This is just one potential solution to what I feel is a problem on Stack Overflow.

I think that some of us tend to base our opinion of a question on the votes that were already cast. So if I visit a question and find that it has 50 up-votes, I may believe that it is a good question, even before reading it. The same happens with down-voted questions.

This becomes a problem with new questions. When someone decides to down-vote a question, this seems to sway others' opinions about it. I think that the reason some SO questions get so many down-votes in the first 10 minutes of its existence is because of this phenomenon.

One potential solution is not to show down-votes until after some period of time (15 minutes for example). This would encourage SO users to read and understand newly-posted questions before forming an opinion about it. The reason I'm suggesting that only down-votes be delayed is that I don't believe up-votes have the same effect of discouraging people from fully reading and understanding the question the way down-votes do.

Do you agree that this is a problem with SO? If so, do you agree with my solution, or do you have a better one? Finally, is there a chance SO will implement something like this?

  • 2
    I almost downvoted just to see what would happen.
    – senderle
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 17:55
  • I believe this has been suggested before with a slightly different window length (ten minutes, or an hour, maybe); looking for it now EDIT: found two, though they're both specific to answers, not questions: "first few minutes" and "first few hours" (there's also don't show answers at all for two minutes and randomize answer order for 15 minutes)
    – Pops
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 17:57
  • 9
    On the other hand, for the full 15 minutes the OP would be unaware that there might be a problem with the question, amassing downvotes all the same.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 17:58
  • @Bart, good point. But then, isn't the appearance of downvotes to the OP already delayed (to preserve voting anonymity)?
    – senderle
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 17:59
  • @senderle No, it isn't. But the OP can't see who cast the votes, just as no other users can see that info.
    – Pops
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 17:59
  • @senderle No, downvotes appear immediately. You just can't see who cast them.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:00
  • @Bart But simply down-voting a question without specifying why, probably won't convey enough information to the OP, especially if he/she is new to SO.
    – Hassan
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:03
  • @Hassan But your feature request is to now show any of the down-voting at all for a period of time. Assuming no comments are left, the presence of a downote might at least provide some message. Unless you want to suggest that each downvote should be accompanied by a comment, a suggestion you might want to stay away from before reading up on earlier discussions here on Meta.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:07
  • 2
    "I think that the reason some SO questions get so many down-votes in the first 10 minutes of its existence is because of this phenomenon." Most questions I've seen that were heavily downvoted in the first 10 minutes had very good reason to be. Do you have a counterexample? Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:09
  • 1
    This is a terrible idea. If the question is of low quality, then the OP should know it ASAP.
    – user164207
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:10
  • @JackManey Maybe only the OP sees it right away, but not others?
    – Hassan
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:11
  • That would serve no useful purpose. The voting system is not designed to protect anyone's self-esteem. Full stop.
    – user164207
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:12
  • @JackManey But everyone would see it in 15 minutes.
    – Hassan
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:13
  • @PopularDemand, I could have sworn that I read on the stack overflow blog that negative feedback isn't delivered as quickly as positive feedback. Must've dreamt it.
    – senderle
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:22
  • 1
    @Hassan Perhaps you could use the data explorer to retrieve some badly downvoted questions and see if you can find examples which are particularly unfair. (Would they still be present?) Or maybe even weigh the number of downvotes against the number of views the question received. In a discussion like this having data would help tremendously to determine if there really is a problem, or if we just perceive there to be one.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


I think you might see the opposite happen. I tend to not upvote or downvote questions if I think they've already received enough votes. If I happened on a 10-minute old question with its downvotes hidden, I might inadvertently "pile on" another downvote because I couldn't see the others.

There's also "pity" upvotes to consider. Some people will upvote a below average question if they feel sorry for the person who posted it, essentially rewarding a low-quality post.

We can't really measure what motivates people to vote up or down on most questions. I trust that most votes (but certainly not all) are cast after reading the question. Any attempt to fix a perceived problem without being able to measure it first is likely to just introduce a new set of problems.

  • I don't think this is the normal behavior on SO. I think many are encouraged to down-vote once someone else down-voted first. As for pity up-votes, you're probably right. I don't know how big a problem they are, though.
    – Hassan
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:16
  • @Hassan: Beyond a certain point, I suspect you're right. If a question has -1 or -2 I think most people will still read it before adding their own downvote. At -5 or -10 maybe people just start piling on. At that point I don't know if it matters though. Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:19
  • @BilltheLizard Though even at -5 or -10 I feel that the "piling on" perceived might not be all that real compared to the number of views. Though admittedly that's just a guess on my behalf. I did not crunch any numbers.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 18:28

I don't think this will do the user any good. As soon as there is a problem with a question (which downvotes do indicate) the user should be made aware of it. Might this result in some pile-on downvotes? Perhaps. But in most cases where I have seen a significant number of downvotes happen, the question was indeed of appalling quality. In general (in my opinion) there are not many cases in which downvotes are terribly out of proportion.

Issues like this are regularly brought up here on Meta. Often with the idea of "What about these poor new users who might be discouraged and won't come back?". This is kind and caring, but I personally think this underestimates the resilience of many new users. We can take a hit or two. And if you're seriously so discouraged by downvotes that you no longer want help for the problem you face, you have far bigger problems than the downvotes received.

We should be constructive, helpful and by no means rude. But there is also no need to handle new users as delicate little flowers which will die if we handle them without gloves.

  • +1 - Just because you're a newbie to Stack Overflow doesn't mean you were born yesterday, lacking in the knowledge of how the world works. ;)
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 1:22
  • @jmort253 And if you were born yesterday, you're below the age limit of 13 anyway... :p
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 1:23

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