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I've posted a question or an answer, and I have received one or more downvotes. I am not really sure why I was down voted, or I think I know why, but I disagree.

Why did this happen, and what should I do about it?


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  • 4
    Tempted to vote to close, it has been covered, perhaps sufficiently. – Grant Thomas Feb 5 '12 at 17:40
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    @Mr.Disappointment I think the first one is pretty close as far as the question goes. I think this topic may be a good one for the FAQ tag, and if this got closed as a dupe of that first one, I would delete my answer and post it there, instead. My wording didn't cause the first one to show up in my possible related items, so I didn't see it. – Andrew Barber Feb 5 '12 at 17:43
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    @TimPost Yeah, a couple of reasons for my reluctance. The other contributors should get exposure too. They're valid, supported opinions, are a little less verbose and maybe easier to digest for some. – Grant Thomas Feb 5 '12 at 18:02
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    @moguzalp What do you mean? Was there something I said in my question/answer that suggests that answering your own question is not valid on Meta? Or were you making a joke? Certainly neither comments nor votes would suggest that. – Andrew Barber Feb 5 '12 at 20:11
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    DON'T PANIC! – Lix Feb 5 '12 at 20:17
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    I was about to say, "Andrew, Andrew, Andrew...tut tut..", then I saw faq-proposed :) – Kev Feb 5 '12 at 20:39
  • @Kev haha! I have to admit, it was a little painful to have to post the question in order to post the answer. That's why I only posted it once I had the bulk of the answer all ready to post immediately. (OK; 21 seconds later!) – Andrew Barber Feb 5 '12 at 20:48
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    One of my worst hobbies as a regular user was taunting quiet downvoters with long-winded comments on my posts. I also left something pretty terse on my highest-scoring answer which also became one of my higher-scoring comments until I finally killed those comments out of conscience. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 6 '12 at 1:01
  • "This question has not received enough attention." — Seems more like "This Stack Overflow moderator election nominee has not received enough attention." ;) I'm just surprised you're doing it too... the increased "dedication" to meta from some of the other candidates has been quite annoying, to be frank. – Lorem Ipsum Mar 5 '13 at 0:40
  • @LoremIpsum I actually considered the implications of promoting this post while in an election. However, there is no link from my profile or posts here to the election, or much mention of my candidacy, except on one very-negatively-voted recent question here. Also, I've gotten a few up-votes on this since my nomination, so I sort of feel it works the other way, too. (my nomination has promoted my posts). Also, I do sort of agree with your notes on the recent meta participation of others. But, I can't be hypocritical here; I originally got involved in meta after an election. – Andrew Barber Mar 5 '13 at 0:46
  • @LoremIpsum Also, considering the primary voting so far, I doubt it could be said I've not received enough attention in the election ;-) (to be honest, I'm sort of floored at the extent of it!) – Andrew Barber Mar 5 '13 at 0:47
  • @AndrewBarber +1 For "...* I think this topic may be a good one for the FAQ tag*..." I totally concur. – User.1 Mar 9 '13 at 19:15
  • Regardless of forum some disagree, accept the vote as an indicator not an absolute value of your post. On other occasions I missed the intent of the question and was downvoted into oblivion :) so the system works! – Mike.Beeler Mar 11 '13 at 19:45
  • Would it be improper of me to complain about the down votes on this question? ;-) – Andrew Barber Oct 28 '13 at 12:48
  • @Sam Please do not leave off-topic comments like this. There is no reason to comment to me directly. I am not 'the boss'; I am merely a moderator (aka janitor). – Andrew Barber Feb 11 '14 at 14:46
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A downvote is an opportunity to consider that perhaps your post could be improved somehow. If you are at all bothered by a downvote, I encourage you to consider the following.

Note: Votes are slightly different on Meta. You may be more quickly down voted on a meta site because people simply disagree with your thoughts on a topic. For example, on questions tagged , others may downvote if they disagree with your proposed feature. This is a valid reason for downvoting on a Meta site. You may still apply the ideas below, but just understand that opinions and thoughts are more freely expressed on Meta sites, both in posts and in votes.

TL;DR

First, you should never take a downvote personally. Remember that a downvote only takes away 2 reputation, while upvotes add considerably more (5 for questions and 10 for answers). Everyone who uses any Stack Exchange site for any length of time will gather down votes here and there. The "best" will take every down vote as an opportunity to rethink a post, and ponder how it could be improved.

That's the short version of the answer, and it has been stated before here on Meta. If you are looking for some more detailed explanations of where you could look, read on!


