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Downvoting of new user questions

Many just arrived users are not professionals enough to find their answers through web searching. So they make simple questions with trivial or duplicated answers.

Do you think downvoting or closing their questions immediately after they have just spent time for registration and making the question is a good idea? Their first experience and memory will be good enough to continue?

To the advanced users: Do you remember your early days? What would be your feeling after your important question that had spent a lot of time around it was immediately closed with 15 downvotes and no answers - just pejorative comments?

Is this an ethical way to welcome a just arrived user?

I think a better idea is to look at the reputation, if the user has low reputation (meaning a just-arrived user) try to answer them, or at least let other people to answer them. If the question is duplicated, kindly referring them to the original question is a good idea.

There can be a hidden flag such as "Amateur question" to be set by professional users to indicate this question should be closed or deleted after ten days, but not just immediately after the user has asked it.

What's your idea? - I hope this question would not be immediately downvoted or closed as I am
also a new user :-)

  • 12
    No. Stack Overflow is a professional questions and answers site. Bad question deserve downvote no matter who posted it and why. What you suggest will turn the site to social forum with tons of garbage, and the internet is full with such sites already. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 22:48
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    OK, My idea is not to keep the garbage, but you can make a hidden mark of garbage on it to be removed after 10 days, but not immediately after the user has asked it. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 22:50
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    Requisite comment pointing out that downvoting on Meta generally indicates disagreement, not that the question is "bad" (like on SO).
    – joran
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 22:51
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    The professionals of tomorrow are the elementary users today. We should keep them interested. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 22:51
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    If they are discouraged by something as simple as a downvote, rather than inquisitive as to what they can do to improve, I'm not sure there's much we can do anyway.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 22:53
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    Also, new users on Stack Overflow are shown the How To Ask page. Not reading that is no excuse.
    – Arjan
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 22:54
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    There are 1000 ways to justify your downvotes, but only 1 way to welcome a just arrived user: Be at least patient and let the others answer, not to bombard his question with downvotes. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:01
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    And I will be happy to dismiss all of my 30 reputations for downvotes of this single question, but please think a second what the others feel of your action. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:03
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    Please review my question and answer history. I didn't have any special advantage over any of the other new users that came here and asked garbage questions which were rightly downvoted, yet somehow I survived and became a contributing member of the community. Every other active user of this site can tell the same story. Nobody starts out with any advantage, but some of us are actually thoughtful people who read the rules and looked around the site to learn how to contribute before posting our first questions.
    – user229044
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:20
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    And if you're taking downvotes personally, you're going to have a bad time. Instead of crying over mean people on the Internet, learn from your mistakes and post good content in the future.
    – user229044
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:22
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    @AliSharifi: If newcomers would stop to think for a second about how everyone else is likely to feel based on their question, they'd be unlikely to get downvotes in the first place. Most bad questions emanate a disrespect for potential answerers - they give the impression that the asker thinks that their own time is worth more than the time of those who are going to help them.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 8:43
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    @AliSharif and the atmosphere on SO is actually very nice in comparison to some other internet fora. If you ask a 'dumb' question on some other fora you could receive many RTFM's, insults, and 'just google that'. So I think SO is already doing a good job of balancing content and atmosphere. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:29
  • "Do you think downvoting or closing their questions immediately after they have just spent time for registration and making the question is a good idea?" If the questions are bad, then yes. Yes, I do.
    – user164207
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 13:31

3 Answers 3


...Their first experience and memory will be good enough to continue?

Yes, it actually happened to me when I started my first account. And my first impression was "damn, this site got really nice moderation".

Knowing that the site worked so hard to separate good content from bad was one of the strongest points that made me stay in this site. I immediately dumped all the spammy forums I was living in and changed to StackOverflow.

I instantaneously knew that the community had zero plans on changing, I was the one who needed to change if I wanted to survive in this community (adapt or die).

Guess what I chose?

