I was asking a question and after placing a bounty of 200 points, I got two completely incorrect answers and was commenting on them. I had a dilemma whether I should also downvote them. Reasons speaking for downvoting:

  • Other people might get confused and think this answer is correct.
  • Both answers already got 1 upvote; they could get 2 upvotes and half of the bounty (100 pts) may have been awarded to completely wrong answer. I was afraid of that (and also placed a feature request to help in this regard), mainly because it would confuse the readers even more when they would see that the answer got 100 pts bounty reward.
  • The tooltip of the downvote button speaks "This answer is not useful" - which it actually is not.

On the other hand, I recognized that both answerers had put an substantial time and effort in their answers and downvote actually "punishes" them for it.

So, what would be the ethics for downvoting answers of my own question? And, for dowvoting answers of question of other people - will it be different?

  • 20
    Incorrect are not useful, so that warrants a downvote. Which should encourage the answerer to fix the inaccuracy.
    – Rob W
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 15:55
  • 7
    Don't think of a downvote as a punishment; think of it as encouraging them to fix their answer. When someone posts an answer and gets a comment explaining why it's wrong but gets upvotes anyway they'll be inclined to leave the answer. If it just gets downvotes then they're much more strongly motivated to fix it to actually be correct. Besides, which do you think is worse, having one person feel a bit bad about getting downvoted for posting a wrong answer, or having lots of people using an answer that's wrong and getting burned down the road because they misunderstand a concept.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 15:57
  • 1
    You are always free to remove your downvote once an edit has been made to the answer, if they have corrected or improved it.
    – Amicable
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 16:01
  • You are all right, thanks for your answers; however I cannot avoid bad feeling of harming someone who tried by downvote. In general, I feel people don't use this too much and they tend to downvote only very bad answers...
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 16:35
  • It may be worth considering whether a question asker is in the best position to judge the "correctness" of an answer. If the OP already knows the answer, the question would not have been asked. The answers may provide new information or new ways of looking at a problem that should be carefully considered before rejecting them. Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 17:01
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    @GeorgeCummins, I speak of the situation in my question where I did clearly see the answers are just plain wrong. Mainly because the answerer missed something from the complexity of the problem. The only benefit of the wrong answers was that I realized that something was difficult to understand and I improved the question a little.
    – Tomas
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 17:08
  • 1
    @GeorgeCummins First off, sometimes you do know the answer when posting the question. Next, it's often the case that the OP can actually try out the answer and determine, through attempting to use it, that it doesn't work. They could also tell that the person misunderstood the question, as was the case here.
    – Servy
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 18:03

3 Answers 3


You can downvote any way you like.

That said, it's the answer score that tells other visitors something about which answers to trust. If you feel the answers are incorrect, then downvoting them is one of the best uses of your votes.


I recommend you ignore the answer-posters as people entirely. Both of these thoughts:

  • I don't want to punish them with a downvote; they did try
  • I don't want them to get a bounty they don't really deserve

are leading you to unnecessary angst. The bounty was to get your question some attention. If you think a lack of clarity in your question led to wrong answers:

  • fix the question
  • comment on each answer saying "this doesn't work in my situation; I've edited the question"
  • feel free to downvote the answer to show other readers that the answer as written is not a good answer to the question

Do these things while the bounty is still in effect. You may see an improvement to one or both answers (in which case remove your downvote), or a third useful answer may appear. Do not add or remove downvotes to control auto-bounty awarding. Award it yourself or let it go and don't worry about it.


Definitely agree with the great Martijn Pieters.

I also wanted to add this:

When the OP for a question is you, then your downvote is part of the community voting. Your vote is really no different than anyone else's. Over time, the votes for an answer (or question) will be refined by the community and that is generally how good answers filter to the top of the answer list, and bad ones drop down (or are removed).

The main tool that you have as the OP of a question is the actual accepted checkmark. This is by far the clearest signal you can send as an OP because it indicates which answer helped you the most. Sometimes this answer is not the highest voted, or agreed with by the community, but as the OP you have the tool to indicate which answer you felt helped you the most.

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