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First of all: I'm not asking that downvoting competing answers should be prevented by the system (there are tons of duplicates regarding this), I'm asking whether you should do it or not.

I have this silly rule that I don't down-vote answers to questions to which I posted an answer, too (competing answers). Sometimes I see horrible answers that I would normally downvote, because they're plain wrong.

The thing is that I'm not always sure if I can be really impartial, so instead I occasionally leave a comment explaining what's wrong.

Does this make sense or is this bad practice?

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+1 I don't think it is silly at all. I think it's a fine practice. I do it too (and hope that most people would do the same) for the same reason my moral compass tells me insider trading and sabotage are wrong. – David John Welsh May 24 '13 at 5:52
Although now I think of it, I am probably wrong to do it all the time; thanks to animuson and Andrew Barber for pointing this out. – David John Welsh May 24 '13 at 5:57
up vote 35 down vote accepted

I wouldn't consider it a "good practice." If the answer truly is wrong and shouldn't be listened to, it should be downvoted like any other incorrect answer. Your refraining from doing so just means one less downvote that it should have. I've downvoted competing answers before, and I usually tend to leave a comment as to why.

The only injustice you're doing is allowing it to remain at its current vote count longer until the next downvoter comes along, and potentially let other users be fooled by its incorrectness. I applaud you for not just downvoting competing answers because its competition, but not ever downvoting competing answers seems a tad counterproductive. It's kind of like saying "I believe my answer is correct. This other answer is contradictory to my answer. I don't believe this other answer is incorrect."

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The thing is; The line between "it's really a bad answer" to "it's different from my answer" or even worse "my answer is better" could be thin, right? – bitmask Apr 14 '12 at 23:52
It can be a thin line, and if you're uncomfortable saying the answer is not useful, then don't. But saying you can never determine that on competing answers is just not trying. I've downvoted competing answers simply because they provide a JS solution to a question which specifically requested a CSS solution (example). But I tend to stick to downvoting things I know, for sure, are wrong. – animuson Apr 14 '12 at 23:58
Exactly what I would say. Maybe something to add: Vote the same way you would vote if you weren't answering the question. – Andrew Barber Apr 15 '12 at 0:15
Does your downvote make the internet a better place? Then do it – Martin Beckett Apr 15 '12 at 4:21

The system discourages downvotes by removing a point of reputation for each one. I respect that hint and only downvote when the answer is clearly wrong. If it's only slightly wrong I'll leave a comment that explains why I think so, and give the answerer a chance to clean it up.

The point of the process is for the most correct answer to bubble to the top. You should have some humility and consider that another answer might be better, even if it takes an edit or two to make it so.

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It seems I practice what I preach - this answer from today was wrong, but I left a helpful comment and now I feel it's the best answer, better than one I made myself. – Mark Ransom Jun 6 '14 at 3:05

Personally, I do downvote competing answers but...

  • There has to be a very good reason. I set a much higher bar for when to downvote, usually only answers which don't answer the question (Spam/No obvious connection/Should be a question in comments)
  • I always leave a comment indicating I was a downvoter and why, then keep an eye on the answer so that if it's edited to improve it, I can remove (or more often reverse) my vote.

As an aside, I only edit a competing answer to fix a typo / grammatical error, never to change the proposed answer in any way.

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