  • 2
    @Bart, Yannis joran: Your experience is totally different from me, that after answering several questions in Stackoverflow, now my account is banned from asking new question there because of this discussion here! Joran: you told downvotes here are "disagreement" and not the question is "bad", but the site moderators seem to think differently! And this is the warmest welcome message to some new user! Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 10:09
  • @AliSharifi Which of your accounts has a post-ban? Your Meta Stack Overflow account? Or your Stack Overflow account? If it's the latter, your contributions on Meta have nothing to do with it. Btw, post-bans are automatic. There is no moderator involvement in those and you have by no means been banned by a moderator.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:27
  • @Bart thanks for your consideration. My SO account is banned now. I am really confused what wrong have I made, you may see my history. I have read the related page about this problem, and it was not helpful at all. Do you have any idea? Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:33
  • @AliSharifi In your profile I see you asked 5 questions. 1 significantly downvoted, 2 closed and 1 migrated. This all counts against you. I don't know if this is enough for a ban. If you deleted some other downvoted questions, that also counts. If you didn't, you can't be all that far into the ban to begin with. And just to reiterate, your contributions here on Meta have no influence on a possible ban on Stack Overflow itself.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:36
  • @Bart: There were also 2 normal questions with no negative votes, and also 4 positively voted answers and 3 approved answers for the other people questions within a few days and 149 reputation and 8 bronze medals. Summing everything you think it was fair to ban my profile? Also according to goo.gl/C1K negative votes on Meta have effect on SO. Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:45
  • @AliSharifi If you are question banned, that's due to the poor questions you've asked. This is separate from the answers. You are most likely still allowed to answer questions. Once again, if you have only ever asked those 5 questions and have not deleted some more, you can't be deep into a ban. And the "Does this apply to Meta too" section only means that you can also be banned on Meta for your contributions there. But that's it's harder to be banned on Meta. It does not at all mean that your downvotes on Meta have an influence on a post-ban on Stack Overflow.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:48

To the advanced users: Do you remember your early days? What would be your feeling after your important question that had spent a lot of time around it was immediately closed with -15 votes and no answers - just pejorative comments?

That's more or less what happened to me on Programmers. Well, my first question had a positive total score, but there were a few downvotes as well and some of the commenters were a bit... I'll admit it stung a bit, for at least three seconds. Or it could had been five, this was back in May 2011, my memory may be failing me.

Well, so what? Picked my pieces of the floor, wiped the tears off my face, and decided to spend about half an hour to find out what the fault in my question was. Checked the site's FAQ, browsed its Meta, looked for similar (but better formulated) questions. That half hour (might have been 45 minutes, but no more) was enough for me to get the feel of the site, and less than a month later I had earn my first 1,000 rep. Got a bit bored, stopped visiting the site, but then sometime in October I was facing a practical, actual problem and I re-visited the site. And was hooked (for good, this time). Few months later I even managed to fool the community into thinking I deserved a diamond...

All of us had a rocky start, one way or another. This high quality Q&A thing is tough, and that's by design. For me it took about half an hour to "get it", for a friend I introduced to the network recently it took about three hours (but that's partly my fault, I just talk too much). It's different for everyone, but it's not that hard, certainly Stack Exchange has a higher entry barrier than, for example, Reddit, but in no way are our basic requirements for questions (being on topic and showing a tad of prior effort) unreasonable.

Back in the good old days (before I got my diamond) I used a nifty little userscript that removed user details from posts. I had absolutely no interest on who the person behind the post was, I was and still am only interested in the content. I gave up the userscript after the elections, because unfortunately now I have to care about who the poster is, in some cases. But that's an edge case and only applies to moderators, everyone else should only focus and vote on the content, without caring at all about the poster.

At the end of the day, if you're talking votes (up/down) on some random forum (yes, I said it) on the internet personally, you are doing it wrong.

  • 2
    You were so lucky for the positive total votes on your first vote. I am thinking of the case that your first question was bombarded by 15 downvotes, 0 upvotes and 5 pejorative comments and closed before anyone else could answer. In such a case, would you earn 19K reputation and 7 gold medals by now? Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:22
  • If the comments get out of hand, feel free to flag those. Inappropriate comments are never allowed. And it's in the very nature of a programmer to net get down when something goes wrong. You'll have to learn to deal with far more failure than success, at least at the very beginning. I can't speak for Yannis, but I would assume that any decent programmer would end up just fine, even if initially downvoted.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:25
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    @AliSharifi The pejorative comments you should flag (as rude/offensive) right as you see them. That said, I don't think it's that common to see a question get 15 downvotes (well perhaps on Meta, but here voting is a bit different). I don't know what would have happened if that first question was completely buried, what I can tell you though is that as a moderator I've been attacked personally quite a few times, and I've never took it personally (for more than three seconds). I'm still enjoying the gig, even after being called a ... (more than once).
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:27
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    @Bart: The difference is simple: You are talking about a descent programmer and I am thinking of a future programmer. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:28
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    By "decent" I did not mean to imply that the programmer was already worth his chops. But someone who does not mind failing every once in a while, dusting themself off to learn from the experience. If there was ever a profession where you learn by failure, it's programming.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:29
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    @Bart, and Yannis: I have already upvoted your answers. What's your feeling? Nothing maybe, because of 10000s of reputation. But that's not the case for a new user. That's the end. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:32
  • What is our feeling about what? (other than what we've already stated)
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:33
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    @AliSharifi: You don't have to be a good programmer to write a good question. There's plenty of help available for writing a good question - if you care enough that you really want your question to be good, and are willing to put in the time (e.g. reading tinyurl.com/so-hints first) then you're very unlikely to get 16 downvotes.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 8:24
  • @JonSkeet: Thanks for the page, it was good Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:38

