Before you disagree with me with a downvote, or just want to be funny, please hear me out.

From the "Vote Down" privilege page:

The upvote privilege comes first because that's what you should focus on: pushing great content to the top. Downvoting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.

I have honestly never seen a downvote reserved for an extreme case. The process is usually 1) downvote post if it's bad and don't comment. (Not much of a process, is it?)

As you stay on the site longer and longer, you develop a carelessness towards downvotes (as I have), but for new users, it's really discouraging. This question inspired me to [ask balpha to] make this, which is a list of users with 1 rep who have the Peer Pressure badge.

That's the closest I could get to new users who deleted their own posts after downvotes came in. Don't get me wrong, I know the argument about being nice to new users very well, but I still believe it to be an issue.

And since downvoting is free on questions, users are much more inclined to go the lazy route and downvote bad questions. No alternative measures (see below) are taken, for the most part. Personally, I leave a comment and don't downvote until the asker shows no interest in fixing their post.

The only other measure taken to discourage downvotes (on answers) is the -1 rep punishment to the downvoter, which is absolutely meaningless and inconsequential anyways.

How are we supposed to educate new users when we don't teach them what to do, don't direct them to the FAQ, and discourage them with downvotes right off the bat?

Instead of voting down:

If the post is spammy or offensive — flag it.
If the question is duplicate or off-topic — flag it for moderator attention.
If something is wrong, please leave a comment or edit the post to correct it.

We claim to discourage downvoting, yet I see answers like this that encourage us to downvote first and ask questions later when a question is simply unclear or effortless.

It's just an awful chain reaction. A new user comes to the site asking a question, but that doesn't work out too well, so they get downvotes, delete the question in shame, and don't get the help they deserve as a fellow writer of code and programmer.

Strip away the quality of the site for a moment: the core functionality of this site, and the only reason I and a lot of other users are (still) on it, is to receive and give help to/from others. I enjoy making sure fellow programmers get the answer they need, because this site has helped me get mine when I needed them.

Quality can still be maintained if content is fixed rather than downvoted more often.

So can we stop discouraging new users from continuing to use this site and actually start to discourage downvoting? I think we need to encourage effort towards teaching and helping new users understand the system and why their post is bad rather than slapping them in the face with downvotes that they don't know how to interpret anyways.

I'm leaving ways we can do this up to others. My first thought was to increase the punishment for downvoting answers and to no longer make question downvotes free, but those wouldn't be well-received, judging by the history of similar suggestions.


  • 1
    I'm basically reading this as "discourage people who don't leave comments from downvoting" which is basically the reverse of "encourage people who downvote to leave comments."
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:39
  • @animuson: No, it's really "discourage people from downvoting in the first place," which is what the FAQ should be doing, but isn't.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:40
  • 1
    What I would like to experiment is the ability to leave anonymous comments. That might solve much of the problem of (fear of) revenge downvoting that would normally discourage a downvoter from commenting at all.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:41
  • @Mysticial Doing that would discourage downvoting since people don't want to go through that process just to downvote.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:43
  • And every down vote should force them to comment. And the if the comment is unacceptable, the down vote has to be undone. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:43
  • 19
    Funny. Here I was this morning, browsing through some questions in my tags, wondering why so much crap gets upvoted without any apparent reason, thinking that we don't downvote enough at all. Different views I suppose. :)
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:44
  • 2
    @madhairsilence I would advise you to not make that a feature request. That discussion has been had gazillions of times and never even got close to making it. Have a look through the many discussions on that idea already here on Meta.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:45
  • @Bart: All that means is that the community is benefittng from that content. It might be crap to someone else, but not for everyone. The truly good content will always be at the top, though. Stack Overflow is different cause it's massive.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:47
  • 1
    Are you saying you want to enforce this for lower-traffic sites only? In any case, from my SO-only point of view, I don't think we have a downvote problem. And even if we would have one, we already encourage (new) users to leave a comment after a downvote. Personally I often do if it hasn't already been said by someone else. I'm all for informing the user receiving the downvotes, but I can't support enforcing that. Lead by example is more my thing I guess.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:52
  • @Bart: I meant SO is different in terms of good content being up top constantly. But no, I want this feature on SO too. The only thing I'm asking for is not to make it so easy to downvote...
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:53
  • 2
    Didn't Summer of Love tell us that we should prefer downvote / VTC to a comment? Or was that a misinterpretation on my part?
    – AakashM
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:31
  • 1
    Mwah, I don't like the idea of any such barrier. The far bigger problem (I think) is that of users attaching a real value to their reputation and the votes they receive. It doesn't mean a thing. If you contribute any half-decent content then your reputation will steadily increase. If you attach so much emotion to votes that you no longer want to participate, you have a far bigger problem than the votes. By all means, politely ask for an explanation. Even come to Meta and constructively discuss your question and why it might have received downvotes. We are more than willing to help anyone out.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:33
  • 4
    The only other measure taken to discourage downvotes (on answers) is the -1 rep punishment to the downvoter, which is absolutely meaningless and inconsequential anyways. Meaningless and inconsequential? Let's get rid of it then! Please?
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:14
  • @YannisRizos: Superbly misunderstood.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 16:20
  • @Bart: Come on, if someone comes here and "politely asks for an explanation," all they'll get is "your question sucked" comments. :P
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 6:02

