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Coming to the site, it seemed that downvotes are obvious for questions that are wildly off-topic or simply a mess (no effort in writing, badly written, unclear question, pretentious assumptions, clear misunderstanding of anything and everything ever conceived).

However, I've been seeing a lot of downvotes recently for questions that are either on-topic (specifically about the subject matter of the site) and clearly not a mess (written well, with effort, humble tome, slightly unclear question).

Are there any reasons for downvoting a question that I'm not seeing? Or should I take these as anomalies?

EDIT: I'm speaking of the Trilogy sites.

EDIT2: Yes, I do expect the downvotes of irony that this question will receive =(

Some examples of downvotes for on-topic questions:

share|improve this question
Do you have any examples in mind? – ChrisF Jun 24 '10 at 19:37
I've clarified which sites I am asking about, and I will try to find examples. – Justin L. Jun 24 '10 at 19:55
possble duplicate: Why do you cast downvotes on answers? – Tobias Kienzler Jun 25 '10 at 8:11
I don't think this is a duplicate. In fact, the target question was explicitly edited to specify "answers" after an exchange in comments. Comparatively, this question is more concerned with downvotes on questions, not answers. – Grace Note Jun 30 '10 at 14:40
I am on the opinion that first downvoter should specify why the Q/A is downvoted as a comment. If it is already downvoted and there is the reason as comment, then next downvoter can upvote the comment. If questioner don't know why his question (or answer) is downvoted, how can he improve ? – Abid Rahman K Jan 16 '13 at 2:04
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Remember that the ultimate reasoning behind a downvote is "This question is unclear or not useful" or "This answer is not useful". So regardless of whether it is on-topic or nicely presented, if the content is not useful then it's quite appropriate, and quite encouraged, to point this out by downvoting it. Reasons that something may not be useful include that it promotes an incorrect pattern of thought, it has some glaring vulnerability that could be dangerous if implemented, or there are one or more errors in the content of the post.

Once you get past that, the majority of votes are anomalies like vengeance or spite. But remember there is always perspective. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by different systems or lack of experience. I cast a downvote on Stack Overflow once because the answer did not seem to address the needs of the question author. The answerer edited the answer to more clearly identify this misconception, and if I had more experience in the field I would've known it myself (and probably would've upvoted in the first place). So I undid my downvote.

share|improve this answer
I understand the reasons to downvote an answer; however, it feels intuitively weird do describe a question as "not useful". Useful to who? The community? The asker? (And if so, it'd be more useful to point out why the question is useless/promotes incorrect patterns of thought/has glaring vulnerabilities than to leave a downvote, especially an anonymous one) – Justin L. Jun 24 '10 at 20:06
@Justin Whether you vote for yourself or the community as a whole is entirely up to you, though usually these are interlocked. As for pointing out why, there is always the option to leave a comment explaining a downvote. – Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 20:09
I still don't understand why a question has to be useful; isn't that the job of the question? – Justin L. Jun 24 '10 at 20:11
@Justin Just because a question should be useful, it does not make all questions useful. Someone posting a rant about their code not working, for example, is not very useful. Likewise, the vote also kinda indicates that you yourself found it useful. I wouldn't upvote any random Ruby question because I don't use Ruby, so they aren't useful to me. I would leave it for the actual Ruby people to upvote it. – Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 20:13
I understand upvoting useful questions. But at the same time it feels iffy to impose that a question's purpose is to be useful, and if it doesn't fulfil that purpose, it should be downvoted. – Justin L. Jun 24 '10 at 20:19
@Justin The goal of Stack Overflow is not to be a repository for every piece of junk out there that people want to post. We're here to "make the internet a better place", and a good start is making sure that good quality questions are being asked. Downvoting poor quality questions is a perfect measure to work towards this goal. That isn't to say every question with a downvote is poor quality - but that poor quality questions have good reason to be downvoted. – Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 20:31
For the two examples you used - the first one can easily be explained as a residual vote from the initial, poorly formatted revision of the question. Not everyone has edit privileges, you get downvote ability a full 1900 reputation earlier. The second one can be explained as a downvote for the dangerous nature of implying that cross domain requests should be allowed. It's just an implication but if a user feels that this is dangerous that user is fully entitled to downvote on that reasoning. Third one, I couldn't tell you myself. – Grace Note Jun 24 '10 at 20:38
The initial poorly formatted revision was understandable, in my opinion. But you make good points about maintaining a quality of useful questions for the internets as a whole. Thank you. – Justin L. Jun 24 '10 at 20:50

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