Is it just me, or is there a general non-constructive attitude, rather than constructive criticism on Stack Overflow?

  • I am having difficulty aligning my internal compass. I understand that certain questions need to be thrown out, and I understand that certain questions are fitting for certain Stack Exchange sites.

  • I understand that the sites ore community moderated, and that a general "average" of community members' persona's will be reflected.

My issue is with the fact that, in my opinion, some users are a bit trigger happy with the down vote button, or are just downright rude, without providing any feedback to the user in question.

This is in my opinion much more non-constructive to the site than a Q that is slightly off topic, or not worded correctly. When did the down vote become a feel good weapon? I see this regularly where questions not deserving of down votes (in my opinion), get down voted by a what seems like a factor, because a trigger happy user down voted the Q, rather than tried to fix it. And now a bunch of users exercise their down vote button, because someone else did, and they can also do it.

I know we cant possibly moderate each down vote before it is applied, and I understand an "average" will be the outcome, but it seems like the good guys, interested in actually contributing in a constructive manner, are outweighed by the, in my opinion, non constructive guys. Its almost like the perceived anonymity of down voting, is being exploited.

I attempted to flag one such post, and the moderator replied with (We can't say why people vote the way they do). I understand that the community moderation is the power of these sites. But is it being abused?

Situations are created where legitimate questions, that may have been genuinely helpful to other users, are being "played" with by people exercising their privileges instead of their contribution.

(Again, the above all in my personal opinion)

From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that this behavior is demoralizing, to say the least.

I am personally trying hard to contribute. Not for rep, but to give something back as SO has really been helpful to me on multiple occasions.

An example, but not specifically aimed at for the above, is provided in the link below this post.

The original question, although broad, could be answered or "nudged in the right direction" in my personal opinion.

The original question was aggressively acted upon, which I understand needs to happen in some cases. In this case, I feel the original poster, instead of being chased away with a broom, could have been pointed or helped, even if not on SO.

I indicated in a comment that this might have to be moved to a different site, like programming, if its not fitting for SO. I attempted to use the community wiki option, and created a new Q&A, which I thought would go to the wiki, and not as a new question. I again, indicated that SO might not be the right place, and that I was making an "attempt" to contribute.

Instead of constructive behavior, I experienced more non constructive criticism, than what I would care for when trying to contribute.

As I said, maybe its just me. I guess my question revolves around determining if its just me seeing things.

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/17947169/not-original-why-does-my-html-website-look-different-on-different-browsers (10k only)

  • Which is easier? Downvote and disappear, or add a helpful comment/edit? Path of least resistance is what we have to fight against here, which isn't that easy.
    – Oded
    Jul 30 '13 at 13:40
  • Its not my place to say, but is there not a better way of taking responsibility for your down vote? Down votes can give an otherwise legitimate question a bad smell, and that is non constructive to what I perceive SO to be. Jul 30 '13 at 13:42
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    Such as? Votes are anonymous for a reason - so they will actually be used. Sure, it would be nice if people tried to be helpful, but frankly, after seeing the same kind of low effort question the 100th time, even the most helpful person can get tired and just downvote without a word.
    – Oded
    Jul 30 '13 at 13:45
  • I understand, and can relate. Thanks for your insight @Oded Jul 30 '13 at 13:47
  • Can someone explain to my why this question is downvoted? If its not fitting for Meta, where am I to ask it? Jul 30 '13 at 13:49
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    See voting is different on meta. Though I suspect people vote this way for lack of research, as this issue has been discussed here often and the question doesn't show that you read through any of it.
    – Oded
    Jul 30 '13 at 13:52
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    "When did the down vote become a feel good weapon?" ... never. Or at least not in the sense as you describe it. It helps me signal to the author that there is a problem with their question. And as such it makes me feel good to appropriately mark content (both up and down). That helps the site rather than hurt it. And if the issues are addressed I'll even more happily retract my vote.
    – Bart
    Jul 30 '13 at 13:54
  • And with regards to: "legitimate questions, that may have been genuinely helpful to other users, are being "played" with by people exercising their privileges instead of their contribution." .... were those questions in line with what would be considered a good question for SO? We more often get the privilege abuse complaint when in actual fact the question simply doesn't belong on the site. Even when it's a fair question to have.
    – Bart
    Jul 30 '13 at 13:56
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  • @Bart , I 100% agree with you Bart. I definitely also down vote, its there for a reason. I am not saying it should go away. I simply feel some people might be trigger happy. (In my opinion) Jul 30 '13 at 13:57
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    You need more data than a question or two to back your claims. Just because you see a few questions get downvoted, and/or you don't agree with the downvotes, it doesn't mean the entire community is acting in a non-constructive manner. In general, I think people tend to upvote way way more than downvoting (just look at their profiles). Jul 30 '13 at 13:58
  • @OldCheckmark , I posted this Q, because, as stated, I have been much more active this last week, trying to contribute, and actually paying more attention to questions and how they are being acted upon. I see this trend everyday, when trying to contribute to questions. I posted this question here, to try to determine if its just me seeing things, not to make a court case :-) . Jul 30 '13 at 14:01
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    Are you saying that you think downvotes are rude? Or are you talking about rude comments that users are making?
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:05
  • I am trying to discuss two issues: (1) Downvotes that are seemingly handed out too easily , and (2) Perceived rude or short-tempered attitude towards newbies, effectively chasing them away. Jul 30 '13 at 14:07
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    With regards to point 2: Could we please be a bit nicer to new users? As for point 1, I'm actually convinced that we don't downvote enough. And not of the random hateful go away type. But actual deserved downvotes. Some of the random upvotes (which I think might be due in some part to the review queues) are a bigger problem IMO.
    – Bart
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:11

Downvotes on Stack Overflow are the reciprocal of upvotes. If you didn't have downvotes, and people didn't feel free to cast them, then upvotes would lose a lot of their meaning.

