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I've posted a question or an answer, and I have received one or more down votes. I am not really sure why I was down voted, or I think I know why, but I disagree.

Why did this happen, and what should I do about it?

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Tempted to vote to close, it has been covered, perhaps sufficiently. –  Grant Thomas Feb 5 '12 at 17:40
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@Mr.Disappointment I think the first one is pretty close as far as the question goes. I think this topic may be a good one for the FAQ tag, and if this got closed as a dupe of that first one, I would delete my answer and post it there, instead. My wording didn't cause the first one to show up in my possible related items, so I didn't see it. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 17:43
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@Mr.Disappointment While the others are older, this is a much better question and answer than the others (considering the faq-proposed tag). –  Tim Post Feb 5 '12 at 17:52
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@TimPost Yeah, a couple of reasons for my reluctance. The other contributors should get exposure too. They're valid, supported opinions, are a little less verbose and maybe easier to digest for some. –  Grant Thomas Feb 5 '12 at 18:02
    
@TimPost: Aren't these supposed to be converted to community wiki? –  animuson Feb 5 '12 at 18:52
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@animuson Yes, if this gets tagged as FAQ, it will be made CW. If it doesn't, it will likely be closed and merged, effectively making it CW. I'm waiting to see how the community likes it before doing either, and I don't see why the author shouldn't get some unicorn points while that happens :) –  Tim Post Feb 5 '12 at 18:59
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Cry. Lock yourself in a room. Scream into a pillow. Curse Jeff Atwood's name repeatedly as you shake your fist towards the sky. –  bobobobo Feb 5 '12 at 19:43
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I vote most questions on facebook.stackoverflow.com down because they are crap and off-topic. Probably 700 out of my 800 downvotes are Facebook questions that sucked. –  bkaid Feb 5 '12 at 20:06
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@moguzalp What do you mean? Was there something I said in my question/answer that suggests that answering your own question is not valid on Meta? Or were you making a joke? Certainly neither comments nor votes would suggest that. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 20:11
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DON'T PANIC! –  Lix Feb 5 '12 at 20:17
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I was about to say, "Andrew, Andrew, Andrew...tut tut..", then I saw faq-proposed :) –  Kev Feb 5 '12 at 20:39
    
@Kev haha! I have to admit, it was a little painful to have to post the question in order to post the answer. That's why I only posted it once I had the bulk of the answer all ready to post immediately. (OK; 21 seconds later!) –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 20:48
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One of my worst hobbies as a regular user was taunting quiet downvoters with long-winded comments on my posts. I also left something pretty terse on my highest-scoring answer which also became one of my higher-scoring comments until I finally killed those comments out of conscience. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 6 '12 at 1:01
    
I only downvote people whose faces I hate. –  Won't Feb 6 '12 at 15:24
    
@Won't Should I change my avatar to a unicorn face? ;) –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 6 '12 at 18:48
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1 Answer

A down vote is an opportunity to consider that perhaps your post could be improved somehow. If you are at all bothered by a down vote, I encourage you to consider the following.

Note: Votes are slightly different on Meta. You may be more quickly down voted on a Meta site because people simply disagree with your thoughts on a topic. This is a valid reason for down voting on a Meta site. You may still apply the ideas below, but just understand that opinions, options, and thoughts are more freely expressed on Meta sites, both in posts and in votes.

TL;DR

First, you should never take a down vote personally. Remember that a down vote only takes away 2 points of your reputation, while up votes add considerably more (5 for questions and 10 for answers). Everyone who uses any Stack Exchange site for any length of time will gather down votes here and there. The "best" will take every down vote as an opportunity to rethink a post, and ponder how it could be improved.

That's the short version of the answer, and it has been stated before here on Meta. If you are looking for some more detailed explanations of where you could look, read on!


Why Might Someone Down Vote?

There are many reasons someone could down vote, which might include:

  1. Your post does not show enough research effort.
  2. They disagreed with statements made in your post.
  3. They disagreed with opinions stated in your post.
  4. They disagreed with how you presented your post. (The "tone" of your post).
  5. They disagreed that the information you presented was on-topic.

