Is it necessary to downvote newbies?

I don't ask this because I am a newbie, but I ask this because I think we should appreciate newcomers for the fact that they asked. We should not degrade them by making downvotes and so by improving our critic badge.

I know that a new user must have to Google it first and do a substantial amount of research and then ask on Stack Overflow, but if he/she didn't find a specific answer even though they have searched, then why do we downvote them? I think all of us are still learning!

Any thoughts?

  • 16
    Stack Overflow is not a shelter for poor programmers. We should not upvote or avoid downvote a bad question just because it was posted by a newbie. Mar 27, 2012 at 11:01
  • 7
    SO is growing more and more hostile for new users. The net effect is a decline in the quality of new users; people with choice will go elsewhere
    – Andomar
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:11
  • 6
    @and - If they are not willing to learn the ways of our community then good luck to them - where ever they find themselves ;)
    – Lix
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:18
  • 5
    @Andomar - What are your statements based on? I'd love to see some statistics or research. My experience doesn't align with there being a decline in the quality of new users. Mar 27, 2012 at 11:19
  • 2
    Yes, absolutely necessary. Mar 27, 2012 at 18:04
  • possible duplicate of Could we please be a bit nicer to the n00bs? Mar 27, 2012 at 18:05
  • 2
    It's heavy user-dependent. Most users care about own ego and haven't motivation a little more forgiving for beginners. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/122626/… may show you not so biased point of view on newbies Apr 2, 2012 at 20:23
  • @LazyBadger: I'm completely agree with you...:)
    – Goti
    Apr 3, 2012 at 3:49
  • @ShaWizDowArd and everyone who upped that comment....um, bad question does not equal a newbie... And may be, just may be poor programmers are trying to become good programmers, and pro's with attitude like yours are not helping...If you want a site exclusive for your "league" feel free to create one but I think this website is just trying to be constructive and useful. Aug 23, 2012 at 16:07
  • @Reno actually I tend to help "poor programmers" and try to answer even if the question is poor and even when I downvote. My attitude aside, Stack Overflow aspire to contain high quality contents. Poor programmer and poor quality questions are two different things - anyone can construct a good question, even if he's a really bad programmer. All it takes is to invest time into grammar, examples and putting relevant code. Nobody said that code must be perfect and flawlessly structured. Aug 23, 2012 at 20:34
  • The critic badge is awarded for the first downvote. There is no active encouragement for serial downvoting Dec 14, 2017 at 20:09
  • no @ShadowWizardisEarForYou is not shelter for poor programmings... you know that everyone lurks stackoverflows for getting answers.. .basically it becomes a shelter for anyone... and that is the idea.... as Reno point you out, leavy the PRO actitude away as it is not necessary to say that are poor or good programmers, anyone can be good or poor depending on the day and the given enviormental factors, BUT not anyone can share... i see this site more like a CoP en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_practice..
    – Victor
    Mar 29, 2020 at 13:57

8 Answers 8


Votes are not based on the user - they are based on the question. A bad question will get downvoted.

This is a good mechanism to show users that the question is bad - how else will they learn and improve their question asking?

  • 1
    I am completely agree with u.... but I think this should be for the known users... We can suggest new users that "see, u r wrong at this point, keep it in mind next time"....Don't u think by down voting, we degrade them???
    – Goti
    Mar 27, 2012 at 10:55
  • 12
    @Goti No we don't downgrade anyone. Feedback is given on the post not the person, and not every new user misunderstands downvoting as a comment on themselves. Let's not degrade new users by assuming they don't know any better.
    – yannis
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:03
  • 2
    @yan: That's why downvotes give negative reputation only to the question, and not to the user! Oh, wait?
    – Andomar
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:09
  • 5
    @Andomar Reputation is just an integer on a database, a fuzzy metric of post quality, it says absolutely nothing about a person. There are simple ways to get tons of reputation with lesser quality posts... What we need to correct here is people's perception that reputation is somehow more important than it actually is, not the voting system.
    – yannis
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:37
  • @YannisRizos:+1 for ur comment...:)
    – Goti
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:46
  • 4
    @Goti: I want to downvote all of your comments for your bloody txt spch. Try typing "your". It isn't that hard. "You" is only three characters.
    – user1228
    Mar 27, 2012 at 15:16
  • 1
    @Won't: Same applies for you too for "txt spch"......'Think before you speak'... :-)
    – Goti
    Mar 28, 2012 at 4:59
  • @Goti - @ Won't was simply mimicking your style. I believe the term is "irony".
    – Oded
    Mar 28, 2012 at 8:28
  • 1
    @Oded: I prefer Goldy or Silvery.
    – user1228
    Mar 28, 2012 at 16:55
  • @Yannis That almost makes sense, except that usage rights are based on rep. So, really, no. Not at all. Mar 14, 2014 at 22:27
  • @Oded with time... with time you learn how to properly try to ask questions that helps anyone. I do not agree that downvoting a question is decoupled from dowvoting the person that ows the question. As far i see: Questions are attached to people, answers to nature.
    – Victor
    Mar 29, 2020 at 13:57

