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I'm not Jewish and I don't know much about Judaism, so I bring my apologies if this answer is trivial or offensive in some way. Please edit it in such case.

I've recently discovered the StackExchange Data Explorer and viewed various aggregate statistics about the sites on The Stack Exchange. One of the queries shows dependence of Up and Down-votes from day of week.

Here is this query for Mi Yodeya and its Meta. (See the table below, hit Run Query, if there's no table yet.)

We can see that

  1. On Saturdays there are about 5 times less questions asked and answers given.
  2. Ratio of upvotes to downvotes is more than 2 times less. Looks like the community discourages posting and "punishes" posters with downvotes.

So, I've got a few questions:

  1. Is asking and answering on shabbat discouraged?
  2. Is it just a common agreement or is it fixed somewhere in the rules of Mi Yodeya? I searched the help section but couldn't find anything about shabbat.
  3. What about other actions on The Stack Exchange sites? Are they allowed?
    • Raising flags
    • Giving up and down-votes
    • Moderation

If you know which tags are appropriate for this question, please add them.

20

This is an explication of DoubleAA's point that

the posts that do come in on Shabbat tend to be mostly just the lower quality or spam posts

Suppose that we simplify our non-deleted content collection into three groups:

  • high-value, which gets, on average, many up-votes and very few downvotes

  • medium-value, which gets, on average, some up votes and few downvotes

  • low-value, which gets, on average, few upvotes and some downvotes

Most of the users who produce most of the high-value posts are experts on Judaism, most of whom are dormant on the Sabbath. Therefore, relatively very few high-value posts are produced on the Sabbath. In addition, most of the content produced by such experts is at least medium-value.

Roughly conversely, the users who are not dormant on the Sabbath are mostly not experts on Judaism, so most of the content they produce is medium- or low-value.

As a result, on the Sabbath, very little high-value content is contributed, and low-value content is a greater proportion of the whole than it is during the week. This causes the average votes per post to be significantly less favorable.


More speculatively, I'd suggest that perhaps posts that would get closed quickly during the week, thanks to the much-higher activity levels, stay open for longer when posted on the Sabbath, and that as a result, they collect more down-votes from people who see them sitting around, open. It should be possible to test this hypothesis by querying, if you're interested.


By the way, congratulations on an excellent meta post. I appreciate the way you're approaching a new community by taking a good, objective, data-driven approach at what's going on, being sensitive to local conventions, and asking questions.

  • 1
    "Most… users who produce most of the high-value posts are experts…, most of whom are dormant on the Sabbath. Therefore, relatively very few high-value posts are produced on the Sabbath. In addition, most of the content… by such experts is at least medium-value. Roughly conversely,… users… not dormant on the Sabbath are mostly not experts on Judaism, so most of the content they produce is medium- or low-value." This may be true de facto, but I don't know why it should be. A good-quality post is (roughly) one that's researched and explicated. That should be orthogonal to the asker's expertise. – msh210 Jul 21 '15 at 15:43
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    @msh210, the inclination and ability to research and explicate a post properly are generally higher among experts than among non-experts. But yes, everything I'm saying here is descriptive, not prescriptive. As indicated in the end of my post, I'm a big fan of new users who do their research and write great posts. – Isaac Moses Jul 21 '15 at 15:47
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    Maybe also quote Monica's point about timezones. I have definitely posted Motzei Shabbat when it's still Shabbat in other timezones. – Scimonster Jul 21 '15 at 15:51
  • @Scimonster, the fact that the overlap between Saturday, GMT and Shabbat is not 100% for most of the world and varies with longitude generally would tend to dilute whatever effects Shabbat has on post-quantity and post-quality. The rolling advent of Shabbat's end may contribute to the closure-lag effect that I hypothesize. – Isaac Moses Jul 21 '15 at 15:58
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    @IsaacMoses, I should preface that your previous comment is too math-y for me, so I may be off base. But I do believe you are likely not accounting for non-US, non-Israeli, non-European, Anglo content. In other words, most posts probably come from the US, Canada, UK, and Israel. Those timezone offsets may be balanced by MoTz"Sh vs. 'E"Sh. But the balance of posting from, eg., Australia might offset unevenly. Also, Sunday being a workday in Israel, and Friday being a partial workday for some, but not all, in Israel, could also skew Israeli activity for 'E"Sh/MoTz"Sh in ways unaccounted for. – Seth J Jul 21 '15 at 18:20
  • Thank you for a detailed answer. It leads me to an idea that there may be some superstition against people asking on Shabbat. Is it possible that they're percieved as being non-experts regardless of the real quality of their posts? – Nick Volynkin Jul 21 '15 at 19:11
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    To be more exact: I agree with your assumptions about the quality of answers, given on Shabbat. The answerer clearly breaks the rule and, thus, depicts themselves as not-an-expert. But what about questions? One doesn't need to be an expert to ask a good question — instead, they need to be polite and objective, and comply to the SE rules for asking (as I tried to be in this question, thanks for your appreciation). So, are the questions asked on Shabbat realy that bad? Maybe some statistics on closing and deleting would help... – Nick Volynkin Jul 21 '15 at 19:22
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    @NickVolynkin, I doubt it. Timestamps are not terribly prominent and do not readily indicate Shabbat-status. We do have high-voted questions from beginners/outsiders (including our highest-voted one), but experience still makes it easier to ask a compelling question. Also, experience with Mi Yodeya in particular, which is disproportionally resident in Sabbath-observers, makes it easier to ask questions that fit well here. – Isaac Moses Jul 21 '15 at 19:26
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    @NickVolynkin I can only speak from personal experience, but when I log in after Shabbat every week, I almost always see a few very low-quality posts sitting around still open. I am likely to downvote a post in addition to voting for closure, so I usually do both. If a question is sitting around unclosed for a long time, it may collect downvotes from people who cannot vote for closure as well. – Daniel Jul 22 '15 at 12:36
15

