I am wondering what users should do if they encounter a question that has already been down-voted for a particular reason. If you agree with the down-vote, should you down-vote the question as well?

For example, this question was recently posted. It was an obvious duplicate, and should not have been asked. So within several minutes, 8 down-votes were cast, and many comments about it being a duplicate were added.

My question is Why?

Don't you agree that after one or two down-votes, the poster would get the point? What purpose does a 8th down-vote serve, other than to embarrass the poster? Is a duplicate question really that offensive? It's not like he kicked a puppy.

I searched the FAQ and could find no guidelines on this. Should there be a guideline for "piling on" like this? Should the site somehow prevent this sort of thing?

One of the strengths of Stack Overflow is that it is self-policing. So many members truly care.

However, I am disappointed by this type of behavior and feel that it's giving the site a bad reputation.

  • 14
    You should see all the i++ + ++i questions we get in C and C++... Same thing happens, it gets downvoted into oblivion each and every time simply because all the avid users are so tired of seeing them - at no fault of the OP.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 4:50
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    Why not. People upvote trivial answers like mad. I know, I've built up a lot of rep with answers that I barely thought worth writing. It's a two-way street, so walk it. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 4:56
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    That's fine if you're an established user. In the long term, sure it all probably evens out. My concern is the new user. This new user posts a duplicate and is shamed away from ever coming back.
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 4:59
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    I think you have a good point ejk Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:01
  • There's an interesting discussion in the comments of the last Question of the last page -ordering by votes. 16 down-votes.
    – brasofilo
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:28
  • @brasofilo Thanks. I like the comment that essentially says "Let's teach then new guy what to do... rather than down-vote him into the dust".
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:36
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    i would just say depend on question Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:41
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    Downvotes should be (and, I suspect, more or less are) statistically independent events.
    – user164207
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 1:59
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    @Adel - I see that you opened a bounty on this question. I am just curious why? Are bounties on metaSO different than bounties on SO? Or more importantly, are you expecting any action on my part as the OP? Your answer is already selected and I dont plan to change that. So, again, I'm just curious.
    – EJK
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 22:03
  • @EJK - good question :) it's just to draw attention, so you're totally fine. Bounties are like cream on the cake;) Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 23:00

3 Answers 3


There is a purpose for extra-downvotes, but only til 8. Once you get eight downvotes, you pretty much disappear (edits won't bounce you to the front page).

But I get your point about "pile-ons" - it turns out, this is a people problem. And it goes with upvotes, also. If I see a question that is +3 upvotes, I know it'll easily be +4. I myself catch it in my behavior.

If it was easily implemented, I would advise that we should hide downvotes after -1 from only the original asker - that is, turn it to a generic downvote symbol on the end-users side... But make it visible to other users who can view voting details.

Because.. honestly, the only difference between a -3 score and a -8 score is too-much hurts ("used to be bad... but now I'm HORRIBLYBAD"). So that's a separate feature request right there.

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    I did not realize it stopped at 8. I like your suggestion of hiding the down-vote count. I would think that one offense should equal one penalty.
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:12
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    The rep penalty and rep history entries would still apply, I assume? If so, the user still knows just how hard they got downvoted. Still, this is a good idea in theory, if the details can be fleshed out.
    – user200500
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:19
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    @EJK, votes don't stop at -8, the questions just stop appearing on the home page. You can still see them on the question view, and you can continue to assist the question on its downward trajectory. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:31
  • @Asad - how about those newbies? :) . if my rep goes to 1 it stays there ;) otherwise rep is still rep. thanks Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:42
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    @Adel - It is not about rep. Even if your rep is not affected, there is still some embarrassment associated with a massively down-voted question. That goes on your permanent SO record.
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:46
  • @EJK - Understood, but that's why i think we should hide the exact DV-count from the question poster. If I bother to calculate it then I guess I'm asking for it right ("let's see 172..168 humph" )? The whole idea is to blunt the stab.. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:49
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    @Adel - Agreed. I might have mis-interpreted your comment. Sorry. Lots of activity here. I seem to have stepped on a bees-nest here.
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:55
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    @EJK No worries, maybe it was a bees-nest needing a poke ;) Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:57
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    What Reddit does is they hide the score for the first hour. That might apply here.
    – Piccolo
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 6:38
  • @boj - Thats a good idea, certainly worth looking into Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 6:16
  • @Adel My question about it sure didn't get good reception
    – Piccolo
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 8:42
  • @boj - Hmm, it's OK - DV's here are just disagreement. How about we try to implement the feature we mention in this answer above. ? Do you mind asking for the feature I said(which is to hide the downvotes, but after -1, from the question poster ? It would not stop others from seeing the downvotes, only stops the person themselves from seeing that. I would post request myself, but i can't at moment!!! Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 20:22
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    @Adel Sorry, I'm going back to lurking for a few weeks and hopefully build my lost rep back up. I don't want to post another idea that will take me down below my current score (not saying yours will, I just don't want to risk it).
    – Piccolo
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 20:36
  • @boj - Sure, Thanks buddy. no worries Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 20:47
  • @boj - btw, there's hope for your question.. but i think you need to just make it 5 minutes; also, maybe add support material. i can lobby for ya ;) Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 21:17

Is a duplicate question really that offensive?