Yes it is. If the question or answer is bad, and does not fit within the site guidelines, then absolutely.

The SO/SE network is a community, and while it may seem rude to the new guy getting downvoted, that's no different to any other human (or indeed, animal) community where the new guy is expected to fit into the existing community standards of what's acceptable.

Up/Down voting is how we nudge users in the right direction - well, that and the new user guidelines that every new user is required to accept and click on when they ask a question. So, the issue really becomes - if a new user is either unwilling or unable to read or understand what's expected of them, when they are physically required to read the guidelines before they post, why should the greater community suffer as a result?

In essence: Why shouldn't we downvote a new user, if their question is "bad"?


In my opinion bad questions are one of the biggest problem of the site. I see far too many questions where 300 lines of code are copied/pasted and the only real question is "Solve this for me" or "it doesn't work, why?".
I spend my time on Stack Overflow but I feel that I'd be far more productive if I didn't need to "mind read" most question that are asked.
When I started on Stack Overflow I made the same mistake and I was downvoted, and that made me think more when posting a question, and so now, I do exactly the same thing when poor question are asked.
Downvoting a question just means that the question is bad, it's not a judgement on the asker.


Please have a look at this post. The problem (if you want to call it a problem) is not new. It is not even unique to Stack Overflow. Any community has rules and new users are expected to follow these rules.

The problem is, that there are some new users that spoil the fun for others by:

  • posting spam
  • demanding to fix their problem right now
  • forgetting to read or understand the faq
  • forgetting to search if the question is already asked
  • writing questions that are not understandable for perfectly sane people
  • forgetting that SE is not a forum, a social network or an intelligent manual.
  • (feel free to add more).

If old users see a post of such a user, they often point them to the faq or to other sources to get at least a clue. But sooner or later this gets tiresome. So the pointers start getting shorter (which can be interpreted as rude). And we have even lost excellent answerers due to this flood of cluelessness.

So yes, the negative votes are needed to keep the quality of the site.

  • 3
    Agreed. Stack Exchange in general and Stack Overflow in particular is not short of questions (both good and bad) what we are short of (relatively speaking) is good answerers. These should be cherished and allowing bad questions on the the site(s) will drive them away.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:51

On SO, yes, I feel he should be downvoted.

On a smaller community like Physics.SE, I tend to not vote at all and give the post a comment. In such smaller communities, we need more retention, and besides, the downvote can be executed later if the OP doesn't bother. The end result is that the question/answer gets its deserved vote, but after a delay in which he/she can improve it. This does not hold for homework questions--those I downvote+vote to close (sometimes with a comment if someone hasn't placed one already)


Yes, It should be.

There is a linked called faq near every user's Login Name. User should read it before posting the question/answer. The link is guidance to put you in right a way of asking questions and answering the answers.

It is like before the start the game/work you should know the rules.


It is really annoying when some downvotes and doesn't give a reason/comment for that.


IMHO new users should be rated more on intention than on execution.

Nothing says "not welcome" like a close or migrate vote.

  • 8
    And nothing is more annoying than a "Plz halp!" or a refusal to elaborate on the problem.
    – Lix
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:14
  • 2
    What is "not welcome" is the bad content.
    – Lix
    Mar 27, 2012 at 11:14

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