Why might someone downvote?

There are many reasons someone could down vote, which might include:

  1. They believe that you did not show enough research effort.
  2. They disagreed with statements made in your post.
  3. They disagreed with opinions stated in your post.
  4. They disagreed with how you presented your post. (The "tone" or format of your post).
  5. They disagreed that the information you presented was on-topic.

There are other less "legitimate" reasons someone might downvote your post, but it's generally not helpful to spend too much time thinking about those. For instance, if you see a large number of down votes across many different posts of yours in a short period of time, it's possible you have experienced something we call "serial voting". This post does not address that situation specifically; please see What is serial voting and how does it affect me?

Otherwise, when you get a downvote, consider if any of the above reasons could possibly apply to your post, and consider if you can improve it in relation to that issue. Even if that's not why the person downvoted, you will end up improving your post!

Your post does not show enough research effort

This is literally one of the things mentioned when you hover over the down vote arrow, and it's possible this is the most frequent reason for down votes on questions. How much effort did you put into solving your problem/answering your question before posting? Most Stack Exchange sites expect questions to be based on well-researched issues, and to reflect the effort you have made, so people posting answers don't waste their (and your) time covering ground you've already been through. So be sure that 1) you have spent reasonable effort trying to find an answer yourself and 2) that your post reflects that effort.

If you simply say something vague like "I have searched online, but couldn't find an answer", that might get classified as showing a lack of research effort - anyone can add this to their post, regardless of how little research effort they've done. Include links you've explored, stating how these didn't help, show some code that didn't work, and how it failed - while including these things may seem pointless to you, it's essential to show us that you've actually tried to find an answer yourself - many may not look kindly on you if you appear to be using Stack Exchange to do your work / thinking for you - it's here to help you do it.

They disagreed with statements you made

Consider carefully; is your post factually accurate? Check each and every fact you have included, and consider linking to authoritative resources to back up your claims. Check your big facts and your small facts. Even if something you mentioned is only tangentially related, be sure you have the details of those facts correct, as well.

They disagreed with opinions you expressed

Most Stack Exchange sites do not encourage questions/answers based on opinions. Expressing an opinion that someone else might disagree with is a surefire way to invite someone to downvote. Was your opinion vital to the post? Could it be removed or its applicability limited, such that those with an opposing opinion are not encouraged to downvote?

They disagreed with how you presented your post

Keep in mind that you are wanting people to have a positive reaction to your post: to answer your question, or to upvote your question/answer. Be sure you have not expressed yourself negatively. Did you rant about the technology you are using? Your post is being read by people who use that technology every day. Yes, your rant may find a great many people who agree with your point of view, but it will also find some who disagree, and will vote accordingly.

Also, take care with your formatting. For example, people may downvote when you use ALL CAPS for your title or content, because this is often interpreted as shouting.

They disagreed that the information you presented was on-topic

For questions, be sure you have read the help center of the Stack Exchange site on which you are posting. Think about what is posted there according to both the letter and the spirit, and be open to being wrong - and being told so. Off-topic questions will usually get voted to be closed, and sometimes people will leave comments letting you know it is off-topic. But also, some people will downvote such a question. If this is why your question was downvoted, it will likely also be voted to be closed. Be open-minded in such a case; listen to what those who comment have to say, and if you really still have a doubt, consider going to that site's per-site meta to inquire about the question's appropriateness on the site in question. Make your case in comments on your answer, but beware getting involved in an extended "debate".

For answers, keep in mind that most Stack Exchange sites expect answers to specifically answer the question that was asked. Perhaps you think the person has a different problem than they are expressing in their question, and so you are trying to get "to the root of the problem". Be mindful if you do this, as some will not see the connection at all, and will think your answer is simply off-topic. Also note that you might be wrong in your assumption about where the real problem is. Either way, someone might downvote your answer if they think it doesn't answer the question at hand.

If you are very sure that you have identified a real, unspoken issue in a question, it's usually best if you first answer the question they are asking briefly and correctly, and then explain why you think their issue might be something else... then explain that answer. This makes sure that people won't think you simply ignored the question and posted what you want. But note: someone might still down vote if they think your assumption is wrong.


Should you ask people to explain their downvotes?

Some users leave a comment on their post asking for the downvoter(s) to explain themselves. Be aware that this may not have the effect you want. It may, in fact, just attract more downvotes. If anyone responds to your query, it's likely as not to be the person(s) who downvoted originally, so your response might not be as accurate as you would like.

