Apologies if this has been covered. It's extremely difficult to search for questions on downvotes on meta.

I very recently had an exchange with a user where I was told I was "known to be a downvoter" (like that's a bad thing).

The situation was, he posted an incorrect answer, I downvoted and left a comment about why he was wrong (and got a downvote), and the response was that I should have given him time to edit before downvoting.

My opinion is that when you post an answer, it's not a rough draft. It's an answer. If you didn't read the whole question when you posted, that's not my problem.

He did edit the answer, and I removed my downvote (and he subsequently deleted the answer).

The question for the meta folks is:

Should there be a grace period before downvoting answers?

follow-up question:

Is downvoting a lot a bad thing (is JNK a jerk?)?

  • 2
    I see you've upvoted 4x as often as downvoted. Maybe for some people that counts as a downvoter ... but what can you do about them? Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 20:01
  • 17
    @MattFenwick - Downvote them, OBVIOUSLY!
    – JNK
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 20:01
  • 25
    IMO If you don't downvote regularly, you aren't paying enough attention (at least in the tags I frequent). Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/89254/… Less related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/87695/… Ultra-upvote for "it's not a rough draft. It's an answer" FGITWFTL
    – user159834
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 20:32
  • 13
    They posted an incorrect answer, so you downvoted the answer. If it wasn't fully finished, it shouldn't have been posted. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 21:59
  • 1
    Having a lot of downvotes is fine. The situation you describe is entirely reasonable, and I think that, in general, if you're looking for it it's not difficult to find a lot of content that should be downvoted. I cast one downvote for every 1.8 upvotes I cast, and if I spent more time reviewing I'm sure it would be even more.
    – Jeremy
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 1:07
  • 3
    Users should be advised if they're afraid of melting from the heat, to bring their own candy-coated shell. One is not going to be provided for them. We're not about feelings, we're about rewarding what's right and punishing what's wrong. The quicker those rights and those wrongs are identified, the better. Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 17:34
  • 2
    It's fine IMO, as long as you add a comment telling them what's the problem with the answer. Personally I find it frustrating to be downvoted without knowing why. Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 0:08
  • As usual, the answer and discussion don't focus on the real thing: 'the grace period'. Why does this happen? because if the first 2-3 users misinterpret the point (and they do so in a manner of seconds) the rest will. With downvotes equally, you wont read seriously a question that has -3 score: that happens in less than 2 minutes; less than 10 views. Check meta.stackexchange.com/questions/158594/…
    – quinestor
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 9:39
  • So basically, yes. A grace period is needed.
    – quinestor
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 9:39
  • @quinestor I disagree both with your "usual" comment and with your interpretation. If I see a question with a number of downvotes I will still read it, and if it's GOOD upvote and comment accordingly. You want to fix an issue that doesn't exist.
    – JNK
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 13:21
  • @JNK ok in your opinion it doesn´t exist, in mine yes. However, I remind that this question's discussion (as well as your comment) are off the point, see? I don't think votes are the determining factor but they definetely bias the reader's perception of the content before reading it, so the grace period i think could help
    – quinestor
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 13:33
  • @quinestor You are missing the point ENTIRELY. Your issue is with a question that got downvoted. My question here is about waiting to downvote answers to allow time for editing. You have all the time in the world to edit a question before posting it to make it good.
    – JNK
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 13:36
  • @JNK , I was trying to generalize an example, when did I ever say it applies only to one question? or questions only?. Both questions and answers are the same: the reader is very much aware of the score before reading it. Note that the answers here are of the type ´downvote is good/bad´. I hthink the discussion should be ´downvotes have this effect during time..´ Last post here , no to turn this into a discussion :); if you want to chat I'm in ´android forlife'room.
    – quinestor
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 13:43
  • "It's an answer.". :D. Nope. It's just a draft. Even jeff atwood encourages to rapid post to win upvotes. Then you have the time to improve the answer, the important thing is to answer the first.
    – user152192
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 17:14
  • @GabrielLlamas If you post it as an answer and it is factually incorrect, don't cry if you get a downvote then.
    – JNK
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 17:18

10 Answers 10


Down-voting is not a bad thing.
If the answer is not useful as it is because, for example, it contains something that makes it not correct, or not 100% exact, then you can down-vote it. It's important, IMO, to remove the down-vote when the answer is fixed, as the down-vote is not for the user who wrote a non correct answer; the down-vote is for the wrong answer.

