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I recently asked a question on SO, and a given answer was not useful. I downvoted the answer, and left a comment as to why it was not useful. I got a comment in return something of the likes of "thanks for the downvote, that really urges me to help you..."

Does being the ASKER make it bad ettiquette to downvote someone who is helping me, or is it right to downvote, leave clarification, give the chance to edit and redeem the downvote, potentially changing it into an upvote?

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They whine when you downvote without a comment. They whine when you downvote with a comment. There's no pleasing some people, I suppose. – Al E. Jan 21 '11 at 19:29
@AlEverett: But if you downvote without comment, at least they're angry in general instead of angry at you personally. – Brian Jan 21 '11 at 20:17
up vote 11 down vote accepted

If the answer was blatantly wrong, abusive, or misleading (for example, uses a programming practice that is flawed or has security holes and should be avoided), you could downvote.

If the answer was unclear, incomplete, or had minor flaws, then in my opinion, the asker should not downvote.

I think it's subjective and more often than not, a plain comment can be better than downvoting an answer to your question.

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I'd like to ask how in the world it would be "better" to leave a comment, but I suppose I'd be asking a ghost. – Cody Gray Feb 24 '12 at 21:41

They're your votes; use them how you want (short of gaming the rep system or outright harassing other users). It's impossible — and undesirable — for every user to follow the exact same rules for both casting votes and interpreting the meaning of others' votes.

There's a quotation from Abraham Lincoln (supposedly) that applies here:

You can make some of the people happy all of the time,
or all of the people happy some of the time,
but you can't make all of the people happy all of the time.

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It depends in my opinion. If the answer is completely wrong then down-vote and comment. If the answer is correct but does not meet your requirements, just comment and say "This will not work for my case because X".

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I tend to leave a comment first and then down-vote later if I get no response. So yes, I initially refrain from down-voting. I think this is a more constructive approach in general and gets better results.

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I would say it is better to refrain from voting at all for a day at least. If drive-by viewers think you're being mean to that answerer, they're likely to upvote it more than undoing your downvote(upvote = +10, downvote = -2). Once you have a good answer, then you can downvote the bad one as viewers can now compare the two and(hopefully) see why you think it's a bad answer.

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I think your point of sympathy votes applies to most harsh downvotes, not just downvotes by asker. – JP19 Jan 21 '11 at 17:41

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