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There are many low-quality questions from newbies.

One important factor keeping you from immediately downvoting is that you want to be nice. A -1 is bound to put people off, especially if it's their first contact with the site. Maybe they didn't understand how the site works yet, and will improve the question once they get it.

I think that is a fine sentiment; more often than not, however, the question stays in its sorry state - either the OP didn't get it, thought it a good question, or lost interest.

How about introducing a conditional downvote that comes into effect 12 hours after casting

  • if the question was not edited

  • if the comment didn't reply in a comment to their question (because that's often where they add follow-up info).

That way, a user can immediately downvote a currently bad question, but still give the OP ample time to improve on it without the downvote being visible to them.

If the OP edits their question or posts a comment, the timed downvote vanishes.

UI-wise, this could be done in an obscure way, like pressing Ctrl while voting or something. This doesn't need to be an immediately discoverable feature, it's aiming at power users only. It could even be made a 3k+ or 5k+ feature.

This would probably add complexity in a major way (which is why I don't think it has much chance to be implemented) but to me, the increased motivation to downvote crap might justify it.

share|improve this question
I wonder where [Ctrl] is on my ipod... – Marc Gravell Apr 22 '11 at 10:36
@Marc grit your teeth while tapping, that will emulate [Ctrl] on newer iPods. With the iPad 2, it also works if you think of the colour blue. – Pëkka Apr 22 '11 at 10:38
is it Friday already? – Jeff Atwood Apr 22 '11 at 10:39
Also [Shift] for Politeness button, and [Ctrl+Alt] for 10x Up/Down votes. :-) – YOU Apr 22 '11 at 10:40
@Pekka this looks like a Pointy-Haired boss proposal but, in its originality, I sorta like it. – systempuntoout Apr 22 '11 at 10:42
@system I have no problem admitting that my stance towards crap questions has become a bit pointy-haired. :) @Jeff it's even good Friday! But it is meant as a serious proposal – Pëkka Apr 22 '11 at 10:45
Alternatively: some option to subscribe to (favorite?) updates on specific answers? Then one could go back to remove a downvote. – Arjan Apr 22 '11 at 11:52
@Jeff off-topic, is there any news on introducing a "not sufficiently interesting" close reason?… – Pëkka Apr 22 '11 at 14:35
if you see a poor question just downvote and close. if the op doesnt make any effort to put up a good question then dont even waste your time with him.. – user221081 Oct 17 '13 at 7:51
On one small beta site we were, for a while, linking these in chat and pinning them to the starwall just so we could easily come back to them. That's kind of clunky and obviously doesn't scale. (On this site the big problem is misguided answers, not misguided questions. You can't close answers.) – Monica Cellio Oct 17 '13 at 16:31
Immediate downvotes are usually what cause the OP to fix or delete their post, I don't like the idea of making them wait 12 hours. (I know this is old, but someone just pointed me here) – Wesley Murch Oct 18 '13 at 0:07
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I agree that there is a problem. Newbies post poor questions, and either go away leaving a mess behind, or get frustrated that they got downvoted and closed.

However, your solution is 1) very easy to defeat (any edit or any comment), and 2) would cause a sudden downvote "bomb" that would further confuse and frustrate the n00bs.

The tools we have available -- voting, editing, closing, flagging -- are pretty effective already. I'm sure there are ways to improve them, but I don't think this is it.

share|improve this answer
Both good points, especially "easy to defeat". Maybe a "remind me to revisit this question in 6 hours" list would be an alternative? – Pëkka Apr 22 '11 at 11:58
@Pekka: couple ways to do that - either down-vote right away, and then revisit down-voted posts later on to check for edits, or comment right away, and revisit commented posts later on to apply down-votes. I've used these techniques in the past with great success... (provided you define "success" as "stuff got down-voted") – Shog9 Apr 22 '11 at 16:04
@Shog yeah, that's what I usually do. But I find myself hesitating to downvote posts from what look like struggling newbies. With the result that stuff that should be downvoted remains un-downvoted, and we can't have that! (Shaking fist) – Pëkka Apr 22 '11 at 19:07
@Pekka: stop coddling the newbies. KTHXBYE! – Shog9 Apr 22 '11 at 19:10

On beta sites like The Workplace, there are a lot fewer people casting votes at certain times of day. While I want to provide helpful advice to new users, I also want to Vote Early and Vote Often.

