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Downvotes appear to be pure evil

Recently I've been frequently facing questions (mostly by new users) that are not smart but not so bad to be downvoted, but they are downvoted at least once, although the "asker" did try something.

Also many were duplicates, and they got downvoted even though they were closed and pointed as duplicates, as you see here they shouldn't get downvoted, only closed.

On the other hand, many times I saw new users trying to answer, many of the answers were not stupid and incorrect enough to be downvoted, but they got downvoted.

Well, I think by this we are scaring new users, in fact I really touched it with my own friends, they are afraid of both asking and answering although their previous questions/answers were really not bad, I saw them.

The problem I think is that a user with good rep and long life on SO doesn't see losing 1 rep as a problem if he doesn't like the question/answer or feels it is stupid; perhaps increasing the cost of downvoting (to 2 for example) is going to make him think a bit more before hitting the downvote arrow.

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    Hasn't this been discussed before?
    – In silico
    Jan 15, 2012 at 7:47
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    if anything there is not enough downvoting. Jan 15, 2012 at 7:53
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    Stupid and incorrect enough? If the answer is bad (incorrect, unhelpful, harmful), we vote it down. Good answers are voted up, bad are voted down, it's how we separate the wheat from the chaff. You might be more lenient, but I think overall we have a good system. Oh, and I hate to lose the -1. But I do it anyway, because that's how this here system works. And question downvoting is just not going the direction you like, because last year, those votes were made free. Jan 15, 2012 at 7:53
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    @JeffAtwood: I don't agree with you, just look at this question, it got downvoted just because those who downvoted (whom I really respect) didn't like its idea, is "disagreement" an enough reason for downvoting? I really don't care about rep but wonder why this question got downvoted that much! this is a live example, however. Jan 15, 2012 at 8:19
  • But then the total change from all us sensible users would be greater than -12! ;) Jan 15, 2012 at 8:22
  • @AnthonyPegram: I'm not trying to fail your point but I really don't find it a problem to lose 1 rep on SO although I have only about 1500 rep on SO. Also uphelpful answers or answers with little mistakes can be commented instead of downvoting, comments are nice! Jan 15, 2012 at 8:23
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    @Mr.TAMER is "disagreement" an enough reason for downvoting? Yes, on Meta we use upvotes to show agreement and downvotes to show disagreement. You can read all about it in the faq.
    – yannis
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:24
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    @Mr.TAMER: In fact, on Meta "disagree" is exactly the correct reason for downvoting.
    – jscs
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:25
  • @Insilico: I don't find this a duplicate, nor find it enough reason to downvote this question (as mentioned here ), this question is a live example, however. Jan 15, 2012 at 8:25
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    @Mr.TAMER "this question is a live example" No it's not. There are two comments above that explain how voting works on Meta.
    – yannis
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:27
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    @Mr.TAMER, people coming in from google don't read comments. Might not even see the comments. They see the answer, and the big -1, -2, etc., hopefully helps them understand the answer's lack of usefulness. Yes, it's hopeful that the answerer will also learn a thing or two, and the downvote and/or related comments could be the means to those ends. Jan 15, 2012 at 8:30
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    @Mr.TAMER: I didn't downvote your question. I suggested that particular qustion since your question did talk about new users quite a bit. And to be honest people need to learn that when it comes to technical stuff like programming (and STEM fields in general), criticism is not only to be expected, but are entirely welcome, so long as it's reasonable. Realize that Criticism != Personal Attack. It might be so in politics, but not so here.
    – In silico
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:33
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    I for one, find down votes as useful as up votes. I wouldn't down vote less if it costed me more - within reason, if suddenly it costed -100 I'd probably wouldn't bother with Stack Exchange anymore. But anything up to -10 I wouldn't mind. I'd go as far as consider it an incentive to provide even better content, so I can gain rep to spent in helpful down votes.
    – yannis
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:35
  • @Mr.TAMER Meta is troll bridge, and you feed them with your question. Be careful next time!
    – user142089
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:40
  • Apologies as I didn't know that up/down votes are the way meta works, although I didn't mean meta when I mentioned "agreement". Jan 15, 2012 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


Well, I think by this we are scaring new users, in fact I really touched it with my own friends, they are afraid of both asking and answering although their previous questions/answers were really not bad, I saw them.

Frankly, you and your friends need to grow thicker skin. N.B. I did not say you or your friends are flipping idiots. But there's an aspect of fields like programming that I don't think people in general fully appreciate, which I think is the crux of the question.

When it comes to programming, and the STEM fields in general, criticism (via downvotes, for example on these sites) is not only to be expected, it is entirely welcome and common practice. It's why the science and engineering fields work. It works because we keep correcting ourselves and our peers. It's how we compensate for the fact that we are human beings and make mistakes. It's called peer review.

The same principle happens on these sites. You know why Stack Overflow is one of the most visited programming sites there? It's because there's little tolerance for crap like the kind you find on other sites, and all the unique Stack Overflow visitors know it.

The fact that Stack Overflow is one of the most visited programming sites means there really is a responsibility to make sure the information is as good as possible, and that the right questions are asked. When people listen to you, it is incumbent upon you to be as accurate as possible. Unfortunately, some celebrities and journalists have not yet realized nor understand this, which is why I can't even watch more than 5 minutes of television in one sitting without feeling like I need to defenestrate something!

You need to realize that none of the criticism that we make is directed to you as a person. They are strictly, and solely targeted to the content of your questions and answers. It's not out of spite, we really want people to have the best answers and the best questions, but sometimes a downvote is the correct and ethical response. Now, if someone came along and commented on your question "this is a stupid-@#$ question you %^&*ing @#$!!" kind of thing then you would have a legitimate complaint. But I haven't seen anything like that.

I'm sure my professors would love to give A+'s to everybody in their classes, but that's not ethical nor honest if they all haven't demonstrated their competence. Unfortunately people are raised to believe that their entire self-worth is dependent on a bunch of numbers that in the long run doesn't really matter. Last time I remembered Stack Overflow Reputation isn't a recognized SI unit that we use for any objective purpose. What matters here is technical accuracy. That's why "high-rep" users are more than willing to give up a bit of their reputation to downvote. And I doubt that "high-rep" users would care about an increase in downvote cost simply because it's still a small percentage of their rep, as you've pointed out yourself.

Yes, I wrote this answer on a soapbox, so let me end on a positive note. If you want to avoid downvotes and close votes, the best way is to forget about them and learn! Study! Do honest research! Because any other way is cheating, and you'll benefit by gaining more knowledge. Must I remind people that knowledge isn't a bad thing? And if anything, use it as an opportunity to show the community that you care about the quality of your questions and your answers! We would love to see good, quality information, since there's enough crappy software and crappy programmers to fill an entire site!

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    +1 You've given me a great answer to refer to on my close vote comments.
    – yannis
    Jan 15, 2012 at 8:48
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    Yeah, your answer really make perfect sense, thank you :) Also I would point that I only mentioned my friends for giving example, not because they are the reason behind the question which is defined in the question :) Jan 15, 2012 at 9:41

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