don't think we should care. You need 3,000 rep to cast a close vote. It's possible that HNQ attracts the attention of some regulars who otherwise might have missed the question. But that's irrelevant. If those regulars are in the habit of casting bad close votes, then they are going to cast those bad close votes on other questions anyway, so that problem demands a more general solution. For example, on some SE sites, I've actually seen moderators going around and finding the people who cast individual bad close votes, and banning them from the review system. Perhaps that's too labor intensive; my point is that it probably needs to be hashed out in a separate meta question (or at least in a separate answer as this one is going to focus on HNQ).

I also believe that (2) is likely to be a larger problem than (1), but I would like to see site analytics to confirm this supposition. The reason for this belief is straightforward: The set of HNQ users is (on most sites) heavily clustered around 101 rep (1 rep + 100 association bonus), and this is enough to upvote but not downvote. Furthermore, several other sites have anecdotally reported (2), but this meta post is the first I've heard of any SE site (formally, officially) complaining of (and planning to do something about) (1).

Therefore, my preference is for a post notice to emphasize the proper use of votes in general, rather than focusing on downvotes in particular. I am, of course, open to being persuaded by data or other evidence, but this is where things appear to stand from my perspective.

So, here's my first attempt at drafting a simple post notice which does that:

For questions:

Please vote based on the importance and clarity of the question, and not based on your agreement or disagreement with the position it describes.

For answers:

Please vote based on the clarity of the answer and the quality of the data which it cites, and not based on your agreement or disagreement with the position it takes.

Notes:

  • Questions "describe" positions whereas answers "take" positions. I think this is an uncontroversial and objective description of how Skeptics usually works, but it's also important to recognize that characterizing an answer as "taking a position" may tend to undermine the site's overall claim to impartiality, so perhaps this is not the best wording.
  • Questions and answers have different voting criteria (we don't usually expect questions to cite data, we don't usually expect answers to cite notability). I'm not sure if we need to call that out here, though.
  • Hopefully the word "please" makes people more willing to comply, but I'm not aware of any data on that.

Having said all that, politics tends to inflame passions, and I'm somewhat doubtful of the efficacy of this "please vote properly" approach altogether. But I think it is unlikely to make things any worse, so we may as well try it and see. If this doesn't work, the next step may be selectively removing questions from HNQ. But we can burn that bridge when we come to it.

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