5 Answers 5


On Stack Overflow I have cast 316 upvotes and 1386 downvotes and the majority of all my votes are on questions rather than answers. That probably makes me look like a serial downvoter and maybe I am. However, I think I just have high standards. I hang around mostly in the and related tags were the quality of question is very low.

I downvote and vote to close to try and maintain some kind of quality control in the PHP tag and if that discourages people from posting more rubbish questions then that is fine by me.

I can kind of see your point, but I am not over burdened with sympathy for people who will not try and help themselves before turning to others for help

From the [FAQ]:-

Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it.

I expect such people to put in some effort to solving their problem and asking good questions that will get good answers. People who cannot be bothered to ask good questions or do some research do not fit into that description and don't belong here.

Poor questions deserve downvotes and good questions deserve upvotes. Obviously average questions, by interpolation, won't get either. I find that the overwhelming number of questions on SO are either poor or average and good questions quite rare.

I guess that I am trying to say that down voting should not be discouraged, it is a necessary quality control. I have not seen many down voted questions that didn't deserve it, but I have seen many upvoted questions that didn't (IMHO).

  • 1
    316 upvotes and 1386 downvotes? Not bad!
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:13
  • @YannisRizos to be honest I didn't realise my voting was so skewed until this question prompted me to check. I probably won't change my habits though :)
    – vascowhite
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:39
  • @YannisRizos at first I thought you had some data explorer magic that made that query stop when it got to whoever was running it... but then I saw, no, it's just that of all the people that meet the criteria, the least downvote-y is me. Not sure what to think about that!
    – AakashM
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 13:28
  • I guess I'm the only one disappointed when the best part of this site is overridden by mindless quality control. Whatever.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 16:18
  • 5
    @Purmou If there was "mindless quality control" we would all be disappointed, however it appears that it's just your opinion and people generally disagree with it. You wrote a long(ish) question describing a problem you think exists, but if you don't provide us any solid evidence of the problem, I don't think you'll find many that will just blindly agree with you...
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 16:57
  • I don't have solid evidence? The fact that over 500 users with 1 rep have deleted their downvoted posts is not evidence that they're not receiving the help they came here for?
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 19:30
  • @Purmou No. For one, those posts could all have been answers, so your "evidence" has nothing to do with whether the 1 rep users are receiving the help they came here for. And even if some of those posts were questions, you have provided no evidence that they were somehow wrongly downvoted (how do you know there weren't helpful comments / edits and the OP just failed to respond to them?)
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 21:36
  • By no means, by the way, am I saying get rid of downvotes--I'm simply saying we should encourage commenting and fixing before downvoting, and that downvoting should actually be a last resort as its meant to be.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 23:30
  • @Purmou I guess some of us don't want the site overrun with mindless approval.
    – vascowhite
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 7:37

Downvotes are discouraged, for better or worse, by the system. Quite a bit more than you seem to appreciate. In my experience downvoting is vastly less common than upvoting (and generally reserved for, yes, extreme cases) and upvotes seem to be about 5x to >10x as common on sites compared to down votes. That is pretty extreme.