Welcome to Mi Yodeya!

There's no site rule against participating on Shabbat. It's just that most of us don't, because halacha forbids computer use then and most of us follow that halacha. But some don't, and non-Jews aren't obligated in that at all, so some participation still happens and that's fine. We wouldn't shut the site down on Shabbat even were it possible, because we're here to serve the whole Internet, not just the Jewish subset of it.

One other relevant factor: timezones. We're a worldwide community, but Stack Exchange times are in UTC. That's why you still see a trickle of activity even from observant Jews; when it's Shabbat in the UK it might not be in California or Australia or Israel.

I'd never noticed the voting differences before. I don't think voters are voting based on timestamp (the vote is supposed to be for the content). I think Isaac's explanation is correct.

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    I really like the approach where non-Jews are not obligated to do anything that Jews do or don't. That is so different from... well, most other religions and cultures. Is there a good Q&A on this topic here? I just don't know what to search for. :) – Nick Volynkin Jul 21 '15 at 19:26
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    @NickVolynkin, that would be a good question! It sounds like your question is along the lines of "why does God require more from Jews than from gentiles", which I didn't find already answered. (So please feel free to ask!) Some questions with related information: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/21840/472, judaism.stackexchange.com/q/14332/472, judaism.stackexchange.com/q/25586/472. – Monica Cellio Jul 21 '15 at 19:54
  • About the "gentiles": this word seems to have offensive connotations, along with "infidel". Is there any other word for "people of other cultures and ideologies"? – Nick Volynkin Jul 21 '15 at 20:24
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    @NickVolynkin I'm sorry; I'm not used to that word being seen as offensive, and certainly no offense was intended. "Non-Jews" works fine. – Monica Cellio Jul 21 '15 at 21:43
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    @NickVolynkin I don't believe the word "gentile" has offensive connotations. Such words do exist for non-Jews, but AFAIK, "gentile" is the word we use when we're trying to be polite. – Daniel Jul 22 '15 at 12:31
8

Generally, traditional Judaism refrains from manipulating electricity on Shabbat (see here). Accordingly, most of our users simply don't log in during Shabbat. There is no built in mechanism TTBOMK which limits user activity on Shabbat in any way.

You may notice extra downvotes because the posts that do come in on Shabbat tend to be mostly just the lower quality or spam posts, as the vast majority of our productive users don't participate on Shabbat.

  • 1
    Posts coming on Shabbat are about 20% of posts on other days. Can it be that 20% of all posts are low quality or spam? Also, spam is deleted and doesn't count for the statistics. – Nick Volynkin Jul 21 '15 at 12:47
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    @NickVolynkin Note shabbat goes from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday (local time). So there is some activity on Saturday night UTC, especially in the winter. – Double AA Jul 21 '15 at 12:47
  • This would lessen the difference between Shabbat and other days. I understand why there are 5 times less posts. But why such a difference in votes? – Nick Volynkin Jul 21 '15 at 12:55
  • @NickVolynkin My speculation is that on Saturday night all the day's low quality posts get downvoted en masse. – Double AA Jul 21 '15 at 12:59
  • @DoubleAA Nick's query counts up votes based on the day-of-week of the post they're associated with, not on the day-of-week of the votes. – Isaac Moses Jul 21 '15 at 13:45
  • @IsaacMoses oh, right! We don't know when the votes were cast; that data isn't in SEDE. – Monica Cellio Jul 21 '15 at 15:09
  • @MonicaCellio, it looks like votes have a date-stamp with the time stripped off, but that field is not used in Nick's query. – Isaac Moses Jul 21 '15 at 15:14

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