I am beginning to see a lot of questions where the OP has done their research, provided a code sample and been pretty clear about what they are looking for, but then get downvoted because, presumably, readers don't like their approach to the problem.

For example:

  1. Javascript regex to find <a href tag
  2. Storing datatable in ViewState

The first was closed. The second, as of this writing, gained enough upvotes to overcome the downvotes. While the methodology of the first question is certainly not in keeping with widely accepted best practices, the question itself had merit and was an excellent opportunity to answer with the correct approach, thus providing value to the community for anyone else who might be wondering how to do the same thing.

While I can acknowledge the complexity of finding some sort of solution, one idea that might be worth considering is to enable a generic @downvoters tag to address anyone who has downvoted a question or answer. The comment would thus appear in the downvoters inbox (perhaps only when the commenter has achieved 2K points?), possibly useful for alerting them to some overlooked merit.

Side, but related, note:
I'm still relatively new to StackOverflow, so I've been trying to determine: do downvoters receive any notification of an edit to the downvoted question? I've begun reviewing so many questions that I often have trouble finding the ones I've downvoted to see if they've been improved. To my knowledge, I've never received a notification, but the promise of having downvotes reversed may compel OP's to improve their questions.

(Searched meta for a similar question, couldn't find one)

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Fun fact: You can't parse HTML with regex –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 5:50
I 100% agree, and I said so in the comments. The question is whether or not a question should be downvoted because, in my opinion, the OP is not adhering to best practices. According to the FAQ, "Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect" and "Downvoting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing." –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 13:50
Well, that wasn't really the (obscure) point of my comment. If you search Google for "parse HTML regex", or (almost) any (sane) combination of the words that question is the top result. It's not that hard to find out that you can't parse HTML with regex, even if you are a fairly new programmer, and that's enough to justify a downvote for most people. –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 13:55
@YannisRizos Fun fact: Tom Christiansen disagrees with you: stackoverflow.com/questions/4231382/… –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 11 '12 at 14:59
Agreed, but if you Google "regex to match anchor tag" you find lots of (unhelpful) advice a various regex patterns to try. A new programmer is not going to think of "parse HTML". –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 15:03
@Cyborgx37 As I've already mentioned, I didn't vote in either question ;) –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 15:04
@YannisRizos - You made an argument, I responded with an argument. This particular is useful for arguing the general - that downvotes are being used not to weed out the "egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post", but to punish OP's for using an unpopular solution. And a downvote is a punishment - potential answer-givers are much less likely to open or even see a question that has been hammered with enough downvotes. –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 15:09
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ No, not really, that's more of a lexer than a parser. –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 15:10
@Cyborgx37 Well I don't really think that answerers avoid heavily downvoted questions, but that just may be because I don't avoid them. Should be noted though that right now the question has a score of -1, I'd hardly call that heavily downvoted, and even with a negative net score the OP has gained reputation... –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 15:19
@YannisRizos - The OP has gained +4 - the vote was originaly -5 (-6 +1). –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 15:27
@Cyborgx37 +4? No, it's (5 upvotes * 5) - (6 downvotes * 2) = +13 –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 15:30
@YannisRizos - I'd also add that the question was closed as "not a real question" even though it totally is. It is quite clear, specific and answerable. But that's a completely different issue. –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 15:31
@YannisRizos - (I meant +4 upvotes. While reputation is nice and all, I'd posit that it's often the absolute score which answerers look at to determine if a question is worth their time.) –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 15:32
@YannisRizos My take on the whole issue: meta.stackoverflow.com/a/104936/149052 –  NullUserException อ_อ Oct 11 '12 at 16:31
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ Then go re-open that poor man's question, you evil mod you! ;P Let me make it abundantly clear: I don't care whether you can or cannot parse html with regex and it's not part of my answer. If you strongly feel the question is valid, why is it still closed as NARQ, and you are wasting your time here debating with me? Why are the comments still there? –  Yannis Oct 12 '12 at 2:28
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2 Answers

In general I agree that questions that are clear, concise and follow a wrong approach shouldn't be downvoted. If the asker knew the correct approach, he wouldn't have asked, right? However in some cases the approach is so horribly wrong, that it's clear (at least to me) that the asker did not do anything to solve their own problem before asking.

The downvote arrow tooltip reads:

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

...and if it's clear to me that the question shows no research effort, or any prior effort at all, I will downvote it. I have no interest in who the asker is, when I vote (up/down), my votes are feedback on the post, not the poster.

Although a way of notifying voters has been proposed several times before, it was declined. (imho) It's a horrible idea, we vote on content, as a community, individual votes aren't and shouldn't be important. If you feel a post is useful, upvote it, there's absolutely no reason to nag all the people that disagree with you and feel the post is not that useful. At the end of the day, if the post is actually useful, it will end up with a net positive score, the community always reverses incorrect votes (up/down).

Edits do not generate any kind of notification for voters, and I don't really think they should. I wouldn't care much for getting spammed with tons of notifications every time someone did a tiny edit on a post I voted on, it would get annoying very quickly.

Lastly, you might have noticed that I'm talking about votes in general, and not just downvotes. While (possibly incorrect) downvotes might sting a bit, incorrect upvotes (especially of the sympathy flavour) are far more destructive (imho).

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A new user to a language cannot be expected to learn every best practice before writing their first line of code. Sometimes it's clear that the OP is headed down the wrong path (imo), but they're asking questions which should be encouraged. It seems inappropriate to vote on a question as if it were an answer. –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 13:07
@Cyborgx37 I haven't voted on either question, I posted a comment in the closed one, hopefully a bit more helpful than the previous ones (or not?). Voting is an individual process, we can't force our perspective to others, we can only suggest general guidelines, and I think that's what I'm doing in this answer. If you feel the questions show enough research effort, by all means upvote them, but don't expect everyone else to agree with you. –  Yannis Oct 11 '12 at 13:10
You are, of course, correct. It just pains me that there isn't more discussion involved (for the OP's benefit and ours) before a question is swept away into downvote obscurity. "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." - Sir Winston Churchill –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 13:39
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First the answer to your side note:

No, users are NOT notified about edits to posts they have downvoted.

To your main question:

I can't agree the part where you are saying "where the OP has done their research", in the regex/html case. If he would have done research here on SO, he would have seen very quickly, that this is (in the most cases) the wrong approach.

I agree that the responses to those questions are often quite rude, and I flag regularly useless comments in that direction, but we are all humans here and if you visit the regex tag regularly, like I do, you will see several questions a day where someone is trying to work on html/xml with regular expressions. So, more questions on that topic are not needed in my opinion.

Regarding your feature request, I think a "@downvoters" message would not be a useful feature, there may be cases, where it would be good to have, but in most cases, it would be only spam that is send to the downvoters.

Let the community do their job, write a good comment (or a post on meta ;)) to that post and start upvoting, if you see merits, and I am sure at the end the post will have its correct amount of votes.

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If the question is a duplicate, it should be flagged as a duplicate, not downvoted. That's according to the FAQ. "If the question is duplicate or off-topic — flag it for moderator attention." And processing HTML with regex is not always bad (see stackoverflow.com/questions/4231382/…). Again - the downvotes are inappropriate, so I think it'd be appropriate to try and start a discussion. –  JDB Oct 11 '12 at 15:38
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