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As far as I can tell downvoting is mostly useless.

  1. For questions the only people who get downvoted are lower rep users, or incredibly stupid questions

    • most questions that are downvoted get closed anyway which should be sufficient
    • downvoting doesn't have too much affect on your rep anyway
    • a negative comment is more useful and more of a push too change or delete the question
  2. For answers downvoting is often used incorrectly as well

    • people commonly competitively downvote (downvoting another answer to a question that you also answered) obviously not a good behavior
    • downvoting (and upvoting) are contagious, meaning one downvote leads to a bunch of others
    • even though downvotes don't effect rep that much they create a negative environment, no one wants their post downvoted, on the other hand criticizing comments, I think, are far more welcome

So basically in a nutshell a downvote serves no real purpose even if a post deserves it. Flagging, closing and commenting are much more useful to everyone including the poster than downvoting so why have it.


I now see from the answers and comments that downvotes do serve a purpose and would like to retract my request.

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    wow that was fast – aaronman Sep 13 '13 at 20:55
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    There are a lot of questions & answers by high rep users that get downvoted, but a higher percentage are by new users because they ignore or haven't learned the rules of the site – psubsee2003 Sep 13 '13 at 20:57
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    Downvotes are actually one of the most valuable tools that are far underused in my view. – Bart Sep 13 '13 at 20:57
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    I see you have a lot of statements about their misuse @aaronman, but is there any proof for it? Is it gut feeling? – Bart Sep 13 '13 at 20:59
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    @aaronman do you have evidence to show how they are misused. You want to change a fundamental aspect of the site, you better come to the table with more than random obsevations – psubsee2003 Sep 13 '13 at 20:59
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    "too lazy to get evidence" but you ask him for an example? – JohnD Sep 13 '13 at 21:01
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    @aaronman: downvotes are one of the signals used by the automatic post bans. They are useful. – Mat Sep 13 '13 at 21:01
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    @aaronman you are the one that wants to implement the feature. The burden is on your to support your argument – psubsee2003 Sep 13 '13 at 21:01
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    @aaronman This very question. If you're too lazy to get evidence, I guess the tooltip statement about "no research effort" applies. – Bart Sep 13 '13 at 21:01
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    @Bart I wish I could downvote this twice now, once for "I disagree" and once for "No research" – psubsee2003 Sep 13 '13 at 21:02
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    @aaronman If you can't prove it, not even technically, then why make the statements? – Bart Sep 13 '13 at 21:04
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    @aaronman there is obviously something that prompted you to ask this point... that would be a start. The point is exactly what I said before... you want to dicuss a feature to change a fundamental feature of the site. I'd be willing to listen if you were to provide some evidence of this abuse. But without it seems like another post complaining about downvotes – psubsee2003 Sep 13 '13 at 21:07
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    I'm not sure that that argument would have gotten you any further (and I disagree with it) but then why not make that the angle behind your request? Basing your request on "facts" you can't really back up is guaranteed to get you attention you don't want. – Bart Sep 13 '13 at 21:08
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    @aaronman you realize that blog entry is from 2008. A lot has changed in 5 years – psubsee2003 Sep 13 '13 at 21:15
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    Yes, removing upvoting seems like a good id.. Oh, wait. – yannis Sep 13 '13 at 21:24
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As far as I can tell downvoting is mostly useless.

I strongly disagree. As a user of the site, it's one of the strongest tools that I have available to me to improve the quality of the site.

For questions the only people who get downvoted are lower rep users, or incredibly stupid questions

This is false. There are plenty of higher rep users who make mistakes and post incorrect answers, getting downvotes, still haven't learned how to ask a good question (despite being good at answering them) etc. Now, most questions in general are asked by low rep users, so the fact that most downvoted questions are also asked by low rep users is not surprising.

downvoting doesn't have too much affect on your rep anyway

True, but the effect is more emotional than that. When someone has a question/answer downvoted they don't ignore it because the rep change is small, in most cases.

a negative comment is more useful and more of a push too change or delete the question

I've found both to be useful. I've had posts in which there were a few upvotes and zero or one downvotes to which there was a comment indicating serious problems. In such cases I've seen the authors acknowledge the problem and just ignore it, because "who cares, it's upvoted". As soon as the post gets a number of downvotes, all of a sudden there's a motivation to fix the post.

