Just asked about the avatar change (needing a slider bar) and got curious about another not quite as new change. It used to be that anyone looking could see how the other users felt about the opinions (then called answers). Since the change you can only see the vote buttons until you actually click one. Then you can only see the votes for that opinion. Even if you are the one that asked the question. It made more sense when you could see how other users felt about the expressed opinions. I believe now that in some cases people will click on many vote buttons without really caring just to see what others said. But usually people are not clicking on any because they seem less interested when no votes are shown to start with.
This way you aren't influenced when you cast your vote, but I'm not sure that's why they're hidden. It kinda took away the fun of it. I especially think the QA should be able to see all of them without actually having to vote themselves.
It would be nice if we could upvote/ downvote comments on opinions too!
so we don't see how many votes/down votes a user got and get influenced by it. E. g. if we are going to give a upvote but see no one has before but everyone has given them a down vote we might change our opinion
There has always been an issue of "trend voting". People see several upvotes or downvotes and just go with the flow - why? I'm not sure...
We thought it'd be a cool idea (and an interesting experiment, at least) to see how the voting system would be used if you were forced to make a decision about the opinion NOT knowing what everyone else thought of it first. As guessed, less people vote altogether, and there are definitely less downvotes than there used to be.
Since voting doesn't count for anything (no Xper earned or lost, no amount can get an opinion removed, etc), it's really just a small bonus.