There are other less 'legitimate' reasons someone might down vote your post, but it's generally not helpful to spend too much time thinking about those. For instance, if you see a large number of down votes across many different posts of yours in a short period of time, it's possible you have experienced something we call "Serial Down-Voting". This post does not address that situation specifically; please see What do I do if I suspect someone has downvoted a lot of my posts?

Otherwise, when you get a down vote, consider if any of the above reasons could possibly apply to your post, and consider if you can improve it in relation to that issue. Even if that's not why the person down voted, you will end up improving your post!

Your Post Does Not Show Enough Research Effort

This is literally one of the things mentioned when you hover over the down vote arrow, and it's possible this is the most frequent reason for down votes on questions. How much effort did you put into solving your problem/answering your question before posting? Most Stack Exchange sites expect questions to be based on well-researched issues, and to reflect the effort you have made, so people posting answers don't waste their (and your) time covering ground you've already been through. So be sure that 1) you have spent reasonable effort trying to find an answer yourself and 2) that your post reflects that effort.

If you simply say something vague like "I have searched online, but couldn't find an answer", that might get classified as showing a lack of research effort - anyone can add this to their post, regardless of how little research effort they've done. Include links you've explored, stating how these didn't help, show some code that didn't work, and how it failed - while including these things may seem pointless to you, it's essential to show us that you've actually tried to find an answer yourself - many may not look kindly on you if you appear to be using Stack Overflow to do your work / thinking for you - it's here to help you do it.

They Disagreed with Statements You Made

Consider carefully; is your post factually accurate? Check each and every fact you have included, and consider linking to authoritative resources to back up your claims. Check your big facts and your small facts. Even if something you mentioned is only tangentially related, be sure you have the details of those facts correct, as well.

They Disagreed with Opinions You Expressed

Most Stack Exchange sites do not encourage questions/answers based on opinions. Expressing an opinion that someone else might disagree with is a surefire way to invite someone to down vote. Was your opinion vital to the post? Could it be removed or its applicability limited, such that those with an opposing opinion are not encouraged to down vote?

They Disagreed with How You Presented Your Post

Keep in mind that you are wanting people to have a positive reaction to your post; to answer your question, or to up vote your question/answer. Be sure you have not expressed yourself negatively. Did you rant about the technology you are using? Your post is being read by people who use that technology every day. Yes, your rant may find a great many people who agree with your point of view, but it will also find some who disagree, and will vote accordingly.

They Disagreed that the Information You Presented was On-Topic

For questions, be sure you have read the FAQ of the Stack Exchange site on which you are posting. Think about what is posted there according to both the letter and the spirit, and be open to being wrong - and being told so. Off-Topic questions will usually get voted to be closed/migrated, and sometimes people will leave comments letting you know it is off-topic. But also, some people will down vote such a question. If this is why your question was down voted, it will likely also be voted to be closed. Be open-minded in such a case; listen to what those who comment have to say, and if you really still have a doubt, consider going to that site's Meta to inquire about the question's appropriateness on the site in question. Make your case in comments on your answer, but beware getting involved in an extended 'debate'.

For answers, keep in mind that most Stack Exchange sites expect answers to specifically answer the question that was asked. Perhaps you think the person has a different problem than they are expressing in their question, and so you are trying to get "to the root of the problem". Be mindful if you do this, as some will not see the connection at all, and will think your answer is simply off-topic. Also note that you might be wrong in your assumption about where the real problem is. Either way, someone might down vote your answer if they think it doesn't answer the question at hand.

If you are very sure that you have identified a real, unspoken issue in a question, it's usually best if you first answer the question they are asking briefly and correctly, and then explain why you think their issue might be something else... then explain that answer. This makes sure that people won't think you simply ignored the question and posted what you want. But note: someone might still down vote if they think your assumption is wrong.


Should You Ask People to Explain Their Down Votes?