When it comes down to these mass duplicated questions: yes, yes it is. They get annoying after a while, and waste our time trying to close and get rid of them so we don't have 50 million duplicates of the same exact thing. Basically, you're offending us by not conducting a simple search that would have saved all of everyone's time.

Should the site somehow prevent this sort of thing?

No, not really. The downvotes are justified. If the user feels offended by it and doesn't come back, there's nothing we can do about it. But you can't show up to a site, not read the rules, and not search for anything, and just expect us to welcome you with open arms.

How many down votes is enough?

For a truly terrible post, there isn't enough. The more downvotes there are, the more people know that this post is truly, truly terrible. 20 is more than 10, 50 is more than 20, and 100 is more than 50. More downvotes only reinforces the fact that the post should not be taken seriously. Capping that makes the post look more accepted by the community than it actually is. I find that much more disturbing than pile-on downvotes.

  • 1
    These are all valid points, however I still do not feel that a single offense (e.g. duplicate question), should be punished multiple times. If 2 duplicate questions (A and B) are posted, and A receives 3 down-votes, but B receives 6 down-votes, is B really twice as bad as A? Shouldn't we ease new users into the site rather than shame them at their first mistake?
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:24
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    The essential context here is the tedium of countless other dupes. The OP has no experience with this. He/she hasn't been on SO long enough to realise just how annoying a duplicate can be. From their perspective they mistakenly asked a question that had already been asked (fair enough, should have read the how to ask, but to the uninitiated this doesn't sound like a particularly grievous offence) and now everyone and their mother is downvoting them.
    – user200500
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:27
  • @EJK, that's opening quite the can of worms if we're going to talk about the relative worth of questions and answers. Again, just looking at my own contributions, I have a lot of points from comparatively worthless content. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:34
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    @EJK: So just ignore them because they're new? And that wouldn't send them the wrong message? If they don't get downvotes then they'll just assume their behavior is acceptable and continue doing it, and even worse, without the downvotes it would be more difficult for the system to automatically stop them.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:41
  • @AnthonyPegram Again, I am asking people to take the perspective of the new user who does not benefit from posting comparatively worthless content. As for relative worth, I think it is human nature to feel bad about a down-vote and to feel even worse about multiple down-votes [can of worms opened :-) ]
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:41
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    @animuson No. I am not saying to just ignore them. As stated above, a duplicate question is an offense that should be flagged. I am saying that they should called out on this, just not embarrassed.
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:44
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    @EJK: It's both. By not downvoting you're ignoring the fact that they made no effort to find the solution before posting their question. If all you do is close it as a duplicate, which by normal standards is not even a bad thing at all, then you're not at all indicating to them that they even did something wrong. Harsh love is what it takes, and the downvotes get the point across. It will cause one of two things: they fix their behavior for next time or leave because they don't want to try.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:48
  • @animuson Fair point, but why must you "indicate to them that they even did something wrong" if multiple others already have?
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:52
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    @EJK, I think the takeaway is really to just use your own judgment. I don't really just pile on for the sake of it. I will vote down particularly egregious content regardless of the score, and vote up outstanding content regardless of the score, but other times, yes, the existing score factors in. I weigh it in my own mind and say "that's good/bad enough." Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 5:58
  • @AnthonyPegram That sounds reasonable. I get the feeling that not everyone operates that way. The example I cited did not seem particularly egregious, and the response to it seemed, to me, too harsh.
    – EJK
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 6:03
  • @animuson I will pile on another upvote for your answer, based on "...*by not conducting a simple search*..." I am now at the point where I hope that I Don't ask my question, in the hope that it will be answered already. When I don't see the answer already in the box on the right, I cringe just a little and ask it; thinking of the next guy in my shoes.
    – User.1
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 1:02

In case of doubt, consider this as a guidance:

The Intervention (aka, you haven't hit bottom, yet)

And, yes, I don't tend to down-vote an already beaten-down post... unless I think it is really so bad that the barrage of down-votes has not yet truly reflected its deserved bottom.

Posted by Director of Community Development for the Stack Exchange, above carries certain authority.

Important thing to keep in mind is, voting assumes that you evaluate content: resist pack mentality.

You may find that highly voted posts have a certain appeal that kind of makes you compulsory follow the "majority vote". Resist that appeal, because making a habit of blindly following the score may damage your ability to evaluate content.

When you see a highly voted post, don't just click the up or down arrow - don't even limit yourself to quickly skimming it. Stop, take a deep breath, carefully study the post, form your own opinion - and only after that, vote as you find appropriate...

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    I think the second half should be in the privilege wiki or the FAQs (or even the about page). I'll be blunt and say that only a very small percentage of people is going to read meta and see this.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Mar 3, 2013 at 7:40

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