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After ability to up/downvote posts was added on a forum, I've gotten the impression that users are posting less. I'm not sure if it's just a hunch or a fact, and the platform doesn't provide statistics to confirm it, so I'd like to ask if this has been studied/observed.

The rationale is simple: while before, users expressing approval or disapproval, would post their opinions, adding their own thoughts, leading to extended discussions as they challenge each other's points and defend their own, currently a user in disagreement just presses - and... you can't discuss with a "-1", or the user presses + and... +1 doesn't extend the point of the post, doesn't add anything to it. It's the lazy way which allows them to take a stance with minimum effort at cost of stripping them of the ability to expand or challenge the information posted.

On the other hand, getting a couple pluses gives an extra incentive for posting, in particular good posting.

How does that look practically?

  • 2
    I would suspect (but have no proof) that any change to a forums rules would cause a probably temporary dip in people's posting habits as they get used to it. If you'd removed the ability to vote people might well post less because the incentive of earning points from votes or just seeing their post with a high vote score has gone. Similarly adding voting might well put people off because they don't want down-votes. – ChrisF Aug 5 '14 at 8:28
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There are two possibilities, depending of the goal and time of the application of the change:

  1. Hawthorne effect: if the change is recent, people will take time to stabilize but right now, is the new shinny thing in town and everyone wants to use it.
  2. The dip in the amount of posts, is because people think that now they have to express (dis)agreement with votes instead of posts.

Now, depending what your goal was when implementing this, I could qualify it as successful or not, or we should still wait. If your goal was deterrent people from forming long discussions, then "yes", voting would reduce the total amount of posts and rise the quality of each individual post.

Now, generally speaking, voting works as both deterrent and catalyzer of posts. People don't post things they consider will get voted down, and will be promoted to post things that will get voted up. This behavior will be reinforced by the community as whole.

Going to your original question:

Does adding ability to upvote/downvote posts cause users posting less?

If the quality of the posts was bad, yes, users will think it twice before posting. Voting tries to prevent discussions and objectively measure the quality of a post, at least in theory.

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The correlation between number of posts, and voting, probably doesn't exist.

There are always people that read the posts but don't respond, they have always had an opinion whether or not they agree with the post or not, they just didn't want to post "Yes, I agree" to these posts because that wouldn't add anything to the post.

On the other hand, you have users that are now a little bit more relaxed, they are voting up rather than expanding the post by answering and giving something in addition to the original post, this could be the drop you are talking about.

On Stack Exchange there is the Database that we can query to see certain behaviors. On these other sites I would look for people "starring" the post, or marking it as a favorite, or bookmarking it (if there is a function like that on the forum), that would be a good indicator that a user has seen the post, probably voted on the post and will return to write something when they have more time.

What I am trying to say is that the people that are voting are not always the people that were posting in the first place, they are more likely to be people that haven't posted in the past, and may never post in the future, but they want other people to know that the post is a good post

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