# Should I upvote answers that I can't verify?

I often come across interesting questions which I can not answer. As a consequence, I cannot verify the given answers, while some seem to be helpful. Is it recommended to upvote such answers, where my knowledge doesn't reach to verify them?

• I have previously argued that knowledge is probably one reason one wouldn't vote on a question, so if be inclined to say, yes, if you don't understand the answer, you probably shouldn't vote on it. – Kyle Kanos Feb 7 '18 at 12:12
• @KyleKanos That sounds like an answer – David Z Feb 7 '18 at 20:14
• @DavidZ yeah, I was on mobile and in a hurry. Posted as answer now – Kyle Kanos Feb 7 '18 at 20:28

I have previously argued that knowledge is probably one reason one wouldn't vote on a question, so I'd be inclined to say, yes, if you don't understand the answer, you probably shouldn't vote on it.

• "if you don't understand the answer, you probably shouldn't vote on it", many times, yes, for sure; but if the answer is at a level you expect to understand, then not understanding it is a measure of the answer being unhelpful, by definition, which means you should downvote it. – stafusa Feb 8 '18 at 0:09
• @stafusa I disagree with both aspects of your comment. Not 'many times' butevery time & not understanding it doesn't mean you should downvote either, you should simply abstain from voting altogether. – Kyle Kanos Feb 8 '18 at 0:21
• How come? If I ask, say, for an explanation of a concept, obviously an answer that doesn't manage to explain it to me is not being helpful to me and, as such, should be downvoted by me. An answer has to be written in a clear and understandable way, I can't see how someone could disagree. – stafusa Feb 8 '18 at 0:24
• @stafusa how can you judge the correctness if you don't understand the post? – Kyle Kanos Feb 8 '18 at 0:26
• I don't have to. From the help page: voting down a post signals [...] that the post [...] fails to communicate information. That's what I mean. – stafusa Feb 8 '18 at 0:28
• @stafusa and I'd argue that stem-based sites are different from the other SE sites for which the boilerplate language you're citing applies. We should be voting in correctness, not some BS criteria of 'it helped me' – Kyle Kanos Feb 8 '18 at 0:39
• I mean, do you honestly think that we should be just downvoting every QFT post until after taken a single course on it to understand any of the posts, as none of those parts would be sufficient to explain it to you? If you do, I have nothing further to say and wish you the best. If not, I'm glad you agree with me. – Kyle Kanos Feb 8 '18 at 0:40
• 1) If you so strongly disagree with the help page of our site, it would be more constructive to suggest changes rather than calling it bullshit.   2) My first comment started with but if the answer is at a level you expect to understand, which obviously excludes "downvoting every QFT post [without having] taken a single course on it"; – stafusa Feb 8 '18 at 0:45
• @stafusa and I don't think that is a reasonable assumption: why are there any expectations the answer is at any level? – Kyle Kanos Feb 8 '18 at 0:49
• IMHO it'd be about the core idea of it being useful for future readers - be they school kids or principal investigators. But the topic seems to be a matter of opinion, and in a related question you already made clear you're against the very idea of level differentiation. I understand your arguments and, since it's a subjective judgment call, at the moment and here I don't see much use in discussing it further. – stafusa Feb 8 '18 at 1:13

I'd say yes, but with considerable moderation.

There's a large gray zone between

1. "I know exactly what the answer should be", and
2. "I have no idea what the answer should be".

And probably most askers, to give an example, find themselves in this gray zone: they know enough to be able to formulate the question but (supposedly) don't know what the answer is. Of course, authoritative references might give you confidence a given answer is correct, but often you cannot be sure.

Therefore I think it's natural to upvote answers one can't assure are correct, when they seem particularly informative and clear; and I admit I probably do that with larger likelihood when they are written by high-rep. users and even more if positively commented and considerably upvoted.

I'm aware of the bandwagon effect and other possible pitfalls and know that this is probably precisely the mechanism behind the few highly upvoted wrong answers one can find here. But the SE is clearly designed to allow all users to vote, not only specialists.

As an aside, if the answer is at a level you expect to understand, then not understanding it is a measure of the answer being unhelpful, by definition, which means you should downvote it:

voting down a post signals [...] that the post [...] fails to communicate information`.