But it could, potentially, be helpful. Some helpful user might later come along and offer what they guess could be the reason for the downvote(s). Just don't hold your breath, and keep these other things in mind:

  1. Be exceedingly polite when asking, and have a genuine spirit of wanting to know how to improve your post, instead of wanting to "call out" the person who downvoted you.
  2. Do not assume that anyone owes you an explanation for their down vote. They do not. While people are encouraged to explain when they down vote, they are not at all required to do so.
  3. Do not become argumentative with anyone who chooses to explain. They are offering you their opinion in order to help you improve your post. Becoming argumentative will only encourage more down votes.
  4. Do not assume someone down voted simply because they commented. Some people leave comments and then come back after a while and downvote if what they noted was not improved. Other people might not think that your post deserves to be downvoted, though they see a way it could be improved.

Conclusion

Don't take a downvote here or there personally. If you are 100% sure that your post can't be considered to fall under any of the above, just ignore the down vote. If you've gotten more than one down vote, you should probably try to improve your question - even though it could look perfect, some may be looking at it differently than you do. Even if you're sure nothing's wrong, it always good to take the time to see how your post can be improved. It can only help!

  • 6
    How long did you spend on this? Just curious. – Oded Feb 5 '12 at 17:11
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    21 seconds. He seems to be a quick typer. – CodesInChaos Feb 5 '12 at 17:12
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    @Oded Probably an hour or so actually typing it up. It's something I'd been thinking about posting as a proposed FAQ for a while, though. I've had the Question and Answer in my Question Draft for a few days, though. – Andrew Barber Feb 5 '12 at 17:17
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    @CodeInChaos haha... I am a quick typist, but not that quick! :p – Andrew Barber Feb 5 '12 at 17:17
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    So, how many down votes does it take to get to the middle of a tootsie roll pop? Mr. Owl is MIA and you've left out that critical bit of information. And don't just say 42, I'll know you're guessing if you say 42. – Tim Post Feb 5 '12 at 17:54
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    @TimPost I believe Mr Owl's answer was 3, anyway. Not sure if you intended to, but you brought to my mind something that might be useful to add; a note that a 'random' down vote is a different thing entirely than an apparent 'storm' of down votes. – Andrew Barber Feb 5 '12 at 18:12
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    This is one of those answers that should be a prime candidate for conversion to a blog post. – Charles Sprayberry Feb 5 '12 at 20:17
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    I totally could have used a link to this answer a little while ago while arguing with someone over a very low quality, no-effort, one-liner-plus-link answer. Bravo sir. +1 – Lix Feb 5 '12 at 20:22
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    Andrew, surely the weakness (when talking about SO sites other than MSO) is that we don't automatically get any aggregated, anonymous rollup of reasons for downvotes. Downvoting behavior varies greatly across topic and site, from valid to inexplicable to harassment. It's very inefficient and timewasting trying to ask or infer what the reasons were when that could simply be automated. Users have been asking for this feature for years – smci Mar 12 '13 at 10:01
  • @smci I have numerous problems with those ideas, which I have enumerated elsewhere. – Andrew Barber Mar 12 '13 at 10:06
  • @smci This isn't the place to discuss that issue, really. – Andrew Barber Mar 12 '13 at 10:12
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    The thing is. in the stack blurb about reputation, it says that is you are downvoted - which is rare.. thsi should be changed! lol that is what freaked me out about being downvoted.. I thought OMG it's rare and I'm being downvoted a lot! How bad must I be lol – Yvette Colomb May 24 '13 at 3:49
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    As someone who is new to this site I would question the practice of down voting WITHOUT leaving comment or explanation. This is not constructive at all. If you are new to posting, it leaves you trying to figure out what is wrong in your question, which very well is improvable (as you are new to the site) – DISC-O Feb 7 '15 at 17:03
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    The reasons given here that someone might downvote are rather idealistic; they're notably missing "you pissed them off through your actions elsewhere on the site, perhaps by commenting that you'd downvoted one of their answers, and they want revenge." It's not a reason people should downvote, but it's certainly a reason that they do, and you shouldn't take for granted that somebody downvoting you has a legitimate reason to do so - especially when it's an unexplained downvote on an otherwise highly-upvoted post. – Mark Amery Nov 1 '15 at 14:58
  • Why Might Someone Down Vote? 6. Because the answer of your question is too easy. So don't ask noob questions ... – testing Aug 30 '16 at 14:10

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