Unfortunately, doing the two at the same time makes it patently obvious how I voted, and risks making the advice less likely to be heeded (since I seem like a mean curmudgeon punishing new users for downvotes because I like enforcing pointless rules, or some variation thereof).

Note: I am not a mean curmudgeon. I am just a normal curmudgeon.

I think the concerns outlined by an anonymous user are far outweighed by the benefits that this would provide:


  1. We are a bit nicer to new users
  2. We reduce the burden of manually following-up on posts to the people trying to help (we do want people to help, right?)
  3. We get more downvotes which we want to encourage (right?)

And to get these fabulous prizes, we only have to overcome two tiny little speed bumps:

Downvote Bombing

would cause a sudden downvote "bomb" that would further confuse and frustrate the n00bs.

Currently, with non-timed downvotes, the behavior will be the same, just more immediate. New user asks question and walks away. Question gets 7 downvotes. User logs in. Frustration.

With timed downvotes, this would certainly be improved, because if they log in within 12 hours and actually pay attention to the comments and edit their post accordingly, then they would avoid any downvotes and frustration at all.

The only people who would be bombed would have to:

  1. Get multiple timed downvotes at the same time
  2. Log in during the timed downvote 'window' and notice the score of their post
  3. Not improve the post whatsoever despite comments suggesting them to
  4. Not have gotten other non-timed downvotes in the interim
  5. Stay logged in until right after the downvote window closes, noting the huge disparity in score

This is a corner case at best, and I hardly think it would be more demotivating than the current behavior of logging in and seeing a bunch of downvotes, or watching the downvotes trickle in.


very easy to defeat (any edit or any comment)

If the user edits their question, we have already won -- they are working to improve their post. If they are making trivial edits to their own question to avoid this, there is no harm in giving a firm downvote to discourage that behavior (pretty self-solving really).

If a user is making posts that need to have timed downvotes, and are commenting at random to try to avoid them, again this is a good case for a firm downvote. If they are commenting to try to clarify and improve, then it's good if the timed downvote gets removed.

share|improve this answer
I agree. Just a note on comments: it's always possible to comment on your own posts, regardless of reputation. – Angew Oct 17 '13 at 7:26
@Angew, how dare you bring logic to a knife fight. Thanks. Post has been updated to reflect logic. – jmac Oct 17 '13 at 7:30
I think the workaround is the weak spot in the feature request - it is too easy to work around. There is no review process for self-edits, so 11 hours after posting you just have to change a comma and you will undo a lot of potential downvotes. For that to work, there should be some feedback mechanism so that all those that have given conditional downvotes are either asked to cancel or submit the downvote - or at least notified that the edit has occured and that they might want to come back and take a look. – user213634 Oct 17 '13 at 10:22
@Anders, a notification could work. I just want people to stop focusing on how this could be avoided. If you are so concerned, don't use the feature. Hard downvote away. Nothing going to prevent you from doing that. I would much rather focus on the good it would do if it prevents one productive future user from leaving the site because they feel like the downvotes are a personal slight. That possibility is far higher than additional abuse over the status quo with these timed votes. – jmac Oct 17 '13 at 10:54
I know what you mean - and btw I'll vouch for the not mean curmodgeon in your answer: It seems to me that you are very nice to new users at Workplace - I created an anonymous account a while back and got the 1-rep user treatment. – user213634 Oct 17 '13 at 11:08
@Anders -- glad we were welcoming. New users are always welcome, and should always be treated with respect. Even if they shouldn't freak out about downvotes, limiting the risk of that happening is always good. – jmac Oct 17 '13 at 11:25
I'm not too concerned about it being easy to defeat, since the posts we're concerned about are from new users who haven't learned how the network works. Do you really think somebody is going to know to make a trivial edit just to defeat pending downvotes if he hasn't even read the "about" page? – Monica Cellio Oct 17 '13 at 16:30

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