I recently asked a question which I still haven't gotten the answer to, yet some people decided to downvote my question. I agree that downvoting is useful for discerning which solution is the right one, but why do people downvote questions?

I am a beginner iOS developer, so maybe a lot of the questions I ask are not useful for intermediate or advanced developers, but I am using this site just like anyone else: to learn. It saddens me that there are some people out there who choose to use their privilege of downvoting so that my question is shown fewer to the users on this site. If the question is not useful to you advanced developers, it is useful to someone, especially to the person asking the question.

So to those who downvote questions, why do you do it?

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    Please take a few minutes to take the tour. Upvoting and downvoting of both questions and answers are specifically how Stack Exchange was designed from the beginning; it's an essential part of the network design. – Ken White Dec 28 '13 at 0:14
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    Trouble Spot #1: asking this question on the wrong site. – user102937 Dec 28 '13 at 0:16
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    This site is not about learning, but helping. And helping or get helped makes you learn. Learn the basics by yourself using tutorials and answer the real questions here by yourself or by someone else. – Laszlo Dec 28 '13 at 0:17
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    @TussLászló: This site is not about learning, but helping -- God, I hope that's not the case. – user102937 Dec 28 '13 at 0:18
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    No, you are not understanding the focus of this site, that's what it means. – Anil Natha Dec 28 '13 at 0:21
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    @GuilhermeNascimento You shouldn't be down voting for spelling/grammar errors. Questions with these errors should be revised to fix them. – Mick MacCallum Dec 28 '13 at 0:23
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    @LienneNguyen The thing is, being a beginner is not an excuse. I am now a quite seasoned iOS developer (who admittedly often downvotes questions that do not demonstrate research effort), but it wasn't always the case. I remember very well having made all those beginner mistakes. But you won't see me having asked any questions about them on SO. And why not? Because I knew they were trivial errors, and I googled them and I was thinking about them for a few hours/days. And eventually I perceived the solution on my own -- because programming languages are logical and comprehensible (except Perl). – H2CO3 Dec 28 '13 at 0:24
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    @0x7fffffff: That's a nice idea, but if I edited every post to fix all of the spelling and grammatical errors that I see, that's all I'd be doing all day long. There's some responsibility on the part of the asker to make sure that their post is not incomprehensible. – user102937 Dec 28 '13 at 0:25
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    When I was a beginner to programming, I had no resources available to get help from other than books and the occasional conversation with a friend who shared my interest. When something was hard, I just kept at it until I figured things out, or I gave it up (there's plenty of fields I tried to get into, but never succeeded, like 3D programming or Assembly.) Not saying everybody should do it that way, but for some perspective. – Pekka Dec 28 '13 at 0:32
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    @Pëkka How can I make some sockpuppets to upvote that comment a few hundred times? – H2CO3 Dec 28 '13 at 0:34
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    @H2CO3 Maybe you should use Perl... since you like it so much. – Mick MacCallum Dec 28 '13 at 0:36
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    @LienneNguyen Yes, learning merely using Stack Overflow is a hard task, the reason for it being that SO wasn't invented for teaching people basic programming concepts and fundamental syntax. (I must admit, quite a large part of my comments on questions looks something like "Stack Overflow is not a 'teach me Objective-C' site"...) - If you are just starting out with a language or any other technology, then a good learning resource is a book or a beginner tutorial, but not Stack Overflow. – H2CO3 Dec 28 '13 at 0:42
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    What H2CO3 says, and then I don't really see what all the hubbub is about in the first place. You have two downvotes on this question. I know downvotes sting, but this is hardly earth-shattering, is it? They are not keeping you from participating here, learning how to ask better and better questions, finding out how the place works, etc. – Pekka Dec 28 '13 at 0:43
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    @LienneNguyen That's true. Did I suggest that you do not write a single piece of code? Surely I didn't. – H2CO3 Dec 28 '13 at 0:53
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    @Zaph There have always been too fast reaction on both down voting and closing, but the only way to keep some kind of quality control is to close bad questions fast. A few false positive will occur and they should be corrected, but letting bad questions dwell open is worse. That said your example is not a good one. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 28 '13 at 1:59

I often downvote questions because they are lazy, off-topic, ill-formed, poorly framed to the point of being incomprehensible, or rants rather than questions. Of course, as you haven't linked to the one of yours that you are concerned about I won't venture a guess why people are downvoting that one.

And that is good for the site, because we want to encourage good questions and discourage bad ones. For those users who can't learn the difference, downvotes feed the question-ban algorithm, so if you are getting downvotes you should take them serious as an indication that there are things you need to fix.

BTW--If you do link it people may go and vote on it, for good or for ill.