So not only are downvotes are critical to the entire voting system, but the voting system is how we rate content. A post's score determines a lot of things about its relative importance in the interface, and tells users who may happen along the question later how useful the community found it.

There seems to be this implicit assumption in your post that casting a downvote is rude or something. I cannot imagine why you think that is the case. If it were, what does it imply when one casts an upvote for another's post? Flirting with them?

Which leads me to another important point: the vote system rates posts, not users. You don't downvote people, you downvote questions and answers. Just like you upvote questions and answers. Serial voting cuts both ways, on upvotes and downvotes, for precisely this reason: clearly you're voting on people, not on content, which is a fundamental abuse (or mere misunderstanding?) of the vote system.

Fundamentally, your criticism seems to be that downvoting things is "unconstructive". I cannot possibly agree with that. If we didn't use downvotes to rate content, how else should we do it? Should everyone's contributions be valuable just because we're all special? Sorry, this is the real world. It doesn't work that way anymore, and I'm not even sure if that was a good model for kindergarten.

Now, all of that said, if you see other users that are being outright rude or hostile to other users (new, old, whatever), then this is inappropriate behavior and you should raise a flag to alert a moderator. They are here to take care of problems like this. You'll note that the only places you can flag are the only places that you can be rude to other people: in posts and comments. You can't flag downvotes, because they're not personal nor can they be rude.

And as far as your reply to my question, regarding short-tempered attitudes directed towards new users, that might have the effect of chasing them away, I agree that is sometimes a problem. But what you have to understand is that experienced users of Stack Overflow often suffer from newbie fatigue. We get a lot of new users. Most of them do exactly what they're supposed to do, fit right in with the community, generate useful and highly-rated content, and never have a problem. But a small handful don't. Either because they don't care, or because they just don't bother to read the help that we provide on how the community works, how to ask a good question, how the voting system works, etc.

I cannot say that I think we should continue being rude to these people, because that violates a fundamental rule of the site: be civil and courteous. But then again, I also cannot say that it's easy to be respectful and tolerant of people who are neither respectful nor tolerant of you and/or your community. If you have a friend who required that guests remove their shoes before entering her house, would you continue to go over to her house as an invited guest and leave your shoes on? I certainly hope not. Yet it seems like some of our new users do precisely that. Your friend wouldn't be right to start calling you names or try to physically remove you. But then again, she would be entirely within her rights to have her own feelings hurt and stop inviting you over in the future.

Your example is a good example of this. You're entitled to disagree with site norms and policies. We even have a place for precisely that (which you've now found). But the place to do that is not on the site itself. The "question" box is for questions—not rants, not critical assessments of the system, not meta commentary, or anything else. Approximately two-thirds of that question consisted of something other than a question. The only question was in a gray box in the middle, and was copy-pasted from a question that already existed. Why did you need to post that as a new question? Why couldn't you post an answer and/or comment to the original question? Are you unfamiliar with our policy about asking duplicate questions? Are you unfamiliar with our guidelines about what makes a good question? And a bad one?