  • I realize downvoting itself isn't bad. The user implied it was a problem that I DV frequently. Should I change my behavior?
    – JNK
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 19:57
  • If you frequently down-vote, it means you find many bad answers that deserve to be down-voted. If you always down-vote, it could mean that you focus on posts that are not good enough, rather than up-voting good answers; I am not sure that would be a problem, though.
    – apaderno
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 20:03
  • 3
    Yeah but the system doesn't remind users of their downvotes, so most downvotes that could be taken back, probably won't...
    – dbjohn
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 8:03
  • 1
    Does the system remind users of their upvotes? Or inform you if something you voted on was changed?
    – codewaggle
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 7:48
  • @codewaggle No, it doesn't. You can add a question to your favorites, and you will notice it is changed because of a counter in the "Favorites" tab. "Changed question" means also that an answer has been edited, or a new answer is added.
    – apaderno
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 8:40
  • Hello @kiamlaluno I am sad to see that in your answer you didn't touch the grace period issue the OP reminded. Thanks.
    – user310724
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 2:15
  • @JohnDoea I implicitly answered to that when I said down-votes can be retracted when the question is edited. There is no need to have a grace period, when the down-vote can be removed. In the same way you wait, for example, 30 minutes before down-voting a question, you can down-vote, and check after a hour if the question has been edited in better.
    – apaderno
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:20
  • @kiamlaluno and what if someone downvoted and went away and only a special "signal" would needed to bring him back? What if the OP edited many times due to cognitive bias so people have become fed up and decided not to check the review again? These possible instances, in my opinion, require a grace period.
    – user310724
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:28
  • @JohnDoea As long the post is edited, the vote can be retracted. Retracting a vote doesn't mean the post cannot be anymore voted from that user. I don't see the need of a grace period which, at the actual state, it means the user needs to come back to the question to check if it has been edited; there isn't any notification of that, except when a question is starred. At this point, you can vote on the question and keep an eye on that to see if it is later edited, and decide what to do with your vote. You could also star it to notice if it is changed.
    – apaderno
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:33
  • I prefer to raise the chance people comeback once with a notification, instead gamble on whether they might comeback many times.
    – user310724
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:34
  • Actually, that (retracting a dow-vote) could be said for up-votes too. If a question is edited, and its quality gets lower, users could want to retract their up-vote.
    – apaderno
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:36
  • I rather prefer users vote, and check if their vote is still valid, than getting the chance that users forget to down-vote a bad question simply because they waited for voting a question.
    – apaderno
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 8:39

Downvoting a lot is definitely not a bad thing, as long as they're justified. Of course people will get upset about being downvoted -- but that's because people generally have their best interests in mind, not the community's. And it's in the community's best interests if bad answers get downvoted.

Just for fun, I posted when this answer was half done!

Take a look at this discussion about notifying downvoters of a change to the post. The problem is that a lot of people downvote, and then never come back. It doesn't really matter if you downvote me, as long as you change it 10 minutes from now. So I'd say there shouldn't be a grace period before downvoting, but downvoters should be polite enough to check back for changes after a reasonable time has elapsed.

EDIT: this is a discussion about a feature request to notify downvoters after an edit. It was declined, though.

  • 2
    Posting a half-complete answer is fine as long as it's not WRONG. The user in the linked post posted a wrong answer, then edited to say "actually this won't work".
    – JNK
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 20:01
  • @JNK'sMetAccount -- agreed, "I'd say there shouldn't be a grace period before downvoting". Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 20:03
  • The downvote is for the user, the user loses reputation.
    – user152192
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 17:16

For fun, I ran the following query on the Stack Exchange Data Explorer (it is an adaptation of this query):

SELECT TOP 10000    Id AS [User Link],    
    CONVERT(float, DownVotes)/UpVotes as du_ratio,     
    DownVotes, UpVotes,     
    (DownVotes+UpVotes) as totalVotes
FROM     Users
WHERE     Reputation > 100 -- they have to be allowed to downvote    
  AND UpVotes > 0    
  AND DownVotes > 0 
  AND CONVERT(float, DownVotes)/UpVotes > 0.25
ORDER BY     du_ratio DESC

It produced 4790 results. Which means there are 4790 users that are angrier than you are. :P

According to this query:

select    SUM(CASE WHEN VoteTypeId = 2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END) AS [Up Votes],    
    SUM(CASE WHEN VoteTypeId = 3 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END) AS [Down Votes],    
    (CAST(SUM(CASE WHEN VoteTypeId = 2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END) AS float) / CAST(SUM(CASE WHEN VoteTypeId = 3 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END) AS float)) 
   AS [Up Votes to Down Votes]
from    Votes v inner join Posts p on v.PostId=p.Id

The average system-wide upvote to downvote ratio on Stack Overflow is about 24:1.

My personal upvote/downvote ratio is about 40:1.


Should there be a grace period before downvoting answers?

I'd say yes but only if you don't leave a comment. If you leave a comment then the user can easily edit the answer and comment back to you.

Is downvoting a lot a bad thing ?

Absolutely not. Most people* aren't willing to lose their precious rep to help out the community and I think its awesome that you are.

*Take a look at the profile pages of these users https://stackoverflow.com/users?tab=voters&filter=all Most of them have < 100 downvotes.

(is JNK a jerk?)?

You were totally justified in the DV. Variations of that question come up so often I'm surprised someone who's got a SQL bronze badge didn't recognize it right away.

One last note, we shouldn't discount the possibility that the OP was having a bad day and that's the reason why the answer was what is was or the reason you were called out.