There is no reason to treat news users any different than established users. This site is built on upvotes and downvotes, as well as a fairly strict understanding of what is appropriate for the site or not. Deviating from that for a new user would be doing both them and the site a disservice.

It is not as if new users have no means of getting to know the site and how it works. They are presented with the FAQ and "How to Ask" page, which should give them at least a broad overview of what is appropriate or not.

If they still continue to ask something which is not appropriate or does not show any of the required research indicated at various places, downvotes or closure might happen. This is not a personal thing, nor meant to discourage any new user. If they do take it as such, that is really their problem and not something we should worry too much about IMHO. The downvotes are there to indicate there is a problem with the question asked or answer given. And close votes indicate that the content is inappropriate for the site. But a closed question is not necessarily a dead question. Given appropriate updates, it does stand a chance of being reopened.

A "hidden flag" as you propose achieves exactly the opposite of what we want. It's not clear and does not send the message to the user that there might a problem with their content. It's a bad idea.

All this does not imply that we should be rude or harsh towards new users. And in my opinion we are not. Often from the question asked it is already apparent what level the user is at. And even if the question itself is not a difficult one, if it's reasonably original and well-asked, they won't be dismissed or treated harshly, nor downvoted or close-voted.

So in summary, I see no reason to treat new users any differently than established users.

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    It is of the basics of marketing to treat the new clients differently. Here is not a market for selling goods, but a market to share ideas, experiences and skills. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:07
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    @AliSharifi No clients here, we are all volunteering our time, not selling products or services.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:08
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    I am a volunteer as well, and I will continue it even with the downvotes here. But attracting new volunteers needs more patience. The site visitors, the new users, are the clients of the valuable time you have spent on this site. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:11
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    Your marketing analogy falls flat, but in fact we do often treat new users differently. Not by not downvoting or close voting, but by explaining afterwards in a comment why this happened. I see this occurring fairly regularly and find this a far better approach than not treating them as full users. And users don't come for the hugs we have to share, but for the knowledge we have to offer.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:12
  • 1
    @Bart: A good suggestion. But I am looking the cases that a new question is bombarded with downvotes with no single answer or comment! Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:15
  • Then there is always the closure message if it gets closed. Or in the rare cases that there is no indication whatsoever as to why a question got downvoted, the user is free to come to meta to constructively inquire what might be the cause of all the downvotes. Still no need to change any of the regular behaviour.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:17
  • @AliSharifi This might be a weird edge case, but sometimes new account doesn't necessarily mean new user. On smaller sites it's not that hard to spot a known troll trying to fool his way in by using a new account. Probably not so much on SO though.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:18
  • @Bart: We are discussing a user that has failed to find his answer by google search. Referring such a user to Meta seems fair? Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:24
  • If the user did not ask an appropriate question and received no information as to why his question was downvoted (or even in the case of closure) he is more than welcome to ask here for some insights.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 23:26
  • @AliSharifi if you are bombarded with downvotes on your question it should be a good indication that something is wrong with the question to begin with. Any new user should be able to pick that up and then ask themselves why? Reading the FAQ, Meta, or examples of other questions should be a good starting point. If all else fails and there are no comments indicating why the question is downvoted, then a comment to ask how to improve may illicit some response from the community. The community doesn't just downvote questions because a person is a new user.
    – Deco
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 5:07
  • @Deco I am really not worried about myself. My recent question in SO has received 14 upvotes by now with a bronze medal of nice question (stackoverflow.com/questions/12807237/r-undebug-all-functions), What I worried about was new arrivals who are really amateur even in searching or reading documents. Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 9:04

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