This is based on the discussion on this answer.

Summary: A user called Microsoft brain dead (it has since been edited out) in an otherwise very good answer to the question (it's even the top voted answer as of now.) People downvoted the answer for this wrong behavior and not for the answer's point.

My take: This is wrong, I think downvotes should not be used to punish bad behavior, but to reward or punish the helpfulness of the answers, not their political correctness. There are other means to signal/punish this kind of answers (comments/flags/editing by users of high rep).

Even if the using of downvotes as a punishment measure shows there's no intermediate measure, it also shows that the system works, because it worked out well and in a reasonable amount of time.

What's your take? Are punishing downvotes valid? Do we need an intermediate step between flags and commenting to avoid this misuse of downvoting?

EDIT: To be absolutely clear, I totally agree that politically incorrect people should get coerced into good behavior, I just wonder about the best way to do so.

We have a tie so far (two want to use downvotes as a means and two don't).


Everyone has their own idea of how votes are "meant" to work. (Here's my take on it.)

Ultimately we can't force people to use their votes in particular ways, although there is guidance already I believe. Yes, I'd view this as a bad reason to downvote (just a comment would be fine) but that's life. I personally view downvotes without comments as a more significant annoyance than downvotes for reasons I don't agree with, if you see what I mean.

  • Yes, I don't aim to change anybody's behavior, but to know the views of the community about the issue – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 2 '09 at 10:27
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    I DO think your conduct in the public must be appropriate. In the area of education, your bias should be left at the door. – Sampson Jul 2 '09 at 11:02

It's already clear that SO is not strictly a Q & A site. It has become a community, and with in every community, there have to be standards and sanctions. I think downvotes should be used if you feel that the 'bad behaviour' warrants it.

For instance, I would never not voluntarily work on a Mac, because I have no idea how and I've found it very frustrating. That is a fact that has NO BEARING when it comes to my answers on SO. There is no reason for me to mention that. Random Apple hate, M$oft hate, or linux hate have no place here. Just like 'one-word-answers' or 'people who give very smart technical answers while calling the OP a moron for asking a dumb question'.

These deserve to be downvoted until they are edited. We (the metaso users) should be using our downvotes to shape the community into something we call all be proud of. If my company turned out to be filled with brilliant bigots/racists/elitists/sexists jackasses, then I wouldn't want to work there, and I wouldn't want to see SO devolve into that either.

The first rule of SO is 'Be Nice' and I think that's just as important. In conjunction with Jon Skeet's suggestion that we be able to monitor posts to see if they were edited, I think this behaviour will be very easy to fix.

Sample workflow

Question: What is 2 + 2?

Answer: Microsoft Sucks! 4! -RandomHater

Comment: (-1) Although your answer is correct, your "Microsoft Sucks" has no place here. -DevinB

Answer: (edited by RandomHater) The answer is 4.

Comment: (+1) for a succinct answer. -DevinB

I'd probably also delete my first comment because it is no longer relevant.

All in all, it's much harder to stop people from giving technically incorrect answers, because we all THINK we're correct. But we can stop people from being a-holes about it.

  • Truer words have never been spoken ;) I'm going to go and delete my old comment on that post now :) – Sampson Jul 2 '09 at 12:44
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    Funny - I feel the frustration trying to program on Windows that you seem to feel using a Mac. – Jonathan Leffler Jul 2 '09 at 14:41
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    @Jonathan Leffler: EXACTLY. That why I don't comment on mac questions. Because I'm not a Mac user, and I don't know how anything works. Is that Macs fault? no. Is it Microsoft's fault that people hate them? no. These facts (I don't like Macs, you don't like Windows) are not relevant to use answering questions. – devinb Jul 2 '09 at 17:24
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    +1 for humour in your voting example. – Nick Bolton Jan 17 '10 at 19:21
  • +1 for "I would not voluntarily work on a Mac"; I work on Mac, not voluntarily thou. Thus, I do notice OSX's shortcomings. But apparently if you mention any of them in your answer (on-topic), you'll get downvotes from macfanbois. – vartec May 1 '11 at 12:16

Agree, this should be flagged based on it's offense. But there's a catch, downvote is specified that an answer is unclear or not useful. And in many other cases, answers that use bad language are characterized as unhelpful.

There is also the broken window effect in action here. An answer gets one downvote and people follow along down voting into oblivion.

  • I disagree. I think that in this case the answer did help even if it was politically incorrect as originally stated – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 2 '09 at 10:18
  • Yea after reading the original answer better i agree. I'm updating my answer. – Ólafur Waage Jul 2 '09 at 10:22
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    It's true that the broken window theory applies, but that's all the more reason to clean up your language in the first place. – devinb Jul 2 '09 at 12:36
  • When somebody receives a lot of downvotes in revenge, this has noting to do with bad/uncertain answer. If it is bad/uncertain you should live a comment. – Val Nov 28 '13 at 10:32
  • @Val - what’s being discussed is not revenge. Revenge is downvoting a person’s answers regardless of their content. Because you are upset with something they said/did elsewhere. That is prohibited by terms of usage (and basic civility). This is a discussion of whether inappropriate speech is sufficiently unhelpful, that it is worth downvoting an answer that contains that speech. – ToolmakerSteve Mar 14 at 0:19
  • Broken window theory? On the contrary, the discussion is whether downvotes be used as part of community policing; an antidote to the “broken window” of bad behavior. FWIW, You mean “mob psychology“, where someone being picked on leads to other bullies joining in. Most civilized people won’t waste a downvote on an already downvoted post. Unless it is in some way so bad, that it is worth making that very clear. But I agree that flagging makes more sense here. – ToolmakerSteve Mar 14 at 0:24

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