Conversely, a post with downvotes in which the author genuinely can't determine the problem, can't be fixed, and requires a comment, but the motivation to actually go and make the fix does often come from a downvote.

people commonly competitively downvote (downvoting another answer to a question that you also answered) obviously not a good behavior

I personally don't see this a lot. Certainly not enough to result in incorrect answers regularly appearing before correct answers in vote sorting as a result.

downvoting (and upvoting) are contagious, meaning one downvote leads to a bunch of others

So why should dowvnotes be removed as a result? I most certainly stipulate to that point. There will be times where a post gets an upvote or two just for being first, and then gets a few more because it's the only upvoted answer. If someone notices a problem with it and posts a comment explaining that, downvotes are the means for future readers to correct the mistake and push the post back down. This is very valuable as a feature.

even though downvotes don't effect rep that much they create a negative environment, no one wants their post downvoted, on the other hand criticizing comments, I think, are far more welcome

I tend to leave a lot of such comments, and I can tell you that it's very rare for them to be welcome. I work very hard to make sure my comments are polite, constructive, helpful, etc. even when pointing out a problem with a post (granted, I don't always succeed, but I do try). I am almost always met with defensiveness or aggressive behavior, and not uncommonly open hostility. It's much less likely for the OP to learn or improve their answer in such cases.


Other purposes downvotes serve:

  • They feed the question/answer ban. This is actually quite important on sites like SO to ensure that experts aren't driven away by a small percentage of users creating a large amount of undesirable content. Without downvotes it is a lot harder to create good metrics for such bans.

  • They provide a very clear and easy to digest summary of the communities opinion of an answer at a glance. In a world with no downvotes a post with a score of +10 and 20 comments could be one that's great and had lots of people praising it, or it could be a controversial post that 40 experts thought was terrible and 10 others thought was great. If you don't have the time to red through all of the comments explaining the problems with the post, the reader loses that information.

  • I don't agree that people would rather have a downvote than a critical comment, I love when people correct me rather than resorting immediately to DVing especially when it's for a typo or other small error – aaronman Sep 13 '13 at 21:09
  • @aaronman I'm not saying DVs are welcome. They almost never are. I'm saying neither are welcome, because most people aren't able to accept criticism in any form, no matter how constructively that criticism is given. – Servy Sep 13 '13 at 21:11
  • @aaronman Everyone hates unexplained downvotes. I hate them too. That doesn't mean that nobody should downvote at all. – H2CO3 Sep 13 '13 at 21:12
  • @H2CO3 well I know there have been a lot of requests to prevent no comment downvotes, maybe I should have asked that instead – aaronman Sep 13 '13 at 21:12
  • @aaronman I would even support that. (NB: I did not downvote this question.) – H2CO3 Sep 13 '13 at 21:13
  • @H2CO3 I wouldn't say everyone hates them. I've had several occasions where I made a post, though it was great, posted it, spent an extra 30 seconds thinking about it (or looked at the other answers to see what they had) and realized I was completely off base, allowing me to completely change or just delete my answer. Comments aren't always needed. – Servy Sep 13 '13 at 21:13
  • @Servy Well, not always. Say in 99.5% of the cases. The rest is, well, as you say, obvious. But that's an extreme minority. – H2CO3 Sep 13 '13 at 21:14
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    @aaronman Top tip: certainly don't ask that question. There have been many (so it would be a dupe) and it usually doesn't go over well. So think twice. – Bart Sep 13 '13 at 21:14
  • @aaronman There are a lot of problems with that suggestion. First off, there are a lot of posts on the subject. Go read them before posting a new one. If it just has a bunch of duplicate requests that don't address the many arguments against it that have been brought up then it'll just be closed/downvoted. – Servy Sep 13 '13 at 21:14
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    @H2CO3 I disagree. I think that a comment isn't needed in a rather significant percentage of cases. Whenever you get a downvote the first things you should be doing are immediately reading the answer again, possibly twice, looking for mistakes you've made. Most developers are actually capable of finding problems in their own code when inspecting it. Next, just looking around at the other answers, comments on them, and comments on the question help. I don't want to have to comment on all 3 answers with the same comment when they make the exact same mistake. – Servy Sep 13 '13 at 21:16
  • @Servy well that's why I didn't post that question, I guess I just feel that downvotes are misused more than used correctly, but at this point I see I should probably just give up – aaronman Sep 13 '13 at 21:17
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    @aaronman I feel that they are underused far more often then they are abused, and the majority of cases in which they're abused are removed by the "serial vote reversal" script. The positive value they add also far outweighs the negative effects of what abuse or other negative side effects exist from their existence. – Servy Sep 13 '13 at 21:19
  • @Servy well underuse is a form of misuse, but you can see my edited question now as I have given up on the prospect – aaronman Sep 13 '13 at 21:22
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    @aaronman So because people don't downvote enough we should remove downvoting as a feature so nobody can downvote anyone? I do agree underuse of downvoting is a form of mis-use, but it's a problem that isn't solved by removing the feature, it's solved by adding a feature that encourages people to use it more when they should. – Servy Sep 13 '13 at 21:24
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    another downvote purpose - they serve to point the roomba in the direction of things that need to be deleted without involving any mods or 10k'ers to do it by hand. – user213963 Sep 14 '13 at 2:42

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