There's been a lot of activity about mass down voting today, and what seemed like a lot of mass sympathy voting, so I'm asking about how we should handle sympathy voting.

Argument Against:

Some people feel that if you simply answer a question that is being asked that your answer is justified regardless of whether the practice in question could be harmful. Is the point of SO to help people answer questions they have or to help them code properly?

I believe the answer is to help them code properly. This isn't just another Q and A site, this is Stack Overflow, we are a community and we need to decide what is important in our eyes as a whole, as I see It I believe a lot of people would agree proper coding is better than blindly answering questions to help people as it will prevent security issues as well as resource issues if you follow more modern coding practices.

But is that what down voting is for?

Down voting bad questions/answers is the only way to prevent bad content on the site.

Argument for:

However some people feel the need to help no matter what, which is understandable. I think we should try our best to help out people in our community. I also think that comments could help the issue if left with a downvote, even though I don't think this should be mandatory.

I also think editing questions/answers is perfectly fine for correcting these kinds of issues as long as it doesn't warp the original point of the question mainly how do I do x with y and maybe z?

But is that what up voting is for?

Up voting is the only way to bring good questions/answers to light.

So the question remains:

Should sympathy votes be used to counter unexplained downvotes on blindly helpful answers?

  • 18
    Really? We're going to do this again?
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:44
  • @RobertHarvey The issue of charity votes wasn't addressed so I'm posting about it, it is a big issue to have people passing out charity votes. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:45
  • 7
    @RobertHarvey [cv-pls]
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:46
  • The more likely case is that the meta question brought the answer many views, and many users who viewed it thought the answer was helpful and upvoted it. I doubt there were many charity cases. It should also be noted that the answer in question got updated to address the reason for the downvotes, and is a solid answer now.
    – Rachel
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:47
  • 1
    @YannisRizos This is as real an issue as circle downvoting. Circle upvoting is just as big a problem. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:47
  • 1
    Charity upvoting is a red herring; it happened because [dv-pls] happened. My advice: if there's something genuinely wrong with a post that harms the site, for the love of God, just point it out in a comment, and get on with it.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:48
  • @Rachel That doesn't change the fact that circle upvoting for someone is a problem as well and should be discussed. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:48
  • @Event_Horizon No, it's an ever bigger problem, and that's the fifth time I'm saying it today. At some point you got to realise that a discussion has gone full circle, and go on with your day.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:48
  • 5
    Even if this is a good question I wouldn't have posted it. There is already to much time wasted on this stupid topic.
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:49
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey So now I'm getting circle downvoted from people already done discussing the circle downvote issues for a legitimate meta question? Hmm seems like the pot calling the kettle black. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:51
  • I was trying to make the point that people circle downvote,circle close,circle upvote questions they don't/do agree with even if they ARE legitimate. You all proved my point, thank you. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:52
  • 1
    @Robert: The community disagrees with you: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/35393/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/135/… I agree, we should point it out in a comment. But until that policy is changed (requiring a comment for the first dv at least), to slam a sub-community for following the rules is a bit much. It seems to me that the rules are the real problem here...
    – ircmaxell
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:53
  • 6
    You guys are conflating anonymous downvotes with useful feedback. If you genuinely believe that something is wrong with a post and needs to be fixed, the way to do that is to edit the post, or leave a comment. Anonymous downvotes are not going to fix the post. You are perfectly within your rights to leave an anonymous downvote, but doing so does not achieve your aim in this case, and publicizing a post to achieve anonymous downvotes is just abusive.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:55
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey This meta isn't about downvotes, this meta is about circle upvotes, please go see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/134597/… to talk about downvotes. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 15:58
  • 9
    -1 Sympathy downvote. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


You can't legislate voting.

Time and again, it's been shown that voting is just one possible indicator of question quality, and it is not always accurate. Bikeshed questions get far and away more votes than obscure questions that are otherwise important to the OP. Answers with Little Bobby Tables code in them get upvoted by neophytes because they don't know any better.

It is what it is.

Moderators deliberately avoid these problems by allowing people to use their votes however they want to, with one exception: voting abuse. Voting abuse includes users casting multiple votes against a single account, creating socks to upvote their own posts, or publicizing a post solely for downvoting purposes.

We do give folks a little nudge by putting tooltips on the voting arrows: "This post is useful," "This post is not useful." But users can still cast their votes for any reason they want to.

Should users cast sympathy votes? Probably not. But there's nothing we can, or should, do about that.

  • 5
    "Voting abuse includes ... publicizing a post solely for downvoting purposes". Is that new? Does that apply to close/delete votes and flags or just downvotes? I imagine its the same in the reverse situation right? Publishing a link with the intention of getting upvotes? It's a very gray area...
    – Mike B
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:03
  • @MikeB: If everything were black and white, we wouldn't need mods to make judgment calls; we could just bake everything into the software.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:09
  • 3
    Just to be pedantic, publicizing a post solely for up-voting purposes should also be classified as voting abuse. It goes both ways (and your post does not indicate any possibility of that)...
    – ircmaxell
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:40
  • @ircmaxell: I can't control Redditt. Or Twitter for that matter. Somehow, I don't think publicizing your post to see if it stands on its own merit carries the same peril as [dv-pls].
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:42
  • But publicizing a post to see if it stands on its own is very different from publicizing it solely for up-votes. I just want to call a horse a horse and be clear and unbiased. It does happen (quite often) that posts are shared not for feedback or clarity, but for upvotes alone...
    – ircmaxell
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:50
  • 3
    @ircmaxell: How exactly would one do that? If someone shares a link to their question in your chat, do you upvote it just because it's there? Or do you vote based on its merit? Do not try and convince me that [dv-plz] is remotely the same thing.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 17:52
  • @RobertHarvey Regardless of the tag people are going to vote how they see fit if a question is brought to their attention. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 18:31
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey Incidentally it is the same thing. The name might imply otherwise, but that's mainly for historic reasons. People can and do decide on their own whether they cast a vote. Nobody votes just because someone told him to. The mere thought of that seems absurd to me.
    – NikiC
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 19:11
  • @NikiC: The key takeaway here is constructiveness, not pedantic distinctions about the merits and motivations of voting. In case I wasn't clear, I'll restate it here: the only thing that needed to be done to that answer was to leave a clear explanation of what was wrong with it in a comment. Attempts to manipulate voting patterns are ultimately folly; if all a [dv-plz] tag does is encourage such distortions, maybe it's time to revisit the tag's usefulness.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 19:19
  • 6
    @RobertHarvey: No offense, but spend some time in the chat room before you judge anything. The php room is one of the most active on the site. It's been active for 1.5 years, with an average of 1.1k messages per day. Out of all of that, there have been a total of 45 usages of [dv-pls], with the majority of them meaning delete-vote. A number of mods frequent the room, and none have expressed any lasting issue with our interaction with the community. Don't judge us by an isolated incident taken out of context. Come join us and spend some time before judging our interaction...
    – ircmaxell
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 20:28
  • @ircmaxell: Fair enough. This specific instance clearly did not work out that well, however. I should have probably stayed out of this; Marc Gravell already said what I would have.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 20:29

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