Sure -1 rep sounds like a slap on the wrist, and it is meant to be minor, but it still has a huge psychological impact (if it didn't people wouldn't be on Meta complaining about each and every thing that causes a rep drop).

When I see people with massive amounts of votes I tend to see that they have 99% upvotes. Heck, most people have a large majority of upvotes, even on sites (like Stack Overflow) where I feel more downvotes wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

Blindly upvoting every post on the site is far more harmful than downvoting poor content. We do not want more poor content. Downvoting is yet another tool to help prevent bad content, even if it gets used in ways some people don't like.

  • I'm not saying remove downvotes, I'm saying encourage fixing before downvoting.
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 16:19

In my opinion, the first thing a new user should do is NOT 'posting a question', no matter how hard he/she seeks the answer for it. It's actually 'reading the rules' - or at least looking out for similar cases. That's how it usually goes with these olde 'non-digital' communities, you know. )

I agree that we shouldn't downvote a question just because it's rough at the edges. But, sadly, too many times we see questions asked without even a slightest attempt to research the task given. In my opinion, asking moderators to deal with them is exactly opposite to the 'community' approach.

Besides, I think you underestimate a bit the power of downvotes. Sadly, it's in human nature to react more to negatives than positives. Downvoted question will be much more... influential than a simple word from moderator for most of new people. And that, in turn, means they actually start to think about what they did wrong, and how than can be reversed.

  • 1
    Or they just ragequit...
    – Mysticial
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:57

I believe down-votes are meant for criticism. The basic objective of criticism is to improve. However, down-votes without any reason are not contributing any value towards the improvement of the post. How could a serious author know the reason for criticism, and how to improve his post? When I ask this, community members may argue saying that one should go to the FAQ page, and read the relevant articles about writing posts.

Now consider the below scenario. An author writes a post. It is not up to the standards. Now so many community members down votes like. Now he goes through all the articles and modified his post. Now the quality of the post is good enough. On this modified post, are down vote reasonable? How can that author communicate to down voters that his post was improved and review it again? How many down voters review it again and revert back the down vote if they agrees. I swear many of the down voters are don't care about it. Now the impact is great demotivate for the serious author. And the quality post has recognized as less quality post by community and how it helps to quality of the site.

We should encourage responsible down votes. Which will tell the reason and helps for improvement. How ever at the same time we should discourage irresponsible down-votes who simply down votes and doesn't care. Site should have feature so that author just sends all down voters for review once he modified the post. If they didn't respond properly on time. Their down vote should get reverted back.

  • The feature your are asking is already suggested by Jon Skeet! and it is declined. :)
    – Himanshu
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 11:00
  • @hims056: Why we are supporting irresponsible and not constructive down votes?
    – Ramya
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 11:17
  • I can't say why. But you can ask this guy. :)
    – Himanshu
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 11:21

Generally I do not downvote except on questions since I do not believe in having to penalize myself over another's mistake, so obviously that was an intended feature to get people like me to contribute with weeding out the bad stuff. Maybe the real motivation for this question is to remove reputation loss for the poster as well? Or perhaps to investigate if people have been downvoting on average questions as well (doing it because they can).

On the other hand, the system is such that downvoted questions are less visible, so seeing undeserving upvoted questions does not necessarily mean there is no downvote problem. This deserved business is also pretty subjective because a +500 answer is not necessarily 10 times as good as the +50 answer, so does it deserve 10 times as much reputation?

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