  • I don't discount that possibility at all (bad day). This wasn't so much to call him out as to do a quick reality check for myself to make sure I hadn't become a jerk without realizing it.
    – JNK
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 21:21

Yes. Why do you ask? ;)

Okay, enough joking, back on topic. I think you've got three possibilities if an answer is simply wrong:

  • Downvote, if it's obvious that the answer is wrong or not good (okay, that's just mean).
  • Comment, if you think that the author will come back in time to correct the answer.
  • Downvote and comment, if you're not sure if the author will come back to correct the answer.

Anyway, downvoting is a part of the system...a very big and important part. We all get downvoted at some point, nothing evil there.

  • In your opinion, which is the preferred method? I normally downvote and comment but I get a lot of revenge votes for it (apparently also a "reputation" as a downvoter)
    – JNK
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 19:54
  • The second or the third. If somebody is wrong, we need to tell them...or they'll be wrong for the rest of their lives. Also, everyone else who reads it will know why it is wrong. Just ignore the real jerks. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 19:56

What I do:

If it's a year old, downvote and comment.

If it's obnoxious, just downvote. "Obnoxious" usually means providing the OP no benefit whatsoever.

If it's a minute old, just comment if there's a kernel of truth.
Otherwise, downvote and comment.


Obviously it is okay to downvote. However, how you do so affects others and your own reputation. What's more, it can have a longer effect on your own time and engagement with SO. Regarding responses from others, there are normal people, and there are folks who go on a downvoting spree after a negative comment or a downvote. That response recently happened to me. Those people are nutcases. The question is, do you want to look (1) helpful or (2) strict, and do you want to risk provoking a nutter? Or do you want to do downvoting and commenting in a mutually exclusive manner, so that your downvotes are anonymous?

I think a helpful comment and a downvote, followed by an appropriate response when the answer has changed (i.e. removing the downvote or giving an upvote) are particularly useful. I will sometimes edit the answer or leave a suggestion in the comments, rather than downvote. This is because I don't tend to revisit answers - if the person fixes their answer, good. If not, well, my comment is there. I am more likely to revisit questions.

The unfortunate aspect is that there are a few nutters on the site, so a comment or even a vote to close may provoke them to become vengeful downvoters. In those cases, it's best not to respond in kind (not that you can predict these people in advance). The advice I've read is to alert the SO team or a moderator. Still, having inadvertently provoked a couple of nutcase, I wonder about whether or not it's best to leave a comment and downvote.

I'm leaning toward mutually exclusive downvotes and comments, simply because there's little to be said for dealing with the demographic that can't handle criticism. SO is not like, say, academic teaching, where you get a few mediocre students who become fussy for bad grades: online, these people become nasty stalkers.


Downvoting is nothing bad IMO - it helps the quality of the content (as long it is not abused that is)...

Before downvoting I usually wait till it is at least 5 minutes "old" as that is the time it could be edited without displayind an "edited" sign...

Any downvote gets a comment as to why the downvote...
I take the experience of the user who wrote an incorrect answer into account -if it's a user with little experience I first comment, wait a bit (i.e. grace period) and then (if no reaction/change) downvote... if it is an experienced used I just comment an downvote.

Basically inexperienced users get a grace period... others don't...

If the answer is changed/corrected then I take back the downvote... if the quality is good then I upvote...

On point though:

SO doesn't remind of downvotes... so IF the user corrects the answer and does not leave a comment sometime my downvote is left in place unwarranted... it would make for a good feature to get notified when I downvoted and answer and that answer gets changed subsequently...


To downvote or not is subjective and based soley on the whims of the user debating the eternal question, "Hmm, should I downvote this answer or just leave a comment so the person asking the question knows it's wrong?"

Clearly the Stack Exchange communities are doing just fine with a balanced mixture of hyper/occasional/never downvoters. And balance is good.

However, I think it's important to at least leave a comment when you notice an answer === FALSE.


Should there be a grace period before downvoting answers?

For questions, yes; for answers, no.

Is downvoting a lot a bad thing (is JNK a jerk?)?

Yes. There's a saying in Judaism that a Sanhedrin (religious-legal quorum) which makes a death sentence at least once every 70 years is to be considered a "lethal Sanhedrin".

Anecdote aside - easy on the downvote trigger. Help users improve their questions, or get them to delete their questions by recognizing problems with the question, before downvoting. If that option is exhausted or unavailable, then downvote.

  • 2
    I cannot state just how much I disagree with this. We're not Sith, where curating content makes us evil, and your analogy is somewhat insulting.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:51
  • @fbueckert: The analogy reflects how SO downvote culture is experienced by many (most?) new users. Also, like I said - there are better, and more collaborative approaches to curation than immediate downvoting.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:54
  • 1
    Then perhaps focus on the changes instead of implying that curators are evil? I'll probably still disagree with it, but that at least doesn't carry the negative implication. You're attacking a strawman.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:56
  • @fbueckert: Dropped the Yoda quote which was intended as a humorous counterbalance to the religious anecdote, not to imply Sithness.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:59
  • 2
    Still not a fan, and definitely still disagree, but it's better, at least.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 17:00

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