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I recently posted my first question on the site. I tried to follow site on-topic guidelines, explained my whole situation and what I tried, etc.

The question received a number of comments, as well as two answers, one of which has 9 up-votes (as of now) and one of which has 4 up-votes. As of now, the question has zero up-votes.

Hovering my mouse over the up-vote button, I see:

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear

It seems obvious that many people have found the answers on the question to be useful (the official criteria for up-voting answers). Should I conclude from this that while the question elicited useful answers, that everyone who read the question concluded that the question showed no research effort, that the question is not useful and is unclear? Or is there another reason why no one would up-vote the question?

Note: I am not posting this here in a plea for up-votes. More because I about what I should have done differently when composing the question, about how a question that is not useful could elicit obviously useful answers, or if there is some other user-behavior phenomena at play here (unconscious bias against questions and inherent value of answers over questions, or something like that, etc)?

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First of all: welcome to our site and in our community. Pets is a very small sub-community of StackExchange with less than a hundred visitors per week. Other, more technical oriented communities have thousands of users each day. That influences how many people vote on questions and answers.

Another factor is how much each person is affected by your question. Many users tend to upvote question if they experienced a similar situation or if they have the same question, regardless of the objective quality of the question.
And many users tend to upvote answers based on how well they answer the question or how interesting it is, regardless of whether or not they are affected by the problem or have the same question. That means that answers usually have more upvotes than questions.

And lastly, there are people voting for questions and answers, not robots. People aren't always objective and follow the rules perfectly. There are instances when people downvote a valid question simply because it has a very controversial topic. Luckily, this is not the case with your question. But we also cannot force people to vote. It's a completely voluntary action.

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  • Ok, thanks. So in other words, the official guidance for upvoting questions is not really followed, and every user has their own criteria for when to upvoting questions; and often the reason is if they can personally relate to it, and not if it is generally useful or helpful (albeit, not for the user)?
    – Simona
    Aug 15 '21 at 12:24
  • @Simona The official guidance was made to avoid people downvoting things they don't like. C.Koca gave a good example of "You shouldn't chase the poor cat away, so I downvote you for your actions instead of the quality of your question". Regular users know the guidelines, but new users who just happen to browse by often don't. And then there are many biases that influence voting behavior: How interesting does the question / answer sound? How relatable is it? Would I ask / do the same thing? Even bad grammar can influence how people vote.
    – Elmy Mod
    Aug 15 '21 at 16:14
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It is probably a personal and conscious bias.

While in most SE sites, the question and the research effort are the only reasons that dictate up/downvotes, some SE sites, like Pets or Workplace differ a little. In these sites, for most of the questions, there is no objective answer. Therefore, people act with their personal experiences as much as they give attention to the research effort.

To give you a clear picture, we have many well crafted questions by the people who at one point abused their animals. While the questions are perfectly valid, they are downvoted by many people. I am not saying you abused the animal or did anything against the animal, I am just giving this as an example on how upvotes/downvotes sometimes work in this SE.

I decided not to downvote your question because

  • It wasn't duplicate.
  • It was a very valid question.
  • It was very well crafted.

However, having an immense sympathy for cats, I felt that you were easily annoyed. I didn't know the exact situation you were in, I didn't know if you generally like the cats, I didn't know if you had a family member or a guest who suffers from cat allergies and these are just a handful among countless reasons not to want an animal in your garden. However, I automatically dislike the situations where people get annoyed by cats. There is no logical explanation behind this, it is just who I am. Also, you don't need to justify your annoyance. It is not bad to be annoyed.

I believe some other users might have thought in a similar manner. The thought of "Why wouldn't you just feed the poor animal?", might have made deterred them from upvoting the question.

In conclusion, there is always some bias in experience based SEs. In some of them positive and negative bias might cancel each other. However, here, the bias is very directional, easily noticeable in situations such as yours.

I hope this helps.

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