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    Don't forget to mention that downvoting is an integral part of the question-banning process. We are such meanies here. – user102937 Dec 28 '13 at 0:17
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    @TheGrinch Good point. I often forget about the q-ban because I spend more time on Physics.SE then on Stack Overflow and we don't have it yet. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 28 '13 at 0:18

Put your mouse cursor over the downvoting arrow, and it will tell you what it is for.

This question doesn't show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

Unlike a comment, this action is machine-readable, and the SE software uses it for all sorts of purposes, including statistical analysis, evaluating accounts for question-banning, and allowing the community to preemptively delete the worst questions.

Downvotes are not a personal attack; they are an integral part of the system that SE uses for evaluating question quality.

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    I'd award an extra ++ for "Downvotes are not a personal attack; they are an integral part of the system that SE uses for evaluating question quality." if only I could. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 28 '13 at 0:31
  • @dmckee I don't view downvotes as attacks. I am simply saying that it is making it harder for me to learn because my question is seen by fewer people. It's almost like you go to someone to ask a question and then being told that what you're asking is a stupid question without telling you what the answer is. – user246112 Dec 28 '13 at 0:41
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    Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with your question, other than the answer might be "do some more troubleshooting and get back to us," but it seems like you got some decent feedback in the answer that was posted. I don't know enough about Android to know if your question demonstrates a minimal understanding of the problem domain or not. – user102937 Dec 28 '13 at 0:44

Downvoting for me has always been a way to show that a question was not asked in a clear and concise manner. Or in many cases, with enough supporting information or examples to help the community understand the problem so that they can assist with coming up with a solution. If a would be poster expects to receive a well, thought out answer, they should be prepared to put in the effort to adequately describe their issue with enough supporting evidence or supporting resources (fiddles,etc), which should welcome upvotes. If one does not put in that level of effort, expect downvotes or tumbleweed badges to be forthcoming.

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    If it is not asked in a clear and concise manner, you should be asking for clarification, not downvoting. Not everyone can read your mind. – user246112 Dec 28 '13 at 0:22
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    @LienneNguyen: So what do you think the purpose of downvoting is, then? – user102937 Dec 28 '13 at 0:23
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    Many people remove their downvote when the post is updated with the proper information. In fact, there is a site feature that locks in downvotes and reopens the ability to remove the downvote only after the post is edited. And the mere fact of downvoting, should raise a red flag for the poster to reasses why their post was downvoted. That's the point of it! – Anil Natha Dec 28 '13 at 0:23
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    @LienneNguyen Actually, learning to anticipate the mind of your audience is a very important part of technical writing, and one you should work on. Expecting your answerers to work harder understanding your question then you worked writing it is a huge mistake. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 28 '13 at 0:23
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    @LienneNguyen Stack Overflow gets 7,000+ new questions every day. Downvotes are a necessary tool of self defense for a community facing those kinds of numbers. The onus is on the asker to provide a good question from the start. – Pekka Dec 28 '13 at 0:26
  • @dmckee people ask questions because they are having problems with their code. Imagine yourself in my shoes. If you have questions and you posted the question anticipating that someone will help you, how do you feel if other people out there downvote it so that it's less likely to be answered by someone else? The purpose of this site is to help others and be more inclusive, not more intolerant. Obviously this is a hard trait for some developers. – user246112 Dec 28 '13 at 0:28
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    @LienneNguyen "Not everyone can read your mind" - this just contradicted your first assertion, namely that "If it is not asked in a clear and concise manner, you should not be downvoting". - Since not everyone can read your mind, it is your responsibility to ask a comprehensible and meaningful question. – H2CO3 Dec 28 '13 at 0:28
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    "The purpose of this site is to help others and be more inclusive, not more intolerant." No. The purpose of this site is to "make the internet a better place" by proving a repository of high-quality questions supplied with high-quality answers. All of my questions have met with up-votes and eventually received very good answers, but then I usual spend 30 minutes to an hour composing the questions after spending 15-30 minutes researching it. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 28 '13 at 0:30
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    @Lienne, what you say would be reasonable, if the site were built just for you. It's not. Stack Overflow was built to benefit the community, and one element used to serve that goal is the sorting process of voting (this looks like a good question/this looks like a bad question/let's have automated processes look more closely at a poster with a history of poorly-received questions). If I had written a bad video game, I'd probably be upset with bad reviews. Doesn't mean the reviews shouldn't've been written. – Michael Petrotta Dec 28 '13 at 0:32
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    @LienneNguyen: "Not everyone can read your mind" is absolutely correct. As the person asking the question (and looking for our help to solve your problem), it's your responsibility to make your question clear. We shouldn't have to work harder getting you to ask a clear question than we have to work to answer it. If you want help, write a clear question that contains sufficient information - that's your responsibility. – Ken White Dec 28 '13 at 0:39
  • @user246112 Stack Overflow is not a helpdesk. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 11 '14 at 11:49