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    Thanks Cody. Please understand my Q is not about "not downvoting". I am merely trying to make sense of what I perceive to be non-constructive down voting. I am not petitioning to remove it. I am also not voting on people. None of us (lower ranks) cans ee who voted. I am purely trying to discuss the fact that I regularly feel questions that could have provided good Q&A with a bit of input, are being "harmed / degraded" because a new user had some trouble posting it. Jul 30 '13 at 14:21
  • I knew I was putting myself out there when I created this question, but I assure you my intentions are honorable, and the question reflects my opinion, as clearly stated. Thanks for your input on this Cody. Jul 30 '13 at 14:22
  • Downvotes are completely anonymous for everyone, including moderators and users with oodles of reputation. That's also by design, of course. And remember that questions can be edited. By everyone. So if you see a question that you think could be good/useful catching some flack because of its presentation, you can always fix it.
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:25
  • Thanks for your last edits. You are indeed proving a point I am trying to make. I myself am quite a new user. I attempted to create a wiki, I clearly stated that. If I did it wrong, I would have expected a moderator to nudge me in the right direction, which did not happen. No one has yet mentioned anything about my statement of my intention for a wiki addition, yet mostly everybody has added their 2 non constructive cents. I am yet to figure out what precisely I did wrong, when trying to add to the wiki? Again, and I have stated this many times, I did not attempt to make a duplicate question. Jul 30 '13 at 14:29
  • Above comment referring to the example of my own Q (Wiki attempt), not this Q on Meta. Jul 30 '13 at 14:30
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    @Louis There is far too much content posted to Stack Overflow for a moderator to have his/her hand in all of it, or to walk new users through the site's procedures. You have to be willing to help yourself. It's like showing up in New York City and wondering why no one helps you buy a subway ticket, shows you the route you need to take, and offers to buy you a coffee. People just don't have time for that. There are too many people in NYC for this to be tenable. You have to be willing to help yourself. We provide the resources you need for that.
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:40
  • Aside from that, I don't know why you think everyone's input is "non-constructive". You may have disagreed with my implied tone (then again, this is text-based communication, so that's a little unfair), but I certainly provided links to site guidelines and an explanation of how what you've done runs counter to them. That's about as much hand-holding and constructive engagement as you can reasonably expect, I'm afraid. This is, after all, the Internet, not a public library or help desk.
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:41
  • Cody, I was referring to no one giving any attention to the fact that I was attempting to create a wiki. Everyone is flacking me for dubiously creating a duplicate question. I am still unsure of where I went wrong on SO, trying to create a static wiki, not a duplicate question. Jul 30 '13 at 14:46
  • "Which leads me to another important point: the vote system rates posts, not users" I would argue with this. Downvotes are often abused to serial downvote someone's content.
    – Calmarius
    Feb 26 '14 at 15:58
  • It is not true that the rating system is for posts, rather than users. Getting a downvote reduces your reputation.
    – einpoklum
    Oct 8 '14 at 19:35

Given that Cody Gray has answered the first part of your question largely as I would have, I'll address your linked question.

What you have done there is create a downvote magnet. Why? Well, first of all you've take a question which was moderated away, and reposted it again. Not only did you thereby create a duplicate, you also show no respect for the system. I'll happily you're unaware of the proper procedure and did so with the best intentions, but it won't go over well.

If you object to the closure or deletion of a question, vote to reopen or undelete. If you can't, come to Meta and bring it up here. Discuss with the community to see what the consensus is. If the community feels that was actually a bad closure/deletion, it can be undone. If not, at least you'll walk away with some justification for the actions taken.

As for the question itself, the comment state it pretty accurately: the question is far too broad. Heck, even you say it yourself: "I think this can be broadly answered, or at least be provided a starting point for a person new to html development.".

What you have to keep in mind that not everything that is a question, is fit for this Q&A. Not everything ending in a question mark goes. The Help Center provides decent material on what makes a good question, as does Jon Skeet's SO Hints blog post. Perhaps it helps if you familiarize yourself with that material.

Once you understand the somewhat narrow scope of the site, you might also see that not all downvotes, close votes or delete votes are all that evil. Most of them are a simply the result of the enforcement of the site's boundaries.

  • Thanks Bart. Again, lol, I attempted to create a Wiki. And I did it before the question was deleted. I personally felt that a lot of new users might ask this question, and attempted to add it to what I assumed to be a community wiki, so that others might benefit from reading it, and not post a new question regarding the same subject matter. I also feel it would be better fitting for another site, but yet people are going to ask it on SO, and I honestly thought having that added as a static wiki really, would help. My mistake. Jul 30 '13 at 14:34

From Bart's comment, the post in the link below is pretty much 100% what I was attempting to convey. So, it seems I did it wrong. I am clearly not politician material, but to whomever might be interested, this question is pretty much what I intended to convey.

Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?

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    Curiously, your argument seemed to be that we should explain these things to new users, educating them that what they're doing is wrong and why. But the linked question levels this criticism: "Folks are rushing to pound new users down with "this belongs on meta!", "this is off topic", "this is a duplicate!" and "read the FAQ!". All this, of course, is accompanied by a flurry of downvotes. This is not very welcoming to new users who don't know about meta, or what is offtopic, or the FAQ." Isn't that precisely what a constructive engagement with someone in violation of house rules would do?
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:43
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    And why isn't it the job of the new users to educate themselves about what Meta is, what is on topic, and what the FAQ says? Isn't that the case on other websites, and even in other social settings?
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 30 '13 at 14:44
  • Would you mind terribly to stop crucifying me? I asked a long winded question. I did not attempt to provoke an argument. I asked it on Meta, as from my understanding, that was fitting. I asked it on Meta, to get input from senior peers, to better understand the behavior on SO, which is where I spend my time. Jul 30 '13 at 14:51
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    @LouisvanTonder nobody is crucifying you. If you want to discuss something however, you also have to be open for opposing views and arguments. You seem to be of the view that users should be helped and guided more, while others think it's up to the users themselves to go out and educate themselves. That's all.
    – Bart
    Jul 30 '13 at 15:00
  • @Bart , thanks. Not to beat a dead horse, but I don't understand what is different in my question here, from the one in the link you provided? In the link you provided, there seems to have been a general consensus agreeing to the post. Had I known about that question (My fault, I did not search for a like question), I would not have created this one. I appreciate your insight on this Bart, Cody Gray and the rest. I am attempting to better understand the situation, and learn from it. Thanks. Jul 30 '13 at 15:05

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