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I'm not sure why one has the ability to vote a question up OR down; perhaps downvoting was introduced before the closing of questions was. However, it seems to me that downvoting is redundant on the main sites. Surely the purpose of voting for a question should be to say "I like this question", or "this is a good question". If people don't like the question, why does it need to go into the negative numbers? What's wrong with it just staying on zero? The other purpose downvoting is used for is to 'suggest' that the question is inappropriate and should be closed. However, I don't think downvoting is needed for this. Why not just vote to close, or flag the question, in that case?

Note that I am drawing a distinction between downvoting on main sites and on meta sites (using downvoting for "I disagree" on meta sites makes sense, but this need isn't there on main sites). I am also drawing a distinction between questions and answers. Obviously downvoting answers is needed to be able to say 'this answer is bad/wrong'. This doesn't apply to questions.

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I downvote questions that are not good questions, hoping the OP corrects them before I go on to cast a close vote. –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 5 '11 at 15:03
    
Why do you need to downvote them, instead of posting a comment saying why the question is bad? Maybe they don't realize why it's bad. Downvoting seems like a pretty lazy way to send a message. –  Jez Sep 5 '11 at 15:03
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It's a way to get their attention. When I leave downvotes I also leave comments explaining why. It's got me a share of revenge downvotes, but I'd rather let them know why I did it. –  NullUserException อ_อ Sep 5 '11 at 15:06
    
Why do you need to downvote it at all? They are notified of comments in the MultiCollider (does that not get their attention?), and if they pay no attention, you can vote to close the question and add a comment telling them so. –  Jez Sep 5 '11 at 15:12
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possible duplicate of What purpose does downvoting questions serve? –  tvanfosson Sep 5 '11 at 15:56
    
The questions are similar, but the other question is suggesting to only allow up-voting questions, while this question is suggesting that down-voting questions is a duplicate of the possibility of closing questions. –  kiamlaluno Sep 5 '11 at 17:50
    
"If people don't like the question, why does it need to go into the negative numbers?" So that a question that has been heavily downvoted is immediately visually distinguishable from a question that has not received any votes. –  Jack Maney Oct 21 '12 at 20:55

3 Answers 3

Some content is not merely indifferently written, imprecise, or lacking in insight (all of which call for a lack of up-voting) but rather willfully ignorant, actively harmful, far out of keeping with local mores, or "not even wrong" as Dirac said (some of these categories may not apply to questions).

The bad stuff does not automatically belong on another site, if could be a willfully ignorant question about a specific programming problem, in which case it belongs on Stack Overflow, but it should be down-voted.

Additionally, there is now a system in place to identify persistent trouble makers, and it uses down-votes received as part of the metric for doing so.

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The tooltip that is shown when you hover the down-vote button is the following one:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful (click again to undo)

Down-voting and closing a question are two different features that are also independent. For example, if a user writes a question that is the duplicate of another question asked 20 minutes ago, you vote it to close it; if the user asks again the same question after 20 minutes, then you can down-vote the new question and vote to close it.

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I think there is two thing here:

  1. the question is on-topic but does not respect the policies, format, content or whatever. Then it deserve the downvote because the user should not continue that way in this community.
  2. If the question is off-topic, then I refrain from downvoting since the question is likely to be migrated. Since migration saves the votes, who am I to judge for the recipient community? (Even if I may be part of that community, I am not sure it will be migrated there)

My conclusion is: the feature is not redundant it serves different purpose. Unfortunately the usage does not fit my vision.

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Migration preserves up-votes but clears down-votes. –  ChrisF Sep 5 '11 at 15:26
    
@ChrisF humm... that's is still wrong. One community should not be judge of another in my opinion. –  M'vy Sep 5 '11 at 15:27
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I'm making no comment on what it should do, just what it actually does. –  ChrisF Sep 5 '11 at 15:33
    
@ChrisF I understand that. I just wanted to clarified that my opinion is still the same, even if downvotes are removed. (Maybe it's worst to to it) –  M'vy Sep 5 '11 at 15:36

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