Some users leave a comment on their post asking for the down voter(s) to explain themselves. Be aware that this may not have the effect you want. It may, in fact, just attract more down votes. If anyone responds to your query, it's likely as not to be the person(s) who down voted originally, so your response might not be as accurate as you would like.

But it could, potentially, be helpful. In theory. Maybe. Some helpful user might later come along and offer what they guess could be the reason for the down vote. Just don't hold your breath, and keep these other things in mind:

  1. Be exceedingly polite when asking, and have a genuine spirit of wanting to know how to improve your post, instead of wanting to "call out" the person who down voted you.
  2. Do not assume that anyone owes you an explanation for their down vote. They do not. While people are encouraged to explain when they down vote, they are not at all required to do so.
  3. Do not become argumentative with anyone who chooses to explain. They are offering you their opinion in order to help you improve your post. Becoming argumentative will only encourage more down votes.
  4. Do not assume someone down voted simply because they commented. Some people leave comments and then come back after a while and down vote if what they noted was not improved. Other people might not think that your post 'deserves' to be down voted, though they see a way it could be improved.

Conclusion

Don't take a down vote here or there personally. If you are 100% sure that your post can't be considered to fall under any of the above, just ignore the down vote. If you've gotten more than one down vote, you should probably try to improve your question - even though it could look perfect, some may be looking at it differently than you do. Even if you're sure nothing's wrong, it always good to take the time to see how your post can be improved. It can only help!

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3  
How long did you spend on this? Just curious. –  Oded Feb 5 '12 at 17:11
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21 seconds. He seems to be a quick typer. –  CodesInChaos Feb 5 '12 at 17:12
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@Oded Probably an hour or so actually typing it up. It's something I'd been thinking about posting as a proposed FAQ for a while, though. I've had the Question and Answer in my Question Draft for a few days, though. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 17:17
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@CodeInChaos haha... I am a quick typist, but not that quick! :p –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 17:17
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So, how many down votes does it take to get to the middle of a tootsie roll pop? Mr. Owl is MIA and you've left out that critical bit of information. And don't just say 42, I'll know you're guessing if you say 42. –  Tim Post Feb 5 '12 at 17:54
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@TimPost I believe Mr Owl's answer was 3, anyway. Not sure if you intended to, but you brought to my mind something that might be useful to add; a note that a 'random' down vote is a different thing entirely than an apparent 'storm' of down votes. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 18:12
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I'd also add a 'pattern of strange downvotes' case linking to revenge down voting, but I can't find a post about it in the [faq] tag. –  Tim Post Feb 5 '12 at 18:20
    
@JoshCaswell Wow; that was a big miss on my part! I've added something, and put it at the top of the list. Please feel free to improve, of course (the destiny of this whole entry is either to be closed as dupe or made a FAQ and therefore CW, so have at it!) –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 20:07
    
@TimPost I've added a place-holder for a link and a bit of intro text on that topic. Rewording is of course welcome, and the insertion of any sufficiently canonical post on that topic. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 5 '12 at 20:08
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This is one of those answers that should be a prime candidate for conversion to a blog post. –  cspray Feb 5 '12 at 20:17
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I totally could have used a link to this answer a little while ago while arguing with someone over a very low quality, no-effort, one-liner-plus-link answer. Bravo sir. +1 –  Lix Feb 5 '12 at 20:22
    
Andrew, surely the weakness (when talking about SO sites other than MSO) is that we don't automatically get any aggregated, anonymous rollup of reasons for downvotes. Downvoting behavior varies greatly across topic and site, from valid to inexplicable to harassment. It's very inefficient and timewasting trying to ask or infer what the reasons were when that could simply be automated. Users have been asking for this feature for years –  smci Mar 12 '13 at 10:01
    
@smci I have numerous problems with those ideas, which I have enumerated elsewhere. –  Andrew's a Unitato Mar 12 '13 at 10:06
    
Andrew, even if they're aggregated and anonymous? I can't find anywhere you've discussed this, can you post a link or two? –  smci Mar 12 '13 at 10:10
    
@smci This isn't the place to discuss that issue, really. –  Andrew's a Unitato Mar 12 '13 at 10:12
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